There are of course several different methods of construction to put together a shoe. In this article all the most common ones are being explained in a short but hopefully understandable way, and pros and cons of the different methods are being highlighted.

 

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Cemented

The most simple and cheap construction method where the parts of the shoe are simply glued together with strong adhesive. The shoes are light and soft. Can’t normally be resoled at all, more than the possibility to add a new outsole on top of the worn down outsole.

 

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A shoe from Barker with a cemented construction. Look similar to a Blake stitched shoe, but you find no stitching either inside or outside this one. Picture: Donaghys

 

 

 

Blake stiched

The simplest version of the sewn construction methods, which like a completely glued shoe is flexible and neat but with a seam for extra strength and added possibility of resoling. The Blake stitch, or McKay stitch as it’s also called, simply goes straight through the insole, uppers and outsole. It’s not moisture resistant, since water can get straight through the seam into the shoe and there is also no protection from the side. If the channel in the sole where the stitch is made is closed it can withstand moisture a bit better. Can, contrary to what many believe, be resoled, as long as the cobbler has a machine that can do Blake stitches. However, the number of resoles are limited since each time you take out and remake the Blake stitch you are most likely to make new holes in the uppers which eventually will look like a Swiss cheese and will be more fragile.

 

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An overview of the Blake construction. Picture: My Denim Life

Blake stitched Santoni shoe, thin, slim and flexible. Picture: Parisian Gentleman

Blake stitched Santoni shoe, thin, slim and flexible. Picture: Parisian Gentleman

 

 

 

Bologna

Quite similar to the Blake construction with a seam that runs right through from the outsole to the insole, and shares many of its advantages and disadvantages. But the difference is that the Bologna constructed shoe has the uppers folded and stitched together like a sock, with a thin leather insole added, and just once the whole upper part is finished the outsole is attached. This allows for even softer shoes than Blake stitched ones.

 

Bologna

The upper of a Bologna stitched shoe is being assembled. Picture: Bexley

 

 

 

Goodyear welted

The most common construction method for quality shoes. A canvas rib is glued to the underside of the insole to which upper and a thin leather strip is attached, called welt, with a machine stitched welt seam. The outsole is then attached to the welt with a sole stitch. The construction makes a strong and relatively water resistant shoe that is easy to resole, since you can remove the sole stitch and outsole without insole and upper being affected. The shoe, however, is more rigid and less flexible than for example a Blake stitched shoe.

Cons of the Goodyear construction method that are usually brought forward is that the canvas rib, called gemming, is only glued to place, causing a risk (how large is widely debated) for it to loosen or break which needs the shoe to be back on it’s original last for a proper reinstallment of the canvas rib to be able to be resoled. Also since the canvas rib is quite high, you have a large void in the middle of the shoe which you have to fill up with a thick layer of cork paste.

 

Here's an overview of the Goodyear welted construction method.

Here’s an overview of the Goodyear welted construction method. Picture: Styleforum

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A pic of a Goodyear welted shoe being “half done”. The white strip ween is the glued on canvas rib. Picture: Barti Design

 

 

 

Hand welted

As the name suggests, the method is basically identical to the aforementioned Goodyear construction, but the difference is that the welt seam is made entirely by hand and done directly to the insole. You cut out a lip in the insole (which due to this fact regularly is thicker and of better quality than those used for many machine made shoe constructions) and do the welt stitches do that. This also makes the cavity in the middle of the shoe much smaller, so you can use much less cork paste or real cork, felt or leather instead making the construction more compact. A hand welted shoe can have both a machine- or handmade sole stitch. This is the finest construction method and is used by almost all bespoke makers, but also a few Ready to Wear brands does it.

 

When hand welting a holdfast is cut out of the insole (except in Italy, where shoemakers usually do the stitching to the flat sole by digging the awl down and up) which the welt seams is stitched to, connecting uppers and welt. Picture: Claymoor's List

When hand welting a holdfast is cut out of the insole (except in Italy, where shoemakers usually do the stitching to the flat sole by digging the awl down and up) which the welt seams is stitched to, connecting uppers and welt. Picture: Claymoor’s List

 

 

 

Blake/Rapid

Are sort of a mix of the Blake stitched and welted construction methods, which shares many of the latters advantages. Here a midsole is attached to the insole with a Blake stitch, and the the outsole is sewn to the midsole with a sole stitch (Rapid is one of the largest makers of sole stitching machines, hence the name). This provides a shoe that is relatively waterproof and where it is easy to replace the outsole without the need to influence the insole and upper part, it is done in the same way as on a welted shoe. Pros compared to Goodyear welted shoes is that there is stitching holding all the shoes parts together, not just glue in the canvas rib with Goodyear, and that there is a smaller void more similar to the hand welted construction. Con compared to Goodyear is that you have stitches going through to the inside of the shoe, so it’s not an as “closed” construction method.

