What is a Goodyear welted shoe? | Complete Guide 2023
October 19, 20228 min read
What does Goodyear welted mean?
Goodyear welted is a category of high quality shoe construction that allows a pair to be resoled multiple times without damaging the upper leather. The machinery used in the process was invented in 1869 by Charles Goodyear Jr., the son of the American manufacturing engineer Charles Goodyear. Labor and material intensive, we believe Goodyear welting to be the pinnacle of artisanal shoemaking.
In this article you will learn:
How to tell if a shoe is Goodyear welted.
Why Goodyear-welt construction is better.
All about the Goodyear welt construction: Stitching, soles, leathers & more.
Goodyear welted shoes are made by first attaching a welt, a thin piece of leather or rubber, to the bottom edge of the upper leathers. Both pieces are further attached to a canvas rib that is cemented to the bottom of the insole.
The rib leaves a small cavity that’s filled with cork to give a breathable and malleable footbed, and a metal shank is placed at the heel to maintain the shoe’s shape. With the welt fully secured between the upper leather and insole, the outsole can finally be stitched onto the welt for a fully constructed pair.
How to tell if a shoe is Goodyear welted?
The telltale sign when determining if a pair is Goodyear welted is the stitching between the top of the welt and the outsole. Because this is a single thread that attaches these pieces together, the stitch should be consistently finished on both sides.
Some brands glue on a welt and give it an aesthetic stitching. The intention is to give the appearance of a Goodyear welted construction, but the welt and outsole will be cemented instead of stitched. By comparing the density of stitching on the outsole with the stitching on top of the welt, an inconsistent amount of stitching is a sign that the pair isn’t truly Goodyear welted.
Why is the Goodyear welt better?
The Goodyear welted construction is the pinnacle of shoemaking. The primary benefit is a pair’s long term durability and ability to be resoled. Goodyear welting allows for the easy release of the outsole from the welt, which can be replaced with a brand new sole.
Because of the layers of leather stitched together, a Goodyear welted pair has greater water protection than other constructions as well. This can be further improved by including extra waterproofing elements, such a storm or norwegian welt.
There’s also the benefit of comfort over time. The construction leaves a cavity between the insole and outsole that’s filled with a layer of cork. Cork is porous and malleable, and with time will conform to the shape of the wearer’s foot for a customized fit.
The upper leathers will bend and form to match the wearer’s gait as well, reaching a level of supple strength that only real leather can provide.
Finally, it lets us create a pair that celebrates all the best aspects of shoemaking: the highest quality leathers, sustainable products that are made to last, and the hard work of real artisans that have dedicated their lives to creating beautiful things.
The Goodyear welted construction is the difference between spending $150 a year on a pair that is sent to a landfill when the soles break down and investing in a piece of handcrafted footwear that can be kept for decades with proper care.
Goodyear welted construction
When we talk about handcraft shoemaking, materials are key. The sole, the leather, and especially the welting make this footwear unique.
A Goodyear welted sole can be made of different materials depending on the purpose of the shoe. Goodyear welted dress shoes for formal or business wear will often use leather soles. These soles are classic, low-profile, and make a sophisticated impact that’s difficult to replace with rubber soles.
We hand finish ours with a polishing dye for an extra touch of elegance. On the first wear, leather soles are very smooth and can lack grip. However, even a single day of use will wear in the soles enough to provide greater friction and traction moving forward.
Pairs for more day-to-day wear, such as Goodyear welted chukka boots, will more often use rubber soles for extra traction and durability. High density rubber soles have exceptional durability and grip for more intense wear. A rubber sole can also tone down a leather shoe to make it more casual and easier to wear with your daily jeans or chinos. We primarily use Vibram and Dainite rubber soles in our collection, rubber brands that are renowned and trusted in the shoe world for dependable quality.
Goodyear welted leather
The greatest benefit to this construction is the ability to resole a pair and keep them in your collection for many years to come. For that reason, the best Goodyear welted shoes will invest in using higher quality leathers that will age gracefully, patina, and stand the test of time.
We only use full-grain leathers from the most renowned European tanneries in our pairs. Full-grain leather is the strongest and highest quality leather available, coming directly from the hide of the animal.
The benefits are a porous leather that builds character over time while maintaining the strength and durability of the original hide. Shoemakers using cheaper alternatives will use sanded then corrected hides, destroying the integrity of the leather in order to make an inferior leather presentable.
