epj1906

Starting Member
Can anyone explain to me in simple terms the pros and cons of Goodyear welt construction vs adhesive construction for a pair of full leather shoes in the $150 - $200 price range? Is the Goodyear method far superior and indeed warrants a much higher cost premium?

I'm a total noob to this board, so please take it easy on me. :icon_smile_big:

Thanks
 

Grenadier

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Adhesive construction should be avoided at all costs; it will fall apart far more quickly than goodyear/blake constructed shoes. Goodyear/blake constructed shoes are also resoleable, meaning that when the sole wears down, the old sole can be removed and a new sole can be attached. This greatly prolongs the life of the shoe.
 

Claus

New Member
I'm going to present the minority opinion:

Goodyear-welted is used as a signal of quality. But just like many other signals, it can be abused.

First, even most Goodyear-welted shoes are indirectly glued, for the welt is attached to a rib of canvas that is glued to the sole. Second, stitching the lower sole to the welt is a matter of minutes for a skilled maker, so it doesn't add much costs. In fact, the major part of the price for most RTW shoes is not material or production, but sales and distribution.

Consequently, you can find Goodyear-welted shoes with cheap and badly polished leather, made in cheap labor countries, and generally of low quality.

So, what are the differences?

You can resole nearly any pair of shoes, so that's not an issue. In fact, resoling Goodyear-welted shoes is often more expensive.

Refurbishing, on the other hand, is usually just done with stitched shoes (Goodyear, Blake, BlakeRapid, Norwegian, etc.)

Refurbishing (ie. rebuilding the lower part of a shoe) can cost nearly as much as a new pair of shoes, when we're talking about the [$150, $200] price range. That's not economical. Especially, when the Upper is made of low quality leather.

Simply put:

  • Quality leather (Upper) implies stitching techniques such as Goodyear.
  • Stitching techniques such as Goodyear, however, do not imply good quality.
Regardless, there's another point:

If you look around in (classic) men's clothing, you'll often find men favoring things that are not necessarily practical, economic, or efficient. There are tons of examples: Suits, white shirts, mechanic wrist watches, and also traditionally made shoes.

A cynic may explain this by the Handicap principle, sometimes called "peacock effect". A romantic may explain it to a profession of sympathy towards artisanship, tradition, descent, or nationality. A pragmatist may explain it by the benefits of signals you send by displaying a traditional and time-tested look.

Whatever group you may belong to, Goodyear-welted shoes are part of the game.

tldr; You don't buy material benefits such as longevity but usually just immaterial ones.
 
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hohne1

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
To me, the main advantage of Goodyear welt shoes is the ability to reconstruct them. I have some Allen Edmonds shoes that are 21 years old and, after a recent recrafting, look practically new. You have to take care of your shoes so the uppers are in good shape for this to work. And the shoe has to be timeless design for this to work.

I can see a place for adhesive shoes. If you are very fashion forward and wear the very latest, trendy shoe that may not be in style a year or two from now, the ability to reconstruct isn't an issue. And if you do not take care of your shoes and the uppers are completely trashed in a couple of years, same thing. In either of these cases, an adhesive shoe might be the way to go to save some money.

There is a place for both. But if you want a pair of shoes that will last a very long time, Goodyear welt is a better choice.

Chris
 

dwebber18

Super Member
I agree with most of these comments. While goodyear welting is a better method of constructing a shoe than cementing there are some pitfalls with that as well. There are cheaper shoes with low quality leathers and finishing techniques that goodyear welt so they can state it as a point of quality when the rest of the shoe is low quality. I think goodyear welting should be a starting point when looking for shoes, if its goodyear welted continue to investigate the shoe, if its cemented move on. There are many other quality styles of manufacturing like stated above with Blake and Norwegian also quality moccasin construction is nice. Just evaluate the shoe in total to make sure its quality.
 

Matt S

Connoisseur
Ultra-fancy Italian shoes, some of the best in the world, don't use Goodyear-type welts.
Right, they often use Blake or Bologna construction. They have their benefits just as Goodyear welted shoes do, though I find Goodyear welted have the most advantages. Some of the really expensive Italian shoes even use adhesive construction, which is no better than the cheap shoes that are glued together.
 

tocqueville

Suspended
There are adhesive and there are adhesives

I agree with the argument about goodyear welting being more a marker of quality than a reason for quality. I've pretty much sworn not to go back to non-welted shoes, but what I'm really saying is that I intend never to buy shoes that are lesser in quality than my AEs. Also, I wish to point out that:

1. adhesive shoes can be resoled, although I'm told that they have a much lower limit to how many times it can be done because of the nature of the "ripping" involved in resoling non-welted shoes. I have two pair of non-goodyear shoes that I've resoled several times. Now, those shoes are not quite as nice as my AEs in terms of fit and comfort, but I don't think I can identify the welt or lack of welting as the source of the difference. There were, quite simply, cheaper shoes by all measures.

