While you may be able to tell a lot about types of people by their shoes, types of shoe welt are a different story.
If you’re not sure how to pick between a Goodyear, Norwegian, or Veldtschoen shoe welt-or, if you don’t know what a shoe welt is, this article is for you. We’ll cover everything you need to know about shoe welts, then take an in-depth look at different types so you can decide which suits your footwear needs.
What is a Shoe Welt?
The welt is the part of a shoe or boot connecting the outsole to the rest of the shoe. In other words, the welt joins the bottom of the shoe (the part that makes contact with the ground) to the upper part of the shoe you place your foot in.
Looking at a shoe or boots, one sees a layer of stitches rimming the entire perimeter, from toe to counter. The layer of leather, nylon, or rubber underneath that stitching is the welt. But, the method is more important than the material used.
Do Shoe Welts Really Matter?
The stitching method used in welting determines the quality and durability of the shoe. The welt is the difference between a sturdy pair of shoes that last for years or a pair you’ll have to toss out after a season or two of wear.
Welting also affects how weather-proof and water-resistant your shoes are. Further, some welting methods prevent you from replacing the outsole when it wears out, so the type of shoe welt you purchase determines the long-term use you’ll get out of the shoe.
Shoes Without Welts
Before we dive into the various types of shoe welts, let’s look at two methods of shoe construction that do not use welts.
Cementing, or “Stuck-on Construction”, is the simplest method to build a shoe. It uses glue to attach the outsole and midsole to the upper of the shoe. Most footwear today, from sneakers to dress shoes, use cement construction.
Pros: Inexpensive and great for rubber-soled shoes like sneakers.
Cons: Typically wear out quickly, and the soles cannot be replaced.
Blake Stitching (McKay Method)
Invented by Lyman Reed Blake in 1856, the Blake Stitching method is a product of the Industrial Revolution. It is one of the oldest mechanized shoemaking systems.
Blake originally worked for Singer Sewing Company, but later became partner in a shoemaking firm. There, he created a sewing machine capable of stitching together the outsole, insole, and upper part of the shoe with one single stitch.
The Blake Stitching machine revolutionized shoe construction because it relied solely on machine-power. This meant shoemakers no longer had to hand stitch the welt or even use a welt at all.
Without the layers of shoe welt, Blake-construction shoes are sleek and lightweight. This makes them popular with many high-end and fashion shoemakers. However, this method sacrifices some of the durability of shoes.
Pros: Sleek, lightweight, and flexible, and less expensive than many welted shoes. They are also re-solable.
Cons: The stitching and thinner sole make for a less waterproof shoe. However, since it needs a specific machine to restitch the sole, re-soling can be expensive. Some men say the insole feels irritating due to the inside stitching.
Everything You Need to Know About Shoe Welts
Now let’s examine the three main types of shoe welts, uncover their pros and cons, and help you determine which type of welt is the best choice for your footwear needs.
Goodyear Shoe Welt
Around 1869, Charles Goodyear, Jr. purchased a patent for a modified sewing machine from James Hanan, a New York shoe producer. The sewing machine used an awl and curved needles to attach welts onto shoes without penetrating the insole.
After years of work and seven different patents, Goodyear, Jr. filed a patent in 1875 for the now-famous Goodyear welt machine.
The Goodyear Welt is considered by many to be the best-constructed type of shoe. It is also quite labor-intensive. Time is money, and Goodyear-welt shoes are often on the pricier side. Typically made with double soles to increase water-resistance and lockstitched with special thread for extra durability, Goodyear welted shoes are sturdy and reliable footwear that last for years.
Pros: The upper and outsole are attached to the welt using two separate stitches (only one stitch is visible from the exterior) for a sturdier, more water-proof shoe. The lockstitch method prevents stitches from unraveling. Goodyear welted shoes are easy to re-sole and provide comfortable supportive footwear.
Cons: With the extra layers of stitches, Goodyear welt shoes are less flexible than some footwear. Due to the labor-intensive process, Goodyear welted shoes (especially workboots) are pricier than other welt types.
Norwegian Shoe Welt (Storm Welt)
Despite its name, the Norwegian welt originated in Italy. Also called the ‘Storm Welt’, this unique method turns the the upper leather outwards-running parallel with the outsole-instead of tucking the upper leather inside the shoe as a Goodyear welt would.
Unlike Goodyear-welt shoes, Norwegian welts are visible from the outside of the shoe. This stitching method prevents water from seeping through the seam between the upper and welt. The effect, then, is superior water resistance.
