A comprehensive guide to Goodyear welted shoe soles

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In recent times I’ve had  a couple of pairs of my quality shoes, the ones with Goodyear welted shoe soles, resoled. In the grand scheme of things makes me something of a know-it-all, with regards to what goes on on the underside of Gentleman’s footwear. First I found a pair of custom-grade Church brogues, which I then had resoled with Dainite soles, then a pair of lesser brogues resoled with commando soles. This led me to believe quite firmly that I had a very solid idea what Dainite and commando soles were like.

At least until this photo popped up on Instagram:

itshidecommando

To fully appreciate the shift this photo forces on my perception of reality, read on.

So I had to engage my massive resources into an investigation into this matter, to clear the confusion and regain order in the sole universe. To start with I visited the Dainite website, and they kindly offer only 4 different soles, the first being the “Studded” sole, which happens to be exactly what I have in mind when I hear “Dainite sole”:

dainite by dainite

 

This style of sole is also described as “lug sole”, to add to the fuller picture.

When it comes to “commando” style soles you often hear them described as “Vibram” as well, so off there for my next piece of sleuthing. Vibram is a company that makes many a product, including the Five-fingers running shoes and a wide selection of soles for all manner of shoes. The list of soles available is longer and very much more varied than the conservative and traditional offerings from Dainite, and to be honest very much less interesting for the gentleman walker. Laboriously working my way down the list I came to the “Montagna block”, which is exactly the sort of serious sole I have on the underside of my Red Wing Ice-cutters. An excellent piece of rubber, and a good example of the commando style.

vibram_montagnablock

A proper rugged pattern and good soft rubber to enable both a grand grip and stealthy steps. An excellent choice for Sir.

So far, so good. We have the Dainite-style studded lug soles (let’s just expand the descriptions a little) and the Commando-style availabele from Vibram and others. Now what was the problem with the soles that started me off on this post?

Well, Itshide (which apart from anything is a remarkably stupid name for a company) do a Dainite-style sole which they proudly call the “commando”. Clearly completely incorrect and bonkers. What sort of confusing piddle is this? A commando-sole looks nothing like this…

 

In order of preference though, these are the types of soles I would recommend:

goodyear welted commando

 

1) Commando style – for the best grip, rugged look and decent wear. If there is a downside it is that they do have an unfortunate affinity for gravel and small objects, so carry a special tool to aid in their removal. A sneaky advantage for those dwarfish stature is that they add about a quarter of an inch of vertical height.

dainite soles

2) Dainite style – solid rubber and hard wearing. The lugs or studs don’t actually add much in the way of off-road traction, but they add a bit of heft and manly ruggedness to your shoes. And they’ll be much better in the wet with regards to protecting your shoes than plain leather.

ridgeway-sole

3) Ridgeway sole – should be a good bet for more rugged use and even handy in the snow. Similar in heft to the commando sole and unusual enough to be interesting.

victory_sole-loake

4) Victory sole – again similar to the ridgeway and commando soles. Used mainly by Loake, so likely the rarest of the three.

To round off this piece I thought I’d mention a few words about some of the other types of sole available for your shoes, and why I think they may be poor choices.

sole

1) Leather soles. As mentioned, my Church brogues had plain leather soles. These are to be considered equivalent to slippers and are fine for poncing around in a sanitised and climatise-controlled office environment if you are wearing a suit and tie and find joy in spreadsheets. Totally unsuitable for venturing outside in, and especially so if you might risk running into weather. All is not lost though, as you could resole them with more manly and proper soles.

stick on rubber sole

2) Glued on rubber sole covers. This is a true half-way measure to remedy the problem of the leather soles just mentioned. It will add a little traction to aid you in escaping pursuers in said office environment, but frankly it will be of almost no use at all when you’re standing in a puddle or find yourself faced with a muddy path.

duluthoxford

3) Christy soles, as very often seen on Red Wing, Grenson and others. These are the thick, heel-less foamy-looking white soles used on both work-boots and brogues alike now. They do provide a new look on old designs, which is nice, but do they really improve matters? Red Wing claim them to provide lots of traction in the workplace (not the same workplace as mentioned above, but an actual physically inclined workplace where there is real dirt, danger and un-curated facial hair).

