Key Footwear Definitions

Footwear Definitions

These definitions are provided merely as guidelines to assist FDRA members and the industry at large in classifying footwear under Chapter 64, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).  They are not to be construed as Customs rulings. 


Accessories or reinforcements:

Generally, accessories or reinforcements are non-structural materials added to either a substantially complete upper or outer sole.  They generally consist of overlays lying on top of other materials.  Accessories or reinforcements are not included in external surface area measurements for either the upper or outer sole. However, certain tariff provisions require that accessories or reinforcements be added back to the upper, after the applicable heading is determined to arrive at the appropriate subheading.  Examples of accessories or reinforcements on footwear uppers include ankle patches, edging, ornamentation, buckles, tabs, eyelet stays, non-removable laces, slide fasteners (zippers), hook & loop (Velcro) straps, etc.  Examples of accessories or reinforcements on outer soles include spikes, bars, nails, protectors (taps), thin layers of textile flocking and detachable textile materials applied to, but not embedded, in the sole.


Adhesive:  (6404.11.40, 6404.11.60, 6404.19.40, 6404.19.60)

In an exclusively “Adhesive” construction, all of the pieces of the bottom i.e., sole and mid-sole (if any), would separate from the upper or from each other if all adhesives, cements and glues were dissolved.  Adhesive is the only thing keeping the bottom attached to the upper (no stitching, nailing, taping, stapling, etc.).

It includes:

  1. Shoes in which the pieces of the upper are stitched to each other, but not to any part of the bottom.
  1. Shoes in which there is a fake stitch in the sole, i.e., the stitch does not unite two different pieces, but only goes back and forth through the same piece.

It does not include:

  1. “Vulcanized” construction footwear.
  2. “Simultaneous molded” construction footwear.
  3. Molded footwear in which the upper and the bottom are one piece of  molded rubber or plastic.
  4. Footwear in which any staples, rivets, stitching or any of the methods  above are utilized to attach the upper to the bottom.


Athletic: (6404.11)

(Additional U.S. Note 2) The term “tennis shoes, basketball shoes, gym shoes, training shoes and the like” covers athletic footwear other than sports footwear, whether or not principally used for such athletic games or purposes.

“Athletic” footwear includes:

  1. Lightweight “sneaker” type flexible soled footwear capable of being used in athletic activities requiring fast footwork or extensive running.  Some of the features found in athletic footwear include (but are not limited to) foxing or foxing-like bands, athletic outer sole tread, padded tongue, footbed and collar, toe bumpers, heel counters, anti-injury devices, secure means of closure and general athletic appearance.  Athletic footwear for classification purposes need not exhibit all such features.

It does not include:

  1. Open toe/heel footwear, sandals, or any footwear that does not enclose the foot as the named exemplars do.
  2. Slip-on footwear without a means of closure to secure the shoe to the foot.


At the heel: (6404.11.40, 6404.11.60, 6404.19.40, 6404.19.60)

“At the heel” refers to overlap of the upper by the sole in the above subheadings.  It does not include any of the side area of the shoe.  “At the heel” cannot exceed 2.5 inches in length measured with a tape measure.


At the toe: (6404.11.40, 6404.11.60, 6404.19.40, 6404.19.60)

“At the toe” refers to the overlap of the upper by the sole in the above subheadings.  It does not include any of the side area of the shoe.  “At the toe” cannot exceed 2.5 inches in length measured with a tape measure.


Composition Leather:

Composition leather (a.k.a.: bonded leather) is usually made by binding together natural leather fibers or small pieces of natural leather (see Heading 4115) with a binding material (usually glue or plastics material) or without a binding material, by strong compression.  It is made of leather waste or scraps formed into strips, sheets, slabs or other forms.


Covering the Ankle: 

If the shoe upper extends upward to cover at least half of the lateral (outside) ankle bone, the shoe covers the ankle.  If the shoe upper does not extend upward to cover at least half of the lateral ankle bone, the shoe does not cover the ankle.  Footwear with ankle straps, laces or ties that extend up the leg and do not obscure from view at least half of the ankle bone do not cover the ankle, even though part of the shoe extends above the ankle.



When determining the constituent material having the greatest external surface area of a boot upper, we generally do not include the boot liner (theoretically facing the inside).  However, certain boots are designed to be worn in a cuffed condition with the top of the shaft rolled down to expose a portion of the lining.  We assume the boot is intended to be “cuffed” if:

(1)  The country of origin/size label is located far down inside the shaft and will not be visible when the boot is cuffed.  OR, the country of origin/size label is easily removed without damaging the underlying material.  OR, it is an attractive label and does not detract from the appearance of the boot  if exposed.  OR, it is an attractive label and sewn into the shaft upside down.

