So, you’ve decided it’s time to put the sneakers down and invest in a new pair of boots.
Or maybe you’ve had a few pairs in the past that just didn’t last as long as you’d hoped, so you decided it’s time to spend a few extra dollars on a pair that can be resoled and give you years of wear, but after some research you’re overwhelmed by the amount options there are when it comes to how a boot is made (I know I was!).
If that’s the case, this is the guide for you.
Even if you’re a self proclaimed boot aficionado, stay with me, I’m sure you’ll learn something.
What Are the Different Methods of Boot Construction?
To understand how a boot is constructed, it’s important to know what components make up a boot. Without getting too in depth, a boot consists of an upper, a sole (lower), and depending on the boot you may find that it has a midsole as well. Construction refers to how all these pieces are joined.
Boots are built in a variety of ways, but ultimately are either glued, or stitched.
Of the stitched variety there is welted, Blake stitch, and stitchdown construction all of which I will try to break down as clearly as possible.
If you’re shopping for your first “good” pair of boots, I’m sure you’ve come across the phrase Goodyear welted.
Goodyear welted boots are extremely popular due to their durability and recraftability, they are also more affordable than a hand welted boot because it makes use of machine welting.
If the name “Goodyear” rings a bell, it’s probably because you’re thinking of the tire company, and fun fact: the machine is often claimed to have been invented by Charles Goodyear Jr. (the son of the tire guy), but it in fact wasn’t. He did however play a large role in the patent filing process for the machine.
A Goodyear welted boot makes use of the machine by stitching a piece of material (usually leather, but sometimes synthetic) called a welt around the upper of the boot in either a 360 or 270 degree style.
The biggest advantage to this construction method is that it makes resoling a much easier task. Unlike other construction methods, the welt is what binds the sole to the upper, allowing for easy removal.
A Goodyear welt also provides weather resistance and durability since the welt acts like a seal between the upper and the sole. A reason I personally like Goodyear welts is that they’re easier on the feet, since there isn’t a stitch going through the footbed rubbing my feet in an uncomfortable way.
Goodyear welt construction isn’t perfect though and has its faults.
The first downside that comes to mind is that Goodyear welts when brand new take a bit longer to break in than the more flexible Blake stitch construction. They can also require a bit of extra maintenance if you want to get the most life out of them.
Because dust and dirt can build up in between the threads of the welt, it is wise to hit these areas with a small brush after every few wears to prevent deterioration. Overall there are far more pros than cons to Goodyear welted boots, and it’s no surprise that this is the most popular way to construct a boot.
The Thursday Captain is an excellent deal. Made with Thursday's Chrome leather from Le Farc tannery (often compared to Horween Chromexcel), these boots are still holding up well after five years of wear. When (if?) these ever wear out, I’ll be getting them again.
Blake Stitch Construction
Blake stitch is another very popular construction method usually seen more in dress shoes, but boots of this type are still very abundant. Blake stitch is a great way to build boots because it offers simplicity, flexibility, and affordability.
Unlike stitchdown constructions, when making a Blake stitch boot the upper is folded inward before being machine stitched to the sole. The simplicity of this method makes for a sleeker looking boot which makes it an ideal option for those who desire the dressier look.
Since there’s only a single stitch binding the sole and upper, Blake stitch boots are more flexible and require little to no break-in compared to other boot makeups. Because Blake stitch requires less materials and is less time consuming, boots built this way tend to be less expensive.
The simplicity of the Blake stitch method does bring with it some drawbacks.
Since there’s no welt, Blake stitched boots just aren’t as durable as the other boot types. No welt means that boots made this way are less resistant to the elements. Blake stitched boots are also more difficult to resole, and require a special machine to do so. They also can’t be resoled as many times as Goodyear welt since the upper and sole are directly stitched.
Overall I think Blake stitched boots are perfect for those who want a sleek boot that leans more towards the dress side of things, and won’t hurt the wallet too much while still being good quality. The Beckett Simonon Elliot is a classy example of a Blake stitched boot:
Made with buttery smooth full grain Italian leather, the Elliot Balmoral boot offers a restrained brogue pattern and a formal closed lace construction.
Stitchdown construction is often found in the more expensive, Pacific Northwest style work boots that are known for their robustness and high price tag.
