The term Goodyear welted is a little confusing as it has absolutely nothing to do with rubber and in particular Goodyear rubber tyres. Prior to Charles Goodyear in 1869 patenting a mechanical means of stitching the welt to a shoe’s upper and then to its sole the entire process had to be painstakingly undertaken by highly skilled craftsmen. These craftsmen invariably operated out of their own homes in what was essentially a cottage industry. There have always been other simpler and therefore cheaper methods of shoe construction but nothing can compete with a truly welted method of construction. Therefore the mechanization of Goodyear welted shoe and boot construction meant that a factory based shoe industry could begin and make the most of all the modern power technologies which had enabled the industrial revolution to take off in England throughout the nineteenth century.
The mechanization of Goodyear welted shoe construction in the last quarter of the nineteenth century explains why all the great shoe makers which continue to thrive to this day were established then: Churches, Loake, Sanders and Sanders, Barker, Crockett and Jones. Those skilled artisan shoe makers would move from making shoes in their homes to mass manufacturing under one factory roof.
There are other cheaper methods of shoe construction. At its simplest the upper can be glued to the sole. The Blakey method involves stitching the sole directly to the upper. With a welted shoe the welt, usually a thin strip of leather, is stitched around the outside of the shoe’s upper providing a void which is filled with cork. The benefits of a Goodyear welted shoe is better insulation, enhanced comfort, improved waterproofing and crucially the ability to re-sole the shoe numerous time without degrading the upper.