The Red Wing shoe company has enjoyed a history that spans more than 100-years, which speaks to the popularity of these boots. Sustaining a public demand for more than a century means that the product is high quality, or the company has an excellent marketing strategy or both. So what makes Red Wing boots so popular, and are they worth the money?
Red Wing boots are worth it due to the handmade construction, attention to fit, durability and quality, giving these boots longevity. For work, the safety features offer good protection without compromising on quality, fit, or comfort. Recent fashion status makes them acceptable footwear year-round.
Red Wing are a very popular brand of work boot and work-style shoes that have almost developed a cult following in their widespread support. The price of this brand of footwear is not cheap, and you would be hard-pressed to find a pair of these boots under the $100 mark. Is the popularity of these shoes nothing more than marketing hype, or are they worth what you pay for them?
Red Wing is a city that is in Minnesota in the Midwestern USA and is the birthplace of the Red Wing shoe company. In the late 1800s and towards the early 1900s, Red Wing Minnesota was a bustling hub of activity. The Mississippi river port at the city became a melting pot for many immigrants who came to participate in the industrial boom in the area.
Much of the reason for this boom in the industry is attributed to the discovery of natural clay beds in the area, which led to a clay and stoneware industry that attracted people from many locations. Dockworkers came to work at the river port, and carpenters and blacksmiths were in demand to service the growing industry boom.
The area was also renowned for its wheat production, so there were many large wheat farms surrounding the city and many farmers bringing their crops to the port and trading in the town.
Charles Beckman, the founder of Red Wing Shoes, was a shoe salesman and, as a result, took note of the shoes that the farmers, artisans, and craftsmen in and around the city wore for work. He noticed that the shoes were often inappropriate for the work that these people performed and resulted in discomfort and pain after long hours of work in bad shoes.
He came up with the idea of creating task-specific shoes or boots that were purpose-built for the workman and incorporated features to give the worker more comfort and protection on the job. He struggled to sell investors with the idea for some time but eventually received backing, and the Red Wing Shoe company was established in 1905.
The first Red Wing boot to be made was targeted at farmers and marketed as a manure-proof boot and to provide comfort and durability in the farm environment. The popularity of this boot took off and became the foundation product that the company was built on.
Showing the acuity of Charles Beckman's business acumen, when World War I arrived and all the men in the district went off to war, and the women started working in the factories, he changed the company's focus to include producing work boots specifically made for women.
The high quality of Red Wing work boots quickly garnered popularity for the company among the industrial workers in the city, and their reputation soon went further afield to the greater USA.
In more recent years, the Red Wing Shoe company partnered with a popular retailer, and the collaboration produced the Heritage range of footwear for the Red Wing brand and boosted the boots and shoes to become more than just workwear, but also fashionable footwear.
The factory currently produces in excess of 2 million pairs of shoes a year and has become a sought-after product both for the quality and protection, and comfort in the industrial and construction workplace, but also as a fashion statement.
The process that each shoe from the Red Wing factory goes through is a 230-step process that takes the shoes from raw materials to a quality finished product. The amazing aspect of this process is that even in today's age of technological advancement, these shoes are still made by hand and not mass-produced by computerized machines!
The Red Wing Shoe company originally purchased their leather from a local tanning company that is located a short mile down the road from the shoe factory. Using a local tannery for their leather supply as a means to cut costs and also to have the leather produced to the specifications requires by the shoes.
This close partnership between the two companies resulted in Red Wing acquiring the SB Foot Tannery, which gives the company total control over the materials used in the manufacture of the shoes.
Once the leather is in the factory, the process of cutting the leather for each pattern of shoe begins. The leather is cut by hand by trained craftsmen who manually select the best areas of the leather to cut by eye. This means that quality control begins even at this early stage of the manufacturing of the shoes.
The leather cutouts then go on to the sewing process, where the pieces of leather are sewn together by hand on Puritan sewing machines that date back to the inception of the company. Because the boots and shoes are intended as workwear, special attention is given to the thread used in the sewing process and the quality of the stitch work.
A work boot will not be considered durable if the stitching does not hold up to the rigors of the workplace, no matter how good the leather is!
The process of shaping the flat leather into something that resembles a shoe is done by molding the leather around a foot-shaped mold which is called a last. The last is also shaped to give the shoe a particular shape according to the model of shoe that is being constructed.
