Glossary of Footwear Terminology, A

International Language Terminology Cross-Reference General Glossary of Footwear Types

A tough rigid plastic. Used for making plastic heels. [;]

Addition method
A method of fitting up the custom-made last. If the foot is broader, the instep or big toe higher, or the heel thicker than the average, the shoemaker corrects the last by attaching various pieces of leather to it. Though the shoemaker can use this corrected last to make the shoe, it is advisable to produce a definitive last by fine copying it. [Vass]

The movement of your foot toward the midline of your body during supination []

Aglet (Other medieval spellings include Agglette, Agglot, Aigulet, Esguylettes.  Latin: Aeus, Actdus, Acula.  Modern and traditional terms include: Tag, Aigulet and Lace End)
A binding around the end of a lace to protect it, reinforce it and help thread it through holes.  Although they are not commonly found, medieval boot and shoe aglets seem to have been coiled brass wire, while those for clothing were wrapped metal sheets.  In some forms of medieval boot and shoe lacing only a single end might need an aglet, while the other end was just knotted or stitched inside the shoe or boot.  Aglets were used on some leather laces, and if they were used on cloth laces these have not survived.  See also Tag

See Awl.  Term used in northern counties and/Scotland [Salaman]

An Anglo-Norman term, from the Latin, for a shoemaker, and refers to them as people who work with alum tawed leather.

Anchor chape
Attachment device for detachable buckles with a spiked tongue and an extension with two prongs that resemble the shape of a ship's anchor; the two prongs are slipped into a slot on the medial quarter top front. [Goubitz, 2001]

Aniline leather
Leather finished with an aniline dye, which gives a natural look. [;]

Ankle boots
See Ankle shoe

Ankle shoe

  1. An item of footwear, and a subset of "boot", where the top is approximately on the ankle joint, or extends just above the ankle. [Grew/deNeergaard, 1988]
  2. Shoe with uppers that reach just to or over the ankle [Goubitz, 2001]
Ankle straps
A strap, usually fastening with button or buckle, that goes around the ankle. [Thornton/Swann, 1983]

Destruction of a joint, resulting in a total loss of movement []

To the front of the body []

A shoe with metal plug in sole to ensure static electricity is safely earthed to avoid sparks in areas where flammable gases are present or sudden electrical discharge could cause damage. [;]

Antique finish
An upper that is finished to give an impression of age by overspraying selected areas with a darker, contrasting finish. [;]

(See Last, Repair)

Anvil Last
(See Last, Repair)

Apron (Apron Front)

  1. A long leather apron, used to protect the garments, and to run the thread along when winding and unwinding.
  2. A shoe front having a shield-shaped "apron" on top, either underlying or overlaying the remainder of the vamp. It derives from the moccasin (q.v.) where it sometimes forms the top part of the upper after the pleats have been removed. [Thornton/Swann, 1983]
  3. An oval or shield shaped section on the forepart of the foot. It may extend nearly to the end of the toe, or be set well back on the instep. The apron may extend to become a tongue. The apron may be an overlay, underlay, or an insert. Anthropologists in North America usually use the term vamp for apron. [Webber, 1989]
  4. A vamp made up of flat apron laid over side of forepart. [;]
Apron Front
(see Apron)


