The Red Wing Shoe Company, which started in 1905, is primarily known for its hand-made leather boots intended for heavy work. Having made shoes for American soldiers during both world wars, Red Wing has a legacy of having old-fashioned, masculine, and intimidating builds with high-quality materials.
Two of Red Wing’s most famous boots are the Blacksmith and the Iron Ranger boots. These boots are made from high-quality materials like Vibram mini-lug outsoles, leather insole, steel shank, and cork filling. The shoes are made to have the same contour and fit. As expected from Red Wing Boots, the build quality and design are top-notch. Although they do not have all the leather options available from Red Wing, there are interesting color options available.
These similarities make it challenging to choose between the two boots and you might be tempted to choose solely based on the looks. The Iron Rangers are made with a cap toe design while the Blacksmith has a dressier round toe design.
Red Wing Blacksmith vs Iron Ranger: Are They Different?
Red Wing Blacksmith
The Red Wing Blacksmith is a relatively new shoe and is considered a spiritual successor to the discontinued Beckman.
The round toe design allows more toe room in the shoe while giving it a sleeker look. It is also designed with brass which blends better with different leather options.
The shoe is slip-resistant, thanks to its Vibram 430 Mini lug outer soles. The slim and flexible rubber sole makes it a great service shoe because it is oil-resistant, non-marking, and long-wearing. The mid-sole is made from cork and the insole is made with leather. It also has a steel shank providing decent arch support and stability.
The shoe is made with a 270-degree Goodyear welt which keeps the heel looking slimmer without affecting its water-resistance much. The leather is oil-tanned to improve water resistance and stain resistance. Blacksmiths have a flat collar with a line of visible stitching and rolled edges. The rolled edges make the collar less likely to fray over time. The shoe’s eyelets are brass covered and have three pairs of hooks making them easier to get on and off.
Red Wing Blacksmith boots have a reputation for being comfortable from the get-go with very little break-in required. they provide decent arch support, though they lack shock absorption.
It is recommended you choose a half size down when buying these shoes.
- The leather is oil tanned
- They are well constructed with high-quality leather
- Round toe is sleeker and roomier
- Brass hardware looks good with many kinds of leather
- It has interesting leather options
- It is easy to change out the outer soles
- It does not have as many leather options
- Made with only one width
- Unlined so they do not provide adequate weather protection
- These are heavy boots
- They do not have steel toes
Red Wing Iron Ranger
It is considered an iconic boot made with 270-degree Goodyear welts and modeling Red Wing’s Amber Harness and Roughout leather. Iron Rangers have a distinctive toe cap, making them easy to spot. The bulbous toe cap is an extra layer of leather over the toe of the boot and is detailed with four rows of stitching. This toe cap provides a bit more protection than that provided by Blacksmiths even though it is not steel-toed.
Iron Rangers give you the option to have either a traditional Nitrile Cork outsole or a Vibram 403 Mini-lug. The two options have different grips and traction, with the Vibram 403 Mini-lugs offering better traction in wet and snowy conditions. Nitrile Cork, meanwhile, is better suited to dry climates. Nitrile cork is made with a mix of rubber and cork, making it stronger, more flexible, and lighter. It does not leave marks on the ground and lasts longer too.
Iron Rangers have a different finish from Blacksmiths although they are both made from Goodyear welts. Iron Rangers come in full-grain leather that is easy to treat and lasts a long time. The leather is thick and oil-tanned, making it water, stain, and sweat-resistant, improving the shoe’s durability and protecting your feet.
Iron Ranger boots have a collar that curves downwards with two visible rows of stitching and raw edges that rise about half an inch above the Blacksmith’s collar. Shoelace eyelets are nickel-plated with three speed hooks which make them easier to get on and off. The boot provides arch support with a cork attached to a steel shank across the arch.
Unlike the Red Wing Blacksmith, this shoe has two widths you can choose from, either D or EE. This makes it a better fit overall.
Like with the Blacksmith, we recommend choosing a half-size smaller than other options and a full-size smaller than sneakers.
- They have an iconic style
- Iron Ranger boots are made with high-quality Goodyear welt that is long-lasting
- The toe cap improves its durability and safety rating
- They come with more color and leather options
- The boots are easy to maintain
- Available in wider widths
- Less dressy than Blacksmiths
- The raw edges of the collar can fray with age
- They have no steel toe cap
- The boots are not lined
- They take longer to break-in
Both these boots are built to last several years so they are not cheap, with the Blacksmiths going for $300 and the Iron Rangers, $340. There is a good balance between the price and features so you will be getting great value from the boots.
The Blacksmiths give some versatility if you want shoes that can be dressier while Iron Rangers are more casual, though the toe cap does raise its style more. Consider the Vibram sole, though it will increase the price a bit, as the added traction and safety it offers is worth it.
No matter what shoe you choose, both options are great and you will not regret the purchase. Just remember they do not have steel toes so may not be suitable for all work conditions.