If you’ve been researching quality boots and you’re wondering what a Goodyear welt is, you’re in the right spot.
I’ve reviewed over 100 pairs of boots, resoled several boots myself, and visited many boot factories that use the Goodyear welt process.
By the time you’ve finished reading this article you’ll have a good enough understanding of Goodyear welted construction to know if this type of footwear is right for your style and wallet.
4 Reasons Why Goodyear Welt Boots Are Better
Most boots you’ll see in the mall are just glued together. The upper leather and the sole are pasted together, which eventually leads to something like this:
A Goodyear welt is the strip of leather that attaches the upper and sole. There’s an actual stitch (or multiple), in addition to an adhesive, so you get much more water resistance and longevity.
But beyond that, Goodyear welted boots tend to have higher quality materials throughout in general.
Goodyear welted boots typically cost more than your basic mall boots.
A daily-worn leather sole may only last a year or two but a Goodyear welted shoe can be easily replaced by your local shoe repair basically as many times as you want.
Goodyear welted footwear, properly maintained, can undergo several resoles. For that reason, your Goodyear welted boots can often technically last you for the rest of your life if you wanted.
2. Bespoke Feel for Long-Term Comfort
Because of the materials used in many Goodyear welted boots, they’ll break in and retain the shape of your foot. Leather insoles and midsoles, and cork filler will eventually start to compress as you wear the boots, leaving a custom imprint of your feet.
Goodyear welted boots tend to have more of a timeless, classic look.
Either way, though, high quality materials and construction are always evident. When you see something made well, it just looks good.
4. Support Cobblers
Part of the Goodyear welted allure is getting your shoes resoled.
Footwear is meant to be worn and taken care of, so when it comes time to give your boots and shoes a new life you get to help support a dying profession. Shoe repair shops used to be everywhere, but as fast fashion has taken over, the local shoe repair shops have been closing at an alarming rate.
Do I Need a Storm Welt for Rain?
No, you do not need a storm welt for rain. Any well made, welted boot should serve to keep your foot dry in the rain.
The style of boot and the type of upper leather are more important factors in the rain than the welting method. While having a Storm Welt couldn’t hurt, it’s not necessary for regular use. Many people enjoy it just for its appearance.
3 Downsides of Goodyear Welted Footwear
You can get yourself some Timberland boots for about $100, but your first pair of Goodyear welted boots, like the entry-level Thursday Boots start at around $200. As I mentioned earlier, you need to think of welted footwear as an investment.
While Goodyear welted footwear is water resistant in most circumstances, they’re not entirely waterproof. The welt stitch that attaches to the upper can allow water to seep in if prolonged exposure or submersion occurs.
A cemented boot or shoe with no sole stitching and a waterproof liner will be truly waterproof. That said, any footwear with a seam is still susceptible to water, so who knows how long that boot will stay airtight.
Also, beware of waterproof boots—they tend to make your feet sweat a lot because you’re basically wrapping your foot in plastic.
If true waterproof footwear is what you need, a rubber boot like Hunters or Bogs are your best shot. You can also try some galoshes for those especially slushy days.
3. Initial Comfort
There’s no question that foam shoes and boots feel great out of the box. Put on a pair of Blundstones and it feels like you’re walking on a cloud. Goodyear welted footwear, however, can feel stiff and hard underfoot when you initially put them on.
Breaking in a hearty pair of heritage style Goodyear welted footwear is a rite of passage, but not one that everyone is prepared to endure. By breaking them in gradually—wearing them in short increments can help ease the pain.
The Technical Bit: What Actually Is a Goodyear Welt?
The Goodyear welt machine was patented by Charles Goodyear Jr in 1871. This stitching method attached a separate Welt to both the upper of the shoe and the sole.
A welt is a strip of leather or a synthetic material (if going cheaper) that’s stitched through both the leather of the upper and the insole. Starting in the 1950s, many makers added an additional strip of canvas ribbing called Gemming, which is glued to the insole as well to help secure the stitched welt and upper.
This cut costs and greatly reduced the amount of time (and talent) required to create a channeled insole.
The Gemming and welt stitching leaves a cavity under the insole that is filled most often with cork or leather to make a flat surface for midsole adhesion. The cork or leather underfoot will eventually compress and mold to the shape of your foot, giving it a custom-fit feel. The midsole and outsole are then glued onto the upper and stitched to the welt for added security.