  1. Technically the foot has at least four arches, although there are two major arches, the longitudinal arch, which extends along the length of the foot on the medial or inner side, under the instep from the joint to the heel; and the metatarsal arch, formed by the natural arching of the metatarsals at the joints of the foot.
  2. The curved inside part of the foot, where the bones form a bridge from heel to ball. [Thornton/Swann, 1983]
  3. The curved shape of the inner or medial side of the foot formed by the span between the heel and the joint [Goubitz, 2001]
  4. The foot has a natural arch on the inside, formed between the calaneum base and the beginning of the metatarsal joint. This is known as the longitudinal arch, and is usually the one referred to. There is another arch, the metatarsal arch, formed by the natural arching of the base of the metatarsals. [Webber, 1989]
  5. The upward curve at the side of the foot. Sometimes known as the longitudinal arch. Some authorities claim four different arches for the foot. [Frommer]
  6. The bow-like upward curve on the bottom of your midfoot []
  7. The part of plantar that does not touch the ground. Most commonly used of metatarsal arch. [;]
Arch support
  1. (Shank) A piece of material (stiff leather) to strengthen the part of the sole under the arch of the foot [Goubitz, 2001] [later Shanks are of wood or metal]
  2. An area of insole that has been built up and strengthened to support metatarsal arch, or similar support which can be inserted in the shoe separately. [;]
  3. At an early stage, fallen arches can be counteracted with supports. This is why it is important for the shoemaker to form a precise idea of the state of the arches.   [Vass]
Awl (Al, Alesne, Alishin, Alle, Bodkin, Bodkyne. Elshin, Elson, Elsyn  Latin: Sibula Subula)
  1. A family of tools used to pierce holes in leather or fabric (see Hole).  Elson and awl are both used for the cordwainer’s awl. 

  2. Medieval Awls:
    The first four in this lineup are based on illustrations.  The first and third appear in varying forms in Das Hausbuch der Mendelschen, (Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg).
    The Second is from an altarpiece from Fribourg, "Two scenes with Saints Crispinus and Crispinianus" - by the Bernese Master of the Pinks ("of the Carnations") (1500-1510) (Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, Zurich).
    The Fourth is from  "Life of St. Mark", 14th century. (Manresa Cathedral, Spain)
    tool5.gif (1129 bytes)tool6.gif (544 bytes)
    The remaining line up show several awls from archaeological contexts.  The first three are from the Museum of London, although I don't have the excavation information.
    The next two are from Greenland -- Sandnes S.167 (metal awl - D11709 7.6 long. In House I) c.1350 Western Settlement and Sandnes S.168 (metal awl - D11710 8 Long (blade is 4.4), Collar. In Stable 5V) c.1350 Western Settlement.  The next two are from Poland.
    tool13.gif (3211 bytes)
  3. An Awl is a tool designed to poke a hole in some form of fabric, be it textile, leather, or what have you, and then to spread that hole wider without actually cutting the fabric, since that would weaken the structure of the fabric. The cross-section of the Awl must be less than the diameter of the thread in order to achieve a water-tight grip. Some awls are "S" shaped, because it is felt that this gives the person using the awl better control of the hole.

    By the 18th century, the traditional awl looked like:
    gloss1.gif (1094 bytes)

    The point being set at the centerline has been shown through experimentation to improve the control of the entry. The short length of the handle allows for a more of the hand strength to be placed behind the awl. There have been a number of examples of these that have been found in archaelogical sites, both in Europe and North America.  A number of members of the Honorable Company of Cordwainers have done extensive experimentation with reproductions of these awls.
    awlpic5.jpg (7667 bytes)
    Repro by Dick Anderson

  4. A pointed instrument usually composed of two parts -- a blade and a handle (also known as a haft). Used for making or piercing a hole in leather. Examples--inseaming awl, sewing awl, clickers (or clicking) awl, pegging awl and hooked awl. [Frommer]
  5. A hand tool consisting of a blade and handle, used to pierce holes in leather for sewing and stitching [Goubitz, 2001]
  6. The shoemaker uses a long awl to make holes in the welt for the stitches and a short one to make the holes for the wooden pegs in the rand. [Vass]
  7. Forms of Awls
    Awl3.gif (2327 bytes)

Awl holes
  1. Square holes made with the awl for the wooden pegs used to attach the rand. The holes are eventually sealed with adhesive. [Vass]
  2. A small opening in the leather made by the awl blade; in archaeological leather it is seen where the awl entered and exited the surface of the leather. [Goubitz, 2001]

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Footwear of the Middle Ages - Glossary of Footwear Terminology A, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005 I. Marc Carlson. 
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