Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by DWFII, Jul 24, 2010.
Thanks again for the info, much appreciated!
FYI, my 10 years old el cheapo leather slipper from Zara has insole footprints as well... Its not special to hand welted or GY welted shoes... Its just a property of leather...
You're right, most leather will do that to one degree or another. But a lot depends on the thickness of the leather, as well as the density (what part of the hide it's taken from), and what it's backed with as to whether it is going to make a comfortable and supportive footbed. Insole footprints can be made in sheets of newspaper stuffed into your slippers. And some very thin insole leathers will stain where the foot presses down but won't really yield or compress appreciably.
Just like that footprint you had made in a recent order...which I commented on, if you recall. You were printing harder and darker in some places but that doesn't make it a footbed--it was just a flat piece of paper.
And FWIW...the whole question and request from @MoneyWellSpent arose, IIRC, from a photo/deconstruction of another shoe (GYW?) that had no discernible footbed at all when finally cut apart. In fact, I seem to remember a number of similar examples in deconstructions posted on SF.
edited for punctuation and clarity
IMHO, thin or thick, as long as the leather insole/sock liner conformed to your feet there's a foot bed. Just that thinner leathers provide much less support. 1 iron insole for blake could share the same insole curvature as a 10 iron insole for welted construction, just much thinner.
I don't understand why there are myths GY shoes having no insole footbed. Here are some examples of worn insole. Listed from low to high price points.
Johnston & Murphy, Made in India GY welted. Fiberboard insole with leather sock liner. Sock liner shared curvature to the shape of foot, or should we call it a very thin footbed?
Allen Edmonds. Goodyear Welted, leather insole. Now the actual leather insole foot bed is clearly visible with thicker leather.
Churches; GY Welted. Not very worn but you can definitely see the curvature of leather insole foot bed w/ the lighting.
EDIT: deleted the shoemaker's comments against SC. deleted pictures of other insoles as well.
I think having the sock liner in general is the issue, not a sign of the shoes not being well made, but more that the cement, or paste or whatever they use to stick it in there could be occlusive.
I suspect you are misunderstanding and misinterpreting what a footbed is as well as what what you are seeing. A foot bed is a permanent, impression of the plantar topography of the foot into the leather such that the contours of the foot are reflected and supported by the insole; such that foot always finds the same position in the shoe, and is prevented from shifting around by those contours.
In functional terms, a leather has to be thick enough and of a tannage and cut that will allow permanent compression for a footbed to form. Chrome tanned leathers, for instance...such as a majority of sockliners are made of...will not compress and stay compressed to any significant degree. Neither will fiberboard or leatherboard. That's why insoles have Traditionally been cut from vegetable tanned leather and from the shoulder or belly time out of mind. And the thinner a vegetable tanned leather insole is the less there is to compress. Those are the facts, the "science" that shoemakers have been working with for hundreds and thousands of years.
[ I might add, parenthetically, that most manufactures today are using insoles cut not from the shoulder but from the bend--where the fiber mat is far denser and less subject to compression than the shoulder.]
I don't believe that I have ever said that GY shoes cannot form a footbed. What I have said is that as the thickness of the insole is reduced...to eliminate weight and because thickness is not needed to create a holdfast or to function as an integral part of the shoe...the ability for a footbed to form is similarly reduced. And that fiberboard insoles are unlikely to ever take an impress of the foot.
Yes, of course you can scour the internet or popular mythology and come up with various and sundry definitions for "footbed." Even one as simple as to suggest that the insole itself, sans any contact with the foot, is a de facto footbed. But these are all yet further examples of words and meanings being dumbed down to fit the publicity needs of some agency that doesn't like the constraints imposed by specific, meaningful, or traditional definitions.
Such definitions, however, are not what a shoemaker means when he refers to a "footbed...." certainly not what I was referring to when I spoke of footbeds.
And taken together all the vague and self-indulgent definitions of "footbed' end up being meaningless...and / or functionally, just an excuse to quibble and argue.
You can adamantly insist upon your own definitions of a footbed but there is only one certain footbed in your photo spread--while the AE does have a footbed and the Churches seems to be forming one, neither of the others do. It's just staining.