(2)  The top part of the shaft is a poor match (color, design, material) for the lower part of the shaft, thereby indicating that portion will be hidden when the boot is cuffed.

(3)  There is a split at the top rear area of the shaft that facilitates cuffing the boot

So that the back edges of the cuff lay flat and do not flare out from the

(4)  The lining at or near the top of the boot shaft is made of a different material than that of the lower part of the shaft, and is equally or more attractive as a cuff than the lower lining material.

On the other hand, we assume that the top of the shaft is not intended to be “cuffed” if:

(1)   The country of origin/size label is securely sewn into the inside back seam, within two inches of the top of the shaft.

(2)  The shaft is lined with tricot (an open unit fabric)  bonded to foam plastic or, with another material equally as unacceptable in appearance as a cuff.

(3)  The zipper or slide-fastener extends to the top of the shaft.

Other factors, including advertising and display of similar boots may also be considered.



A line of demarcation exists if one can indicate the line along which the sole ends and the upper begins.  For example, a sock or an infant’s bootie does not normally have a line of demarcation


External Surface: (Upper) 

Chapter 64 EN (D)

The upper is the part of the shoe or boot above the sole.  However, in certain footwear with plastic molded soles or in shoes of the American Indian moccasin type, a single piece of material is used to form the sole and either the whole or part of the upper, thus making it difficult to identify the demarcation between the outer sole and the upper.  In such cases, the upper shall be considered to be that portion of the shoe which covers the sides and top of the foot.

HTS Chapter 64 Note 4(a)

If the upper consists of two or more materials, classification is determined by the constituent material having the greatest external surface area, no account being taken of accessories or reinforcements.

The “external surface” of the upper (ESAU) is, in general, the outside surface of what is seen (tactile or visible) covering the foot (and leg, if applicable) when the shoe is worn.  The measurement of external surface area begins where the upper material turns under to the horizontal plane.  Generally, component materials of the upper must be visible on the surface of the shoe, must be plausible upper material and must be structural, contributing strength to the shoe to be ESAU.  In addition, 100% of the upper must be accounted for in ESAU measurements.

It does not include:

  1. Tongues on a lower plane than the rest of the upper (Even if Visible).
  2. Removable shoelaces or ribbons.
  3. Liners that face the foot or leg.
  4. Functional stitching.
  5. Loosely attached appurtenances such as bows or flowers minimally secured at the center.
  6. Foxing or foxing-like bands
  7. Welt strips
  8. Wedge wraps

9.  Accessories and reinforcements such as ankle patches, edging, ornamentation, (i.e. tassels, embroidery, pompoms or braids (EN 64 (D)), buckles, tabs, eyelet stays, slide fasteners, hook & loop closures and similar attachments.  Accessories or reinforcements are added back to external surface area calculations in certain subheadings.

It does include:

  1. Small holes in material.
  2. Flocking fibers.
  3. The top of boot linings if capable of being cuffed. (See Cuff)
  4. Exposed portions of linings seen through holes in uppers larger than a collar button.


External Surface (outer sole):

The outer sole is that part of the footwear (other than an attached heel) which is in contact with the ground when the footwear is in use.  If the outer sole is composed of more than one material, the material comprising the outer sole is the material having the greatest surface area in contact with the ground.  The area of the sole just forward of the heel, that will not make contact with the ground when the shoe is in use, is not included in surface area measurements.  Accessories or reinforcements such as spikes, bars, nails, protectors, thin layers of textile material not embedded in the sole are not included in surface area measurements.  The named examples all cover part of an otherwise complete outer sole. 


Formed Upper:

Additional U.S. Note 4, Chapter 64, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) provides that provisions of subheading 6406.10 for “formed uppers” cover uppers, with closed bottoms, which have been shaped by lasting, molding or otherwise but not by simply closing the bottom.

If a hole is cut in the bottom of a completely formed upper, that upper does not have a “closed bottom” and therefore is not a “formed upper” for tariff classification purposes.  Generally, two requirements must be met in order for an upper to be considered formed; (1) the upper material must be shaped, and (2) the bottoms must be completely closed.



