Shoe construction determines the flexibility/rigidity and durability of a work shoe. With shoe construction, we are referring specifically to how the outsole is attached to the upper. Depending on the method of construction, some boots may or may not be able to be re-crafted or re-soled. Different methods of shoe construction are used for different applications. This page provides an overview of the major forms of construction used in boot and shoe making and their intended application.
Otherwise known as ‘glued-on’ construction, direct-attach/cement construction is the method by which an outsole is attached using shoe-makers cement. Cement construction makes for a lighter and more flexible boot; however this method does have some drawbacks when it comes to heavier work. Cement construction is generally recommended for light work. Heavier loads and constant bending or squatting can stress the cement, sometimes resulting in split or separating outsoles.
A welt is a separate piece of leather, plastic, or rubber that is stitched along the seam joining the outsole to the upper, providing a durable water-resistant barrier along this major seam. Welted boots are less flexible than boots that utilize cement construction but are superior in durability. Charles Goodyear Jr. is famous for the invention of the Goodyear Welt in 1869. The Goodyear Welt is still used to this day. More recently, companies have altered the Goodyear Welt by attaching a thicker piece of leather and flanging it upward along the side of the upper, resulting in a highly water resistant welt known as the ‘Storm Welt.’ Welted boots are the ideal choice for workers who are responsible for carrying large loads or who are frequently exposed to especially wet conditions. Many of the boots constructed this way are re-craftable by a cobbler.
The real long-term advantage of stitch-down construction is the ability for these boots to be re-crafted and re-soled. A welt is not utilized; instead, the leather is flanged outward and stitched directly to the midsole. The outsole is then attached using shoe-makers cement. An additional stich is generally added along the toe or along the entire seam, attaching the upper to the outsole. Because the upper is flanged outward, boots utilizing stich-down construction are generally wider in fit and are especially stable. Western brands, such as Danner, Wesco, White’s, and Nick’s boots, use this form of construction on a large number of their styles. Brands that utilize stich-down construction usually offer re-soling packages at a fraction of the cost of a new pair of boots, upholding these brand’s traditions of quality, handmade, and recraftable leather boots.