In my experience though these soles have a couple of grievous issues:

  • They have no grip at all. I see mention of people wanting to use their Red Wings for winter use and can only comment that they are useless on snow and ice.
  • They have very poor wear characteristics, i.e. the soles wear out very quickly if used regularly (they’ll last forever if you never use them though). When mine wear out enough to justify a resole, they’ll have Vibram commando-soles fitted, which is a nice advantage of Goodyear welted footwear.

Oh, to add a final twist to an otherwise sordid story, it appears Itshide do in fact wish to redeem themselves, as they also do a commando-style sole that is marked as just that, “Commando”. We are not amused!

commandomain

Addendum:

Red Wing enthusiast and conspiracy theorist, Scratch, brings up a good point in the comments below. Does Red Wing buy their Christy-soles from Vibram, or are they an own-brand knockoff of a design that might have expired rights? They certainly use Vibram-branded soles for the Ice cutters, as show below, but have their own logo on the Looks-Just-Like-Vibram soles on 877 boots and their like. I will endeavour to get to the bottom of this…

vibram sole ice cutters

877 christy sole

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32 Comments

  • Scratch 16/11/2014 at 11:22

    I do love a Dainite “golf shoe” sole. They are mustard and do provide great grip on wet streets.
    It should be noted however RE the Christy. The official Vibram Christy sole wears quite solidly in my experience.
    The “Christy” on a Red wing boot is not branded Vibram and I have no reason to believe it is anything other than a Red Wing version even or copy of the Christy sole. It is this that the quality is appalling on.
    I have Yuketen Maine Guide boots with the real deal Vibram Christy on and they are great. An equivalent age Red Wing is worn so badly they are literally totally bald of tread and the heels have a quarter of an inch now missing. They are approaching unwearable.

    RedWing remain utterly silent on this matter. I am sad to say that I can only conclude that these particular redwing boots are built to fail and to provide the most profit to RW by utilizing a vastly inferior outsole.

    I say this with a bit of a heavy heart as RW appear to have a “built to last” “get what you pay for” ethos. Their production of boots that deteriorate within a year & that retail north of £200 indicates neither of these motto’s are true.

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 16/11/2014 at 12:06

      Excellent comments! I have added a small addendum to the original post and will attempt to discover more about this possible conspiracy. I totally agree that for the price the RW soles should last very much longer than they appear to do. I wonder what the similar soles on Grensons last like?

      Reply
  • Scratch 16/11/2014 at 14:42

    Heh – I know not – but I suppose it begs the question, did RW develop this sole before Vibram or vica versa?

    Eitehr way, it is a cheap trick to get people to buy more pairs of their boots as I’m sure you know, few people have the wherewithall to get their boots resoled no matter how much the idea appeals.

    I’m sure the powers that be at Red Wing figured this out many moons ago!

    Reply
  • Scratch 16/11/2014 at 14:53

    Have a look at the reviews on here. http://www.redwingheritage.com/USD/product/footwear/6-inch-boots/6-copper-1907-01907

    I cannot understand so many people are admitting that the soles are wearing out within a few months yet still recommending the product.

    I do love the look of this boot but I will never, ever buy a new pair at anyway near RRP again. Absolutely & strictly sale fodder for me.

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 16/11/2014 at 15:00

      I had to giggle a bit when I saw one review describing them as having “commercial construction”. I’m sure it wasn’t intentionally funny, but I read that as “soles that keep making business after the initial purchase”. It does appear that people are quite willing to forgive the poor soles though!