Footwear classified in Chapter 64 HTSUS excludes:

  1. Footwear of textile materials without an outer sole glued, sewn or otherwise affixed or applied to the upper, or footwear of textile material with no clear line of demarcation between the sole and upper.  (In order to be classified in Chapter 64, HTSUS, footwear of  textile material must have an outer sole, the “outer sole” must be a separately identifiable component prior to its application to the upper, the outer sole component must encompass essentially the entire underfoot area and the complete article must not be designed to be worn inside other footwear).
  2. Disposable shoe or foot coverings of flimsy material (paper, plastic sheeting, gauzy textile).  As a rule, you can usually tear or rip “flimsy” material by pushing your finger through it with little effort.
  3. Used or worn footwear entered in bulk.
  4. Orthopedic footwear (made to measure for a particular patient) and orthopedic appliances such as talipes appliances, surgical boots and cast boots which are not usually sold in pairs and are usually sold in surgical supply stores, and usually require a doctors prescription.
  5. Sports equipment including skate boots with the skates or wheels attached, diver flippers, water or snow skis and snowshoes.
  6. Animal or pet footwear.
  7. Toy footwear.


Foxing or Foxing-like bands:


  1. A foxing is a strip of material, separate from the sole and upper, that secures the joint where the upper and sole meet, usually attached by a vulcanization process.
  2. A foxing must be applied or molded at the sole and overlap the upper and substantially encircle the entire shoe.


  1. A foxing-like band has the same or nearly the same appearance, qualities or characteristics as a foxing.
  2. A foxing-like band does not have to be a separate component and is often part of the unit-molded sole.
  3. A foxing-like band must be applied or molded at the sole, overlap the upper and substantially encircle the entire shoe.
  4. The overlap must be ¼ inch or more (measured vertically starting from where the upper material turns upward from the horizontal to the vertical plane) for footwear in American men’s, youths and boys sizes 11.5 and larger and American women’s and misses sizes 12.5 and larger, 3/16 inch or more for American children’s size 8.5 up to boys size 11 and girls size 12 and 1/8 inch or more for infants sizes 0 through 8.
  5. An encirclement of 40% or less of the shoes perimeter is not “substantial” and does not constitute a foxing-like band.  An encirclement of 60% or more is “substantial” and is a foxing-like band.  An encirclement between 41% and 59% may be a foxing-like band depending upon the type of shoe and placement, function and appearance of the overlap.

Components such as toe and heel bumpers, foot stabilizers, and mid soles, that are applied at the sole and overlap the upper are included in foxing-like substantial encirclement measurements.  However, “mock-welts” which are separate welt strips added for appearance only are not “foxing-like.”


Functional Stitching:

Functional stitching is excluded from external surface area percentage maesurments.  To determine if a stitch is “functional,” (i.e. holding two pieces of material together) cut the thread appearing on the upper and see if the two pieces of material separate with minimal effort



A layer of material (sometimes removable) shaped to the bottom of the last, usually the material between the outer sole and the foot.  In order to be considered an inner sole for purposes of subheading 6403.51. 11, 6403.59.10, 6403.91 11 and 6403.99.10, the material must encompass the entire underfoot area.  Heel pads and forefoot pads alone do not constitute an inner sole.


Line of Demarcation:

Certain footwear such as moccasins and molded rubber/plastic clogs do not have a separate sole.  The same material comprises both the upper and sole.  In situations where the outer sole is not a separate component, there is no line of demarcation separating the upper from the sole.  In situations like this, the upper shall be the portion of the shoe that covers the top and sides of the foot.  Footwear of this type having removable platform foot beds or insoles should be measured after their removal.


Loosely Attached Appurtenances:

In the past, CBP has ruled that items such as strips, buttons, pompoms, etc. which are attached to the upper by rivets, gluing, stitching (tacked) at one or two points and which serve as decorations are not to be treated as part of the exterior surface area of the upper if their removal does not render the shoe unserviceable as footwear.  These items commonly referred to as “Loosely Attached Appurtenances” (LAA) are not considered to be part of the upper, therefore, they are not included nor added back when measuring external surface area of the upper (ESAU)

In determining whether or not an item is a loosely attached appurtenance, among other things, we look to see if it is loosely attached (i.e. secured by minimal stitching or a single rivet or tack), if it is not functional (added only for its decorative qualities) and if it can be removed without making the shoe unserviceable.  Unserviceable is interpreted to mean incapable of being used or unfit for use.

