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All About Accessories: Shoe Anatomy 101

All marching shoes are not created equal. In order to avoid sore feet and even stress fractures, band and guard instructors and performers should be aware of the essential parts of a shoe's anatomy to understand what each component can offer.

By Chris Casteel
Posted August 10, 2010

Shoe X-Ray If you have ever marched in the Tournament of Roses Parade, in Pasadena Calif., then you understand the value of a good marching shoe after completing the nearly 6-mile route. Or if you are an elite member of a World Class drum corps that marches at 220 bpm (beats per minute), then you need a marching shoe that meets the demand of the endeavor.

When looking at the anatomy of a marching shoe, it is important to realize that marching is unlike any other athletic activity. Muscles are utilized in the glide step, high step and jazz run that make the construction of the marching shoe diverse from its athletic counterparts. In this article, we will take a brief tour of the components within a marching shoe.

Upper Portion

First things first, let's look at the shoe's upper portion, which consists of the eyelets, tongue, throat line, material, quarter and collar.

Eyelets: This part of the shoe creates the proper fit, most of which stems from the lacing system. Ideally, a five-eyelet lacing system will provide most marchers with excellent stability while still achieving comfort. However, the more eyelets on a shoe, the easier it is to adjust for an individualized and secure fit.

Tongue: This part of the shoe needs to be wide enough, so that performers do not feel any friction on their foot from the lacings. Also, if there is a small opening in the tongue through which the laces can be threaded, it will stay in place better over long periods of time.

Throat line: While marching, it is so very important that a shoe flexes along the natural flex lines of the foot. The part of the shoe that performs this function is called the throat line. Located to the front of the eyelets, the continual flex of the shoe makes this a vital component for both comfort and durability while marching. Most shoes have a seam in this area. Check to make sure that the seam is sewn in a way that the gathering of material does not dig into the flex line of the foot.

Material: Ultimately, flexibility is going to come from the material that is used on the upper portion of the shoe. Leather is the best choice and will allow flexibility over time. However, due to cost and exposure to the elements on the field and street, marchers need to find a happy medium in this area. A material called Napa vinyl provides excellent flexibility, easy care and durability over time.

Quarter: Located in the rear of the shoe, the quarter lies above the heel. The quarter area needs to fit snugly on the performer, so that it does not slip causing blistering and irritation. Also, the quarter of a shoe sees a lot of action due to the continual on and off motion. You don't want this area to break down and no longer support the heel. Most marching shoe manufacturers place a stabilizing material into the quarter area to provide constancy over time and wear.

Collar: The majority of marching shoes offer a cushioning system around the collar of the shoe. The cushion could be anything from a rolled upper material to actual padding sewn into the collar. This acts in tandem with the quarter area to prevent discomfort in the foot's heel.


Next, let's look at the midsole, which is home to the shoe's arch. Please look toward marching shoes that provide an arch; unfortunately, many marchers get stress fractures all too easily due to the lack of support in the arch area. The bottom line should be overall safety. While money may be saved via purchasing shoes with very little arch support, it is simply not worth the risk.

Also, look for a shoe where the sole is sewn, rather than glued, to the upper. Particularly in the summer months, the glue on some shoes could get hot from the sun, causing the shoe to separate. Therefore, a sewn sole improves durability for more consistent foot support in high-impact or side-to-side motion.

A shoe's sole is the foundation through which the entire shoe rests. The sole should provide three things to a performer: flexibility, traction and endurance/durability.


Last, but certainly not least, is the heel of a marching shoe. The heel elevates the rear portion of the shoe in comparison to the toe area. This portion of the marching shoe has gone through significant improvements, making them more suitable for the activity than other athletic shoes or dress shoes. Manufacturers have created unique systems in their heels that help with the distinctive motions caused by various marching styles.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that twenty five percent of the bones in a body are found in the feet. If the support mechanisms found in the anatomy of a shoe are not working properly, performers will slouch with their shoulders and experience body pain or injury.

So whether you are marching in the Tournament of Roses Parade, competing in a World Class drum corps or performing a high school field show, the importance of a well-designed shoe is imperative. Understanding the shoe's anatomy and what each segment of the shoe can offer will lead to a positive and successful experience. Happy Marching.

About the Author: Chris Casteel has been involved in the marching band activity since 1981 as a color guard performer and instructor. As a performer, she marched in the 1984 Summer Olympics. As an instructor, she has worked with several medaling guards in the Winter Guard Association of Southern California (WGASC). She has also been an adjudicator for the Southern California Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA) and the WGASC for nearly 7 years. In addition, she has held the position of Education Coordinator for the WGASC since 2008 where she authors several educational articles. Casteel's articles also appear on the website. Currently, Casteel is a full-time middle school teacher who specializes in Language Arts/Writing.

DSI Director's Showcase International About the Sponsor: DSI (Director's Showcase International) is the premiere wholesaler of marching band accessories and accessories for guard including wooden & plastic rifles, footwear, flags, poles, guard outfits, and other accessories. DSI brands include Elite Rifles & Sabres, Starlite Dance Boots, MTX & Viper Marching Shoes, Command Center Podiums, and Ever-Dri Performance Gloves. To see the complete line of DSI products please visit

Text by Chris Casteel. Image licensed through iStockPhoto.

Copyright 2010 All rights reserved. This material may not be published or redistributed without permission.

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