Classifying footwear

This guide will help you to classify footwear correctly for the purposes of the Tariff.

Footwear is classified in the European Classification of Goods (CN) according to

  • the material that the 'upper' and the 'outer sole' is made from (this can be any material except asbestos)
  • its type and purpose
  • other characteristics such as whether the shoe covers the ankle, the size, the height of the heel, and whether it's intended for men or women

Defining footwear

The upper

The upper is the part of a shoe, boot, slipper or other item of footwear that's above the sole. The upper doesn't include the tongue or any padding around the collar.

If the upper is made of more than one material then you have to decide which material covers the greatest external area. You should ignore any accessories and reinforcements like

  • ankle patches
  • edging
  • ornamentation
  • buckles, tabs, eyelet stays and similar attachments

The outer sole

The outer sole is the part of a shoe, boot, slipper or other item of footwear that comes into contact with the ground during use. The outer sole doesn't include any separate attached heel.

To establish what the outer sole is made of, you have to identify the material that has the greatest surface area in contact with the ground. You should ignore any accessories and add-ons such as

  • spikes
  • bars
  • nails
  • protectors and similar attachments

Reinforcements are parts such as leather or plastic patches that are attached to the outside of the upper to give it extra strength. They may or may not be attached to the sole. To be treated as a reinforcement, an attached part must cover material that's suitable for use as an upper, not just lining material. If an attached part covers just a small area of lining material it's treated as part of the upper and not as a reinforcement.

So that you can be sure of classifying footwear correctly, it might be necessary for you to cut the external material to see what's underneath it and find out which parts are reinforcements and which parts make up the real upper.

Other useful definitions

When you're classifying footwear it's useful to know what the other parts of a boot or shoe are called. Some examples are listed below

  • collar - the area that forms the rim of a boot's or shoe's upper
  • eyelet - the reinforcement around the edge of a lace hole, usually made of metal or plastic
  • eye stay - the area of a shoe or boot on which the eyelets are located
  • foxing - a thin strip, often made of rubber, attached round the edge of some shoes and boots
  • heel counter - a patch of material attached to the outside of the heel area of a boot's or shoe's upper to stiffen it
  • heel tab - a patch of material attached to the outside of the heel area of a boot's or shoe's upper beneath the collar
  • toe cap - a patch of material used to reinforce the outside of the toe area of the upper
  • tongue - a flap of upper material attached to the vamp that covers the instep of the wearer - the tongue typically lies between and beneath the two eye stays
  • vamp - the part of the upper behind the toe cap - the vamp can include the toe if the shoe or boot has no toe cap

Types of footwear

When you classify footwear it's important to identify what type of footwear it is and any particular purpose it might have.

For classification purposes the upper is the part of the shoe that covers the sides and top of the foot.

Some of the more common types of footwear covered in Chapter 64 are listed below

  • clogs - usually the uppers are made in one piece and are fixed to the soles by rivets. Sometimes clogs are made in a single piece and don't have - or need - a separate, applied outer sole, in which case they're classified according to the material they're made from and not covered in this chapter.
  • espadrilles - these are also called beach shoes and have plaited fibre soles that are no thicker than 2.5 centimeters. They don't have heels.
  • flip-flops - these are also referred to as thongs. The thongs - or straps - are fixed by plugs that lock into holes in the sole.
  • hiking or walking boots - note that these aren't classified as sports footwear
  • Indian sandals - these have leather outer soles and leather uppers. The upper consists of straps that cross the instep and go around the big toe.
  • moccasins (American Indian type) - these use a single piece of material - traditionally soft leather - to form both the sole and the upper (or part of the upper). This makes it difficult to identify where the outer sole finishes and the upper begins. 
  • neoprene footwear - this is typically used in diving and water sports. If the neoprene upper is covered or laminated with textile on both sides, then it's classified as being made of textile. If the upper has no textile covering, or it's covered only on one side, then it's classified as being made of rubber.
  • safety footwear - footwear in which the toe caps are made of metal
  • sandals - the front part of the upper (the vamp) consists either of straps or of material with one or more pieces cut out of it
  • shoes - this term covers footwear, including trainers, that aren't described elsewhere in this guide
  • slippers - these include mules as well as other indoor footwear such as ballet slippers and ballroom dancing shoes. If the outer sole is made of plastic or rubber (approximately 1 centimeter thick) and then covered by a very thin, insubstantial layer of textile material, the slippers are classified as having 'plastic/rubber' outer soles. In some cases, all or part of the plastic or rubber outer sole is covered with a thicker, more durable textile material which is dotted with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This is to prevent the wearer from slipping. These slippers are classified according to the material that has the most contact with the ground. If the slipper has a plastic or rubber sole that's covered with a textile covering, the slipper can only be classified under heading code 6405 if the textile is proved to be durable.

Common materials used to make footwear

Products covered in this chapter can be made of any material except asbestos, which is classified in heading code 6812. Examples of materials commonly used in footwear include

  • rubber
  • plastics
  • leather, composition leather and fur skin
  • textiles - including felt and non-wovens
  • plaiting materials
  • wood
  • cork

Rubber and plastics include woven fabrics and other textiles with a visible external layer of one of these materials.

