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Shoe Material Symbols – What Do They Mean?


Have you ever wondered what those shoe signs symbols stickers that come with the shoes mean? Do you want to know exactly what your children’s shoes are made of? Several parents have asked me how can they tell what type of materials were used to make their kids’ shoes. The label that comes with every single shoe is a breakdown of the construction of the shoe, and it basically tells you all the information that you need to know about the materials that were used to construct the shoe.

There are a lot of parents who prefer to buy shoes made of man-made materials (vegan shoes). The label that comes inside the shoe comes in handy to distinguish the materials apart, so you can make sure you are buying a shoe that is not made of animal skin.

Why would shoe companies put a sticker inside the shoe with images but no explanation of what those images actually stand for? Through this post, I will explain what each shoe material symbol means and stands for.

Let’s start by breaking down the shoe symbols so you can understand them better. The shoe label is divided into two columns and three rows, and each row has three categories. The column on the left shows the three parts of the shoe and the right column shows which materials are used for the part. Below I have taken a picture of this label and broken down the categories so you can understand what each symbol actually means.

Shoe Material Symbols – Figuring Out What the Shoe Material Symbols Stand For


By the way, you can find this shoe material sticker inside your kids’ shoes:


Let’s start by describing the shoe symbols in the left column:

Upper: This is the outside part of the shoe, the one that is the most visible. The upper part of the shoe consists of all the parts of the shoe above the sole. Uppers tend to be made with different materials, both natural and synthetic.


Lining and Sock: This involves the inside of the shoe, which is the part that provides your child with comfort and support. This part consists of various materials such as leathers, fabrics, and man-made synthetics.


Outer Sole: This is the sole of the shoe, which has the main function of protecting your kids’ feet from the ground. This part is directly exposed to wear and tear, so it must be made of good quality. They tend to be made from different materials, and the outer sole is constructed with different thicknesses and degrees of flexibility.


Now, let’s describe the shoe symbols in the right column:

Leather: This symbol means that the skin of an animal has been used to make the shoe. This symbol refers specifically to leather, but keep in mind that there are many kinds of leather, such as nubuck and suede. Did you know that for a shoe to be classified as genuine leather, a minimum of 80 percent of the shoe must be made from leather?


Textile: This symbol means that a fabric has been used. If you are looking for an animal-friendly shoe, this is the sign you want to look for! The symbol represents all man-made or natural materials.


Other materials: This symbol refers to the outer sole of the shoe which is a man-made material. Some of the materials used for the sole of the shoes are PVC (plastic), wood and rubber. This symbol also means animal-free materials.


Coated leather: This symbol refers to a surface layer of a chemical such as polyurethane that is applied to the grain side of the leather. This material makes the shoe much cheaper than a genuine leather shoe and has a consistent surface finish. Some of the main disadvantages of coated leather are that it doesn’t look or feels like genuine leather, it doesn’t breathe as well, and it is less flexible.


Are You Looking for Vegan Shoes for Your Children?

Nowadays, most footwear is made out of animal skin, and I understand why many people will refuse to use products containing any part of the animal body. Finding a pair of shoes marked vegan is not an easy task.

How can you tell if your kids’ shoes have been made from animal-free-materials? If the label says either ‘synthetic’, ‘man-made materials’, ‘textile’ or ‘other materials’ then you should feel confident that no animal skin has been used!

Just make sure the material icon alongside the shoe icon on the label doesn’t have the leather symbol.

I do have to warn you that buying shoes made out of synthetic materials can bring many problems to your children’s feet. These shoes tend to be poorly made, which leads to the shoe falling apart faster. Shoes made out of synthetic materials also tend to make your kids’ feet sweat a lot more, which can create a myriad of problems for their feet.

If you are looking for vegan shoes for your child, I have put together a selection of the best kids’ shoes made from man-made materials. Disclosure: Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases.

The Best Vegan Shoes for Kids ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Unsure About What Shoe Size You Should Order?

In each of the descriptions of the shoes, I indicate whether you need to order a half size or a whole size bigger than your child’s current foot size to provide the correct amount of growing room.

How to Retrieve Your Child’s Exact Foot Length and Shape

If you are unsure of your child’s foot size I suggest that you take a look at a different article I wrote where I help parents determine their child’s exact foot size and whether the child has narrow, medium, wide, or extra wide feet. I also will be able to tell you whether your child has a high instep or not:

How to Measure Your Kids’ Foot – 2 Simple Steps to Determine Foot Length and Foot Width

I know which kids’ shoes are better than others since I have been fitting children’s shoes for the last 10 years now, working at a specialized shoe store that focuses in children with foot and leg pain, but we provide regular shoe fittings as well.