Many of the lasts that are used are still used are original forms that were used in the early days of manufacture and have been tweaked and modified over the years to give the Red Wing boots and shoes their unique look and fit on the foot.
Once the leather has been shaped or formed on the last, it is welted or stitched down to the insole and midsole.
The fixing of the outsole to the shoes is another process that is done by hand by skilled and well-trained people who have good hand-eye coordination to complete the task with precision.
Depending on the design of the shoe, the outsole is either glued or stitched in place on the shoe. This final step completes the manufacturing process of the shoes.
Once the shoes have been completed, they go to the finishing team, where the shoes are inspected twice, and the shoes are cleaned, polished brushed, and buffed before being packaged into the shoeboxes.
Because shoes, and especially work boots, suffer a lot of wear and tear over their lifespan, it is difficult for any shoe manufacturer to guarantee any boot for life.
Red Wing Boots are not guaranteed for life but have a 30-day unconditional comfort guarantee and a 12-month guarantee on any defects on workmanship and materials and any defect that occurs within this 12-month timeframe as a result of normal use. The shoes will be repaired or exchanged.
In the case of the 30-day unconditional comfort guarantee, if you are not satisfied with the comfort provided by the Red Wing shoes, whatever the reason, the purchase price will be refunded to you on presentation of your receipt of purchase that has a valid date on it.
For any warranty claim, the shoes must be returned to the dealer from which the shoes were purchased. Obviously, any damage to the boots or shoes that resulted from excessive use or abuse will not be covered by any of these warranties.
While the Red Wing boots are not guaranteed for life, the robust construction, quality materials used, and the attention that goes into every detail of the manufacturing process offer durable, quality footwear that have longevity and are definitely worth the cost.
The fact that Red Wing has been making shoes and boots for more than a hundred years and their footwear is more popular than ever is an indication that they are getting something right with their product.
The length of time that your Red Wing boots will last will depend on how often they are worn, the care that they are given, and the environment in which they are worn. Boots that are worn causally could last 25 years, while boots subjected to tough environments can be expected to last about 5-years.
A pair of boots worn casually and only a few times a month could easily last in excess of 25-years. On the other hand, if you wear your boots to work and it is a tough environment, you cannot expect your footwear to last for this kind of timeframe.
However, these boots are tough and durable, and it is a testament to their quality of manufacture that even in difficult conditions, these boots last in excess of 5 years.
One aspect of the Red Wing boots that increases the lifespan is the fact that the boots are constructed in a way that allows for them to be easily re-soled. Some Red Wing boot owners have reported that they have re-soled their Red Wing boots up to 5 times to continue wearing their favorite boots!
Red Wing boots have such a dedicated following that the company has placed a "Wall of Honor" page on their website where hardworking men and women have told their story of their equally hardworking Red Wing boots that lasted despite the use and abuse that they sustained over the years.
If you are needing a pair of boots that has a reputation for being durable and reliable, then you cannot go wrong with the Red Wing brand!
The range of styles in work boots and shoes that Red Wing offer has expanded over the years, and some ranges have become popular for casual wear rather than workwear but still retain the same values in shoe production.
The Red Wing 8-inch Classic Moc is one of the most popular and well-known boots in the Red Wing Heritage Collection. Originally designed and built as a hunting boot in 1952, its durability, comfort, and toughness quickly made it popular in other sectors and on job sites.
The 8-inch Classic Moc is still manufactured today, following the same dedication to quality and durability that made this model of Red Wing boot a legend and continues to boost its popularity today. This boot design fits snugly on the foot and includes additional space n the instep and forefoot to accommodate a wide range of foot shapes and still have enough wiggle room for the toes.
This boot is built to be able to replace the sole once it wears out so you don’t have to go out and buy a new pair of boots just because the soles are worn. This adds to the durability of the boots and continues to make them a popular choice.
Red Wing boots are a classic footwear option for women. The quality materials and craftsmanship in these boots give them fashion appeal, so they can be worn in all weather conditions and work conditions while also being stylish.
They come in many different styles to suit every taste and personality. Red Wing also makes a range of casual wear shoes for women, which follow the same standards of manufacture as the workboots. This carries the durability and quality through to this range of footwear as well.