Plastic sheeting

This is any flat material made of plastics covered in Chapter 39. It may be shaped by gluing, sewing, welding or molding (vacuum forming).

Cellular plastic sheeting

This is a type of plastic with many cells throughout the material. Cells can be open, closed or a mix. It's commonly used in manufacturing footwear classified under heading code 6402. It's often used as a substitute for leather and described as 'imitation leather', 'synthetic leather', 'PU (polyurethane) leather', 'vinyl leather' or 'PVC (polyvinyl chloride) leather'.

Textile material

This is any flat material made of woven or knitted textile fibers. Textile fibers include plastic strips less than 5 millimeters wide.

Artificial straw and other plaiting materials

These materials are classified as textiles if they're made of

  • materials classified under heading code 5308 - yarn of other vegetable textile fibers, paper yarn
  • materials classified under heading code 5404 - synthetic monofilament of 67 decitex or more and of which no cross-sectional dimension exceeds 1 millimeter, strip and the like (for example artificial straw) of synthetic textile materials of an apparent width not exceeding 5 millimeters

Footwear made of materials normally classified under heading code 5404 is classified under heading code 6404. But if the width of the fibers or strips is more than 1 millimeter (for synthetic monofilament) or more than 5 millimeters (for strip and the like) then the material is treated as 'other material' and the footwear is classified under heading code 6405.

Neoprene is a cellular rubber with many cells throughout the material. Cells can be open, closed or a mix. It's normally covered on at least one side by knitted textile fabric. Water sports footwear is often made from neoprene.

Leather, composition leather and patent leather

Leather is the hide or skin of animals such as

  • cows and other bovine species
  • goats and kids
  • sheep and lambs - without their wool
  • swine
  • reptiles like snakes and crocodiles

Animals used for leather mustn't be on the endangered species list. To check, please visit the CITES website.

Patent leather is leather coated with a varnish, lacquer or pre-formed plastic sheet. It has a shiny, mirror-like surface. The varnish or lacquer used can be pigmented or non-pigmented and may be based on

  • vegetable oil that dries and hardens - linseed oil is normally used
  • cellulose derivatives like nitro-cellulose
  • synthetic products (including thermoplastics) - polyurethane plastics are normally used

If pre-formed plastic sheet is used to coat leather, it's usually made from polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

The surface of patent leather isn't necessarily smooth. It could be embossed - maybe to imitate crocodile skin - or artificially crushed, crinkled or grained. But it must still have a shiny, mirror-like finish.

To be classified as patent leather, the thickness of the coating mustn't be more than 0.15 millimeters.

This group of materials also includes leather coated with pigmented paint or lacquer to give a metallic sheen. These paints and lacquers consist of pigments like mica, silica and similar flakes in a binding substance like vegetable oil that dries and hardens, or plastic. Leather treated like this is known as 'imitation metallised leather'.

Patent laminated leather is leather coated with a sheet of pre-formed plastic thicker than 0.15 millimeters but less than half the total thickness of the finished material. It has the same mirror-like finish as patent leather and is sometimes known as 'patent coated leather'.

This group of materials also includes leather coated with metal powder or leaf - for example silver, gold or aluminium.

If leather is covered by a sheet of pre-formed plastic thicker than 0.15 millimeters, but more than half the total thickness of the finished material, then it's covered in Chapter 39.

Footwear parts and accessories

Footwear parts are classified under heading code 6406. They can be made out of any material except asbestos, which is classified in Chapter 68 under heading code 6812.

Footwear parts classified under heading code 6406 include

  • parts of uppers, like toe caps and vamps, that aren't attached to an outer sole. They can be stitched, glued or attached in some other way to an inner or middle sole, or insole.
  • pieces of leather that have been cut approximately to the shape of an upper
  • stiffeners - these are pieces of hard material like plastic that are inserted into a shoe or boot between the heel or toe section and its reinforcement or lining. They're designed to give these areas greater strength and rigidity.
  • inner and middle soles, and outer soles with no other shoe parts attached to them. If an outer sole does have another shoe part attached, it's treated as a complete item of footwear and classified according to the material from which the outer sole and shoe part are made.
  • arch supports and insoles
  • heels - these can be any type and made of any material. They could be designed to be glued, nailed, or screwed on. Heel parts, like top pieces, are also included.
  • studs, spikes and other similar items for sports footwear

Two or more footwear parts assembled together are also classified under heading code 6406 as long as they don't essentially form a completed item of footwear. This is the case whether they're attached to an inner sole or not.

Fittings that can be worn inside footwear are also classified as footwear parts under heading code 6406. These include

  • removable insoles
  • hose protectors
  • removable internal heel cushions

Items like eyelets, zips, press studs and buckles aren't classified as footwear parts even if they're going to be used in footwear manufacturing. They're classified elsewhere under their appropriate headings - for example zips are classified in Chapter 96 under heading 9607.

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