Typically, you’ll find the Norwegian welt method in ski and snow boots. But, hiker, activewear boots, and even high-end dress shoes sometimes utilize the method.
Pros: The waterproof soles make for excellent footwear on rainy or snowy days.
Cons: Bulky and heavier than other welt shoes.
Veldtschoen Shoe Welt (Stitch Down)
The third most common shoe welt is the Veldtschoen welt, which comes from Afrikaans or Dutch and means “field shoe.” The traditional form of the Veldtschoen or “stitch down” method originated in Cape Dutch, South Africa, and dates to the seventeenth century. Made of untanned hide, it was a simple shoe serving as primitive bush footwear.
In 1950, Clarks of England made the Veldtschoen welt internationally famous by introducing their Desert Boot. Though no longer made with untanned game hide, the Veldtschoen welt follows the traditional construction type: the upper leather turns outwards and connects to the midsole and outsole.
It’s similar to the Norwegian welt, but the Veldtschoen shoe lining welts to the insole before the upper is attached. The upper connects to the mid- and outsole with two separate stitches, instead of one.
Pros: Sturdy, waterproof shoe great for outdoor wear and tear.
Cons: The stitching pierces the upper leather with each resoling. This weakens it and reduces the longevity of the shoe. If you custom-request the Veldtschoen welt, it can be quite expensive.
What is the Best Shoe Welt?
There is no easy answer to this question. While one welt is an excellence choice for business or dress, it’s useless an all-weather shoe. So, it’s more important to decide the kind of shoe you’re looking for, then to consider the welt.
Goodyear Welt Vs. Norwegian Welt
Goodyear welts are heavily-reinforced shoes that are durable, sturdy, rebuildable, and all but waterproof. While Goodyear welts produce excellent shoes and everyday boots, Goodyear work boots are known to be rigid and quite expensive, so if you are primarily looking for a work boot, you may prefer a Norwegian or Veldtschoen welt.
The Norwegian welt is similar to the Goodyear welt but utilizes exterior stitching to produce a waterproof shoe. The exterior stitching makes the Norwegian welt heavier and bulkier in appearance than the Goodyear welt, so it may not be your first choice for dress shoes. If you’re looking for a waterproof, all-weather shoe or boot, the Norweigan welt is probably your best bet.
Veldtschoen Welt vs Goodyear Welt
Veldtschoen welts are a type of stitch down construction where the upper leather of the shoe is folded out instead of in. The upper leather, welt, and outsole are all stitched together to produce a sturdy, waterproof shoe. One of the disadvantages of the Veldtschoen welt is that every time you resole, the upper leather has to be stitched through again, eventually wearing it out.
While Veldtschoen welts are durable and well-made, this method of construction is typically limited to country and outdoorsy style shoes and boots. Veldtschoen welts are ideal in areas where heavy rains occur, but if heavy rainfall isn’t an issue and you are simply looking for a high-quality dress or general-wear shoe, the Goodyear welt may be the better choice.
Goodyear Welt vs Blake Stitch
Though the Blake stitch is not technically a welt (since it forgoes a welt and uses one single stitch to pierce through the outsole, insole, and upper), it is still a good shoe and is a popular choice for many people.
With its affordable price tag and sleek, lightweight, and flexible construction, the Blake method is great for general use footwear. However, if you are looking for a higher-quality, weather-resistant, sturdy shoe that will last for years to come, the Goodyear welt is the better choice.
Split Welt vs. Reverse Welt – Is there a difference?
One of our community members says a split welt and reverse welt are the same.
The two welts you are discussing are in fact one in the same.
Its true name is a split-reverse storm welt, so called because it is split down the centre from one edge to the middle, and you split this half apart and one side is sewn to the upper, on the underside of the shoe and the reverse side is bent back the other way to lie up the shoe, with the remaining unsplit portion extending outwards as the welt.– Tricker (see the full discussion here)
Shoe welts are the backbone of a shoe, determining its quality, durability, and comfortability. If you’re looking for a high-quality, durable shoe that comes in numerous styles, you can’t go wrong with the Goodyear welt.
If you need an all-weather, waterproof shoe or work boot, your best bet might be the Norwegian welt. While if you’re hoping to find a country/outdoorsy style footwear with waterproof capabilities, the Veldtschoen welt is an excellent choice.
If you’d like to learn more about shoe welts, or have a question, please be sure to come join us in our online community! Many of our members are shoe experts!