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Our Blog

Understanding Shoe Construction

Friday, 15th March 2019

I often get asked why my shoe prices have such a difference in range. It's quite simple really. It's all in the construction. Our more expensive shoes will be Goodyear Welted or Blake Stitched. These are the two main shoe constructs favoured by the aristocracy. Blake stitch is particularly favoured by Italian designers and footwear manufacturers.

Some useful information which may help you decide on your next pair of shoes.

A Goodyear welt is a strip of leather, rubber or plastic that runs along the perimeter of a shoe outsole.[ The machinery used for the process was invented in 1869 by Charles Goodyear Jr., the son of ] 

Construction

"Goodyear welt construction" involves stitching a welt to the upper and a strip of preformed canvas like a "rib" that runs all around and bottom (known as "gemming") cemented to the insole of a shoe as an attach-point for the out sole or midsole (depending on the Goodyear welt variant). The space enclosed by the welt is then filled with cork or some other filler material (usually either porous or perforated, for breathability), and the outsole is both cemented and stitched to the welt. Shoes with other types of construction may also have welts.

Process

The Goodyear welt process is a machine-based alternative to the traditional hand-welted method (c. 1500) for the manufacture of men's shoes, allowing them to be resoled repeatedly.

The upper part of the shoe is shaped over the last and fastened on by sewing a leather, linen or synthetic strip (also known as the "welt") to the inner and upper sole. As well as using a welt, stitching holds the material firmly together.

The welt forms a cavity which is then filled with a cork material. The final part of the shoe is the sole, which is attached to the welt by some combination of stitching and a high strength adhesive like contact cement or hide glue. The result is highly valued for being relatively waterproof by minimizing water penetration into the insole and the relative ease of resoling as long as the upper remains viable. Welted shoes are more expensive to manufacture than those mass produced by automated machinery with molded soles.


BLAKE STITCHED

Shoes made using the Blake stitch go without a welt altogether. It simply uses a single channeled stitch running straight from the outsole through to the interior to hold the different elements of the shoe together. Some modern shoemakers slip a lining within the shoe to hide the Blake stitch from a bird’s eye view, however the more traditional method was to leave the Blake stitch visible.

The Blake stitch has become less common. While a Blake stitched shoe can be resoled, it needs a specific Blake machine to do so – making it much more difficult and expensive than resoling a Goodyear welted shoe. While fewer layers make the sole more flexible, they also make it less water-resistant. Water can wick up through the sole and begin to pool more quickly and easily. There are also some men who complain about irritation at the bottom of their feet because of the interior stitching.


Hope this helps and makes sense when I rabbit on about the expensive shoes being Goodyear Welt or Blake Stitched rather than just cemented on.