Boots built this way usually have a ton of leather in their makeup, and other structural items such as nails, and their styling speaks to this toughness. Simply put, these boots are no joke!
The amount of time that’s required to make a stitchdown boot is quite long, so if you plan on owning a pair, expect to wait a few months to a year. The wait can be well worth it though, because you will end up with a pair that will take a beating while lasting a lifetime.
These boots are usually hand constructed and use a lot of material. When making the upper, excess leather is left so that it can be folded outward, and glued to a midsole, which is then hand or machine stitched to the sole, using a double row of stitching in most cases. Since, it’s the actual upper that is stitched to the midsole, stitchdown boots are more weather resistant than both Goodyear welted and Blake stitched boots.
Although far more durable, stitchdown boots are not as flexible as Goodyear welted or Blake stitched boots, and take longer to break in.
Stitchdown boots are very durable, however resoling them requires extra work that most cobblers don’t have the equipment for.
Usually this is a job best suited for the original maker of the boots, so most times people send them back to get this done. One interesting thing about stitchdown boots is that if sent to the right cobbler, they can be converted to a Goodyear welt construction, which would sacrifice some of the boots original durability and weather resistance, but add to it the ability for easier future resoles, so you wouldn’t have to wait as long as to get them back as you did when you first ordered them.
Cemented and Mold-Injected Construction
These last two methods may not be popular among the hardcore boot enthusiast crowd, but they’re still worth talking about. I put these two construction types together because they’re very similar. Both have soles that are either rubber or some sort of synthetic material.
Injection molding is a fairly modern manufacturing method that makes use of a mold (hence the name), which is injected with the material being used to make the sole, hence the name. Injection molding can also be used to make the entire boot, like rain boots or even Crocs.
Boots made this way are waterproof in most cases, and are geared towards outdoor and industrial use, and in some cases can be thought of as fashion forward, but not for everyone. Some fashion brands that come to mind using this method are Balenciaga, MSCHF, or even the once popular Yeezy Desert Boot, and Foam Runner.
Since these boots are often one piece, there is no real way of resoling them once they’ve lived their life.
Cemented construction is ideal for hiking boots because of their flexibility and comfort. They often don’t require much of a break in either. Cemented boots are also very weather resistant in most cases, and affordable due to the low cost materials used to make them and quick build time.
Most cemented boots can be resoled, but it often isn’t worth it because the procedure is quite expensive and would probably cost more than the original boot.
Viberg is renowned for using double-row stitchdown construction, and their their Service Boot 310 is no exception, and is also one of our favorite boots:
The construction and quality of materials on the Viberg Service Boot is the best I’ve ever seen. Standard Viberg Service Boots run wide, including the 310 last I have. I wish I’d ordered a full size down instead of a half-size, because Viberg boots run large---even compared to other boot brands.
Building Better Boots
Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of all the various boot construction methods:
Comfortable when broken in.
Pricier than Blake stitch and cemented construction.
Longer break in time.
Not as flexible as Blake stitch.
Blake Stitch Construction
More affordable than Goodyear welt and stitchdown.
Little to no break in time.
Resoleable (to a degree).
Can be less comfortable to some because of the inside stitch.
Not as weather resistant or durable .
Requires special machine for resoling.
Can’t be resoled as much as Goodyear welt.
More weather resistant than goodyear welt.
Overbuilt (lots of leather and nails).
Can be Goodyear welted.
Harder to break in than Goodyear welt.
Long wait times (6 months to a year).
Can’t be resoled by just anyone.
Not as durable as welted or stitched boots.
Not always resoleable.
Can’t be resoled.
Looks aren’t for everyone.
Is Goodyear welt better than Blake Stitch?
This can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. For durability Goodyear welt is the superior choice, if you want something that is slim and more dressy, then Blake stitch might be for you. If you want something that can be resoled multiple times without issues then go for the Goodyear welt, but if you’re on a tighter budget, maybe go for Blake stitch.
Is Blake stitching durable?
Blake stitching is more durable than cemented or molded boots, but less durable than sitchdown or Goodyear welt.
Can you resole a Blake stitch with Goodyear welt?
The cobbler would have to add a midsole and welt to the boot. While you can have a Blake stitch boot converted to a Goodyear welt, the price would likely be similar or greater than buying a new Goodyear welted boot.