Shoemakers use a range of construction methods to attach the sole to the upper. Over the years, a number of different shoemaking construction methods have been developed. However, there are only two techniques to make really robust and long-lasting footwear: double stitching and the cemented construction. This is why we use these techniques at Hanwag. We are the only German manufacturer of mountaineering and trekking boots and shoes to cement last or double stitch every model we make.
By continuing to use the double-stitched construction, we are also upholding a traditional handcrafted shoemaking technique that few other shoemakers still master. Thanks to their cemented or double-stitched constructions, all Hanwag models are fully resoleable. Resoling boots that are perfectly worn in, which have seen decades of use always makes us feel proud of our handiwork..
We have been making robust leather boots with genuine double stitching for over 90 years.
We are proud to say that we are one of the few remaining bootmakers still able to master this traditional and demanding handcrafted technique. First, we punch out the insole (the foundation or heart of the shoe that can’t be seen from the outside) and tack it to the last. Then we introduce the first row of stitching. This stitching connects the leather upper and the lining to the insole rib (a rib or lip on the insole used to stitch it to the lasted upper). Once this first row of stitching is completed, we turn the upper outwards. We bend the leather upper and lining at a right angle to produce a projecting rim (flange) that lays flat on the midsole. This is called outflanging. On certain models a reinforcing strip (aka welt) is also added to the side of the boot at this point. Next, we trim any excess material from the heel, toe cap and the lining. The remaining flange, i.e. the turned-out leather upper, is then secured to the midsole with a second row of stitching. This second row of stitching (hence double stitching) joins the leather upper, reinforcing welt (if applicable) and midsole. So, the finished boot has an upper that is secured by two strong rows of stitching. This is what we mean by genuine double stitching.
At Hanwag we only use this “genuine”, traditional technique. Certain other manufacturers produce footwear using “false” double stitching. See below, if you want to know more. In the past, there was sometimes a price to pay for the durability of genuine double-stitched footwear. It took while to wear the boots in. And this wasn't always a particularly comfortable process. Today, foam padding, soft leather linings and handcrafted expertise mean that modern double-stitched boots take far less time to wear in – or none at all.
The cemented construction is a complex and time-consuming method where the upper is moulded and stretched over the last and attached (lasted) to the insole to form a unit. The upper and insole are then cemented with adhesive under high pressure. Subsequently, the midsole and outsole are added. This method offers the best combination of durability, high performance and economic viability. The main advantages of cement lasted footwear are their outstanding ability to keep their shape and their superior durability – providing they are properly cared for. We are probably the only manufacturer in the world to make not just all our boots, but also all our low-cut shoes with a cemented construction. The only disadvantage of cement lasting is that the complex production process makes the footwear slightly more expensive. Though, if the outsole wears out, it’s no problem to replace it. We resole all models at the Hanwag headquarters in Vierkirchen. It’s a popular service, after all, these boots are perfectly worn in; people don’t want to replace them. In fact, they’re often long-standing companions and the source of many happy memories. We often receive boots to be resoled that have seen years and years of use. It’s something that makes us proud of our work.
Certain other manufacturers produce footwear using “false” double stitching. It might look like high-quality footwear, but has little to do with it.
How does “false” double stitching work? The first stage uses a welt seam (the same as genuine double stitching). However, during the second stage all excess material is removed from the heel, toe cap, lining and the upper too, i.e. there is no turned-out flange. This means that their second stitch only connects the welt and the midsole. So the leather upper is not stitched to the outsole a second time. On footwear with genuine double stitching the outflanged leather upper is visible at the side of the boot above the midsole/sole. You won’t see this on footwear with false double stitching. Instead, the upper disappears inside.
There is another third type of false double stitching, which is even less effective. This footwear at first appears to have double stitching, but look more closely and you’ll see that it’s only glued.
These kinds of boots are not at all stiff and have a standard outsole that is designed to look like double-stitching. At the end of the day though, appearances mean little. It’s robustness and stability that counts.
And this is where these apparently similar construction techniques produce very different results. Only genuine double stitching secures the leather upper to the midsole/sole using a second stitch, which provides additional stability.False stitching only secures the upper to the reinforcing welt, which is a much weaker connection. With false stitching, the midsole is glued to the upper, but even the best glues are not as strong as stitching. In addition, if the reinforcing welt or stitching breaks, the boot cannot be repaired.
That is not a path we want to follow. Our double stitching is genuine. And it will stay that way.
The Strobel construction is a less expensive technique that is not as solid as the cemented construction. Named after its inventor, the Strobel seam is used to stitch the edge of an upper to a light insole, before the outsole is injection moulded to the upper (the technique is also known as injection moulding or force-lasting). This technique is mainly used for running shoes and trainers, where greater flexibility is required. The Strobel construction is not suitable for alpine, trekking or walking boots – it just doesn’t provide enough stability. Hanwag does not use the Strobel method to make any of its footwear.
Lift out the footbed and you’ll recognise shoes with a Strobel construction by the obvious stitching connecting the upper to the insole underneath.
Double-stitched footwear is easily recognised by the double row of stitching around the outside.
There is no stitching connecting the lining to the insole.
The chainstitched Strobel seam connecting the upper and the insole is easy to spot.