1. LAA must be purely decorative, not functional no matter how minor or non-essential.

2. An appurtenance must be secured by minimal stitching (one or two stitches), tacking or a single rivet.

3. Removal must not result in excessive holes rendering upper unserviceable.

4. LAAs are generally not measurable in any objective way (tassels, pom-poms)

5. Examples of LAAs are textile flowers, fabric bows secured with minimal (one or two) stitching or a single rivet or tack, pom-poms, non-functional three-dimensional buttons and tassels.

Sequins, beads, buckles, studs, decorative rivets, sewn down flowers or bows, imitation jewels, rhinestones, shells, wooden decorations etc. are generally accessories or reinforcements.


Open: (6402.99.30, 6404.19.25, 6404.19.30, 6404.19.35)

If any part of the front of the wearer’s toes can be seen, the footwear is open toe.

If any part of the back of the wearers heel can be seen, the footwear is open heel.  The heel is the rearmost boney part of the foot, the top of which is located just below the Achilles tendon.


Overlap: (6404.11.40, 6404.11.60, 6404.19.40, 6404.19.60)

Overlap in this context is not to be applied to foxing-like band determinations.  Footwear is considered to overlap the upper, other than at the toe and heel, if a unit-molded outer sole overlaps the upper by 1/16 inch at the ball of the foot on a uniform height overlap.  If the overlap is not uniform, measurement should be made at the “high point” of the overlap.  Infants and children’s sizes up to US male size 11 and female size 12 are considered to overlap the upper, other than at the toe and heel, if a unit-molded outer sole overlaps the upper by 1/32 inch at the ball of the foot on a uniform height overlap.  If the overlap is not uniform, measurement should be made at the “high point” of the overlap.


Protection: (6401.99.30, 6401.99.60, 6402.30.50, 6402.91.50, 6402.99.20, 6404.19.20)

Footwear is designed to be worn over, or in lieu of, other footwear as a “protection” against water, oil, grease or chemicals or cold or inclement weather only if it is substantially more of a protection against those elements than the usual footwear of that type (e.g. a hiking boot will keep the foot warmer and drier than going barefoot, however, it must have additional “protective” features such as a protective lining or water-sealing features to be “substantially” more of a protection than other hiking boots.

A.  Footwear that is a “protection” against water includes footwear:

  1. Designed for outdoor use with “Gore-Tex®” or other water resistant fabric liners.
  2. Labeled or advertised as “water-proof” or “water resistant.”
  3. Having seams reinforced with water resistant tape.
  4. Garden Clogs (except open toe/heel or ventilated clogs)

B.  Footwear that is a “protection” against cold or inclement weather includes all footwear designed for outdoor use and lined with:

  1. Thinsulate® or other insulating material.
  2. Fleece or fake fleece.
  3. Foamed plastic, which uncompressed is more than ½ inch thick.
  4. Fur or fake fur.

Or all footwear items with heating coils and provision for electrical current from batteries for heating.


Slip-on: (designed for use without closures), (6401.99.30, 6402.99.40, 6404.19.25-35)

Footwear without closures (e.g. laces, buckles, straps, hook & loop closures, snaps or other means of securing the footwear to the foot) designed to be worn without any further securing to the foot, including:

(1)   Footwear with elastic gores which must be stretched to put the footwear on the foot.

(2)   Footwear with elastic material at the top edge of the upper.

(3)   Footwear with non-functional laces, (e.g. the lace is neither tied or untied to secure the shoe to the foot).


Sports Footwear: (6402.12, 6402.1905-90, 6403.12, 6403.1910-70, 6404.11)

Sports Footwear applies ONLY to:

(1) Footwear that is specifically designed for a sporting activity and either has spikes, sprigs, cleats, stops, clips, bars or the like, or has specially integrated provisions designed to accommodate the attachment of spikes, sprigs, cleats, stops, clips, bars or the like.

(2) Skating boots (without the skates attached), ski-boots, cross country ski footwear, snowboard boots, wrestling boots, boxing boots and cycling shoes.

CBP does not broadly interpret the exemplars “spikes, sprigs, cleats, stops, clips, bars or the like.”   It is CBP position that the named examples may also include projections that are attached to, or molded into, the soles of “sports footwear” in order to provide traction during outdoor sporting activities such as golf, field sports (e.g. baseball, soccer, American football, rugby, etc.) or track and field events.  We also consider crampons and similar attachments for rock and ice climbing boots to be “like” the named exemplars.  Spikes, sprigs, cleats, stops, clips, bars and the like are, generally, projections possessing relatively sharp points or edges, designed to dig into turf or ice to provide traction during sporting activities.  For molded footwear where the outer sole has projections formed in the mold along with the outer sole, the projections must be:

(1)  Relatively sharp or pointed,

(2)  At least ¼ inch in length when measured from the surrounding sole material,

(3)  Widely spaced, making everyday walking in such footwear impractical.


