Shoe Construction Techniques
There are many shoe construction methods from which a shoe designer can choose. Depending on the function and style of your shoe design, you have many options for connecting the upper to the outsole unit. The classic Goodyear welt, the heavy-duty Norwegian welt, and the modern cold cemented Strobel construction to name a few.
Whether you are designing running shoes, Alpine mountaineering boots, or posh office shoes, you will need an understanding of shoe construction methods. Here we will review these common forms of footwear construction including board-lasted construction, Strobel construction, Blake Construction (also called McKay Welt), Blake/Rapid Construction, Goodyear welt construction, Norwegian Storm Construction, Stitch down Construction, and Bologna Constructions.
Need to know Footwear Construction Terms:
Welt: A welt is a strip of leather, rubber, or plastic that runs along the perimeter of a shoe outsole. The machinery used for this process was invented in 1869 by Charles Goodyear Jr., the son of Charles Goodyear.
Outsole: Can be made of rubber or leather.
Midsole: Can be made of leather, cork, or foam.
Common Shoe Construction Styles
Board lasted construction: A very common shoe construction technique that can be made by machine or by hand. The upper is pulled tight and bonded to a fiber board. The outsole unit is firmly cemented to the upper, securing the upper to the sole. Board lasting construction can be used on almost any style of shoe, being suitable for many upper material types and outsole styles.
Strobel construction: Used for most athletic shoes, Strobel requires the upper material to be sewn to a fabric bottom creating a “sock.” The upper and bottom are joined by a Strobel stitch, using a Strobel machine.
With the upper sock tightly lasted, the upper is cemented to the outsole completing the shoe.
Blake Construction: Used to make flexible leather shoes, the Blake construction starts with a board-lasted upper. Glue the sole in place then, with the last removed, sew the upper directly through the outsole unit. The outsole may be leather or rubber and have a groove molded into its surface to guide the Blake stitch. You will find Blake construction on weltless leather dress shoes, moccasins, and boat shoes. Blake construction is not waterproof.
Blake/Rapid Construction: Similar to the standard Blake construction, but with a “rapid” perimeter stitch attaching the outsole. The outsole covers the Blake stitching. This allows for a thicker sole and is easier to resole. The extra layer can be rubber, making the shoe more durable.
Goodyear welt construction: The Goodyear welt is often used to make waterproof soles, the stitch that attaches the sole to the shoe runs around the outside edge and does not make stitch holes in the upper. The upper is sewn to the welts that attach to the insole and the outsole. During assembly, the welts are attached first by a horizontal “Goodyear” stitch, named for the inventor of the stitching machine, Charles Goodyear Jr. (also the son of the famous rubber inventor, Charles Goodyear Sr.). The Goodyear welt construction method is ideal for heavy-duty boots for hiking or service.
Norwegian Storm Welt Construction: Similar to the Goodyear welt construction method but the upper is turned outside and is sandwiched between the outer welt and the outsole. Used to make the heaviest waterproof boots, the Norwegian Storm Welt is difficult to make and is found almost exclusively in the workshops of Italian bootmakers.
Stitch down Veldtschoen welt Construction: Again, the Veldtschoen welt is related to the Goodyear and Norwegian welt constructions. In this case, an inner welt or rapid stitch line through the midsole is paired with a second rapid stitch that attaches the outsole. The outsole is attached after the first welt, the bottom stitch is protected by the outsole.
Bologna Construction: Developed in Italy and used primarily for dress or fashion shoes, the Bologna construction creates a smooth, comfortable shoe. The shoe lining is joined into a sock fitting the last tightly. The leather upper is then attached to the sole via the Blake stitching method. The Bologna shoe construction method is ideal for making very clean looking and flexible shoes.
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