Shoe Anatomy: The Basics On Quality Footwear Construction

It goes without saying, we all deserve new shoes. But what allows certain designers to slap extra zero’s on their price tag without batting an eyelash? Elements such as brand name, leather or material quality and even the country of manufacture immediately come to mind. However, the largest differentiator comes down the construction quality. To put it simply, this is how the major fundamentals in the shoe’s anatomy come together. Before we can proceed with the construction, let’s cover a few basic shoe-parts terminology. NB: some will apply to all shoes –such as the sole – while others are style specific.

[Image: Designer Studio Store]
  • Sole – This is the entire part of the shoe located beneath the foot.
  • Insole – This is the material inside the shoe that the foot comes into contact with when worn.
  • Outsole – This is the material that comes into contact with the ground since it’s situated on the exterior and bottom of the sole. It exists for grip, water resistance and durability.
  • The Welt – Often only found on better-constructed shoes, this is a strip of leather found on the perimeter of the outsole. It works to connect the upper to the outsole.
  • The Upper – This is the part of the shoe above the sole and covers the foot when worn. Together, the sole and upper make up the entire shoe.
  • The Vamp – The part of the upper that covers the front part of the foot.
  • Quarter – The rear and sides section of the upper, behind the vamp. For additional support the rear of the foot, a stiffener is added in the heel section of the quarter.
  • Linings – Added around the quarter and vamp for comfort and to increase the shoe’s lifespan.
  • Topline – Simply, the Upper’s top edge.
  • Feather – This is the point where the Sole and Upper meet.
  • The Last – This is a solid three-dimensional model of a foot that the shoe is moulded on. It’s the shoe last’s volume, shape and design that will determine whether the footwear will have proper fitting.
  • Puff– Located inside in the front upper of the shoe, it gives the toe are shape and support.
  • Toe Cap – Added over the front upper of the shoe for additional strength and protection. This is because it’s a section of the shoe that goes through a lot of wear and tear from use.
  • Heel – in relation to the front, this is the part of the sole that raises the rear of the shoe. The part of the heel that touches the upper is called the heel seat while the section that touches the ground is the top piece.
  • Breast – The section under the sole’s arch that faces forward.
  • Counter – this is the stiff piece of material at the heel, situated between the upper and the lining, to maintain shoe shape.
[Image: Designer Studio Store]

Now that we know the basic terminologies, we can shift our attention to where the money is; shoe construction methods. There are a few ways to attach the sole to the upper, but the first stage is similar in all. It begins with attaching the insole to the bottom of the last. Next, the lasting will dictate when the upper sections are shaped to the insole and last. Finally, the sole is attached to the upper in what is called ‘Bottoming’. If the last stage is done right, the quality and performance of the shoe will not only be top-notch, but it will also be able to fetch top dollar. The following are some of the most common shoe-construction methods.

Norvegese

This goes by many names – Norwegian, Goyser, and Bentavenegna – with a few differences here and there. But makes the basis of this construction method is that everything is done by hand. In addition, they all have a regular sole stitch, as well as, a stitch that runs from the insole towards the upper and out towards the outside of the shoe. It makes a sturdy and waterproof contraption.

Norvegese [Image: A Fine-Tooth Comb]

Veldtschoen

Also known as Veldt or the Stitchdown, this is one of the cheaper methods often used to produce lightweight flexible soles for some casual footwear and children’s shoes. Similar to the Norvegese construction method, since the upper is also folded outwards. However, it uses a regular welt and a machine to do its straight sole stitch. This method is definitely for the lower-price spectrum, but it creates a highly water-resistant shoe.

Edward Green Dundee Veldtschoen construction in Almond Country calf grain leather [Image: Frans Boone Store]

Cementing

This method eliminates the welting and attached the sole to the upper with an adhesive. It’s cheap and fast, making it the most common method in the shoe market. It’s considered a superior method of attachment for shoes with a rubber sole, such as sneakers and casual shoes. It however does not have a long shelf-life, as the shoe can’t be repaired once the upper separates from the sole.

Blake Welting / Blake Rapid

A product of the Industrial revolution, Blake uses a machine to do the stitching on the inside of the shoe. Blake Welt wraps the upper around the insole and attaches the outsole directly to the insole. Blake Rapid is similar but has a mid-sole connected to the outsole and insole for extra foot-cushioning. It’s inexpensive and allows for resoling once the outsole is worn. And because it has fewer layers, it makes for a more flexible sole. It’s a superior option when you need to make a close-cut sole but it requires a specific Blake machine to do it. Additionally, the fewer layers come at the cost of water resistance. The interior stitching is also known to cause foot-irritation in some men.

[Image: Prime Magazine]

Goodyear Welting

This has got to be the most labour intensive and oldest method in the group. However, it’s considered the most durable technique. It comes with multiple steps but it can be done by hand or via machine; no specific machine required. The extra layers make it easier to re-sole as well as increases water resistance. Another point that makes this a highly-regarded technique used by bespoke and high-end markets is the cork filling which forms a custom-like foot-bed after a good amount of wear. Goodyear welting more expensive method and the shoes aren’t as flexible as with other methods, but the shoes have a long, supportive life.

There isn’t one right construction method because we have different shoes for different occasions. Whereas dress shoes will be done justice by Goodyear welts and thus serve the high-end market, Consumers also want casual options. Elements such as flexibility, rubbery sole and lower values on the price-tag will be high on the consumers’ agenda. So once again, it comes down too your target market, their demands and how your USP will serve this whilst allowing you to stand out. This article was a brief introduction and we recommend you do a more in-depth research and plan accordingly.

[Image: Chiara Ferragni]

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