Shoe Glossary: Eyelet

Different Types of Eyelets

Person wearing tennis shoe, overhead view
Victoria Smith, Images

An eyelet is a hole that is punched into the shoe's upper that allows shoelaces to be threaded through. Eyelets are commonly reinforced with a metal or plastic grommet that covers the holes and prevents fraying. They also provide a smooth surface through which shoelaces are easily fed and are essentially responsible for keeping the shoes together and on the foot.

In their simplest form, eyelets are holes. Whether or not they are reinforced with a plastic or metal grommet depends on the style of the shoe. Certain shoes, like sneakers or dress shoes, are made out of leather and won't fray from the eyelet holes, therefore they don't need a grommet, but a shoe made out of canvas or a similar fabric will likely fray and needs that extra reinforcement.

Eyelets don't just appear in footwear. Any accessory or article of clothing that features laces will likely feature grommeted eyelets, like a string that tightens or loosens the hood of a sweatshirt or a lace-style closure of a handbag.

Types of Eyelets:

  • Punched: The punched eyelet is the most common kind of eyelet. It appears sneakers and dress shoes. The eyelet is punched into the shoe's upper and is typically reinforced with a plastic or metal ring. Punched eyelets are the most understated type of eyelets, making them most appropriate for dress shoes. Still, even with the reinforcement of a metal grommet, punched eyelets can rip out over time.
  • Webbed: This kind of eyelet appears mostly in lightweight dance and cycling shoes, rather than everyday shoes. Webbed eyelets are small loops of fabric that are sewn into the shoe's upper. Laces are then threaded through. Because the eyelets are made of fabric, however, they have a greater tendency to rip out, which can occur over time due to heavy use, or if the laces are accidentally pulled too tightly.
  • D-Ring: D-ring eyelets are like the industrial-strength version of webbed eyelets. They're heavy duty and they appear in similarly heavy-duty footwear, like work boots. Shoes rarely contain just D-ring eyelets. They're usually added to the last few rows of eyelets toward the ankle because they allow the shoe to be made tighter or looser for a more customized fit.
  • Hooked: Like D-ring eyelets, hooked eyelets typically appear within the last few rows of eyelets. Hooked eyelets can be found in casual footwear, but they most often appear in shoes like work boots, hiking boots, and ice skates. They're also much easier to lace than other kinds of eyelets. Often times a hooked eyelet is attached to a traditional punched eyelet that gives the wearer the option of winding the laces around the hooks or threading them through.