What Is A Shoe Welt And Why Does It Matter?
The shoe welt is a critical component of any shoe, especially leather work boots. The welt is the spine of the shoe, where the outsole attaches to the rest of the boot or shoe. If it isn't built right, the result will be a pair of work boots that are in the trash a whole lot faster than you'd like them to be.
This is also why a pair of custom work boots can be a great investment, as a properly constructed pair can last for years...decades, in some cases.
What IS the welt? How is it put together?
The Boot Welt Is Where The Sole Meets The Rest Of The Boot
The boot welt or shoe welt is the part of a shoe where the outsole meets the rest of the boot.
If you look closely at the sole of a boot, you'll notice that it's obviously a few pieces - sometimes two or three pieces, sometimes more - that are layered together with some stitches rimming the outside of the sole on the outside of the vamp and the counter, which are the parts of the shoe that cover the toes and the heel, respectively.
The welt is the top of those layers. The outsole and the heel are the bottom of the shoe or boot, which contact the ground. That outsole is joined to the welt.
Put a little more simply, the welt is a layer of material - usually leather, rubber or nylon - that gets attached the part of the boot that your foot goes inside but also gets attached to the outsole that contacts the ground.
How it's made is also important.
There are a few different methods of boot construction, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. What that means is that you need to pick the right construction method for the footwear you're buying.
For instance, if you need a serious pair of work boots, then you need a pair of boots with a strenuous construction method.
A lot of footwear is made with the simplest method possible: cementing. The welt gets stitched to the lower, upper and counter of the shoe and the sole is glued to it. That's how most footwear is made, including athletic shoes that sure cost a lot despite being made for pennies overseas. This method is cheap to perform for the manufacturer, leading to a lower cost shoe but is also not very durable.
The Blake construction method - also called the McKay method - is something of a hybrid method. Blake/McKay construction method is where the boot lower and lining and insole is stitched directly to the welt, a midsole layer between the insole and the outsole, and then the outsole itself. The welt, being the upper-outer edge of the sole, often gets a decorative stitch on the outer edge of the welt, though some manufacturers will also stitch the outside edge of the welt to the outsole as well.
The Blake/McKay method offers a balance. It's durable enough for general purpose footwear and rebuildable, which makes it popular with high-end fashion shoemakers (especially in Italy) as well as many boot makers. This method also makes the boot or shoe flexible. However, it isn't the heaviest construction method and it also isn't the most waterproof either.
Some manufacturers use a special locking stitch, called a McKay Lockstitch, for the Blake method of bootmaking. It makes for a tight hold but is still a Blake construction. That said, a McKay-stitched/Blake stitched boot is a good choice for a generalist boot or shoe except for the hardiest of work boots.
A Goodyear welt is the last stop before hand-welting. The Goodyear welt stitches the welt to a midsole, the boot upper and to the insole, and puts a middle layer - usually a leather or cork footbed - between the insole and the outsole. The outsole is then stitched and cemented to the welt.
The Goodyear welt is highly durable, as it is heavily reinforced with all layers being stitched together more than once. It's rebuildable as well. Additionally, the Goodyear welt is all but watertight, offering a very tight barrier to moisture. However, work boots made with a Goodyear welt are fairly rigid and also expensive, as it requires skilled workers that do not come cheap.
What About A Nick's Boot Welt?
Nick's Boots can offer you two choices of boot welt. We use a McKay Lockstitch method or can offer our hand welting, almost identical to the Goodyear method.
For our McKay welted boots, we stitch the boot lower, counter and upper and lining to the insole and midsole, and then use a double-row of McKay lockstitches to put the midsole and outsole together. The result is a boot that is a little cheaper to buy than our hand-welted boots, that is still quite tough.
Our McKay welted boots include all Contender models and are an option for most made-to-order boots and shoes by Nick's. This offers solid, durable (and rebuildable) construction, as well as good protection against moisture.
Our hand welting method uses a more complicated assembly method. The welt is sewn to the vamp, followed by the insole being stitched through the vamp and lining into the welt. Arch inserts and midsoles are glued and tacked into place under the insole and inside the welt, which forms the outer edge of the boot. Then, double rows of interlocking stitches join the outsole to the welt, midsole, vamp, and insole together. Vibram soles are also screwed to the welt and cemented.
After that, the heel is attached to the boot and it gets finished prior to shipping or pickup.
Our hand welting process results in a tough boot, rigid enough for the most serious of outdoor jobs and offering good protection against moisture. While the build time will increase and the price will go up, this option yields one of the toughest work boots known to mankind.
And that has kept wildland firefighters, loggers and linemen coming back to Nicks Boots, year over year, for a very long time...and will continue to do so.