Welting 101

What’s To Know About Welting?

Here at HELM Boots, we take our welting processes seriously. We believe in creating durable boots made of the highest quality leathers and materials, and we know a good welt can make all the difference between a pair boots that last just a few years and a pair that will last you a decade.

You may be wondering, what exactly is a welt anyway? It’s the piece of leather that runs along the outsole of the shoe and serves to attach the upper to the sole of the shoe. Done correctly, it can help shoppers and wearers identify a well-made, higher quality shoe.

There are varying methods of welting and shoe construction. At HELM, we use two main shoemaking methods—the Goodyear welt construction and the Blake Stitch method, also referred to as the Blake Rapid Stitch construction.

Regardless of what we use at HELM, though, we thought it important for our readers to understand all types of welting methods. In this piece we’ll touch on the top methods, including the two methods mentioned above. Continue reading to explore them a little deeper.

Goodyear Welting

Charles Goodyear Jr. first created the Goodyear Welting method in 1869. Still today, it’s one of the more common construction methods used for designing high quality shoes. The design obtained its reputation because its construction method produces a durable, long lasting shoe.

Though the shoemaking industry was in full swing at the time, most factories were still producing shoes entirely by hand. That’s why Goodyear’s method was—and still is considered—groundbreaking: it was the first method that used a sewing machine in lieu of traditional handmade methods.

James Hanan, a shoemaker in New York at the time, first introduced Goodyear to this machine. It was referred to as Elais Howe’s Sewing machine. The device made it possible to sew a shoe’s upper with the insole without using the same stitching to attach the undersole. Understanding the opportunity he’d been presented, Goodyear quickly patented the machine.

 

Charles Goodyear, Jr., is the son of Charles Goodyear, most notably known for his work with rubber. He is credited with discovering the vulcanization process. In other words, where natural rubber is heated with sulfur to create a “completely cured rubber.” Needless to say, an inventive mindset ran in the family.

There are three distinct steps involved when using Goodyear welting. The first step requires preparing the insole for stitching. This is done by creating what’s called a “rib” that runs perpendicularly across the insole. While some do so by shaping the insole accordingly, others use additional materials.

The second step involves stretching the upper over a last, then bringing it together with the insole, mid-sole, and welt. The third and final step is welting. This is done by sewing through the welt, the upper, and the insole rib; a separate stitch then attaches the welt to the outsole. It’s important to note this method can be completed by hand or machine. Shoes made by this design hold the title of handcrafted. To learn more about the differences between handcrafted and handmade shoes, head over to our blog piece on the subject here.

One of the most notable advantages of designing a shoe with a Goodyear welt is its ability to be resoled time and time again without damaging the rest of the shoe’s design. Another benefit of Goodyear welted shoes is that they’re water resistant and known for their durability.

The Storm welt is another design, and it’s incredibly similar to the Goodyear welt. Its design consists of just a few modifications, but the main difference is that it’s slightly wider than its counterpart. The extra width is considered to provide a bit more water resistance as well.

Blake Stitch, or Blake Rapid Stitch

The Blake Rapid Stitch method is the second of two primary shoe construction methods. It’s also the simpler, more common option in the industry. Invented in 1856 by Lyman Reed Blake, the method simply joins the sole directly with the upper.

Blake’s exposure to shoemaking began at a young age. After completing his formal education at age sixteen, he began working for his older brother, Samuel, who was a local shoemaker in his hometown of South Abington, Massachusetts. In later years, Blake worked for Isaac M. Singer’s company. There, he learned how to arrange and set up machines in shoe factories. While his skills and interests in the industry deepened during this time, it wasn’t until the mid 1800’s that he constructed his first machine in an effort to streamline and simplify the shoemaking process. He was looking to produce a sleeker, more elegantly crafted shoe.

After designing a sample shoe and working model using his techniques, Blake sold his patent to Gordon McKay in 1859, where he worked until his retirement in 1874, selling and installing his machines in factories throughout the New England area of the country. Today, Italian shoemakers prefer this method.

There are a few key differences between the Blake Rapid Stitch and the Goodyear welting method, though. One of the main differences between the two is the use of machinery. Because the Blake Rapid method stitches on the inside of the shoe, its construction requires the use of machinery, which enables shoemakers to get extremely close-cut soles. This method also uses just two stitches, compared to the multiple stitches required to complete a Goodyear welt.

While the Blake Rapid’s simple design offers benefits like flexibility and comfort, these shoes are, unfortunately, less water-resistant. They still have the ability to be resoled, although doing so does require more specific machinery.

Additional Methods To Know

Though the Goodyear welting and Blake Rapid Stitch methods are the two more prominent ways to construct a shoe, they aren’t the only processes shoemakers use. There are a few other methods to consider as well.

Take cementing, for example. It’s a cheap, quick, and common way to attach a sole of a shoe. This method is commonly used for casual shoes with rubbery soles, like sneakers, chukkas, or bucks. Instead of welting, soles are attached to the upper—after it’s completed around the last—with an adhesive. Because of this, cemented shoes are often much more affordable than the Blake Stitch or Goodyear welted shoes. While this shoe can be made quickly and inexpensively, these shoes cannot be resoled and as a result don’t last as long.

Moccasin shoe construction is another common method for shoe production and it dates back before the Goodyear welt was created. Using softer leathers, these designs typically boast a more casual style, like the Italian loafer, for example. In this method, a large, single piece of leather is used to form the sides and insole of the shoe. Next, the leather uppers are folded upwards in a tubular construction. Finally, a new piece of leather covers the shoe and forms the tongue. This method is also referred to as the Bologna method.

A Shoemaker’s Preference

There are a number of shoemakers in the United States that choose one method over the other. For example, American-made Allen Edmonds uses only the Goodyear welt method. While the company recognizes that this method is both labor intensive and more expensive than other shoemaking techniques available, the company says the “durability of a Goodyear welted shoe is unmatched and provides the opportunity to re-craft the shoe down the line.”

On the other hand, Rancourt & Co. prefers the simplicity of a Blake Stitch welt. The Maine-based shoemaking factory further attributes the added flexibility, comfort and longevity a Blake Stitch lends for their decision. According to the company, “perfecting the Blake [Stitch] Construction has enabled us to develop more sophisticated footwear.” The simple construction and enhanced flexibility fuel this shoemaking company’s decision to use the Blake Stitch method over others.

The Last Word

From the information mentioned above, it’s clear that each construction method is different. Knowing this, it’s still important to realize that no one method in particular is better than the other. While each produces a shoe with different qualities and characteristics, the final decision rests on the wearer’s preference. Just as the production processes differ, the wearer’s foot does as well.

Luckily for our customers though, we offer both options at HELM Boots. Our line of handcrafted styles is designed using either the Goodyear welt or the Blake Stitch methods. If you’re curious to know which boot is made using which style of welting, you can reach out at any time and we would be happy to answer any questions and point you in the right direction. For more information on either method, see our full line here to try on a pair and decide for yourself which welting method you prefer!