We present a taxonomy for local distance functions where most existing algorithms can be regarded as approximations of the geodesic distance defined by a metric tensor. We categorize existing algorithms by how, where, and when they estimate the metric tensor. We also extend the taxonomy along each axis. How: We introduce hybrid algorithms that use a combination of techniques to ameliorate overfitting. Where: We present an exact polynomial-time algorithm to integrate the metric tensor along the lines between the test and training points under the assumption that the metric tensor is piecewise constant. When: We propose an interpolation algorithm where the metric tensor is sampled at a number of references points during the offline phase. The reference points are then interpolated during the online classification phase. We also present a comprehensive evaluation on tasks in face recognition, object recognition, and digit recognition.