A classic topic of discussion is the difference between Goodyear welted and hand welted shoes, and the function and importance it has. Usually the sustainability in terms of numbers resoles and so on is highlighted as the main difference, and there is of course a difference there, but in most cases there’s nothing that affects the actual life for the owner. There are many other aspects of the difference between the construction types that in my eyes are more interesting, and here I highlight several of these in the form of a series of pictures that compare shoes from Gaziano & Girling and Hiro Yanagimachi.
A canvas rib is glued on the insole to a Gaziano & Girling Deco shoe. It’s in this rib the Goodyear welt seam is then sewn in. The solution is known as gemming.
To note here is the thickness of the insole, which on Goodyear welted shoes tend to be around 3-4 mm approximately. Here you can also see how the canvas rib is relatively high and will make a rather large cavity in the shoe that needs to be filled, the rib is usually about 5-7 mm high.
Here we have an insole on a Made to Order shoe from Hiro Yanagimachi, made to the same standard as their bespoke shoes. The insoles are cut from a larger piece of leather, which is usually the shoulder of cattle, which have good fiber composition to withstand sewing in a lip in it. The thickness of this type of insole is usually about 8-10 mm, which is more than twice as thick as an insole for Goodyear welted shoes.
On a hand welted shoe you cut out a lip of the thick insole, which the welt seam is then sewn in (there are exceptions with soles where the lip are pre-cut which some “factory-made” hand welted shoes use).
Here the welt is attached to the upper leather and the canvas rib with a chain stitch sewn with a Goodyear machine, and you can see here also a heel wreath located as a base for the heel and shank-support and the piece of leather that is to build the fiddle waist.
The large cavity is filled with a mass consisting of cork and glue. It is relatively porous and collapses more and more over time, which means that it often is replaced when the shoe is resoled.
Here are welt is sewn on with a hand seam, which is a kind of “lock stitch” where every stitch can hold separately. Here you can also see that the cavity on shoes with this construction method becomes very small, it is only a few millimeters high.
Hiro Yanagimachi cut out pieces from a thin cork plate that is placed under the forefoot and in the back are a shank and leather pieces to build up the waist. Cork plate also is compressed some with time, but more limited, and it can then remain unchanged throughout the life of the shoe so the footprint is quite persistent, so to say, in both the insole and filling. Pictures: Hiro Yanagimachi
The sole of a finished Gaziano & Girling Deco shoe.
The sole on the finished shoe by Hiro Yanagimachi. Both are excellent, and you can’t see from the outside the quite large differences inside.
Goodyear welting is an excellent method of construction, no doubt about it, but it is produced and adapted for mass production, not to do as good shoes as possible, quite frankly. The thick insole, the compact construction without large voids and so forth on the hand welted shoes are things that are considered “objectively better”. For the sake of making a point I have taken shoes that are similar in price range, Gaziano & Girling’s regular series is about €1 200 for RTW (Deco costs, however, around €2200, then MTO including lasted shoe trees). Hiro Yanagimachi’s hand welted MTO start at about €1 300 in Japan (lasted shoe trees about €230 extra).
The idea is to show reasonably factual differences between the construction types. There are also other aspects that distinguish the two methods, for example that things are more prepared for factory-made shoes, like if you have ready-made welts bought in large rolls and you have pre-built heels, while a workshop likeHiro Yanagimachi cut out the welts themselves from leather hides and build heels layer by layer on each shoe, and although there in many cases is a big difference when it comes to craftmanship the impact on function etc is rather small plus it is not necessarily associated with it Goodyear or hand welting, therefore, I do not mention it closer in this post.
For your information, there will be more pictures from the production of Hiro Yanagimachi’s shoes in a buyer’s guide published soon.