Think about it logically...if there is no give in the leather, there will be no footbed. You may pull a sockliner and, if the insole is cushioned, you may some small amount of what appears to be contouring, but this is just stretching and staining of the leather--there is no footbed. The cushion insole will spring back to its original configuration--that's what cushion insoles are designed to do and prized for. and the foot will not be supported not held in place.
Similarly you can take a thin piece of natural or tan leather, such as a sockliner would be made of, and place it on a board and then stand on it, walk on it, etc., for who know how long, and, if you strike in roughly the same spot each time, you will get dark spots on the leather. This occurs because there is a chemical reaction between sweat and heat and the leather. But despite what your remarks suggest, despite the contrary nature of your thesis, this is just a stained piece of leather, it is not a footbed. And no amount of nebulous or equivocal wiggle words will make it a footbed.
If you are not a shoemaker...do not have the experience of a shoemaker.. by default you won't share the perspectives of a shoemaker. And if you don't share at least the most basic, most fundamental perspectives of the person you're talking too...and aren't interested in learning their POV...it's just an argument, for the sake of argument, right from the get-go. To what purpose?
@DWFII As always, very informative and interesting perspective. Thanks for your continued input and participation.
DW, if I understand you correctly the insoles are cut from shoulder or belly specifically because they aren't as dense and will compress, vs. uppers, where you want density due to flexing?
Chogall, the other important consideration is that the insoles of the AE and Churches examples you posted are only forming a "footbed" because they had cork underneath them which displaced as they were worn. After the cork displacement occurred, the leather conformed to the bottom of the foot and hardened due to exposure to heat, sweat, etc. This is how a decent quality leather insole on a Goodyear-welted shoe works. They aren't thick enough to form an actual footbed due to the thickness of the leather as we see in DW's pair of boots he posted.
As DW just said in the quoted text above, if you put one of these pieces of leather against a hard surface, such as a board or a hard floor and stood on it for 3 months, it still wouldn't have a discernible footbed, because there isn't anywhere for the leather to go. It's not thick enough or "fluffy" enough in its fiber to allow any give.
For some background, one of the other reasons I had requested a picture of a hand-welted insole with a formed footbed was because of a conversation debating the pros and cons between Blake/Rapid shoes vs. Goodyear-welted shoes. I think it's readily apparent that a Blake/Rapid shoe is a sturdier construction method, being that it isn't relying on the cement of the gemming the way a GY-welted shoe is. However, as someone who isn't affording hand-welted footwear at the current stage of my life, I'm forced to choose between the best my money can afford elsewhere. Blake/Rapid and GY-welted are the most "respected" ready-to-wear construction methods, and it is my contention that while a GY-welted shoe may be less robust in construction, it is more comfortable than a Blake/Rapid. This is subjective and based on opinion. However, the principles mentioned above apply to the logic of why a GY-welted shoe is more comfortable. Blake/Rapid shoes use, at best, the same quality of insole as a better GY-welted shoe. This means that all else being equal, they will form no discernible footbed unless they have a way to comform to the foot due to a medium underneath which leaves room for the leather to move. In a Blake/Rapid shoe, the insole is firmly butted against the hard outsole, thus mimicking the results of the board or hard floor I mentioned. However, a GY-welted shoe has a void underneath, generally filled with cork, which displaces and allows the leather to form a semblance of a "footbed." This may be an imitation of the real thing, but the result is more comfortable than the alternative Blake/Rapid I believe. So, while the GY-welted shoe may theoretically be more prone to failure due to construction technique, the comfort difference elevates it back into the realm of consideration. For those who generally wear their GY-welted shoes as office wear, failure isn't prevalent enough to make GY-welted shoes a poor choice for those environments. As I've said, I stay away from GY-welting in muddy/wet environments.
I was interested in seeing a hand-welted insole because, like in a Blake/Rapid shoe, the insole is often butted directly against the outsole (with the exception of some felt other very thin material. However, in a hand-welted shoe, the insole is so robust and of such a "fluffy" character that it is still able to form a footbed even with nowhere to go underneath it. DW's insole looks every bit as "conformed" as the AE insole photo you posted. The difference is, DW's is a real footbed. The AE is just a piece of warped leather that has "frozen" in place.
Also, there are exceptions to the comfort considerations I just described. Patrick Booth has said that he prefers the firmer feel under his feet and would select a Blake/Rapid if he weren't able to afford hand-welted.
