Want to improve your kick game? Then you need to know the lexicon! Learn the difference between your Ablets and Eyelets, learn useful terms to help you with shopping online for sneakers and buying from resellers and collectors. Demystify some of the conversations you see on the forums by improving your understanding of the common terms and slang used to describe and sell sneakers online.
3M Scotchlite – Reflective material created by 3M over 75 years ago that has been used in sneaker design since the 90s and remained popular since. It has many other applications and is most commonly used for road signs.
Air – Nike technology featuring see through air pockets throughout the midsole. Traditionally only on the back portion but with the release of the Air 360 the air bubbles can now run through to the front of the shoe. Not to be confused with "Airs" which often refers to Nike Air Jordans.
Air Max – Air Max was introduced by Nike as Air Max Technology in 1987 with the launch of the first Nike Air Max 1 as a new cushioning technology to go in the midsole.
Aglets – These are the little things on the end of your shoelaces. Typically they are plastic wrapped around the end of the lace and sealed to prevent them from fraying and so they are easier to lace through smaller holes. These days they come in all sorts of different materials from carbon fibre to different metals and gold for example on some of the Yeezys.
B Grade – Refers to kicks that failed in quality control and didn't pass the A grade standards. These can often be found in discounted stores like TKMaxx / TJMaxx etc.
Beaters – A name used to refer to the sneakers you own that are worn due to excessive use however their ageing grows on your and adds character. These are likely your go to shoes and have been for some time. You may not want to part with them even when they are destroyed. Think of the times in your life you have had to throw a pair away but on the walk to the pin had flashbacks of the adventures you shared together. (wipes eye).
Bespoke – One of a kind customized trainers. Bespoke literally means "made to order".
Canvas – A popular material used for the upper or vamp of shoes and sneakers. Canvas is extremely durable yet still flexible and makes a great material for all manner of different prodcuts.
Carbon-Fiber – Carbon fiber is reinforced polymer, reinforced plstic or thermoplastic and is broadly referred to as Carbon-Fibre. This is another material commonly used for sneakers. You will often find this as a reinforcement material on the upper midsole or as extra parts attached to the shoes upper.
Chenille – A soft towelling type material used in some sneaker designs but not very common. A French word for Caterpillar whose fur the yarn is supposed to look like. Pipe cleaners are also called chenille stems as their texture is similar and you may have seen this on the Nike Swoosh on some trainers when the tick is furry.
Colorway – Refers to a specific color combinations applied to a shoe and is very misleading and vague in its use. For example, Red/White and Black/Blue/White
Crepes – Another term for fly footwear / sneakers bourne of hip hop culture. Urban Dictionary describes them as 'fly' trainers generally used in hip hop slang. gotta be swish though - not brogues.
Deadstock – A pair of sneakers that has never been worn, not if it has been worn inside or even tried on. Basically this has to have never been tried on for size or placed on the floor inside or outside.
Deubré – You know that little ornamental metal tag that hangs over the first loop of your laces on Air Force 1's? That tag isn't called a lace tag it's called a deubré often pronounced dubray. Honestly Google it!
Durabuck – A type of synthetic Nubuck inspired leather trademarked by United States Shoe Corporation and used by Nike between 1991 and 1998 until they stopped producing the material. Since the trademarked expired and wasn't renewed Nike is still free to use Durabuck to refer to their newer material they have used since to replace it.
Eyelets – This is the hole punched into the upper of the shoe for the shoelaces to be threaded / laced through. Eyelets can also be reinforced with a metal eyelet or plastic grommet to prevent the cut out holes from fraying.
Factory Lacing – Referring to the original laces and lacing style the shoes ship with. If selling second hand this might not be the case if you have relaced a different way or purchased new laces.
FlyKnit – Nike's own engineered knit material made from yarns and fabric variations engineered to be light yet strong. Typically used for the entire upper portion of the shoe or sections of the upper. The alternative to Adidas Primeknit material..
Flywire Technology – Nike Flywire is a thread composed of vectran or nylon and used in the upper portion of the shoe. The aim is to make it as lightweight as possible whilst enhancing support. Sneakers featuring Flywire have been available since 2008 and it was developed by Jay Meschter Director of innovation at Nike.
Foamposit – Foamposite also known as Posite is Nike's lightweight durable foam material first used in 1997 that is used for the upper / sides / vamp of the shoe. This is well sought after on modern designs and versions like the more modern Hyperposite are more often used these days. This neoprene looking material has been used on many sneakers for the sides and creates a more solid sided shoe. Great examples are the Air Foamposite shoes.
