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Boot Terminology

Some basics for bootmen

Have you ever been confused by some terminology describing different parts of boots? You're not alone. Here is a guide to the most frequently used terms and even some esoteric references, too. Links are in blue. These go to other web pages. Boot terms are in red. The terms are defined in the paragraphs below.


The Boot Shaft is the part of the boot that covers your leg. It has two measurements. The height is taken on the inside seam of the boot, and is measured from where the shaft meets the sole of the boot, to the top of the shaft. To determine where the top of a boot will hit on your leg, measure the height of the shaft against the inside of your leg, starting at your instep. The circumference (sometimes called calf size) is the measurement around widest part of the shaft of the boot. To see if tall boots will fit your calves, measure around the widest part of your calf, and compare your measurement to the shaft circumference.

An overlay and inlay are decorative work involving multiple layers and colors of leather. See the section on the Upper (Vamp) below for more information on these designs.

A zipper or buckles may be used on the side or back of a boot shaft to facilitate making a boot easier to put on or take off.

A liner (or lining) may be sewn on the inside of the shaft for added strength and stiffness, as well as to increase water resistance. Liners on the inside of boot shafts are usually made of soft cowhide leather. But some liners for boots like Mukluks may be made of fur or synthetic materials. Some German Air Force Knobelbecher Boots had a shearling lining, which is processed soft sheep wool. A drawback of lined boot shafts is that the lining can limit moisture from leaving the boot.

A back stay is a strip of leather that runs up and down the back of the inside of the boot lining to stiffen and support the boot and hold up the top, which gets the most movement.

Shafts on boots like cowboy boots may also have fancy stitching of various and contrasting colors sewn into the shaft. Such stitching makes boots very distinctive. Some particular brands of cowboy boots use stitching patterns unique to them which some discerning Bootmen can distinguish.

Piping is a rounded strip of leather that runs up the side seams of some types of boots. Sewn dead center between the back and front of the boot, piping can be in the same color or a contrasting color of leather to make the boot or its stitching patterns stand out more. Piping is also used to hide stitching that holds the side seams together.

Boot shafts are finished differently at the top:

Scallops may be finished with beading, which is a slender, rounded strip of leather that encircles the top of the boot. The beading is most often made from the same material as the piping that runs down the side of the boot.


The upper, also called a vamp, surrounds and protects the foot from the sole up. Uppers are built around a last, which is a mold used to shape the boot's materials. Some boots are made with a single layer of material (single vamp), a double layer (double vamp), or even triple layer (triple vamp) for added insulation and water penetration resistance.

The upper attaches to the heel counter in the back, and to the front parts of the boot top in the front.

Other components of the upper may include the parts listed below, but these parts are not on all types of boots.


The boot toe is the very front end of the boot. Toes can come in as many as 12 different styles, varying from ultra narrow (X-toe) to wide and round (W-toe). The most variation in boot toes are found on cowboy boots.

Here are other features of boot toes:


Boot heels are specially designed for a particular type of boot. Cowboy Boots can have as many as 13 different types of heels, ranging from low, flat, short block heels to 3" or higher underslung heels. Other boots usually have a heel that matches the style of the boot. For example, engineer boots usually have a rounded block heel of about 1" - 2", usually finished with a rubber heel lift on the bottom. Hiking boots usually have the heel integrated with the rest of the boot sole and has little difference in height from the rest of the sole.

Other parts of a boot related to the heel include:


The boot sole is the only part of the boot besides the bottom of the heel that actually has contact with the ground. As such, boot soles are usually made of very sturdy materials that can withstand constant wear and tear, and will not be easily penetrated by debris on the ground.

A boot sole is composed of three parts:

Boot soles are attached to the upper with either stitching or glue. Stitching provides stiffness to the boot. Stitching also allows worn soles to be replaced easily. Gluing, or cementing, soles to the upper is not as durable as stitching, but is less heavy and more flexible.

In hiking boots, a piece of rubber covering the joint between the upper and the boot sole is called a rand. It is not the same thing as a heel or toe rand on a cowboy boot, but has the same shape. A rand protects the joint between the upper and the boot sole and has a tight seal to ensure water resistance.

Welt or welting is a strip of heavy leather that is sewn around the lasting space of the upper and joins it to the insole. The sole is then stitched to the welt with a second seam. The welt is also known as the "rand" in cowboy and many other styles of boots. Inseaming thread (a waxed flax or polyester thread which will lock in position when stitched tight) is used to stitch the welt to the upper and the sole of the boot.

A pegged sole has wooden pegs made from maple or lemonwood driven through undersized holes, completely piercing the outsole, upper and insole. Then the pegs are floated (smoothed) off on the interior of the boot. These pegs, in rows of one to three deep, run along the arch (shank) of the boot down to the heel. Along with stitching and glue, they hold the insole and outsole together. Pegs are usually a sign of a better-quality boot. If a boot sole is pegged, one can see the tops of the pegs when looking inside the boot.

Content from Booted Harleydude.

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