Red Wing Boots are available in ladies' sizes from size 3 all the way up to 12, which makes them an excellent choice for a wide range of people.
A popular Red Wing boot range for women is the Tradeswoman range. These hiker-inspired boots are versatile and stylish and would not be considered out of place on the job or off the job.
They are extremely lightweight, which prevents fatigue and allows for fast and flexible movement. These boots are considered mid-duty work boots with an aluminum safety toe, making them suitable for hiking, warehouse and distribution work, construction, and light manufacturing environments.
The sole is made with their proprietary X-TremeLite Sole and provides excellent slip resistance and chemical, gas, and oil resistance.
Even though these boots are classified as a work boot, their stylish design makes them suitable for casual wear four outdoor activities or even out and about on the weekends.
The Red Wing Cooltech Athletics range is a light-duty work shoe that is suitable for many workplace applications as well as casual wear with a pair of jeans!
These shoes are the perfect choice for women who are on their feet all day long but don't need a heavy-duty work boot. The cross breeze technology keeps you cool and comfortable while also protecting your toes from damage with its lightweight toe protection.
The only downside to this shoe range is that the soles are not replaceable, so when the sole wears out, you will need to buy a new pair.
Red Wing started off producing work boots for men and has developed a reputation for safety and comfort that has resulted in the brand remaining a popular choice among workmen across the world.
Not only is the brand popular with workmen, but it is also sought after among hunters and outdoorsmen for the durability and waterproof characteristics of the boots.
Modern ranges have included styles that men can wear as work shoes or casual wear and not look like they have stepped straight out of the workshop.
The Iron Ranger boot series was originally designed for iron miners back in the 1930s. Since then, this style of boot from Red Wing has become a popular style for people across the board and is considered an iconic Red Wing style.
It is a fairly high boot that goes six inches up the ankle and features a leather toe cap that is a signature style of this range of boots. The leather insole and cork midsole will cause the boot to mold itself to the shape of your foot that will enhance the comfort level and the fit the longer you wear the boots.
Different treatments of the leather make this boot available in a range of colors from black to copper and amber and tan.
This boot is ideal for the outdoorsman or farmer, and it is renowned for its durability, which has contributed to its legendary status.
This series is the men's version of the hiker-inspired mid-duty performance work boot. They are designed to be lightweight boots with electrical hazard protection, a safety toecap that is made from non-metallic material.
The Tradesman 5-inch Waterproof Hiker Boot comes with the BOA Fit System, which is an innovative lace tightening system that Red Wing includes on some of their models. This system incorporates a dialing mechanism that evenly tightens the laces providing constant tension throughout the lacing system.
The ability to make micro-adjustments on this system allows you to fine-tune the lacing of your boot for changing conditions and holding your foot securely in any work conditions.
The Red Wing Leather provides waterproofing characteristics to the boots, while the chemical, oil and gas resistant, slip-resistant soles make the shoe ideal for use as a work boot in light industrial applications.
Because these boots are stylish and designed along the lines of hiking boots, these boots do not look out of context when worn in a casual setting.
There are a few models of Red Wing boots that make for great motorcycle riding boots
Protection in the workplace is the name of the game with steel toe caps in a boot, and if this is the safety feature that you require in your work footwear, then Red Wing has a style and design for all your needs.
Red Wing manufacture steel toe cap versions of boots in the style ranges Supersole 2.0, DynaForce, Supersole, TruHiker, LoggerMax, TruWelt, Maxbond, InJex, and Rio Flex.
Many of the Red Wing work boots are equipped with safety measures for electricians that are intended to protect them from electrical hazards in the workplace.
The boots that are intended for this purpose all meet the ASTM standards laid out for safety requirements in this sector.
Red Wing has boots in a number of their series that comply with this standard.
There are also boots in the Traction Tred range, the traditional Supersole range, TruHiker, LoggerMax, and Zero-G range that also carry the electrical hazard rating.
The wide range of applications for the Red Wing boots in the workplace combined with their attention to details in manufacture that make for a more durable, comfortable, and safer pair of boots is part of what continues to feed their popularity.
The quality of the products used in Red Wing boots, combined with the experience garnered by manufacturing footwear for more than 100-years, make Red Wing boots a product that is worth the price that you pay for them!
Feature Image: Photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash