Ask Alex: Good Heavens! What’s a Goodyear Welt?

Ask Alex: Good Heavens! What’s a Goodyear Welt?

“It’s totally impossible to be well dressed in cheap shoes” -Sir Hardy Amies

With only a couple of exceptions, the vast majority of Cheaney shoes are Goodyear welted. It is this construction method, along with the quality of materials used, that attribute to the larger price tag when compared to lesser quality high street brands. But what on earth is it? To explain it properly, let us travel back in time, to 1869…

Charles Goodyear Jr patented a machine to manufacture shoes using a method with added longevity and, never one to blow his own trumpet, called it the Goodyear Welt.

The welt refers to a strip of leather that is sewn around the perimeter of the upper of the shoe, onto the insole. The outer sole is then sewn to the welt, as opposed to being attached directly to the upper like the Blake stitch method. The cavity created by the welt between the insole and the outer sole is filled with cork, another natural product which provides insulation, protection, and comfort: as you wear the shoe, the cork filler takes an impression of your foot, like memory foam. This provides unparalleled comfort and support when compared to cheaper forms of manufacturing.

Every step of this method has to be done by highly skilled craftspeople. It is time-consuming and expensive, but the benefits are clear:

Longevity 

As long as you take care of the upper of your Goodyear welted shoes (use shoe trees and polish them every now and again) then the sole and heel can be replaced by our aforementioned talented craftspeople without affecting the structure of the shoe. Unlike most other things in life, welted shoes actually get better with age; the upper would have taken the shape of your foot, and the new sole will give it a new lease of life. In terms of price per wear, buying good quality shoes will work out cheaper in the long run as you don’t have to shell out for a new pair when they wear out.

Durability

Goodyear welted shoes are made to last. As there’s more substance between your foot and the floor, it’ll take longer for any moisture to make your socks soggy. All leather soles will let water in eventually, but with welted shoes you have the added benefit of being able to repair them onto a rubber sole.

Comfort

There will always be a ‘breaking in’ process for good quality shoes. The upper needs to soften and take the shape of your foot, the cork filler needs to flex and take an impression of your foot, and if you have leather soles they’ll need to be scratched up a bit on a dry, gritty surface to make sure you’re not gliding around your office like sartorial Swan Lake. Once this is done (roughly 5-6 wears) you will be supported exactly where you need to be and you probably won’t want to take them off to go to bed.

A variation on this construction is called Veldtschoen. This is a lot less common amongst the Northamptonshire shoe makers and lends itself brilliantly to heavier country-style boots and shoes (check out our Pennine and Cairngorm models). The principle is still the same as Goodyear Welting, but instead of tucking the upper underneath to stitch through, is is splayed outwards and stitched to the welt. As hard as this is to explain in words, it effectively channels water away from the welt of the shoe, dramatically reducing water penetration. This is as close you can get to a fully water resistant shoe made using natural materials. Leather isn’t waterproof, but this comes pretty close.

The other construction method you’ll find exclusively on our Kelly patent leather Oxford, is ‘cemented’. This is where the sole is simply glued to the upper. The purpose of the Kelly is for black tie events, where elegance and simplicity is key. These are shoes for special occasions only, therefore won’t be worn every day, and every effort is made to make the outfit look as sleek as possible, hence the lack of welt stitching. These shoes are not repairable and won’t last as long as Goodyear welted and Veldtschoen shoes, but they’re incredibly shiny and will make sure you look resplendent in your tuxedo.

Post written by Lime Street Store Manager, Alex Pardey (Instagram @shoes_maketh_man)