The Goodyear-welted construction is the most common way of making high quality shoes in factories. Invented in 1869 by Charles Goodyear Jr. it has since then hardly changed and until this day sets the standard for quality shoe making.
The essential feature of a Goodyear-welted shoe is a strip of leather called the „welt“ which is sewn around the shoe to which then at a later stage the outsole is stitched.
This allows for several repairs of the shoes because the stitches can be cut and a new outsole can be stitched on and even the welt can be replaced if necessary.
The welt is stitched to the upper and a cotton-rib that is glued to the insole. This creates a strong bond that still allows for flexibility when walking because the stitching can follow the moving and flexing of the shoe.
Photos of the making process at Crockett & Jones. You can see how the leather welt is being stitched to the upper and insole. Source: crockettandjones.com
This is one big advantage of shoes that are welted or stitched compared to glued or cemented shoes. The moving and flexing of the shoe does not break the construction over time.
Hand welted shoes are something that has become quite rare these days which you only find on really high end Ready-to-wear but mostly bespoke shoes. Hand welting is a very labour intense process that requires a skilled and experienced artisan.
The biggest difference is that a hand welted shoe doesn’t use a cotton rib which is glued to the insole like on Goodyear-welted shoes, but the rib is carved by the artisan directly into the leather of the insole which allows for an incomparable strong bond between welt, upper and insole.
Like that the artisan can achieve a very close sitting welt with a little gap between welt and upper and he can give a really elegant silhouette to the bottoms of the shoes.
5. Give the product time to be absorbed by the leather
Here you can see a hand-welted next to a Goodyear-welted shoe. The white cotton rib on the Goodyear-welted shoe is quite visible and on the hand welted shoe you can see how the rib has been carved into the leather of the insole.
3. Storm-welted / Norwegian-welted construction
The Storm-welt construction is a variation of the Goodyear-welted construction where a different type of welt is used. The welt sits on the outside of the upper rather than going below.
Like that, this construction doesn’t create a gap between welt and upper which makes it significantly more difficult for water to penetrate the shoe.
As you might have read in our article Most common mistakes when taking care of your shoes, the gap between upper and welt is an area that needs regular care with shoe cream to be protected against water.
With this construction you don’t have to worry about that. Therefore you find it mostly on heavier boots and shoes designed for the countryside or fall and winter.
4. Cemented Construction
Around 95% of shoes produced worldwide are cemented. It is the most common industrial way to produce shoes.
Here the entire shoe is held together by glue.
Those industrial glues involved in the process are so well developed that they create a really strong bond.
The disadvantage compared to welted shoes is that it is a chemical bond which can be damaged over time when exposed to flexing of the shoe and moisture from rain.
5. Blake-stitched Construction
The Blake-Construction is a way of turning a cemented shoe into a stitched shoe.
It does not include a welt but the shoe is stitched through insole, upper and outsole creating a strong and flexible bond.
The disadvantage here is that because the stitching goes from the outsole to the inside of the shoe it is easy for water to penetrate the shoe.
Therefore this construction is mostly found on high quality summer shoes.
Written by Louis Lampertsdörfer (@louislampertsdoerfer)