      Reply
  • Brian in Alberta 16/11/2014 at 17:04

    Do you realize that you are committing a menswear blasphemy by suggesting that leather soles are unsuitable for use almost everywhere! That said, I will stand with you. I have one pair of leather soled boots left in my collection. I wear them regularly but they will likely be the last pair of leather soled footwear I own. It’s my understanding that leather soles continued to be used after the development of useable rubber versions largely because the shoe makers didn’t want to have to maintain stocks of rubber ones. And then of course leather soles became “traditional” and rest, as they say, is history.

    Another type of sole which can be very nice are made by Reltex of France (http://lactae-hevea.com). I have owned boots with these soles and they were great to walk on. My favourite American maker is now offering Reltex soles as an option on some of there products (http://www.rancourtandcompany.com/blog/2013/02/12/the-best-rubber-soles-in-the-world-lactae-hevea/).

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 16/11/2014 at 17:10

      Many will probably think it blasphemy, but I’m an engineer and tend to look at things in terms of whether they are fit for purpose. Plus it’s my own and sincere opinion and I never wear a suit or fancy indoor shoes. Thankfully!

      Just had a brief look at the Lactae Hevea (now theres a brand name that will be tricky to go international with!) and I hope they work better than they look. Certainly in the light colour they look like porridge 🙂 Would certainly be interesting to try some though. There is always room for progress!

      Reply
  • Thats About It 28/11/2014 at 16:33

    “[..]manly and proper soles.”

    Yes, perfect for the ‘city outdoorsman’, ‘urban sailor’, ‘chic lumberjack’, or other urban dwellers trying to stylize their life that is mainly spent in an office work environment, as being ‘rugged and manly’. If extra ‘manliness’ is needed, one can always add a full beard and a bunch of tattoos.

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 28/11/2014 at 16:48

      Perfect for the person that lives a real life, to my mind, though I see where you are coming from. For me, shoes that can’t be worn outside in average weather are really of no more use than slippers. Whereas proper footwear makes life less arduous and fraught, I fail to see how a full beard and any number of tattoos can do the same. Tweed, however, is a different matter!

      Reply
  • Iskandar 04/06/2015 at 03:14

    Those crepe sole has a purpose for comfort sole as most RW do not have insole to pad the feet for a long day of walking. RW crepe sole are more sturdier and lasting than the Vibrams. Have use both but the vibram’s are more comfortable as they are more softer. U can feel the difference while walking in them. Yes they do wear fast but they aid the breaking process. love them.

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 04/06/2015 at 07:56

      I’ve actually been in touch with both Red Wing and Vibram, and Vibram supplies the crepe soles that Red Wing uses. Why the Red Wing soles wear faster than the ones supplied to say, Yuketen, is still a mystery though. And also, why Red Wing would chose to use a sole that wears so poorly on a pair of premium boots is also a mystery. We do love them though!

      Reply
      • Riddlywalker 06/01/2017 at 14:41

        Red Wing Chukkas in the UK have two types of sole- the ‘old stock’ of which there seem to be thousands still in stock? – and the new sole, which is solid foam without the rubber outer. The rubber outer version will last five years of constant use only if you protect the heel with regular smears of ShoeGoo – otherwise expect to get about 200 miles out of them.
        RedWing replaced the soles of a new pair with their heavier work sole for me (foc) after one sole’s outer perished…. I’m not throwing out the shoe goo yet……

        Reply
        • Anita E 06/01/2017 at 16:11

          That is a good use of Shoe Goo since the tube is so large and lays around doing nothing then when you need it its useless.

          Reply
          • nick 06/01/2017 at 16:27

            Shoe goo is very useful stuff!

  • Wolf 23/06/2015 at 16:24

    Just wanted to share my experiences from the white Red Wing soles (Christy). They are the same as yours. They are nice during summer, but on ice and snow they are down right dangerous. I brought mine to a skiing holiday last year and I fell several times. For use in snow I would not recommend at all.

