Quality shoes are complex: they have a wide variety of construction methods for every aspect of the shoe, and these options all have their pros and cons. We’re going to look at shoe welting, and what you need to know when making a decision on the type of welt you want in a pair.
First of all, what is a welt? Put simply, the welt is the layer of material that rests between the insole and the outsole of your shoe. The insole is the layer of material your foot makes contact with when you’re wearing your shoes. The outsole is the layer that makes contact with the ground. In order to create extra support and water resistance, and for a superior, more durable construction, a welt layer is essential. Another term we will be using here is the upper: the pieces that construct the main portion of the shoe, the portion your foot goes into.
There are three main varieties of welt attachment, but we’re going to look at two today. The third is called cementing, and it’s simply gluing the layers together. It’s cheap, easy to do, and is usually found on more casual shoes that are less well built. Here, we’re going to focus on the Goodyear and the Blake welt, as they are the more durable options which speak to a higher quality of shoe.
The Blake: Industrial and Flexible
The Blake welt is more common than the Goodyear. It’s known to be less costly to construct and is a very industrial method, as it requires a specific machine and cannot be done by hand. In a Blake welt, the upper is wrapped all the way around the insole, resting between the insole and the welt layer. A single stitch is pushed down through the insole and passes through the upper, the welt, and the outsole, resting perpendicular to the shoe’s layers.
The Blake welt is simpler to construct. It does require a specific machine to create, but on the whole, it is less expensive than a Goodyear welt. The stitch goes through only a few layers, making it more flexible. Because of its simplicity in construction, it is generally easier to resole if necessary.
On the flipside, because the Blake welt requires a specific machine, resoling can be more expensive, despite the initial construction of a Blake welt being on the less expensive side. In addition, while fewer layers does make the shoe more flexible, it also makes it less water resistant, and in some cases, less durable. Some men say their foot becomes irritated by the interior stitching on the insole, as well.
The Goodyear: Custom and Intricate
The Goodyear welt is less common, but also more complex. It’s more expensive to construct because it is more involved and is often done by hand, but it is also more durable. For these reasons, it is widely considered to be the superior welt, and when we say it’s complex, we mean it: there is a three-step system involved in constructing a Goodyear welt. First, the insole is prepared by creating a rib that extends below the insole, into the welt, perpendicular to both. It can be cut and sculpted from the insole material itself, or it can use an entirely different material. The shoe upper is then stretched into the shape of the toe, and pressed up against the insole rib, where a second rib is made from the upper, resting next to the insole rib.
The next step is to last the shoe. A last is a three-dimensional model of a foot, used to shape the shoe before the pieces are all attached. In this case, the outsole is stretched over the last and attached to it. Third in the process is the welting itself. A shoe-thread is sewn through the welt, parallel to it, and then through the insole and upper ribs. A second stitch is made perpendicular to the sole and welt layers, attaching the welt to the outsole.
A major benefit of the Goodyear welt is that the two separate stitches makes for an easy resole, and while they are more expensive to construct up front, due to the extra materials and manual labor required, the lack of necessity for a specific machine makes for a less expensive resole. While the ribs created makes for a less flexible shoe, it is more supportive, durable, and water-resistant.
So Which Welt is Right For You?
When picking a welt style, it comes down to trade-offs. We’ve highlighted some of the pros and cons here, now it’s just down to what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to forego. If you’re looking for a hardy shoe that is going to last you for many, many years, go with a Goodyear. The Goodyear welt, with its durability, more involved construction process, and resoling capabilities, is widely considered the superior welt, which is why we strictly offer it here at HARTTER | MANLY. We want your shoes to last a lifetime and to only fit better with time. Like most elements of a man’s wardrobe, it’s a good idea to have a variety of options, but if you’re only looking to invest in one pair now, take these tips into consideration and pick out the perfect pair for you.
Learn about the HARTTER | MANLY process.
— GENTLEMAN'S CAFE —
Features, tips, insights
— NEWSLETTER —
Be in the know.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”
— Benjamin Franklin