Textile Material:

Covers the fibers, yarns, fabrics, felts, non-woven twine, cordage, ropes, etc., of Chapters 50 through 60,HTSUS.

Included as “textile” are:

(1) Plastic monofilaments not exceeding 1mm (1/25 inch) in any cross sectional diameter.

(2) Plastic strip (i.e. artificial straw) 5mm (1/5 inch) or less in any cross sectional diameter, in their folded condition.

(3) Jute.

Not included as “textile’ are:

(1) Plaiting materials of vegetable origin such as reed, bamboo, rattan, straw, grass, natural raffia,

(2) Horsehair or horsehair waste.

(3) Leather or composition leather.

(4)  Hides or skins with hair or wool on.

(5)  Artificial fur.

(6)  Any textile material with an external layer of rubber or plastics that is visible to the naked eye.


Turn or turned: (6403.59.15)

Applies only to footwear with outer soles of leather, (not composition leather, rubber or plastics) where the upper is sewn to a single leather sole wrong side out.  After sewing, the shoe is “turned” right side out by hand.  A separate insole may be cemented into the shoe after sewing, but no further significant sewing is performed after turning.  If the shoe has a “plug” sewn in at the top of the vamp, with visible stitching, it is not turned construction.



Additional U.S. Note 1.(b) provides that the term “footwear for men, youths and boys” covers footwear of American youths’ size 11-1/2 and larger for males, and does not include footwear commonly worn by both sexes.  Since females wear practically all the types of footwear worn by males, CBP has adopted the following approach to classifying leather upper footwear in heading 6403, HTSUS.

Footwear labeled with size marking “Men’s Size_____”, “Youth Size______”, or “Boys Size______”, will generally not be commonly worn by both sexes and therefore not subject to “unisex” classification.

If it is established that the same shoe is available in the U.S. marketplace for females, the male sized footwear is not commonly worn by both sexes and will not be subject to “unisex’ classification.

If it is not established that the same shoe is available in the U.S. marketplace for females, and not labeled  “Men’s Size_____”, “Youth Size______”, or “Boys Size______”, and the shoe is the type of footwear commonly worn by both sexes, then the footwear is deemed “unisex’ and all sizes will be classified accordingly.


Welt: (6403.12.30, 6403.19.10-20, 6403.40.30, 6403.51.30, 6403.59.30, 6403.91.30, 6403.99.40)

Additional U.S. Note 1. (a) provides that the term “welt footwear” means footwear constructed with a welt, which extends around the edge of the tread portion of the sole, and in which the welt and shoe upper are sewn to a lip on the surface of the insole, and the outsole of which is sewed or cemented to the welt.

While there are many types of welt construction footwear in the industry, The HTSUS only recognizes “lipped welt” construction wherein the welt strip is sewed through the upper and through a “lip” which extends downward from the bottom of the insole.  The “lip” may be scored from the insole or a separate material attached to it.  The welt may also be sewn or cemented to the top edge of the outer sole.


Zoris: (6402.20.00)

“Zori” must have all of the following characteristics:

  1. It is wholly of rubber or plastic.
  2. An upper which is a single molded piece of rubber or plastic as the sole.
  3. A foamed rubber or plastic sole, which is approximately uniform in thickness, i.e. The  thickest point is neither more than 3/8 inch thicker than the thinnest point nor more than 35 percent thicker than the thinnest point.
  4. At its thickest point, the sole is less than 2 inches thick.
  5. The sole does not have a separate “insole.” A layer of rubber or plastic similar to the other layers of the sole is not a separate insole assuming it is more than 1/32 inch thick.
  6. The molded rubber or plastic upper segment has plugs at the end of each segment and each plug must penetrate all or part of the sole. The plugs do not have to penetrate all   layers of the sole.
  7. The upper either has straps (segments) which form a “V” or “Y” and a thong which  goes between the first and second toes or has straps (segments) which form an “X”.

A “Zori” may have:

  1. Either a sole of one piece of foamed rubber or plastic or many horizontal layers of different colors joined together.
  2. A separate, loosely attached ornament on the upper, such as a plastic flower.


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