When you’re a little unfamiliar with outdoor gear, the myriad of terms and concepts thrown at you via catalogues, websites, and sales associates can become overwhelming and confusing. I encourage everyone to always ask for clarification if something is unclear to you, especially when it involves the outdoor: doing so may change your life. Hiking boots and shoes are one example of outdoor gear that seem to come with a lot of different words, which is why today I’ve provided you with a short glossary of hiking boot and shoe terms that should help familiarize you with the various components of boots.


This refers to the difference in height between the heel and the forefoot of a boot or shoe. Smaller heel-drops are ideal for runners because it makes landing on their mid or forefoot easier when running. A large heel-drop promotes a heel-to-toe stride.


A removable liner that creates support and cushioning.

Notch (Achilles Notch)

A cutout in the rear of the ankle that helps ease pressure on your Achilles tendon during hikes.

Foam (EVA and Polyurethane)

EVA is a foam rubber material used in midsoles to provide cushion. Polyurethane is denser than EVA and provides more durability and protection, as well.


This is the heel-to-toe curve of the sole that promotes an easy, natural stride.


A stiff piece of nylon or TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) that runs lengthwise and protects your foot from flexing too much, which can cause fatigue.


The rand is a band of protective rubber or leather that wraps around the lower portion of a boot to create further protection and resistance to abrasion.


Appropriately saved for last, this is the foot-shaped foundation of a shoe or boot. The last will determine the way a shoe fits and each manufacturer has its own unique shape and design.  

Boots and shoes are one of the most important pieces of gear in any outdoor experience, and I hope the list above helps if you find yourself in the market for a new pair of shoes or boots. I know it can feel like each piece of gear we use on the trail comes with a Pandora’s Box of associated terms and special lingo, and in a way, this is true. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to become familiar with such terms, though, and taking a bit of time to learn more about outdoor gear can be a huge help—both when buying and when using it.