 

Pic showing how the Blake/Rapid construction is made. Picture: Wotten

Pic showing how the Blake/Rapid construction is made. Picture: Wotten

It's more or less impossible to separate a Blake/Rapid stitched shoe as this to a welted shoe when seen from the outside.

It’s more or less impossible to separate a Blake/Rapid stitched shoe as this to a welted shoe when seen from the outside.

 

 

 

Storm welted

Not really an own construction method, since exactly the same construction as the aforementioned Goodyear, hand welted or Blake/Rapid methods are used. But the difference is that you have a sturdier welt which has a rib that goes up above the stitching against the uppers. This prevents water to get into the shoe from the sides. Here

 

A Goodyear welted shoe with a storm welt. Picture: John Rushton Shoes

A Goodyear welted shoe with a storm welt. Picture: John Rushton Shoes

 

 

 

Norvegese, Norweigan, Goyser, Bentavenegna

These are all similar construction methods with small differences, but the problem is that different makers call things differently, so it’s very hard to define exactly what is correct. The base of all these methods is however that there is a stitch made from the insole towards the upper and out on the outside of the shoe, and a regular sole stitch. Some have the uppers pulled outwards, some has a welt/storm welt, some has extra row of stitching which attach a midsole, and so on. These methods are almost always made by hand, and often the stitches are braided in different decorative ways. They are quite sturdy constructions, and especially the ones where the upper leather is turned outwards are very waterproof.

 

How what's regularly called norvegese is made. Picture: The Shoe Snob Blog

How what’s regularly called norvegese is made. Picture: The Shoe Snob Blog

Another version with three rows of stitching. Picture: Styleforum

Another version with three rows of stitching.

Goyser stitched shoes from Hungarian brand Vass. Picture: Styleforum

Goyser stitched shoes from Hungarian brand Vass. Last two pictures: Styleforum

 

 

 

Veldtschoen

A method that reminds a lot of norvegese etc construction methods. Here the upper is also folded outwards, but you have a regular welt which and a straight sole stitch which can be made by machine. The shoes are highly water resistant and saturation method is most common among heavier boots. There are different variants of Veldtschoen construction, which is also called stitch down, where the basic one is that the upper part is folded outwards and sewn directly into the outsole with a sole stitch. Some different takes are where you place a welt below the upper on the sole edge, and sometimes you also use an extra row of stitches attaching a midsole.

 

Overview of how a Veldtschoen construction is done. Picture: My Denim Life

Overview of how a Veldtschoen construction is done. Picture: My Denim Life

Heavy Veldschoen constructed boots, that can take a lot of beating and water. Picture:

Heavy Veldschoen constructed boots, that can take a lot of beating and water.

 

 

 

Wood pegged, brass pegged

An old method that is not very common nowadays, where you attach insole, uppers and outsole with wood or brass pegs. Uppers are secured to the insole with small pins, before pegs are hammered in. It was used mainly because it’s a quick and simple yet strong construction method, but since all parts of the shoe get holes in it it’s not the most durable construction, and resoles are limited.

What’s more common is the use of pegs, often of wood, for the waist. Instead of stitching the waist you wood peg it, making it easier to achieve a tight fitting waist, can also give some extra strength if done properly. But those shoes normally have welted sole parts, so they essentially welted shoes and not pegged ones.

 

An overview of a pegged shoe. Picture:

An overview of a pegged shoe. Picture: Alaska Office of History and Archeology

Beautiful wood pegged shoes, with two rows of pegs all along the bottom. Picture: ZImmermanKim

Beautiful wood pegged shoes, with two rows of pegs all along the bottom. Picture: ZImmermanKim

An RM Williams boot which is brass pegged: Picture: Boots online

An RM Williams boot which is brass pegged: Picture: Boots Online