We know it’s not always true that the more expensive something is, the better its quality. Yet, when we compare goodyear welted shoes to cemented, rubber-soled ones, they are thought to be more superior in terms of appearance, comfort, and durability. When it comes to shoes, appearance and comfort is, for the most part, subjective; durability has got to do with how well the shoes are being cared for and how often they are worn. This gives us good enough reason to try and debunk some of the misconceptions that most of us might have for both types of constructions.
Lest we become a shoe snob, the aim here is to have a better understanding of our shoes in order to make informed purchases in the future.
For the benefit of our friends who have no idea what a goodyear welt or a cemented construction is, let us first start with a brief explanation of the two types of constructions.
The goodyear welt, aptly named after its creator, Charles Goodyear Jr., involves covering the insole with a welt, which is then stitched to the outsole. As you can imagine, there are several layers involved in this construction, which supposedly makes your shoes sturdier. Coupled with the secure locksmith stitching, your soles are not expected to fall apart at all. The multiple steps and layers of this form of construction makes the costs of production high.
Cemented construction is simply attaching a rubber sole to the shoe, without any welting. This is by far the cheapest, and quickest shoe construction, thus lowering the overall costs of production. This is the most common construction for casual shoes, like sneakers.
Now that we have gotten the explanations out of the way, we will be comparing them across three categories of interest to us: Comfort, durability and appearance.
Goodyear welted: The area between the insole and outsole is stuffed with filler materials, like cork, to provide some form of cushioning. Given leather’s shape-conforming attribute, you can expect the leather sole to be moulded to the natural contour of your feet over time, which is supposed to improve comfort. The number of layers also determine how comfortable your shoes will get; the more layers there are, the more cushioning there is. However, one thing about leather soles is its lack of grip, which can prove to be problematic in places receiving a lot of rain.
Cemented: As you can guess, rubber soles have a better grip, so you need not worry about that embarrassing slip as you’re sashaying down the road for your coffee fix on a rainy day. Another thing to consider is how cemented shoes require a shorter break in time simply because it is not entirely made of leather. Also, given its thickness, rubber soles act as a better shock absorber, making cemented shoes a more ideal pair if you are frequently walking on cobblestoned, uneven paths. At this point, it would be useful to point out that in spite of all these, it still wouldn’t be comfortable to keep your feet strapped to a pair of hard, rubber soles all day day.
In terms of comfort, both have their pros and cons. For the friends who do not like long break in periods for your shoes, perhaps a cemented pair would be preferred. Or, if you are someone that won’t be wearing those oxfords for a whole day, and wouldn’t mind spending a little more, perhaps you would prefer a pair of goodyear welted shoes.
Goodyear welted shoes are thought to be more formal than its cheaper counterpart. After all, you are paying a premium for it, and this is good enough reason believe that it will sharpen your look. But if we were to closely follow the train of thoughts at a deeper level, some feel that a thinner leather sole instantly smartens up your suiting.
Yet, there is no hard and fast rule in formality and thickness of the soles; not many people are going to notice how thick your soles are, especially from a distance. Additionally, some well-made cemented shoes can have a thinner sole than goodyear welt ones. Ultimately, if you’re one of those who feel that soles aren’t that important in your entire suiting, I would recommend skipping paying a premium for those leather soles.
Finally, the (most important) question that decides whether a pair of shoes is worth the buck. If you’re going to invest a few hundred in a pair of dress shoes, then you would want it to last you a good few years.
Goodyear welted: If leather wears out over time with continuous wear, it follows that the number of layers of leather determines how durable the shoes are. Its stitching also makes it highly unlikely for the soles to detach. However, its durability is undermined when your shoes get wet, causing the leather to disintegrate from within.
Cemented: Depending on the quality of the rubber, cemented shoes can be sturdier than goodyear welted ones. They are resistant to wear and tear, as well as moisture accumulation given its water-resistant attribute. However, a poorly made cemented shoe could potentially crack at the soles, or have the glue wear off.
To be fair, we would have to consider other factors that could undermine a durability of a shoe, no matter how well made it is.
- Shoe care – Just like other leather goods, leather shoes need some TLC too. Without proper shoe care, the leather at the upper would crease and wear out faster than normal. To improve the durability of your shoes, it is advisable getting shoe care supplies.
- Frequency of wear – Our feet inevitably sweat and leather absorbs all that moisture. If you wear your shoes out often, chances are that the shoes (not just the soles) are going to wear out a lot faster.
- Weather & climate – Alas, in the face of abundant moisture, proper shoe care can only do so much in improving your shoes’ durability.
Now that we have compared both shoe construction methods, it seems uncalled for to assume that goodyear welt shoes are ALWAYS better than cemented ones. The higher cost price for a goodyear welt is justified, considering the material (leather) and skill needed (stitching and welting). But it does not necessarily follow that it would be more aesthetically appealing, more comfortable, or more durable. To put things into perspective, comfort, appearance and durability varies according to personal preference and the environment.
Goodyear welted shoes can cost at least twice as much as a cemented pair, so should you still get one?
To help you through this dilemma, here are some points of consideration:
- Are you a shoe collector (on a budget)?
If you have a few pairs of shoes and you rotate them on a regular basis to pair with different suitings, perhaps a goodyear welt may not be that important to you. The shoe collector in you would want to show off your various shoes, so things like the last of the shoe, or the design would likely be more important than the soles.
- What’s the climate like where you are from?
If you are going to invest in a pair of goodyear welted shoes, it is advisable to not wear those precious things out in the rain. Moisture is definitely not a leather shoes’ best friend.
- Cost of Resoling
As mentioned, the durability of both types of construction could vary or be very similar, depending on a variety of factors. But when the time comes for resoling, the cost differs greatly. A goodyear welt resoling is priced at the hundreds, and skilled cobblers are rare in the market these days. Cemented, rubber resoling is much cheaper, ranging from $20 – $30. Again, the price difference is because of the difference in the material as well as skill needed to resole your shoes. So if you decide to invest in a pair of goodyear welted shoes, you’d have to prepare yourself for the costs of resoling it as well.
It is instinctive to associate a larger price tag with higher quality, causing us to overlook the need to understand what we are paying for. By understanding each shoe construction, you can make an informed purchase, making sure the shoes are worth every buck of yours. There are pros and cons to both, and the goodyear welt is not necessarily superior to the cemented construction. So the next time you purchase a dress shoe, stop and think about your preferences, as well as the environment you’re in.