The Life of a Red Wing Iron Ranger
Follow along on the adventures of a pair of Red Wing Heritage Iron Rangers: STYLE NO. 8085, Copper Rough & Tough Leather
About Red Wing and the Iron Ranger:
There are many great articles and blog posts out there about the Iron Ranger and the Red Wing Company: the history, how they are made etc... Below are links to some of the best articles & videos I have come across about Red Wing and their most infamous boot!
A Review: Red Wing Iron Ranger Review – The Best Entry Level Boot by David Schuck, Heddels
How its Made: The 5 Stages of How Red Wings Boots are Made by Thomas Stege Bojer, DenimHunters
The History: A History of an Icon: The Red Wing Iron Ranger by Matt Wilson, Rope Dye
The Rival: Red Wing Iron Ranger Vs. Wolverine 1000 Mile – Which Is the Best Men’s Boot? by Nick, Stridewise
Check Out the Inside of an Iron Ranger Below:
*Note: the Iron Rangers, such as my pair, are now manufactured with Vibram Outsoles, not Nitrile Cork.
The Break In:
Day One: Purchase & Breaking In Begins- 1.09.19
I finally did it, I got a pair of Red Wing Heritage Boots. I went to my local shop and the sales person I worked with was very informative and helpful. If it wasn't for her, I would have gone with my normal boot size of 10.5... For their boots in particular, I measured a size 9. She told me the difference was because they measure from the end of the heel to the ball of the foot rather than to the longest point. The boot fits perfectly so there seems to be no problem with Red Wing's sizing method.
The fit is snug, as it is supposed to be, and the sales person did say that the break in period will be, "brutal," which I found hilarious because at most shoe stores that kind of statement would scare a customer out of the store! She also told me that they offer free boot conditioning and that most repairs, besides for resoling, are free. She also gave me two additional sets of laces as well as some Red Wing All Natural Boot Oil.
There is very little slip in the heel (I usually have a problem with that) and the standard D width they use is spot on for my feet. The last Red Wing uses to make Iron Rangers is simply called "8." The triple (toe cap is quadruple) stitching is very beautiful and I love that they added contrasting thread. From what I have read, the thread is waxed for longevity using what is called a Puritan Machine. The Vibram sole is perfect for Midwest weather and I love the inclusion of a steel shank for stability.
I have worn them for the past five hours and I can safely say I have never experienced a break in period with boots until now. All my boots, from companies such as Thursday Boots & TAFT, were comfortable right out of the box. I am told however, that the wait with the Red Wings is worth it. The boot will form to my feet and have my unique imprint. That was the main reason I wanted to get a brand new pair of Red Wings, because there are a ton of used and factory seconds out there that cost much less. Just like a pair of quality raw denim, the boots need to tell one specific story. My own.
Day Two: Breaking In & New Laces- 1.10.19
After spending sometime on the Red Wing Shoes Sub/Reddit Page, I started to find out that the only major complaint for a new pair of Iron Rangers are the stock laces. The sales person did tell me that replaceable laces are free and gave me two additional pairs as well. However, I do not like them and are the only part of the boot that I think feels "cheap." Luckily, I had an additional pair of leather boot laces from my PTC X Santalum Collaboration Boot 2 in storage that matches the color of my Iron Rangers perfectly!
Before putting on the laces, I used the Special Blend Smith's Leather Balm Wax to treat the leather because they felt dry. The wax also provides water resistance as well so it didn't hurt. All I did was rub some of the balm onto the laces and then used a blow dryer to make the wax melt into the laces. The whole process only took about ten minutes and the result was worth it!
Not only did the leather laces look better than the stock ones, they seemed to glide across the boot easier and did not require as much force to tie them as the regular ones. Only time will tell how they hold up but I am really liking them much better than Red Wing's usual laces.
As far as how the breaking is going, walking around Target this morning was no easy picnic, especially after switching over from my Adobe Arizona Rugged Captains by Thursday (will do a comparison blog post at some point) that have been part of my usual rotation! The plan is to continue wearing the Iron Rangers throughout the day, everyday, for at least a week (yes, I use cedar shoe trees like these). I also managed to spill dark liquid onto my right boot (and all over my ST-120x jeans). I wiped it off with a paper towel but the leather did darken a bit compared to its companion. However, that is all part of the story and will add to the patina and aging process... And hopefully the fading of the jeans as well!
Day Four: First Snow- 1.12.19
The 8085s went out for a stroll to experience its first snow of the year! Safe to say they are holding up great! A bit of snow did get caught on the top toe cap so I made sure to give it a gentle brushing after coming inside. The Vibram sole seems to be perfect for these weather conditions. I tested them on grass and concrete with no slip. They seem to have better traction than the Dainites and other studded soles that are on most of my boots. That being said, the rubber studded sole is still my favorite because of its clean look.
Break in is still going strong. I ordered some Pisgah Range Navy Laces as they seem to be a favorite among Red Wing lovers. I went with the 65 inch in order to be able to wrap them around the ankle, where most of my soreness is after wear. I might where the Iron Rangers to the city tonight... If I am tough enough!
Day Six: New Laces- 1.14.19
After some debate, I decided on getting these Pisgah Range LTD Navy Blue Laces for these bad boys. I got them in 65 inches as that seems to be the standard length for the Iron Rangers. It's nice because I can wrap the laces around the ankles to provide better support. The boots are getting more comfortable, I was able to wear them all day! They have really come in handy with the snow and ice as the Vibram sole is really great!
Day 12: Getting There- 1.21.19
I've been wearing my Iron Rangers more than any other boot; not just because I want to break them in, but because they patina so beautifully. Just take a look at the r/RedWingShoes SubReddit and check out how other people's Copper Rough & Tough Leather Boots age. Some folks seem to want to maintain that out-of-the-box color and I totally get that! Personally, I'd rather my boots show off where I've been through natural aging so if they become darker or lighter is not up to me. I haven't conditioned the boots yet, I usually wait a few months to put any products on any of my pairs. Even then, I usually just use leather balm (in addition to shoe conditioner only with Chromexcel Leather) instead of other products.
We've been getting snow and my Iron Rangers are my go to boots for trekking outside. I have also been able to wear them all day while doing lots of walking. There is some discomfort still but the "brutal" break in period that the sales person told me about isn't as bad as she made it seem. These Iron Rangers are quickly becoming my favorite boots!
Day 19: New Friend and Break In Complete- 1.28.19
The 8085s have a new friend; an old pair of Iron Ranger 8111s with the traditional cork sole. It will be interesting to see the differences between the two boots as the leather and outsole are very different in my mind and will do a comparison blog post in a couple days. I definitely prefer the 8085s leather and overall look. In terms of breaking in, the 8085s are pretty comfortable now and I have worn them all day many times! Now it is time to really beat these bad boys up!
Break In Complete! Check Back Here for Blog Posts on the Iron Ranger and Other Fun Facts!
Iron Ranger Blog Posts:
Red Wing's Rough & Tough Iron Rangers Vs. Thursday's Arizona Adobe Rugged Captains Part 1- Initial Impressions
Red Wing Face Off: The Iron Ranger 8085s Vs. The Blacksmith 3345s Coming Soon!
Where to Buy:
Support Small Independent Companies or go to your local Red Wing Store