Are Any Other Shoe Choices Available?

I always tell parents one thing: It doesn’t matter how narrow or wide your kids’ feet are, there is always at least one particular shoe style out there that will fit the shape of your kids’ feet perfectly, and I will help you find them.

I recently created a tool that allows parents to filter shoe options by their child’s unique footprint. The tool involves a simple process in which parents select the child’s age, shoe size, type of shoe that they are looking for, whether they want velcro closure or shoelaces, and other important features such as whether the shoe is capable of accommodating an orthotic.

I explain this tool in more detail in an article called:

Find the Best Shoe Style for Your Child’s Unique Feet

Do you prefer getting vegan shoes for your child or shoes made out of leather? Are there any vegan shoes you would recommend? Share your experience and thoughts in the comment section below so other people can benefit from them.


I created this webpage to help parents understand the importance that shoes have in healthy foot development and how they can prevent foot problems in the future.Join the rest of the parents who are taking care of their kids feet and get my guide for free: 10 Mistakes Parents Must Avoid When Buying Shoes for their Kids.

Do You Buy Your Kids’ Shoes Online?

Subscribe and get my personalized shoe size chart for free to help you find what size to order online.

Shoe Sizing Chart

12 Comments on Shoe Material Symbols – What Do They Mean?

  1. One thing for sure that I have noticed from this article is that it pays to get the right footwear for your children, it seems to be that this is one thing that you want to be diligent in doing correctly.

    I feel that you have described the symbols on shoes very well and you seem to really know what shoes are best for children’s feet and if you have to pay a little bit more for the right shoes, it certainly is worth it.

    • Adrian,

      I have fitted children shoes for almost 6 years now, and while that is nothing compare to my co-workers (some of them have 30 years of experience) I feel like I have learned a lot from them. Getting the right pair of shoes for our children is imperative to keeping their feet and legs healthy.

      You actually don’t have to pay more to get the right pair of shoes, you just need to know which shoes are best for children. I have found that some of the more affordable shoe styles, tend to provide the same amount of support and structure than the higher priced ones ( as long as they are fitted properly).

      You can probably benefit from reading a post that I wrote not too long ago: The Best Kids Sneakers – Learn About The Best Shoes For Children Ages 3 Through 10

  2. This is great. I never realized how technical childrens shoes were. I spent so much time just looking at the appearance and trying to decide whether or not a pair of shoes would look good combined with a particular outfit not concerned with whether or not my children were actually comfortable wearing them. Or whether they were the right shoe to begin with. You provide so much information on the technical side that I am beginning to wonder how well I did as a parent. Lol. I guess this is the first step, Literally , on becoming aware that there is more to a pair of shoes than I knew in the first place. Thanks for sharing this valuable information!

    • Linda,

      Getting the right type of shoes for your kids’ is not an easy task. You should always go to your local children shoe store to have their feet measure properly. Children tend not too be too vocal when it comes to expressing how their shoes feel, that is the reason why we must choose shoes carefully. I am glad that you found the information vauable!

  3. Interesting article! I had no idea there were labels in shoes that tell us what they are made of. This is really helpful, especially when you are trying to figure out if they are real leather or not. I am not a vegan, but I do look for quality in shoes and I will be checking out these labels next time to see what I can learn about the shoes before I buy them! Thanks for posting.

    • Sarah,

      It is important to know what these shoe material symbols mean in order to know what we are getting. It is important for vegans to know what type of materials were used to make the shoe.

  4. Wow, Juan, I had no idea there was so much technical information about children’s shoes. I really liked your advice about getting your children’s feet measured to know the correct size to buy. That’s extremely useful information and I will definitely be taking your advice. Thank you for sharing such helpful information!
    Warm regards, Claire

    • Claire,

      Getting the right shoe size for our kids’ is not an easy thing to do, if you don’t know how shoes are suppose to fit. It is extremely important to provide our children with the right shoe size if we want to keep their feet, legs, and back healthy. Do not hesitate to contact me anytime you have doubts or questions about shoes for your kids’.

  5. Hi, I should admit that before reading your article I have never heard about vegan shoes. Now I know what you mean, but still I am not sure I would choose a textile shoe for a toddler in the rainy country I live in. I prefer my kids shoes and feet to be dry.
    My mum, when I was a kid, always bought us shoes made of leather. These shoes are very comfortable and soft.
    But I am open to any suggestions what might be best for my kids to wear and would come back to your site again.
    All the best.

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