2. Just as there can be bad goodyear welt shoes, there can be good adhesive shoes, in part because a) there are so many other factors involved in making a quality shoes and b) the adhesive itself is not a problem. Example: once when I was at a horse shoe I dipped into a tent displaying Vogel boots. These are high-end MTM boots and shoes, beautiful stuff. I picked up a pair of shoes and asked the gentleman there, who I think was none other than Hank Vogel, about the welting. It was, he said, not welted but made with adhesive, and he explained that adhesives themselves are a lot better than what he used to be. Now, I hope I understood him correctly and am not getting it all wrong, but if I got it right, than surely one can make a fantastic pair of shoes with adhesives rather than welting. For by the look and feel of it, those were fantastic shoes. If I could afford them, I wouldn't hesitate to buy them. I'm sure, too, that there's a difference between the work of skilled craftsmen (Vogel) and the work of Chinese factory labor (Kenneth Cole).
 

Leather man

Super Member
Other advantages of GW welted shoes

Sorry to bump an old thread but I felt I could say somethings others haven't yet said in favour of GW shoes.

It is true that modern adhesives are much better than say even 10 years ago. However shoes with glued on soles are harder to get right when rebuilt and many just cannot be done.

However the other advantages of GW shoes are that they are more flexible ( at least that is what is claimed) than cemented construction and more comfortable due to the cork filler that goes in between the insole and the outsole.

Perhaps confusingly for the OP Blake construction has been introduced in this discussion too - the weakness with Blake is that the stiches go straight through from the outsole into the insole thus making shoes so constructed impractical for wet climates. Blake Rapid however ( please refer to the AAAC page on shoe construction) does provide a better alternative to Goodyear Welted.

That being said, I love my GW shoes and never tire of seeing a repaired pair come back to me looking like new! And there isn't a quality English shoemaker of ready to wear shoes that does not use the Goodyear welted construction - that must say something!
 

Finian McLonergan

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
And there isn't a quality English shoemaker of ready to wear shoes that does not use the Goodyear welted construction - that must say something!
The majority of patent leather shoes and dress pumps manufactured by quality English shoemakers have traditionally used cemented soles. The point being that when elegance and refinement are absolutely paramount and demand the thinnest and sleekest of soles, the slightly rustic quality of the Goodyear welted sole has to take a backseat. Example: the Edward Green Holborn.

It seems to argue against basic physics that a thin, sleek cemented sole would be less flexible than its thicker Goodyear-welted counterpart. The thinner the sole the more flexible it must be, assuming the leathers used are otherwise comparable. All ballroom dance shoes use cemented construction and it is difficult to think of an application more in need of flexible soles.

As you point out, Blake Rapid is in most aspects superior to Goodyear welting, and may even be prefered over cementing when trying to reach a compromise between sole thickness and durability/resoleability.
 

Doctor Damage

Connoisseur
Having owned a few pairs of Goodyear welted dress shoes, I have to say they aren't any better in wet weather than glued shoes, or any shoes with leather soles. Regarding the original post, I think member Claus made a good post with some good points.
 

Matt S

Connoisseur
Having owned a few pairs of Goodyear welted dress shoes, I have to say they aren't any better in wet weather than glued shoes, or any shoes with leather soles. Regarding the original post, I think member Claus made a good post with some good points.
I've never had a problem with Goodyear welted in light-to-moderate rain. Blake shoes, however, allow water inside. Double leather soles, with either Goodyear welting or Blake-Rapid construction need to be completely soaked to get water inside.
 

Mattdeckard

Senior Member
My good year welted shoes don't take the rain better, they don't resole easier, but.... they do not splay out over time, and they don't come apart as easily when worn for over and over again without needing a resole. I think this is an average for guys like me in California. I don't walk all over town, but my shoes do get a lot of punishment to the upper and they go through a lot of flexing. If I were wearing them walking constantly like an East coaster, I'd probably not think much about the goodyear welt since I'd be going through soles quicker. Since my soles last about 4 times longer than the average person on the East coast, a person that most likely walks a few miles every day to work, I don't even think about resoling because the uppers will tend to look scuffed to a point that I'd want new shoes before soles are considered. Because of this, I've seen the dancing and moisture of glued soles pull a sole from it's upper much easier than if it were goodyear welted and sewn. I also feel shoes that aren't good year welted having more give and just... well spreading out more. I think a stitched goodyear prevents this.
 
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