How the toe is designed is perhaps the most important aesthetic part on a shoe. With its position at the front, it is the most visible, and much of how the rest of the shoes shape is perceived by the viewer is determined by the toe. Of course there are lots of different types of toe shapes, but this is an attempt to categorise and explain some traditionally used toe shapes,  and some overviewing categories. I also explained often misinterpreted expressions like chiseled.

 

Budapester toe

A large and very spacious toe box. As the name suggests it originates from the Austro/Hungarian shoe tradition, and today especially popular in Germany and from there eastward in Europe. Seen from above, the toe is very round, from the side, it has a shape which continues fairly horizontally until the sharp edge at the toe. All toe sides have this sharp edges, and can therefore completely accurately also be called chiseled (see explanation below). This type of toe can be quite short between the largest toe and the shoe’s front part.

 

A classic Budapester model from Hungarian Vass. Tall, angular tåbox. Picture: Style Forum

A classic Budapester model from the Hungarian brand Vass. High, sharp toe box. Picture: StyleForum

 

 

Classic round

The most neutral of all shoe shapes, which works on virtually any shoe model anytime and anywhere in the world. There is no fuzziness, the toe is soft, rounded but quite roomy. Also the edges have a softly rounded shape.

 

Crockett & Jones read 236 is a reading with a typical classical round shape.

Crockett & Jones’ last 236 is a last with a typical classic round shape.

Carminas Oscar is another reading with a classic round toe, which, however, differs somewhat from the C & J 236. First, it is more symmetric (see below) and tåboxen is also quite high, and folds down first at the very end, as seen above. Picture: Skoaktiebolaget

Carmina’s Oscar is another last with a classic round toe, which, however, differs somewhat from the C&J 236. First, it is more symmetric (see below) and the toe box is also quite high, and turns down first at the very end, as seen above. Picture: Skoaktiebolaget

 

 

Almond toe

Actually, just like a classic round toe, only slightly more pointed shape. The name, of course, that it resembles the shape of an almond. From the side, an almond shaped toe usually shaped so that it flattens out and becomes very low towards the end, just like an almond, but even a toe that retains its height and has a rounded edge higher until is often called almond shaped.

 

A shining example of a mandeltåformad read is Bestettis above named just Almond toe. Photo: Riccardo Freccia Bestetti

An excellen example of an almont shaped last is from the now late Riccardo Bestetti, a last also named Almond toe. Photo: Riccardo Freccia Bestetti

 

 

Pointy toe

The narrowest and most acute toe shape. The toe tapers sharply towards the end and has a round, narrow toe. They doesn’t have to be as extreme as winklepickers (a type I do not take up here) that is extremely narrow and long. A pointy toe is always also relatively elongated since to make room for the toes you must drag out the narrowest part. In this kind of shoes you need to have longer distance between the longest toe and the shoe’s front.

 

This couple from JM Weston has a pointed toe, also then become very elongated.

This pair from JM Weston has a pointy toe, which alos is very elongated.

 

 

Soft square

Now we go over to the angular types of toe shapes. This is the softest one of them (surprise..), which when seen from above has two slightly sharped edges and a tip between those who are still rounded but straighter than the round toe shapes. Overall, when talking square toes, if you look at them from the side they are low in the front, this since it’s both harder and in most people’s eyes it looks quite strange if you also have a high toe box.

 

Carminas Rain-reading has a soft square toe. Picture: epaulet

Carmina’s Rain last has a soft square toe. Picture: Epaulet

 

 

Square toe

Here we have a sharper square shape, also with a straighter front. Exactly where to add the distinction between soft square and square is nothing that’s set in stone, it can differ between manufacturers and individuals. But it doesn’t have to be a super sharp square toe box á la Paolo Scafora to be classified as square.

 

Gaziano & Girling TG73, the archetype of a reading with square toe.

Gaziano & Girling TG73, the archetype of a last with a square toe.

 

 

Chiseled

The epithets we go into now are those which may be additional to the various toe shapes above to closer explain a toe’s shape. Chiseled is an often misunderstood expression that many confuse with square toe. But a toe can be square without being chiseled. To complicate things further, the expression chiseled describes two different things that do not necessarily have to be be on the same toe. I’ll try to explain. Firstly the concept chiseled describes when the toe have angular shaped sides, which looks like someone has “carved out”the  toe (the adjective chiseled is described by a dictionary as “having a clean and clear outline, as if it is been accurately cut out along the edges”), like one has hammered out the shape with a chisel. But also when a toe seen from the side in profile has a sharp edge, then a straight part down towards the toe where another sharp edge is (see picture below for a clearer explanation).

 

Enzo Bonafes reading named Chiseled has focused properly selected pages, which is thus one piece of what is classified as chiseled. Picture: Skoaktiebolaget

Enzo Bonafe’s last called Chiseled has really sharp edges, which thus is one of the parts that is classified as chiseled. Picture: Skoaktiebolaget

Bestettis Perfetta-read also the second very distinct feature termed chiseled read, namely where the toe when an edge and then a rather flat portion toward the tip. A chiseled read can have only one of these two properties and still go under the name chiseled, or both. Have load this kind of tiptoe like the picture above, it is also always square, then fairly flat surface that is to require a square toe shape to go together. Photo: Riccardo Freccia Bestetti

Bestetti’s Perfetta last has the second very distinct feature of a chiseled last, namely where the toe has an edge on and then a rather flat part towards the tip, and finished with a new sharp edge. A chiseled last can have only one of these two features and still go under the term chiseled, or both. A last with this kind of toe tip like the one pictured above, is also always square, since the fairly flat surface that it has in front requirse a square toe shape to go together. Photo: Riccardo Freccia Bestetti

 

 

Elongated

This refers to when the last and toe are so to say draged out and elongated. Both toe shapes that are round or square can be elongated. Sometimes non-native English tongue mix this up with chiseled, but a last can be only elongated, just chiseled, or both elongated and chiseled.

 

Crockett & Jones 348 is perhaps the most well-known of the long, narrow / elongated loads. It is also chiseled and square toe. Picture: Macsamillion

Crockett & Jones 348 is perhaps the most well-known of the elongated lasts. It’s also chiseled and with a square toe. Picture: Macsamillion

 

Symmetrical

A symmetrical last have a toe that has an inward shape on both sides, and where the toe when the ports relative to the middle. Given the shape of the foot what we call symmetrical toe always a bit asymmetrical, so it’s in this context a relative concept. It was only on the really old, not-so-good days when you could not afford to manufacture shoes for each foot as you did absolutely symmetrical shoes. All such shoes then looked exactly the same and it made no difference for the right and left foot, and these were obviously not very comfortable for any of the feet.

 

A relatively symmetrical reading is Carminas Alcudia. Photo: The Armoury

A relatively symmetrical last is Carminas Alcudia. Photo: The Armoury

 

Asymmetric

A last with an asymmetric toe is positioned far inwards, where the front of the shoe’s inner part runs fairly straight forward from the inner ankle, while the outer is more heavily angled. Again, it’s hard to say where to draw the distinction between symmetric and asymmetric shoe, since it is relative concept which is interpreted differently.

 

Alfred Sargent 109-read is clearly asymmetric, where the toe is far inwardly relative to the rest of the shoe. Picture: Unipair Top: Cleverley

Alfred Sargent’s 109 last is clearly asymmetric, where the toe is far inwards relative to the rest of the shoe. Picture: Unipair. Top picture: Cleverley