anatomy of a Hersey


The Upper

Essentially, everything that sits on top of the sole of a shoe is called the upper. It includes the heel counter, the toe box, the tongue, the laces and all the rest. As with the midsole and outersole, we will build the upper with whatever combination of materials fits your needs.

Heel counter

The rear-most part of the upper is the “heel counter,” and its purpose is to support you and your shoe sufficiently for your intended activity. In the Hersey Custom Original, for example, the heel counter is made of dual 60/60 Surlyn®, a rigid plastic-like material that is of medium weight as heel counters go. (You can’t see it because it’s covered with leather and stuff.) In a Racing Flat, where speed is more important than stability, the heel counter is lighter. In a High Top or a Hiker, it is likely to be larger and heavier.

Double-reverse flare foxing

double reverse flare foxingIf you’ve never seen or heard of Double-Reverse Flare Foxing, it’s probably because mass manufacturers can’t do it. It has to be done by hand. Look at the back part of any Hersey Custom, and you’ll see how the material of the upper has been folded out and stitched to the top of the midsole. It may look a little funny to you, but it provides tremendous extra support. The big guys would do it if they could, but it’s just not possible on a machine.

Toe box

Sure, it’s where your toes go. But did you know it can be wide, narrow, thin, thick, light, or extra heavy to fit your specific needs? Or that we can make parts of it curve out to accommodate abnormalities of your foot, like Morton’s Toe? You’d be amazed at the weird toe boxes we’ve made. The wearers were amazed at how good their feet felt.

Instep support panel

For our training, walking and hiking shoes, we put this piece in for extra support. It adds weight to the shoe, of course, so we’d probably leave it out of a racing shoe to be used on a smooth, flat course when speed is the priority.


Actually, it’s more than the tip. It’s the piece of leather that starts at the very front of the shoe and wraps around the sides until it runs into the instep support panel.

Achilles Notch

If you’ve ever had skin burns caused by the back of a shoe rubbing on your Achilles tendon, you’ll appreciate this little feature. There’s lots of padding there, too, so kick up your heels all you want.


This is the cloth part of the shoe, and we can make it with either nylon mesh or 200 denier nylon. The mesh is more breathable but a little heavier, so we usually use the 200 where the weight of the shoe is a concern.


We always make sure it’s soft and comfy, and you can run your laces through the holes that are in it to help prevent your tongue from slipping, so to speak.


They’re Hersey gray, of course, but if you’re dying to add a splash of color to your get-up, you can replace them for a very small investment at your local sports shop or super-drug. One customer got fluorescent orange laces that show up real well in traffic. But we make him take them out before he sends his shoes back for resoling so that we don’t go blind.

Eyelet stay

Eyelet stay is a fancy name for the leather horseshoe in the top of your shoe that holds the holes that hold your laces.


Have you noticed how the midsoles in different Hersey Customs may have very different combinations of black, gray and white? The colors represent different densities of material, and I may use as many as seven different densities in a single shoe, placing each piece exactly where it needs to go to protect the foot in question. One of the biggest deficiencies of mass-produced shoes is that the midsoles of a given model are all the same, regardless of the size and abnormalities of the wearer. Even with perfect bio-mechanics, a 200-pound person simply can’t get as much protection from the sole construction as a 120-pound person. Your Hersey is made just for you.


The thinner piece of black rubber on the very bottom of the shoe is the outersole. It will vary in nature depending upon what the shoe is going to be used for. A racing flat, for example, will have a blown rubber Vibram® outersole that is light in weight and designed for good traction on even surfaces but not on icy roads or trails. Our standard carbon rubber outersole is a medium-weight, all-purpose sole ideal for trainers and walking shoes, and it can handle moderately uneven terrain. For hiking and running on unpredictable off-road and winter surfaces, our heavier deep-lug sole is probably in order.

Wear plug

If you’re a heavy heel-striker, and the back edge of your outersole wears thin way before the rest, we put a “wear plug” on your shoe. It’ll look like we just sliced your outersole into two pieces. The back part is the wear plug, and when it starts getting thin, we simply peel it off and replace it before you wear through to the midsole. It keeps you comfortable and saves you the cost of a complete resoling when you may not need one.

race flatRemovable insert

You usually don’t see this part unless you’re staring down into your shoe, but you sure do feel it if it’s not there. We have several different types, ranging from soft & cushy, to firm & supportive, to a multi-density insert especially helpful to people whose feet severely pronate. You can replace your inserts anytime.