Every house has a roof, interior and foundation, as does every sneaker - we just use different terms. Learning these four basic parts of a sneaker first will make the remaining easier to remember and apply. Even with these conversations around product will sound more informed. Instead of, “What does the bottom look like?” you’ll say, “Take a look at that outsole construction” or “This part here (finger wiggle)” will be simply replaced with midsole.
This is the main part of a sneaker or the jacket for your foot. If taken out of the shoe, the upper would look like a sock without a bottom. The pieces of an upper include the tongue and quarter panels, and could also have a collar, eyestay, heel counter, toebox or vamp … but that’s for later.
Every shoe has its interior, or lining. When we talk about the lining, words like breathable, comfortable and value surface. It might not be the most exciting part of a sneaker, however it’s necessary as the lining is against your foot all day!
Your upper sits within a sole unit. The midsole is the visible part of your sole unit and can be thought of like the walls of a house. A durable midsole enables the sneaker to be worn longer by keeping the sneaker together and lasting after multiple wears.
With every step, the outsole hits the ground. The outsole can be a discussion in itself, with each sport requiring distinct design specifications. Every sneaker has a different series of grooves and treads, which sometimes goes unnoticed.
We use these four terms everyday when looking at own creations as well as when evaluating other products. With just these, you can carry discussions around sneakers such as, “What material is the upper?” or “I wonder why they blocked the midsole that way.” Certainly there is more to learn but no worries, it will all come together in the end, stitch-by-stitch.