Well, maybe not for life, but if properly cared for a pair of welted shoes can last a damn long time.
A welt is a thin strip of leather that runs along the perimeter of the outsole, connecting the upper to the sole of a shoe. This sort of indirect point of connection makes it easy to perform numerous resoles when necessary, since the point of wear occurs on the welt and not on the uppers. If maintained properly, a high quality pair of Goodyear welted shoes can easily last decades.
Goodyear welting is a variation of this method, with Goodyear referring to the machine used in this process as opposed to the more traditional method of welting by hand. Here, the welt is stitched by machine to the upper and a strip of canvas. That strip is cemented to the insole, and the insole is then attached to the outsole, forming the shoe.
A large number of mid-range shoes from American and English makers are Goodyear welted. Besides ease of resole, this type of constructions has a number of other benefits. First, Goodyear welted shoes are more structurally sound and offer greater support to the wearer than Blake-stitched shoes, where the sole is directly stitched to the upper (a method greatly preferred by the Italians). The midsole is often filled with cork, which over time molds to shape of your feet and makes the shoes supremely comfortable. Second, Goodyear welted shoes are far more water resistant than shoes made with most other modes of construction. And finally, there’s the aesthetics of the shoe. Goodyear welted shoes by the very necessities of the construction tend to be chunkier in appearance, which works well with certain styles like longwings and work boots.
Some brands to keep an eye out for are Alden, Allen Edmonds, Crockett & Jones, and Red Wing.