Goodyear welted shoe construction technique dates back to 1869 when Charles Goodyear Jr. invented the machine used for this process. This particular technique is generally regarded as the best in terms of comfort and durability as well as ease of reparation. Goodyear method is highly valued in the high-end shoe market because it allows the shoes to be:
- relatively waterproof (the way the sole is connected to the welt prevents water from reaching the inside of the shoe),
- extremely comfortable after several wears (due to its cork filling, which is known to create a mold of your foot providing an almost custom-like foot-bed), and
- easily repaired in terms of replacement of the sole, which gives the shoe quite a long life span that can reach decades if the upper is properly cared for.
To reach this level of comfort and durability, Goodyear welt shoe construction method takes up to eight weeks, several dozen parts and some two hundred operations to produce a single pair of shoes.
There are four key phases in Goodyear welt construction:
In this phase the upper part of the shoe is created. At first, there is careful selecting of the leather because it can have some scratches made during the life of animal and those must be avoided. After that, leather is cut with specialized knives so that the form of the shoe is created. These operations ask for high level of craftsmanship so the waste would be cut to the minimum.
Finished shoe upper is pulled over the wooden mold so that the shoe form is created. The “welt” is a strip of leather that is stitched to the upper and the insole, and to which the sole will also be stitched. Because welted shoes are sewn together, rather than glued, skilled craftsmen can dismantle and repair them. Then the welts are stitched to the soles which are stitch-locked with two separate threads for maximum strength and durability. Lastly the leather excess is carefully removed and the edges are “freehand” trimmed.
“Closing” is where the various sections of the shoe upper are stitched together. There are many operations carried out at this stage. For example, the thickness of the leather is “skived” (reduced) to avoid bulkiness and the edges of the leather are stained, seared or folded to improve appearance. Also at this stage holes for the shoelaces are cut inside leather.
This is the final stage of Goodyear welted shoe construction. Edges of the shoe are carefully trimmed using “freehand” method. Bottom of the sole is stained and polished (some manufacturers add their stamp or other detail to the sole). The final burnishing, dressing and polishing operations are very time consuming and have to be done entirely by hand.