Guidance

Classifying footwear for import and export

How to classify footwear by type, purpose and material for use with the UK Trade Tariff, including guidance on chapter 64 codes.

Introduction

This guide will help you identify what is and what isn’t covered in chapter 64 of the Tariff.

Chapter 64 covers various types of footwear under heading codes 6401 to 6405 and parts of heading code 6406. It includes various types of footwear like shoes, boots, slippers and sports footwear are covered in this chapter. Parts of footwear are also included in chapter 64.

Find commodity codes and other measures applying to imports and exports by accessing the online UK Trade Tariff tool.

Footwear covered in chapter 64 is classified 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

For detailed information on this sector, read the guide on clothing, footwear and fashion.

Quick reference table of heading codes

Footwear item Heading code
Ballet shoes 6402 to 6405
Boots (not Wellington boots) 6402 to 6405
Footwear:  
- Fur and sheepskin boots 6405
- Leather with plastic/rubber or leather soles 6403
- Leather uppers with textile soles 6405
- Plastic uppers with rubber/plastic soles 6402
- Plastic uppers with textile soles 6405
- Textile uppers with rubber/plastic soles 6404
- Textile uppers with textile soles 6405
Gaiters 6406
In-soles 6406
Leggings 6406
Middle soles 6406
Moccasins 6402 to 6405
Outer soles 6406
Quarters (footwear parts) 6406
Sandals 6402 to 6405
Shoes (casual) 6402 to 6405
Skating boots - without skates 6402 to 6405
Slippers 6402 to 6405
Spikes, studs etc 6406
Sports shoes (football, cricket and rugby boots and golf shoes) 6402 19, 6403 19 or 6404 11
Stiffeners (footwear) 6406
Training shoes 6403 to 6404
Vamps 6406
Wellington boots (weatherproof plastic or rubber boots) 6401

Defining footwear

Footwear covered in this chapter is classified according to:

  • the material from which the ‘upper’ is made
  • the material from which the ‘outer sole’ is made

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

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.

Diagram: parts of a trainer
  • 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 centimetres; 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 centimetre 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. The durability of the textile can be proven by submitting the shoe for a martindale abrasion test and tested at 51,000 revolutions 

When you classify footwear there are some specific things that you need to think about.

Male or female footwear?

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether the footwear is meant for men or women. It helps to think about the size, shape or style of the footwear. Remember that unisex footwear can’t be identified as either men’s or women’s footwear.

Sizing

Chapter 64 doesn’t distinguish between adults or children’s footwear because adults can have small feet and children can have large feet. Instead, footwear is classified according to its size, specifically whether the length of the insole is more or less than 24 centimetres. Products that are identified depending on the length of the inside insole are classified under heading codes 6402 and 6403.

Sports footwear

Some types of footwear are classified as sports footwear. This covers:

  • footwear that has been designed for a sporting activity - it must have, or be able to have, features attached like spikes, sprigs, stops, clips or bars
  • skating boots, ski boots, snowboard boots and cross-country ski footwear, snow boots, wrestling or boxing boots and cycling shoes

Trainers aren’t classified as sports footwear unless they’re training shoes as specifically mentioned under heading code 6404 11.

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 moulding (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 leather’.

Textile material

This is any flat material made of woven or knitted textile fibres. Textile fibres include plastic strips less than 5 millimetres 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 fibres, paper yarn
  • materials classified under heading code 5404 - synthetic monofilament of 67 decitex or more and of which no cross-sectional dimension exceeds 1 millimetre, strip and the like (for example artificial straw) of synthetic textile materials of an apparent width not exceeding 5 millimetres

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

Neoprene

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, contact the CITES helpline on 0117 372 8749.

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 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 millimetres.

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 millimetres 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 millimetres, but more than half the total thickness of the finished material, then it’s covered in chapter 39.

Identifying the main materials used in footwear

When you’re identifying the correct commodity code for certain items of footwear, the first step is to establish the main material from which the upper is made.

The shoes in both the examples below are made from a combination of textile, leather and lining material. Only textile and leather are viable uppers for classification purposes. At first glance, the main material of the shoes in both examples seems easy to identify, but further examination reveals that this isn’t necessarily the case.

Shoe apparently made mostly of textile

Diagram: a shoe apparently made mostly of textile

Removing the leather toe cap (1) and the leather toe vamp (2) reveals that there’s only insubstantial lining material underneath. This means that both these leather sections have to be considered as viable uppers.

Removing the leather sections (3), (4), (5) and (6) reveals that there’s only lining material underneath. This shows that the textile upper material isn’t one continuous piece. Instead a number of individual sections of textile have been sewn onto the lining material and leather has been used to cover the areas of lining material where the pieces of textile don’t meet. This means that all of the leather sections must be considered as viable uppers.

Removing the leather side section (7) reveals that the textile material doesn’t continue all the way down to the sole area. This side section also has to be considered as a viable upper.

The small leather section on the side of the shoe (8) is used for reinforcement and has textile, not lining material, underneath it. This means that the textile, and not the small leather section, is the viable upper.

