Shoe Glossary: Tongue

Male Runner Tying Shoe Lace
Mike Harrington/Taxi/Getty Images

A shoe tongue is a strip of leather or other material located under the laces of a shoe. The tongue sits on the top center part of the shoe on top of the bridge of the foot. It's attached to the vamp and runs all the way to the throat of the shoe. Tongues are found on any shoe with laces. It protects the top of the foot and prevents laces from rubbing against the foot.

Types of Tongues:

The material of a shoe's tongue depends on the type of shoe. Dress shoes often feature leather tongues, while athletic shoes have thick, padded, fabric tongues to cushion the foot. A shoe tongue is a fairly universal style. The materials used in the dress shoe and athletic shoe differ, but the cut doesn't.

The so-called "classic" shoe tongue isn't the only style. A bellows tongue is a wide, folding tongue that is completely attached to the sides under the eyelets to the vamp so the upper appears as one. This tongue style makes the shoe watertight. A kiltie shoe is a Scottish style that has a fringed tongue that folds over the upper and covers the laces.

Tongue Pads:

If you're like most people, your feet aren't exact matches of one another. In a particular pair of shoes, your left foot might fit comfortably, but your right foot might feel a little loose. Your shoes should fit both of your feet, and a tongue pad is a simple adjustment. A tongue pad has an adhesive backing and is stuck underneath the shoe tongue.

Tongue pads make a shoe fit more snugly and prevent the heel from slipping out. They can be used in any type of shoe with a tongue, from dress shoes to running shoes. Many people use shoe inserts to customize the fit of a shoe, but inserts aren't one-size-fits-all. Unfortunately inserts, which are designed to comfort and support feet, often end up causing more harm than good by ineffectively supporting the arch, negatively affecting pronation, etc. Why ruin a perfectly supportive pair of shoes with an insert when a tongue pad is a healthier and less invasive alternative?

If you have a pair of shoes that don't fit quite as well as you'd like, a tongue pad might be all you need. Placement of the tongue pad is important: if the pad is placed too high up on the tongue, it might not make a difference. Place it lower down on the tongue for the full effect.​

You might find that the tongue pad effectively eliminates pain or discomfort in the foot or ankle that was originally caused by the shoe's tongue. Tongue pads are especially helpful with running shoes. A pair of running shoes needs to have some allowance of space between the toes and tips of the shoes, but repetitive jamming of the toes against the shoe can cause serious pain. A tongue pad helps secure the heel and prevents the foot from sliding forward.

Watch Now: Tips to Make Shoes More Comfortable