FSR – Stands for full size range and means a retailer has stock in all commonly required sizes.
Gore-Tex – Gore-Tex is a material known for being extremely waterproof while remaining extremely breathable and porous. It is a registered trademark of W. L. Gorde and Associates and was created in 1969. Many of the major footwear brands such as Adidas, Nike & Asics to name a few have used Gore-Tex consistently since the 90s for certain ranges of sportswear shoe where being light and waterproof are high priorities. It is made from stretched polytetrafluoroethylene also known as PTFE and more commonly associated with the generic trademark Teflon.
GR / General Release – Refers to sneaker styles on general release which means they will be in plentiful supply. Usually affordable or super common styles that are not valuable on the reseller market or to collectors.
Grails – The holy grail for sneaker collectors. Put simply grails are sneakers you want to possess before you 'kick' the bucket.
Hemp – Did you know the material that can be produced from the Cannabis plant is used as the material in some sneaker designs in place of canvas. While this is only on small number of sneakers we expect to see it used more and more over the coming years due to relaxed legislation revolving around the mysterious plant. Hemp was however used for 1000s of years and 100 years ago was used to produce thousands of different products. Expect a reassurance in its use in textiles and hopefully fashion over the next decade.
High-Tops – One of the most popular styles of trainer the High-Top quite obviously refers to sneakers with a raised profile around the ankle for support. The purpose was for support in basketball doing slam dunks and such but now is a fashion statement, looks cool with jeans and keeps your ankles warm.
Hyperfuse – Another material innovation from Nike, Hyperfuse technology creates a breathable and lightweight mesh in the high heat areas of the foot to help dissapate the heat where you need to. It also increases airflow and involves fuzing three different types of material in a heated press to create an extremely sturdy end product. Hyperfuse keeps your feet cool and comfortable.
Inner Sole / Insoles / Inserts – Can refer to either the original inner sole layer which is present in most sneakers or a separate product you can purchase to either help your shoes fit better, improve comfort, prolong lifespan or to follow medical advice in correcting your spin with orthopaedic inner soles.
Jumpman – Refers to the iconic silhouette logo of Michael Jordan jumping with a basketball that features on all Air Jordan products! The design was the brainchild of Peter Moore of Nike.
J's – Slang that refers to Air Jordans.
Lateral Side – The outer side of the foot.
Leather – A material we are all familiar and one of the most popularly used for all footwear and sneakers as well as thousands of other products. It is produced by tanning animal rawhide and skin most commonly cattle though it can be produced using a range of different animal hides. Production types and styles vary from region to region and also in attempting to achieve different styles and finishes. In the world of kicks the leather is often painted or died for use on the sneakers upper area and tongue.
Lows – Sneakers that have a low profile and low sides around the ankle. Also known as low-tops this style is the antithesis of the high-top.
Lunarlon – Lunarlon technology is the latest version of Phylon used by Nike and is used on nearly all of their performance footwear and is 30% lighter than traditional Phylon and much more bouncy and able to spread energy.
Medial Side – The inner side of the foot.
Mids – The middle bear. Mids are of a mid profile with mid range ankle covering up to or just above the ankle but no higher.
Midsoles – The part between the shoes upper and sole. The part your foot sites on though this area is then on top of the sole.
Neoprene – Also known as polychloroprene this material is a family of different synthetic rubbers produced by the process of polymerization of chloroprene. This has good chemical stability and retains flxibility over an very wide range of temperatures. This material is waterproof and often used in sneaker upper sections and mid soles as well as millions of other products most popularly wet suits.
NIB / N.I.B – Stands for "New in Box". Useful for when you are buying sneakers online, doing trades or working with resellers. This might mean they are ex demonstration or have been shown but not worn.
NOS – New Old Stock, stock of old styles that haven't been worn or used.
Nubuck – Nubuck is top grain cattle leather that has then been buffed / sanded to create short protein fibres and a velvety soft surface that remains resistant to wear and the conditions. Not unlike suede however it is created from the outer side of the animals hide which gives it added strength and is more costly than suede and requires a longer colouring process to cover up marks produced in the initial buffing and sanding to create the necessary texture. Nubuck is used on shoes, boots and also sneakers but usually only for certain decorative strips.
OGs – Not a re-release or retro but the original release.
Patent Leather – A material used commonly for the upper of footwear and is a glossy & shiny finished leather. The coating process was introduced to America and improved by the inventor Seth Boyden in 1818 New Jersey. The process now uses a plastic coating rather than the original linseed oil lacquer championed by Boyden.
