My Red Wing Iron Ranger Story and Review
Scroll to bottom of page for my video of the Iron Ranger 8111
In short, these boots have been a revelation because they allow me to look at products the way people used to; I enjoy wearing these and actually get a sense of pride as I see how much wear I’ve gotten out of them. The Made inUSA/heritage mindset is a really great way to buy products and at the same time feel good about putting my money into a USA company whose goal it is for me to get the most out of a product.
This past year I found myself looking for boots because I got sick and tired of wearing low top shoes during the winter. A huge style pet-peeve of mine is seeing people wearing low-top sneakers like Adidas Stan Smiths in below 30 degree weather. Your ankles must be FREEZING!
Last summer I had seen Jose Zuniga’s (don’t roll your eyes at me!) shoe collection video where he featured a really nice pair of Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot that I liked but hadn't properly researched yet. Sure enough, I was in DSW and saw a pair on clearance for $100 claiming they were originally around $300. I scooped them up with glee.
But at the start of the Fall, after looking into the heritage brands a bit more, I discovered that my Wolverine’s were not of the true the true mainline product, but a made in China imposter model made for DSW. The boots are fine, but I can see the lack of quality in them, in the insoles and leather grade.
Buying Process/Where to Buy
So back to the drawing board. I wanted a tough boot that was of course, stylish, and would reflect my rugged and refined look. Naturally I found myself on Thursday Boot’s website, eyeing their $200 selection. I also checked out some of Wolverine’s heritage, made in USA styles but those were upwards of $400. To no one’s surprise, I found and became infatuated with the Red Wing Iron Ranger 8111, in Amber Harness leather.
An American brand with heritage, making leathers in-house, in Minnesota, built by blue collar Americans, and with a look that pays homage to the iron workers of yesteryear. This boot has it all. How had this icon eluded me for so long?!
But the $320 retail price for these was a bit too high for me, until I came across the boots on the Brooks Brothers website. They only had a few in stock, but they were on sale for $240. Once I saw they had an extra 25% additional off of clearance sale, the boots came to ~$180. I was super stoked when they arrived. I’ll never forget that feeling when opening my first box of Red Wing shoes. For me, they hit all my senses and are just beautiful to look at, touch, and smell.
But something felt weird about the fit. I had ordered a full size down, a size 9 when I’m typically a sneaker 10. When I checked the sizes, I had received a left boot size 9 and a right boot size 10! But what happened next definitely made it worth it…
Brooks Brothers felt so badly about the mix up, they sent me a new pair of the boots...for just $100! So I got the Iron Rangers at an unbeatable price and was super excited to break them in (I still recommend getting Red Wings from Brooks Brothers for the best price, and pretty great customer service as well).
The fit was slightly snug but I had no problems getting my feet in. The leather, which is notoriously stiff, only gave me trouble around the ankle collar. The leather footbed was stiff too but I am a firm believer that soft mushy insoles are actually not the indicator for a comfortable shoe. I think the shape of the insole and placement of the arch make this boot very supportive.
I would recommend anyone looking for size advice to absolutely go a glad size down from their dress shoe size. For the boot to break in correctly, it needs your foot to be place in the correct spots on the footboard so make sure it is snug with no slippage in the heel.
One week into the purchase, I took them on a day-trip to Philadelphia (in 20 degree weather!) and walked around all day in them. I got blisters from the stiff parts of the boot, around the ankle and pinky toe, but it definitely helped speed up the break-in period. The leather around the boot, back of heel, and leather/cork insole had all begun to loosen up and mold to my foot. Actually I saw the imprint in the sole start to form rather quickly.
The biggest challenge was getting the top of the ankle to loosen up. As you walk, this area tends to be a spot where there is a lot of friction resulting in bruising. After about a month, the leather had loosened up and I no longer had this issue.
But the leather itself is stiff for a reason. It is unlike anything i've ever experienced before. It's so robust and thick, it just makes you understand that leather can be such a durable and long lasting material. The leather Red Wing uses are sourced from S.B. Tannery, also in Red Wing, Minnesota.
Five months later, these boots are still getting more comfortable every day as the leather continues to soften up. The construction has also held up perfectly well, no problems with the stitching. I will say I do have sweaty feet disorder and the leather has taken up a rather uhhh musky scent. I use cedar shoe trees to neutralize odors.
I think boots should show some wear, but because I’m going to be wearing these in business casual settings, I don't want them to look like they've been on a construction site. The natural scuffs and scratches definitely add loads of character and it’s refreshing that I actually get pleasure from watching the boots break in and show wear. I’ll say that I don't like seeing too much indigo rub off on the ankles so I wouldn't recommend wearing them with denim that hasn't been soaked or that easily bleed. I learned this the hard way when wearing a cheap pair of Uniqlo selvedge jeans.
These boots have been a revelation-they allow me to look at products the way people used to: I enjoy wearing these and actually get a sense of pride when I see how much I’ve gotten out of them. I think the Made-in-USA, heritage mindset is a really great way to go about buying products. We feel good about putting our hard earned money into a company that does the same, here in the USA, and whose goal it is for us to get the most out of their product.
I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences with the Iron Rangers and any other long-lasting products I should check out below!
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