    Since I am planing to use my Red Wings the next winter up in Sweden, I have just given them in to my shoe repair guy to have the sole replaced with a Vibram Montagna block (just like the one above). Hope that should work better.

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 23/06/2015 at 17:37

      Oh my, snow and Christy soles? That can only be disaster. A less grippy sole would be difficult to design, unless it was one of their totally flat leather soles, which would be even more useless on snow. My Red Wing Ice Cutters have a proper rubber Vibram commando soles which is terrific on snow and ice. Then again, the Ice Cutters are made with winter in mind, something the Christy soled boots obviously are not. The lack of any lining is a clear hint, and they are miserably cold at even modest temperatures.

      Reply
  • Riddlywalker 03/01/2016 at 23:23

    I kept a pair of redwing chukkas going for five years with a regular smear of clear ‘shoe goo’ on the heel every few months- they were my go-to work boots in all that time… Of course the replacement pair are hideously uncomfortable because of bad construction…. Argh.

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 04/01/2016 at 14:03

      Shoe-goo is a good idea indeed! I have been keeping my sons skateboarding shoes alive with the goo (otherwise they tend to last a few weeks, which is totally unacceptable). I agree that not all Red Wings are all that well made. My 877 are not very comfy, but the Ice Cutters and Super Soles are much better.

      Reply
  • Mr Badger 03/02/2016 at 16:20

    Interesting post.

    Spent most of my school hols working on an uncle’s farm. Summer 1984 between fifth and Lower Sixth, I worked in a Jones the Bootmaker (or whatever it was called then) shop.

    I inherited the skills to polish, or “bull” shoes and boots, and to care for them, from my father, who had been in the RAF. This was helpful when, in 1982, I joined the school CCF.

    I learnt heaps that summer about shoes, their construction, maintenance, repair, usage, terminology…

    I must, I am afraid, take issue with you over your second suggestion: glue-on rubber soles.

    They, said my mentor that summer, unbalance the shoe, create a thicker sole, yet with a relatively lower heel, and also unbalance the gait of the wearer.

    And yes, water still penetrates the sole.

    I spent 10 years as a recce officer wearing a variety of boots (DMS, desert combat boots + c) and Sanders’ Oxford in brown. Indeed, I am wearing a pair of these today. Worn on rotation, and repaired each three times or so, this pair has lasted 16 years. Shoe trees help, too.

    I now work in things rural and equine, and if smart-ish and outdoors, one cannot beat a pair of veldtschoens in tan and with Goodyear-welted commando soles. Am also a fan, if shooting, of heavy, zug-leather boots such as the Rannoch by Hoggs.

    And wellies, Aigle being my choice.

    Tweed, corduroy, moleskin, wool and waxed cotton worn elsewhere.

    A thoroughly enjoyable blog and a pleasant way to spend an hour or so in the office when I should be working!

    Keep up the good work.

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 03/02/2016 at 19:04

      Thanks for the long and detailed comment! With regards to the point you take me to task on, I will, in my defence point out that the mention of the glue-on rubber soles is prefixed with “To round off this piece I thought I’d mention a few words about some of the other types of sole available for your shoes, and why I think they may be poor choices.”, so I’m hardly giving them any sort of strong recommendation! 🙂

      Reply
  • D. Taylor 20/02/2016 at 21:21

    I’ve always been a fan of Vibram soles but if they let Red Wing brand their soles it must have been a common practice over the years with other companies because if you peruse vintage boots and shoes on the internet it certainly looks like many have non-branded Vibram soles…a little history here for the American operations of Vibram.
    http://footwearnews.com/2015/business/mergers-acquisitions/vibram-acquires-quabaug-corp-33132/

    Reply
  • Anita E 03/11/2016 at 20:25

    I am glad to know that men have a hard time understanding the underground world of shoe/boot resoling. As a woman, I get sh** from cobblers. I ask for lug soles and I get wussy flat city lady non-grip soles on my combat boots! And don’t get me started on what a mail away company did to my fav ECCO irreplaceable boots. Ok the long and short, they ripped out the shock core!! I got the BBB involved.