Phylon – A material used for sneaker cushioning since it's first use on the Nike Cortez in 1972. At the time it was a revolutionary new kind of cushioning and is made from compressed ethylene vinyl acetate foam pellettes that are expanded by heating and then cooled in a mold.
Primeknit – A material created by Adidas involving a method that digitally knits the entire upper in a single piece of material. Knitting fused yarn allows them to tune the precise amount of flexibility and strength required for the various parts of the shoe. The result is a lightweight super comfortable fit that hugs your foot with love. It is also more eco friendly and Adidas version of Nike's FlyKnit.
Repel Spray – A spray you can use on your sneakers to make them water repellent and to stop them attracting and harbouring dirt. Makes cleaning your kicks a lot easier.
Reseller – Resellers are people who buy sneakers either in bulk or at release price and then sell them afterwards for a premium. Love them or hate them they are an integral part of the sneaker ecosystem and are both a good and bad thing in reality. The can make your dreams come true and they can upset you because they are better than you at getting there first. If you can't beat em, join em! Often resellers are passionate sneaker collectors and collect them like an art form. They work tirelessly hunting around brick and mortar stores to get their hands on the rarest of the rare.
Restock – Simply means the retailer has restocked in the item that was previously out of stock. Great news if you have been waiting, bad news if you just purchased at a premium elsewhere due to limited supply. Welcome to the game!
Retro – Retro refers to the style being either reminiscent of an older style or an actual re-release. Often sneaker brands do re-releases and enhance them to produce new versions.
Ride – Used to refer to the quality of the walk or run of a particular sneaker. Used mostly when referring to sole technology.
Ripstop – Ripstop fabric is a woven fabric usually made using nylon and uses a reinforcement process that helps to make the material more resistant to rips and tears. It involves cross-hatching thinner fabrics with thicker threads within thinner cloth.
Sizerun – Refers to the number of sneakers a retailer receives in stock of a certain shoe style and in which sizes. Commonly this includes sizes 6 to 12 depending on country. A partial size run means they have sold out of several sizes but still have stock of others. You have surely been to a shoe site only to see all of the common sizes are gone but size 6 and 12 are available.
Shox – Shox is a technology created by Nike and features shock absorbing suspension sections within the heel of the shoe. Introduced in 2000 this is a very particular midsole design.
Sole – The part of the sneaker that makes contact with the ground.
Suede – Refers to Suede leather a form of leather made using the underside of the skin, often lamb, though goat calf, deer and other mammals are also used. Due to the different fiber content it produces a more shaggy nap. While it is softer, thinner and thus more pliable and more delicate which comes with many benefits it also can become dirty and absorb moisture and liquids more easily meaning it is more difficult to maintain and clean.
Tonal – Tonal just means all one color. Why it needed a new term we do not know!
Tongue – The tongue is a strip of leather or other material such as canvas which is located beneath the laces of most shoes, at least those with laces. The tongue sits on top of the bridge of the foot and is connected to the shoes vamp and runs to the shoes throat. The tongue protects the top of the foot while protecting it from the laces rubbing and causing irritation.
Upper – The part of the shoe above the outsole and midsole. This is usually one or two materials and separately sewn and/or glued to the sole.
Vamp – The vamp is the name given to the part of the shoe that covers the top of the foot. In some cases this just covers the toes and is connected to the tongue and sides, in other cases the vamp covers the entire foot including around the ankle.
Velcro – Often used as fasteners on sneakers instead of or in addition to laces. This material created by George De Mestral a Swiss engineer in 1941 he finally patented the fastening technology in 1955 after spending the past decade or so improving and refining it into the commercial Velcro we have today. The inspiration came from a walk in the woods where burrs had clung to his trousers and dog and upon returning home wondered if he could turn it into something practical. The name is a portmanteau of the French words velours (velvet) and crochet (hook).
Velour Material – Velour is a fabric that can be woven or knitten allowing it to be stretchy. It is created by combining different knits with different levels of stretchiness and has a soft plush appearance with a nice often two tone finish shimmer. Velour can also refer to Velour Leather which is a more rough natural leather similar to the process in creating Nubuck.
Yeezy – Refers to collaboration sneakers produced by Kanye West and either Nike or Adidas currently. Nike and Kanye had a contract and produced numerous trainers but now Kanye has joined Adidas to produce his new range.
ZigTech – ZigTech is a sole and midsole technology created by Reebok that is very noticable as it features a continuous geometric zig zag of rubber from the front to the back of the shoe to the back of the heel designed to produce a secure and durable ride.