Similarly, removing the logo (9) reveals textile, not lining material, underneath it. This means that the textile, and not the logo, is the viable upper.

The examination has revealed that a greater area of the upper is made from leather than from textile. So in this example the shoe will be classified under heading code 6403.

Shoe apparently made mostly of leather

Diagram: a shoe apparently made mostly of leather

Removing the leather toe cap (1) and the leather toe vamp (2) reveals that there’s textile material underneath. This means that the textile must be considered as the viable upper and the toe cap and the vamp are just reinforcements.

Removing the leather eye stay (3) reveals a large area of lining material and a small area of textile (marked A on the diagram) underneath. Because the textile doesn’t extend all the way under the leather eye stay section - and because lining material isn’t substantial enough to be considered as a viable upper - the leather section must be considered as the viable upper.

Removing the leather section (4) reveals that it’s sewn on top of textile and that it also overlaps a small section (marked as A) of the leather eye stay (3). The leather eye stay has already been taken into account as a viable upper so the overlapping piece of the leather section can’t be counted. As there’s textile underneath the rest of the leather section, textile must be considered as the viable upper, and the whole of the leather section is treated as reinforcement.

Removing leather sections (5) and (7) and the logo (8) reveals textile underneath. This means that the textile is considered as the viable upper and the leather sections and logo are treated as reinforcements.

Removing the leather heel counter (6) reveals an area made up of textile and lining material. Because the textile doesn’t extend all the way underneath the heel counter, the leather is considered as the viable upper.

The examination has revealed that a greater area of the upper is made from textile than from leather. So in this example the shoe will be classified under heading code 6404.

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.

Exceptions

There are some exceptions which chapter 64 doesn’t include, like disposable foot or shoe coverings made of flimsy material like paper or polythene which have no separate sole. Products like this aren’t classed as footwear, but are classified according to the material of which they’re made.

What’s not covered in chapter 64

The following types of footwear aren’t covered:

  • footwear that is made from textile and doesn’t have a separate sole attached to it - this type of footwear includes socks, stockings and tights and depending on how it’s made is covered in either chapter 61 or chapter 62
  • worn footwear - to be classified as worn, footwear has to show noticeable signs of wear - worn footwear must also be presented in bulk, for example in railway goods wagons, in bales or in sacks worn footwear is covered in heading code 6309
  • footwear, footwear parts and footwear accessories that are made of asbestos - these are covered in heading code 6812
  • orthopaedic footwear and other orthopaedic appliances - they must be made to measure and mustn’t be mass-produced; footwear that’s only adjustable can’t be classified as orthopaedic - orthopaedic footwear is covered in heading code 9021
  • toy footwear - this is usually made from moulded plastic and doesn’t have a separate outer sole - toy footwear is covered in heading code 9503
  • shin guards and similar protective sportswear - these are covered in heading code 9506
  • ice skates, roller skates and all other skating boots with attached skates - these are covered in heading code 9506.

The following items aren’t classified as footwear parts, although they can be used in footwear manufacturing:

  • protectors, eyelets, hooks, buckles and ornaments -these are classified in heading code 8308
  • braid, pompoms and other trimmings - these are classified in heading code 5808
  • woven shoe laces - these are classified in heading code 6307
  • buttons, press fasteners, snap fasteners, press studs, zips and similar articles - these are classified in chapter 96

Further information

The free on-line UK Trade Tariff is available for your use to look up classification codes. This offers easy access to tariff information by providing commodity code and duty rate listings together with a search engine to facilitate enquiries and allow self-service to commodity code information.

If after visiting this site you are unable to self-assess your products, you can request additional support by sending a request by email to classification.enquiries@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.

Please ensure that one item only is detailed per email and that the request includes the following type of information, so that we can deal with your enquiry efficiently:

  • what the proudct is
  • what it is made of, if made or more than one material please explain the breakdown of the materials
  • what it is used for
  • how the product works/functions
  • how it is presented/packaged

Additionally detailed below is some additional information that is required on certain products.

  • for footwear – please include the type (shoe, boot, slipper etc), upper material details, outer sole material details, the heel height and the purpose for men or woman
  • for food – please include precise composition details by percentage weight of all the ingredients to 100% and the method of manufacture or process undergone eg fresh, frozen, dried, further prepared/preserved etc
  • for chemicals – please include the Chemical Abstracts Service Number, whether the product is a liquid/powder/solid and include the % ingredients
  • for textiles – please include the material composition, how it is constructed (knitted/woven) and the name of fabric
  • for vehicles – please include the age, the engine type (petrol or diesel), the engine size, whether the vehicle is new or used, whether the vehicle is over 30 years old and whether it is in its original condition. Is the vehicle going to be for everyday use?

A classification officer will then email a response back to you providing you with non-legally binding classification advice based on the information you have supplied.

CITES helpline Telephone: 0117 372 8774

Published 3 August 2012
Last updated 12 November 2015 + show all updates
  1. The further information section has been updated to show the change of contact details.
  2. First published.