    So what is a woman to do if men are having difficulty with this resole forest?

    Reply
    • nick 08/11/2016 at 08:44

      Hi Anita, I think the problem might be finding a proper cobbler that actually knows his/her craft and is willing to listen. I use Shoe Healer in the UK as they do both great work and are willing to listen to me. For me this means not using the local cobbler (slow, expensive and less than impressive work) and instead sending my footwear to a different country!

      Reply
      • Anita E 08/11/2016 at 13:56

        Nick, Thank you for your insight and advice. Why can’t the US do it? What is our problem (on so many levels)? We turn to the UK and EU for quality.
        I am going to go cobbler shopping in the nearest city about 50 mi. away and have each show me their soles (souls).

        Reply
        • nick 08/11/2016 at 13:57

          I wish you the best of luck!

          Reply
          • Anita E 08/11/2016 at 15:28

            Thank you Nick. I really appreciate you writing to me and the encouragement.

            Our favorite shoes, our favorite boots (my thing) should not be throw away items. These are items that comfort our feet. Keep our feet healthy and therefore our minds. There are jobs for this craft to continue. As the quality shoe manufacturers make the price of shoe/boots/sneaker exorbitant, consumers need cobblers more than ever. sigh.

  • Anita E 06/01/2017 at 16:36

    I haven’t gone cobbler shopping yet since UGG hijacked my 6 month old boots claiming them sole defective as I stated. I’m glad I bought another pair. UGG gave me a gift certificate worth the original value of my boots since they don’t have my boot in their new catalog. $318.60. I didn’t pay that and never would for a pair of boots, that includes tax. I did pick out a great pair of boot though hence also delaying me from cobbler shopping to preserve the other boots.

    I have a question. The boots that were sole defective, that wore out in 6 months, are going to wear on the identical new pair I was going to replace the soles on. I promised UGG I wasn’t going to send them back. I love the boot, I just want a great sole. I was thinking of just gluing a vibram lug sole right on to what exists. Not a great sole but we here in the U.S. don’t have many choices. What do you guys think about my solution? Would ShoeGoo fill the crevices of the original soles? Is this a stupid idea? Is there a great sole in the UK that can be bought online that will last and I can work with?

    Reply
  • Heathcliff 03/09/2017 at 11:00

    Having numerous pairs of Redwings , some now twenty yrs old with the Christie style sole and an owner of a pair of Grensons with a similar sole I can testify that the Grenson sole is far superior . I used to get my Redwings resoled at Timpsons for £55 but since Redwing opened a London store that appears to have ended and guess what ? The price has rocketed ! I love Redwing but their soles are hopeless , that being said my Grenson Archies after about 5 yrs use have now worn smooth and after a couple of nasty falls on wet London pavements I’ve just taken them in to be resoled to find they have also increased their prices by 30% .

    Reply
    • nick 03/09/2017 at 11:10

      I find Shoe Healer in Docaster do quality work at a fair price. For me it’s even worth the hassle of sending shoes and bots to them from Norway. Much harder here to even find someone to resole, let alone at anything resembling a fair price!

      Reply
  • Quinn 28/09/2017 at 07:51

    Thanks you for the great article! I’m pretty young and have started paying attention to shoe construction, since I want shoes that last a long time, but anything I find online is always about men’s shoes…
    Do you know any tips on how to tell if a sole and/or heel is resolable? I was always under the impression that only leather soles are resolable, but judging from this article I was completely wrong haha!

    Reply
  • ron 10/11/2017 at 20:44

    been wearing a pair of grenson london light weight brogues for last 30 years in the northeast of england. repaired a whole lot of times just recently had to have them rebuilt with new welt but once again absolutely a joy to wear in all weathers fair enough sometimes they take awhile to dry out but would not throw out

    Reply

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