5 Different Types of Welted Boot Constructions
1. Flat Goodyear Welt
Known worldwide as a mark of quality, the Goodyear Welt is one of the most effective construction methods.
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As you can see above, the insole has a channel that runs along its perimeter, that’s what they call a “holdfast” when it’s carved into a leather insole.
More commonly, a piece of canvas rib called a “gemming” is used in its place to achieve this. The welt is stitched through the upper and into the holdfast channel, and then the welt is stitched down through the outsole.
The stitch that holds the welt to the insole is very tight and sturdy. This pinches the upper between the welt and insole and keeps a firm, water resistant seal.
Technically speaking, an actual “Goodyear Welt” is done using a machine. One that feeds a strip of welt and stitches it to the boot, achieving the task in a matter of seconds.
- A universal method for attaching an upper to a sole.
- Highly water resistant.
- Makes for easy rebuilds.
- Can be easily produced.
- Can sometimes be made with inferior synthetic materials.
- Not many cons when built correctly.
2. Storm Welt
A Storm Welt is very much exactly the same as the above shown Goodyear Welt. The main difference is instead of being flat, it has a rounded seam built into it. The purpose of this is for it to press up against the edge of the boots upper and create a seal against dirt and water.
- Adds additional protection against dirt and water.
- Like the Goodyear Welt, there aren’t many negatives.
3. Split Welt
A Split Welt or Split Reverse Welt is very much like a Goodyear Welt, only the inside edge has been split lengthwise.
The top side of the split is turned up to create a lip around the welt line, while the bottom end of the split holds the stitch. Having that spilt edge running along the upper can be effective in preventing dirt or wheat from getting passed the welt.
- It can prevent water and dirt from getting past the welt line.
- Over time, that lip that’s created by the split can get bent out of shape from wear.
4. Norwegian Welt
Looks very familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s not all that different from a Goodyear welt. In the case of the Norwegian Welt, the welt is attached on its side, through the upper, and into the holdfast.
Then, it is bent upwards into a 90-degree angle, creating a welt line for a rapid stitch, securing it to the outsole. It’s just as recraftable as the other above listed welting methods, provided you can find a cobbler who is up for the task.
- Highly water resistant.
- Not ordinary (style points).
- Can be difficult to find a good cobbler to do a quality resole.
Here’s where things get tricky. This is a true Veldtschoen construction, something that can often be mistaken as a Stitchdown.
In this method a welt is used, very similar to a Goodyear Welt. Only this is it only goes through the liner and holdfast on the lower welt stitch, meanwhile the upper leather is flanged outward over the welt line.
Then the inner row of stitching secures the welt and upper, while the outer row goes through the upper, welt, and outsole. This design is also highly recraftable as well, removing the outer stitch allows you to recraft the entire lower end while the welt and upper are still secure.
- Water resistant.
- Keeps out dirt.
- A good mix between Stitchdown and a welted construction.
- Can be tough to find a cobbler familiar with the method.
- Could make recrafts pricey.
Goodyear Welt vs Blake Stitch
Another common construction method is known as the Blake Stitch.
Similar to a Goodyear Welt, the Blake Stitch is a construction method that allows for footwear to be resoled, but with a different method. The Blake Stitch does not use a dedicated welt, but rather adds a stitch on the inside of the boots to secure the midsole and outsole to the upper.
The absence of the additional welt allows the footwear silhouette to be much sleeker in appearance. As a result, they are most often found on dressier boots such as Beckett Simonon.
They can still be resoled, but require a Blake Stitch machine that not all cobblers may have. They’re also typically less waterproof by design, as there are stitch holes that go directly from the outsole into the insole and can allow water more easily seep in.
The absence of the external welt stitching will also allow the footwear to be more flexible out of the box.
What does a Goodyear welt do?
Secures the upper to the midsole and outsole in a way that allows the outsole to be replaced once worn out, without damaging the upper.
Why is Goodyear welt better?
Despite the upfront cost, a well-maintained pair of goodyear welted footwear can be resoled indefinitely, making them a good investment in the long run.
Is Goodyear welt better than Blake stitch?
Not inherently, however a Blake Stitch can be slightly less water resistant, and a resole requires machinery that not every cobbler may have.