Ever wonder why you walk into a work boot site and see a range of very varied prices? What is the difference between a pair of boots that cost under $50 and another that costs $250? Sure, elements such as the brand name, country, material quality, and craftsmanship are all relevant factors to consider. However, the largest differentiator is usually the quality of the construction used to put your work boot together. Construction simply refers to the methods used to attach the shoe uppers to the sole of your boot. For those who are somewhat new to the world of construction, here is a quick breakdown of all the key players in a boot’s anatomy.
The Top and Bottom of the Boots
Uppers– These are the leather or canvas exteriors that can be seen above the sole when the boot is worn. While the uppers can be taken as a whole to summarize everything that actually covers the sole, it too is also categorized into different parts like the vamp, eyelets, collar, e.t.c.
Insole– This refers to the materials on the interior of your shoe that remains in contact with your foot when you wear you work boots. It is usually soft and comfortable.
Outsole– This is the material found on the exterior and bottom of the sole. It remains in physical contact with the ground at all times; as such, it needs to be very tough and well treaded for more traction.
The Last– This is a 3D model of a foot that actually gives your work boots and shoes their shape. These lasts are used during both the design process as well as the construction.
With the basic terminology in mind, we can now delve into the most popular methods of boot construction. For the discerning worker, a great work boot can be likened to a gorgeous work of art. The way it is made will have a definite impact on the final look, define the overall style as well as set the pace for experience and longevity. We present you with the most popular boot construction techniques.
Named after Sir Charles Goodyear Jr. who developed a machine based alternative to hand welting, the Goodyear construction method is known globally as the oldest, most durable and most labor intensive construction method of them all. This method involves a few steps that begin with preparing the insole for stitching by creating a perpendicular rib across it. Next, the shoe is the lasted with a 3D model where the outsole is stretched over and attached to the insole. Finally, a strong thread is sewn all through the welt, the uppers, and rib of the insole. For all the stitching points, a lock stitch is used to ensure that the entire chain will not unravel even if it breaks apart at any one point on the boot. However, Goodyear Welt construction allows for the boot to be resoled if it comes apart.
While not all methods of attaching the sole of a shoe to the uppers were created equally, there is one that offers a quick, easy and cost effective way to do it. Sure, cemented construction may not evoke luxury and style per se, but the technique stands for highly esteemed values like resilience, strength, and convenience. Today, cement construction is used in a wide array of different shoes; both casual and safety boots due to their competitive prices and relative durability. Cement construction involves a process where the upper part of your shoe is shaped and completed separately from the sole and the attached with adhesive and no welts or stitching. Budget conscious workers appreciate the friendlier price range that cement constructed boots offer; the flexibility and performance are also not too shabby. However, once the upper part of your boot and the sole get damaged or parted, then this is the end of a very sticky love affair. Since these boots cannot be resoled, cement constructed boots tend to have a shorter lifespan.
The machine that was designed to perform this construction was invented by Lyman Blake in 1856 who then sold it to Gordon McKay. As a by-product of the great industrial revolution, it is impossible to do it by hand since the Blake stitching is done on the inside of the shoe. If you are a fan of Italian footwear, then you may already be familiar with the Blake Stitch. This refers to a very distinctive way of joining the sole of a shoe directly to the uppers using a highly robust stitch on the inside. Since Blake construction uses far less layers than other methods, the resulting work boots are lighter than Goodyear Welted boots. This method creates a very flexible pair of boots with a close cut sole that gives the pair an overall sleek and exquisite look. However, this construction does not do much for waterproof capabilities. Blake stitched footwear do however offer more durability and longevity than cemented shoes because they can be resoled by a cobbler with the right equipment.
It is worth noting that these are just a few of the numerous construction methods currently being used in the footwear industry. No single particular method can be termed as objectively superior to the rest; they all serve different purposes and tastes for different people. While one worker may be looking for a work boot that will outlast his career, another may be looking for something a little less costly and flexible too. It’s all about identifying what your needs are and planning on what to go with.