Footwear construction is utterly important, yet less discussed. Why? Yes, we tend to focus more on durability, comfort, safety, price, fitting, specialized features and most of all, we are aware of the look.
So, a crucial point is left behind:
How my shoe or boot is constructed and how would it benefit me?
The construction decides whether you will get a solid pair or flexible ones. It is more critical whenever you need footwear for specific reasons like perfect boots for work. We are going to discuss everything here in plain texts:
Goodyear welt, cement, direct attach blake stitch, opanka, stroble and more. And we will demystify the welt-cement and other mixed forms of constructions varying from brand to brand taking fancy names like Contour Welt from Wolverine. We are discussing a closed channel, open channel stitch and more.
Table Of Contents
- Construction is wearer-specific
- Cement Construction
- Welt Construction
- Goodyear Welt
- Welt-Cement & Mixed Construction
- Traditional Waterproof/Water Resistant Welts
- Other Construction Methods
- Brand & Feature
Construction is wearer-specific
Yes, these are not mere fancy words. Check out this Wolverine contour-welt video:
If you need to climb ladders, go hiking for a short distance, or do a little flexi-dance, one of the preferred methods is cement construction. But they are not as long lasting as the welts are. You sometimes may feel that it would be better to have a more substantial lower part.
On the flip side, if you need to bend every now and then, and you have a chance to damage the shoes quickly, it is better to pick up a mixed construction. This construction was rare a decade ago, but not anymore.
And then comes the `solid as rock’ stepping fact. If you need not bend the feet much and instead want a longer lasting pair making you feel hard at the bottom, pick constructions like a welt. It is especially important if you will wear steel or alloy toe boots.
Constructions define how you grip things, how the treads would grab the ground and how much you will spend wearing the pair each day.
Cement construction is the easy flexi way. Cementing here stands for ‘Glueing.’
Crawling is the rarest thing we would like to do wearing the boots, but cement enables that! Cast creeping away, we frequently need to bend the feet; sometimes loving the flexibility.
- Cement construction is lightweight,
- Comparatively modern,
- Requires less number of parts,
- Takes less time to make the shoes or boots
- And is cost-effective hence costs less.
The downside is, glue-constructed footwear usually wear-off pretty quickly. It’s a glue, after all, instead of stitches. This is also called the board the last method.
Means complex, sturdy satisfaction. Usually, welt means the outsole is stitched to the extra leather part called welt.
We better call it hand welted construction. As Goodyear is mechanized, it is easy to presume that costly and time-consuming hand welt is a rare case scenario. Usually double stitched, welted shoes will not let you down when the shoes need to last for long.
- Welt construction puts some added weight on the shoes,
- Requiring some additional material,
- This kind of structure is classic,
- It takes more time to construct a hand welted shoe.
The big brands and costly shoes tend to be made with welt tech. So it may cost you a little more.
Industrialized welt cobbling.
Charles Goodyear Jr. revolutionized shoe-craft by introducing a machine named after him. Since then, a complex process of sturdy shoe production had taken a mass-industrial phase.
- Boots became more accurate,
- Lasting long
- And an industrial standard was set.
- A Goodyear Welt construction is usually resoleable which theoretically would help save money, but it is costly nowadays to resole a pair.
A Goodyear Welt construction primarily consists of:
- Welt leather: there is this thin strip of leather called welt.
- Insole: an insole which is the visible area where you lay your foot. A full grain leather insole is preferred by the experienced cobblers.
- Welt rib: the insole board has a welt rib attached to it. This rib connects everything together.
- Outsole: an outsole which is the bottom part usually referred to as `the sole’ where the treads reside
- Cork midsole: There is one more thing in between the insole and the outsole which is the midsole. A classic Goodyear Welt midsole is usually made of another natural material- cork. Cork is right for your feet. It eventually conforms to the shape of your pedal bone structure.
- While the construction is going on, cork is a thick granular heated paste. This paste is usually made of chopped cork mixed with resin and chlorinated. It takes almost 700 to 800 degrees to form the cork’s desired shape.
- Non-cork midsole: Now people do use foam or other material instead of corks.
- Two or three stitching and some nails may be needed to complete the process.
- There may have multiple layers except for the three soles. There can also be some foam.
360-degree Goodyear welt means the welt stitching goes all the way around the shoe including the heel.
When the welt stops right above the heel, it’s a 270-degree welt construction.
Over time, this construction molds around your feet and it may feel like it is custom made only for you. This YouTube video explains a lot:
Welt-Cement & Mixed Construction
This is the new sheriff in town. Not the right old Goodyear Welt, not cement, a mixed upgraded tech.
Traditional welt has a flaw:
- When people need to bend, welt boots and shoes may eventually deform as it does not support turning.
- Eventually, the stitches become worn off, and the soles may fall apart.
- Footwear giants are working to solve this problem by inventing their own techs.
A Timberland feature. They still use the Goodyear name with this construction. But it’s a combo feature as they state: “a durable chemical and mechanical bond.”
So they are making a cement-welt combination. Timberland even named a series after welt: PowerWelt.
Wolverine used their own technology, Contour Welt in a number of pairs. Currently, there are many. Wolverine doesn’t necessarily explain the construction well. It just shows that the front part bends much. They use “individual compression pads” which absorbs shock and returns energy… maybe, it helps to bend the front parts?
Red Wing Cement-to-Welt
The forefoot is cemented (the classic glue tech) and the heel uses double stitched welt construction. Stable and long lasting under the heel while flexible beneath the rest of the foot.
It is not traditional hand welt or industrial Goodyear Welt. It’s Keen Welt.
According to the Keen officials, this innovative construction will last even longer while protecting more. They also have a tendency to enlarge the outsole and encompass the front toe area which is good for protection. As of now, they are working on patents.
Traditional Waterproof/Water Resistant Welts
Norwegian Storm Welt
A safer alternative for snow. Norvegese as said in Italian, is preferably a conventional way of welting popularly found in shoes made in Italy. These are also known as waterproof welt or storm welt. There’s a seam between the welt and the upper. Storm welt prevents water from entering in between.
They’re instead water-resistant construction. Just like the `Norwegian’-Italian welt, this is a ‘Deutsche’-Anglo welt. Primarily, English cobbling industry uses this construction method. We know why! A sudden brisk rainfall and a fragile layer of water on the streets is typical there.
Norwegian and Veldtschoen constructions are similar to some extent.
They prevent water as the upper is stitched into the outsole.
El Classico: It’s a very classic way of cobbling.
You will most probably find a pair with thinner soles or even leather outsoles. The sole is stitched with the upper parts, but we can’t see the stitch from a side view. If you turn the bottom of the shoe, you will know that it almost encircles the base except for the heel area. The stitching goes straight to the inside. No visible representation.
Other Construction Methods
There is also RBC or Rapid Blake Construction, Strobel construction, Bologna (Italian), The California Construction and
DIP (Direct injection molding process) Timberland Direct Attach is made in this process.
We will discuss these factors in later editions.
Brand & Feature
Shoe construction is a balanced combination of art, science, experience, and goodwill. You can’t solely rely on any cobbler. It’s a gruesome process where anything or even everything can go wrong, which mostly depend on the makers.
Want a better and safer pair that suit your needs?
Just know what you need. Otherwise, a famed brand may not serve your requirements. Only after you have chosen the features, bank on a reputed brand. That’s the safest way of selecting shoes.