16 September 2022

Shoe assemblies

There are many methods of shoe assembly. In this article we will detail several of them and will pay attention, for each construction presented, to put forward the advantages and disadvantages. 

The assembly of a shoe is the technique used to attach the sole to the rest of the shoe. The assembly influences the longevity of the shoe, but also its waterproofness, comfort and of course, the style. There are two main types of lasts, the sewn and the welded.

This is based on gluing techniques. Even if we have to admit that today the glues used are more and more resistant, this type of assembly offers a shorter longevity to the shoe, notably because of a less good resistance as well as the difficulty to proceed to a resealing. We will therefore focus here on sewn assemblies, and more particularly on industrial methods, i.e. those made with the help of machines, and not exclusively by hand. 

The anatomy of the shoe

              A shoe is composed of different elements, some visible, others not, but the quality of which is quite important because it has a decisive impact on posture. For François-Henri Désérable : "you only need two things in life: good shoes and a good bed. You spend two-thirds of your time in one, one-third in the other." It is indeed important here to respect the anatomy of the foot as much as possible.

The specialists also say it, the explosion of the sneakers since several years brought a multitude of problems related in particular to the posture (backache, problem with the knees to quote only them). This is partly explained by the fact that most of these sneakers are mounted on flat soles, not respecting the natural curvature of the arch of the foot and thus modifying the angle of the joints. If we take the example of the cork layer found on our Goodyear assembly, it will adapt to your morphology over the course of wear while providing the necessary support for a good posture. Each component has its own importance.

•The upper - This is the outer part of the shoe, generally made up of a piece of leather in which we distinguish the following parts: the vamp, from the toe to the instep, the quarters, which represent the lateral parts of the shoe, and the counter, located at the back and designed to consolidate the heel.

• The lining - Located inside the upper, it is in direct contact with the foot and is intended to reinforce the leather.

• The outsole - Part directly in contact with the ground, it is the external sole.

• The insole - It is composed of a first of assembly, sole sewn with with the stem and of a first of cleanliness which comes to cover the first of assembly and on which comes to rest the foot.

The assembly is thus the technique according to which the upper is assembled with these various elements, in particular and mainly with the sole(s). To do this, the upper of the shoe is placed on a last, then the elements are assembled according to a manufacturing process that varies from one assembly to another. It is on this last point that we will stop today.  

The Blake

              This assembly takes its name from the machine used to make the seam, named after its inventor, the American Lyman Reed Blake. Simple construction, it consists of a single seam linking the insole, the outsole and the upper of the shoe. It is therefore the industrial application (because it is made by a machine and not by hand) of the sewing from outside to inside.

The Blake is distinguished by the thinness of its single stitch construction, which eliminates the need for extra stitches on the outer edges of the shoe. The sole is then lighter and thinner than others, allowing a more slender shape. It also allows it to gain in flexibility.

However, this assembly is often criticized for the difficulty of resealing. The outsole and the upper must be sewn together. Except to iron by the exact first stitches, which requires a great dexterity - but which is not in itself impossible, the new stitching will weaken the sole because new holes will be made.

Finally, we note that the stitches are located under the insole, they can be felt under the foot and create a slight discomfort depending on the sensitivity of each.

The Blake rapid

              Compared to the Blake assembly, we add here a midsole, wedged between the first assembly and the outsole. We thus come to assemble the stem, the first of assembly and the intermediate sole by means of a first seam (Blake seam) then we come to bind the intermediate sole to the outsole by a small stitch seam, carried out with the "rapid" machine.

This assembly is therefore more robust than the classic Blake assembly and offers an easier reshoeing thanks to the midsole, which also reinforces the waterproofing of the shoe. It remains flexible and light.

The Goodyear

              It’s a welt stitch made in an industrial way. Once again, this assembly takes its name from the machine from which it is made, the Goodyear machine (named after its inventor, the son of the inventor of vulcanized rubber and Goodyear tires, Charles Goodyear Jr).

It includes two seams, as well as a welt. The latter is a thin strip of leather, about 3mm thick, which will connect the upper to the insole and the outsole.

The first seam, made with the Goodyear machine, links the wall of the insole, the upper and the welt together. It is invisible, even if you look inside the shoe (tip to recognize a real Goodyear, if you feel a seam when you pass your hands inside the shoe, it is not a Goodyear). Then, the welt and the outsole are assembled with another machine (called "rapid"). This is the second stitching, called small stitching. The one that is visible on the outside of the shoe. Small precision, at 7L, the GY seams are in Chainette Stitch and the small stitches in Navette Stitch (independent threads). 

The presence of the welt makes this assembly more robust and more waterproof. These different layers make the shoe more waterproof and therefore more resistant, allowing it to last longer.

On the other hand, if it allows a thicker and therefore more solid sole, the latter is de facto less flexible and will then require several wearings to fit the foot perfectly.

Its durability is also due to the fact that it is easier to resole. Indeed, the outsole being sewn on the outside of the shoe, you only have to unstitch and restitch the welt, without touching the upper.

This mounting method is used on most of our collection as it is one of the most versatile, sturdy, waterproof, stylish and easy to maintain.

The Stormwelt

              Also known as "bead stitching" or "bead welt", this is a variation of Goodyear stitching. The welt is slit to take the shape of a Y. One side of the Y is used to attach the first assembly to the welt and the shaft, and the other is glued to the outside of the shaft. This variant is therefore even more waterproof.  

The Norwegian

              The Norwegian stitching is a very robust and almost waterproof assembly, generally intended for more casual shoes like boots or derbies. Originally designed for intensive work shoes such as agricultural work or work in extreme conditions, it is a double stitched assembly, just like the Goodyear, but with the particularity of being visible.

A first seam comes to link the stem and the welt to the first assembly seam. It is this seam that we call the Norwegian. The upper is then turned towards the outside of the shoe as the welt which is outside. The second seam small points comes to link the welt to the outsole.

This assembly is often considered the most waterproof. Its robustness is also well known. We have naturally chosen it for some of our winter models.

The Bolognese

              It is an assembly that shares with the Blake stitching a seam crossing the sole and the upper. However, there is no insole here. It is therefore the upper and its lining that go all around the foot. This allows for greater flexibility, which allows greater comfort immediately without the need to do the shoe for too long.

The upper and lining are placed on the last to be fitted, then the lining is stretched by hand to be sewn to itself. The upper is then stretched and glued under the inner lining, the sole is displayed (temporary gluing), the shoe is removed from the last for the in-and-out stitching (which can be done by hand or by Blake machine).

Conclusion

We would like to avoid the pitfall of designating one of these setups as better than the others. It would indeed seem wrong to limit ourselves to a single assembly. The constructions we have mentioned all have their own type of use, which varies according to the support or the desired design. Furthermore, we feel it is important to emphasize that more than a particular type of assembly, it is the proper execution of the latter that should be favored. It does not seem appropriate to us to want such an assembly at all costs if it is badly made. 

We offer a large part of our collection mounted on a Goodyear stitching. Its more obvious resealing as well as its better support seduce us as much as its design with a protruding sole, characteristic of the English school to which we adhere.

We are also comfortable offering the Blake assembly, especially on our summer moccasins, because its flexibility lends itself well to it, or the Norwegian assembly on our winter models.

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