Veldtschoen Construction

In shoemaking jargon, the veldtschoen, or stitchdown construction method is strongly recommended for boots and shoes which must be weather resistant and flexible. 

The English translation of ‘veldtschoen’, the 17th century Cape Dutch name for what is technically known as a stitchdown, is ‘field shoe’. Today it is seldom spelt that way. In modernised Afrikaans the familiar footwear is known as a ‘veldskoen’ or a ‘velskoen’ – the former meaning field or bush shoe, and the latter skin shoe. Now affectionately and commonly called a ‘vellie’ (pron. felly).

The stitchdown holds a special place in the southern African footwear industry. Developed by the Dutch Voortrekkers and Pioneers, it was a product of the African bush, a rough shoe made of untanned game hide on the Great Trek northwards. By the simplest definition of construction, the upper was out flanged and stitched onto the sole and runner. The original workshop for producing veldtschoens was near Algoa Bay at a place today called Uitenhage.

The veldtschoen shares with the sandal and the moccasin the distinction of being the world’s oldest footwear constructions. Clarks of England and others like Courteney have made the style internationally famous. Today, making stitchdown shoes and boots is a highly specialised and technically challenging process. Although unchanged from its original concept, today’s veldtschoen benefits from modern technology and the advantages of innovative shoemaking.

It all starts with the last, which is a carefully developed wooden or plastic foot-shaped form or model. It is three dimensional, similar to the average human foot but with allowances for the toes, movement and expansion. Courteney lasts have been custom-designed to ensure maximum support and comfortable fit with the boots’ future as hard-walking, hard-working footwear in mind. 

With the veldtschoen, or stitchdown, method of construction the upper material is flanged outwards during the lasting process and attached by adhesive and stitching to a layer of material known as the runner or midsole. The sole is then attached by adhesion. At Courteney we double stitch the gameskin upper to a leather runner which is combined with a microcellular rubber mid sole for additional strength. Courteney soles are made at our workshop from natural rubber prepared to Courteney specifications, and are attached with a two part polyurethane adhesive.

The Courteney Boot Company has incorporated the old fashioned values of hardiness and durability with modern ideas to produce a genuine veldtschoen which, with care, will serve you faithfully, and become an integral part of your adventures, for years to come.