All vegetable tanned leather will compress and mold to a shape...much moreso than chrome tannages. But certain areas of the hide are indeed looser fibered (and longer fibered) than other areas.
I started out using simple soling leather for insoles. Cut from a bend...the idea of using shoulders was nearly lost to my bit of the Trade simply because of the influence manufacturers have in the US. Insole shoulders are very hard to come by here in the US. Even major operations that control everything from harvest to marketing don't like to deal with shoulders for some reason.
Such insoles (cut from bends) are hard--hard to form to the bottom of a last, hard to channel and hard to inseam into. Such insoles don't form a footbed very readily and then only over a relatively long period of time.
And good outsole leather is always compressed already--either under huge rollers in the tannery or, more Traditionally, by "hammer-jacking" on a lapjack / lap iron--so there's not much "give" left in the leather to compress nevermind the density of the fiber mat in that part of the hide.
Traditionally insoles have always been taken from the shoulder of an unrolled vegetable tanned hide.
If a GY welted shoe uses a vegetable tanned insole shoulder for insoles, it will naturally form a footbed--the inseaming method doesn't have much to do with whether the footbed forms or not. Except!! for the inconvenient fact that GY doesn't need the thickness (to channel and create the holdfast) that the HW technique requires. And, as a result, there is less substance to compress. And, as implied, if insoles shoulders are hard to come by, the GY process doesn't even need to use shoulder anymore than it needs to use leather itself...as opposed to fiberboard. I've spoken to several manufacturers (as well as tanneries / suppliers of insoles) and many are cutting insoles cut from bends. In the case of the tanneries, the shoulders are either discarded or processed for other uses.
And to come back around to your question, pB...pretty much spot on. But it's not flexing that is the issue, it's tensile strength and the resistance to deformation that is wanted in an outsole or an upper. That's why chrome tans are ascendent in the world of uppers--they don't deform much.
The ability to conform / deform / compress is exactly what is wanted to make a proper, Traditional, footbed.
edited for punctuation and clarity
I think you're correct in most of your remarks here...the only thing I would add is that we need to view cork with a little more jaundiced eye than is commonly given it.
Cork will not compress and stay compressed once pressure is removed. Ever. It has a memory and a tough memory at that. It is always resisting compression. That's why it has a reputation for being "spring-y." That's also why it displaces...goes fugitive...under the pressure points of the foot. Despite the fact that it is applied and held in a matrix that is occlusive--usually some variation of tar or neoprene based cement.
So what does that tell us? When pressure is placed on it, it compresses somewhat but adamantly wants to return to its original configuration. With repeated and persistent pressure via the insole, it does not compress or change shape--it displaces. It nearly has to by virtue of the mechanics of pressure and gait as well as the other materials involved. When the cork displaces, the insole above sinks down into the resultant "void' as you imply. And as you further observe, the leather itself is not really compressing, it is just stretching or deforming. As a result a "footbed" of sorts is indeed formed but only as a result of the lack of memory inherent in the leather insole.
And then what? Should you get a resole, the cork will be replaced...presumably to the same thickness as was originally applied. And at least in the short term, the footbed will be lost simply because the insole is being pushed up by the cork again. Sometimes cobblers will just level the insole cavity...leaving the areas of the insole that are convex essentially bare. At which point all the issues of a hard, minimally compressible insole butted up against a hard, non-compressible outsole re-emerge.
And you still have the issue of occlusivity.
Lovely stuff, cork and quite unique, but when you think about it...factoring in the physical properties of the materials involved...not really the ideal solution. Although perhaps adequate esp. in the context it's most commonly used.
No, you are wrong.
EDIT: deleted the shoemaker's comments against SC.
I wasn't able to interpret any of that.
You, the shoemaker with many decades of experience, said "from a photo/deconstruction of another shoe (GYW?) that had no discernible footbed at all when finally cut apart. In fact, I seem to remember a number of similar examples in deconstructions posted on SF."
And I just happen to have some pictures against your statement. Those AE and Church insoles have clear permanent impression of feet with curvatures contour to foot.
Or you could please kindly describe those foot prints on the AE and Church insoles are not permenant foot beds, aside from discrediting them solely based on that they are GY welted and have cork underneath them.
Separate names with a comma.