Beyond smooth and grain calf leathers, we also use full-grain reverse calf suede. Again, this means the suede hasn’t been split, sanded, or corrected, and we pick only the highest quality leathers for a velvety, natural suede that ages gracefully with time.
One of the best ways to understand the Goodyear welted construction is familiarity with other common shoe constructions.
Cementing is most common with sneakers and more cheaply constructed shoes and boots. The sole is simply glued, or cemented, to the uppers of the shoe. Since there are no extra layers of stitching or leather, the sole is immediately flexible, but once the glue fails or the sole wears down the pairs are destined for the landfill. This is acceptable for athletic sneakers but has no place in the leather shoe world.
Blake stitching is the closest relative to the Goodyear welted construction. The soles are still stitched on, but instead of attaching them to a leather welt, the stitching goes directly through the foot bed to the insole. Although this construction avoids cementing and is a bit lighter, the resulting pair is much more difficult to resole and lacks the waterproofing qualities of the Goodyear welt.
Although each construction can find a suitable place in your collection, we stand by the Goodyear welted collection as the best method in the world of shoemaking for a dependable, elegant pair that’s made to last.
Types of Goodyear Welted Footwear
The spectrum is wide, but the Cobbler market has several classic and iconic types of Goodyear welted footwear to browse through. Let's see some differences between them.
Goodyear Welted Shoes
Any type of shoe can be Goodyear welted. Most laced shoes can be separated into two categories: oxfords and derbies.
Oxfords are among the most formal and classic designs in men's footwear. The key difference is the lacing style. Oxfords will have the perforations for lacing punched directly into the quarters on either side of the tongue. The design is minimal and elegant, and this is the shoe one most often pairs with suits and dress trousers for weddings, banquets, funerals, and other important life events.
The majority of our oxfords are given what’s considered a 270 degree welt. The stitching around the welt goes around the length of the waist and toe of the shoe, but stops at the heel. In this fashion, the heel is crafted more closely to the back of the shoe, providing a tighter and sleeker silhouette. The durability is maintained, and the differences are purely aesthetic.
Derbies can still be worn formally, but typically have more versatility to be worn casually through their design. Separate pieces of leather are stitched onto the quarters of the upper leather, and those flaps are given the lacing perforations. This system offers a different visual element that is best suited for day-to-day wear, business casual, or an elevated style from more casual sneakers and boots.
We make the majority of our derbies on 360 degree welts. This makes the welt stitching visible around the entire length of the shoe, including the heel. The aesthetic of this welt is a bit more classic, and the heel lip can provide some extra protection for the backside of the shoe.
Chelsea boots are a dime-a-dozen from different shoe brands, often made with glued-on soles and inferior sanded then correct leathers. We make ours in two different shapes to fit the purpose of the wearer and accommodate different feet. Both versions are Goodyear welted with the highest quality European leathers. For pairs that are year-round styles and frequent go-to options like Chelsea boots, investing in pairs that are made to last should be at the top of your list.
Goodyear welted loafers
A Goodyear welted loafer is another fan-favorite choice for similar reasons. They’re the quickest, easiest pair to slip on before leaving the house, and they’ve been proven classics with a storied history that goes back over a century.
Many other shoemakers will offer disposable cemented options intended to replicate the look of high-quality leather loafers, or use a Blake stitch to create a light option that lacks the long term lifespan of Goodyear welted pairs.
Our loafers are built to last in penny and tassel styles, fully Goodyear welted with top grade full-grain leathers. We’ve looked to the past for classic inspiration while having an eye on relevant styles to match the needs of modern men. Balanced, effortless, and classic, a pair of Goodyear welted loafers will quickly become an everyday wear for years to come.
Goodyear welted shoes price
Because of the intensive labor and materials, the Goodyear welted process necessitates a higher production cost. Although this results in a cost higher than a cemented sole, the benefits of longevity and quality no doubt outweigh the initial investment over time. When you put a disposable pair of shoes next to an artisan-made Goodyear welted pair, there’s hardly a comparison.
Cobbler Union operates with a direct-to-consumer model. There is no middleman between the producer and the wearer, cutting out unnecessary costs found through mass-market wholesale methods. This allows us to provide affordable Goodyear welted shoes, and we believe it gives us the added benefit of dealing with our customers directly and transparently. We love discussing shoes as much as anybody, and are always available to help with questions about fittings, styles, and our process as shoemakers.
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