This is it: an ultimate standoff between two iconic cap toe boots from two different brands. On one hand, we have the Red Wing, founded in 1905 and arguably the most popular heritage boot company in the US, with their Iron Ranger.
On the other hand is the newcomer Thursday boot company, established in 2014, and their widely praised Captain boot. So let’s see who comes out on top: an industry-disrupting new guy or the time-tested traditionalist?
Table of Contents
Red Wing Vs Thursday: What are the Differences
Red Wing Vs Thursday: Aesthetics
The appeal of the Red Wing Iron Ranger stems from its timelessness. As part of the famous Heritage line, very little has changed about the Iron Ranger over the past few decades. It’s actually a casual boot with thick oil-tanned leather, bulbous toe cap, and Vibram mini-lug outsole.
The boot is pretty versatile, and it’s usually the first boot most people spend money on, though you’ll find plenty of others who don’t like it, probably because the toecap is too clownish.
On the other hand, Thursday boot is a combination of tanned leather and studded rubber outsole and sleek silhouette. It’s a hybrid dress boot/work boot that features a studded rubber outsole. The captain is much lighter and sleeker than Red Wings.
In fact, just like many Thursday boots, the captain is designed to be a hybrid work/dress boot, which makes it far more versatile than the beefy Iron Ranger. The studded rubber outsole provides a good grip though it looks very flat from the inside.
Overall, the Red Wing Iron Ranger and Thursday Captain boot are two completely different aesthetics. The Iron Ranger is a true, chunky work boot, while the Captain is a more versatile hybrid that’s easy to dress up and down, particularly considering its dressier leather.
Red Wing Vs Thursday: Leather
One of the most impressive things about Red Wings is that they have their own leather at their tannery, SB Foot Tanning. They produce about 6 million linear feet of usually tanned leather every year.
The leather is hard to scratch or damage and can serve a long time without treatment. While this adds to the boots’ rugged outdoorsy feel, one potential downside is that it’s quite matte and doesn’t shine easily. Plus, it’s hard to dress up Iron Ranger.
Thursday Boot Company, meanwhile, offers a variety of leathers, including a few from Horween Leather Company. Their flagship boot is designed with the company’s own Thursday Chrome leather obtained from the LeFarc tannery. The leather comes from their Tier 1 United States cattle and is so comparable to the Harween Chromexcel, which is a combination of Chrome and tanned leather.
Overall, it’s easier to dress up Thursday’s lustrous leather than the more matte Iron Rangers from Red Wing. The leather on the Thursday boots is usually slightly thinner than Red Wing, though the difference is 0.2, which might not make a big difference when it comes to durability. It, however, makes for a slightly sleeker silhouette, and it adapts to the foot a little easier.
Red Wing Vs Thursday: The Outsole
The older models of the Red Wing’s Iron Ranger feature the infamous slippery nitrile cork sole, but if you bought yours after summer 2018, you probably got a low-profile, grippy Vibram mini lug. Modern Iron Rangers have a cork midsole, steel shank, and leather insole, and everything is stitched together using a 270-degree Goodyear welt. This makes it easy to resole but a little less water-resistant compared to a 360-degree Goodyear welt.
Thursday boots, meanwhile, come with a rubber outsole, cork midsole, leather insole, EVA comfort strip, and everything is attached together using a 360-degree Goodyear welt. That means the boots are more water-resistant than Red Wings.
The rubber outsole on the Captain features recessed lugs and offers similar grip and flexibility to the Vibram mini-lugs on the Iron Rangers. The stitching along the welt is somewhat subtler on this boot, which adds to the versatility.
The Captain also comes with a steel shank and cork midsole. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is the Dura EVA comfort strip. It’s made from a material typically used in athletic sneakers and makes for a boot that feels bouncier and comfier than your regular heritage work boot.
The sole is yet another significant difference between these two models. Although they both have the steel shank for arch support and a cork midsole that molds to the shape of your foot, the Iron Ranger has crummy shock absorption.
You’ll feel like you’re walking on the hardwood. Most people prefer the old-fashioned feel of the Iron Ranger, but we still prefer the shock absorption of the Captain. So as far as the outsole goes, we’d give the Captain the edge here.
Red Wing Vs Thursday: Fit and Sizing
Sizing is simple for both brands: they both run half a size large. Thursday offers more sizes and contours the foot more closely with better shock absorption. Red Wings fit, on the other hand, are more voluminous. Thursday boots are offered in a wider range of sizes (6 to 15) compared to Red Wing (7 to 14).
Comfort-wise, we’d prefer the shock absorption on Captains to that of Iron Rangers. Thursday boots are also associated with better arch support and a bit sleeker, so they cradle the foot better, while Red Wings are relatively roomy.
Speaking of price, Red Wing will typically cost you $300-$320 on Amazon or Red Wing’s site, though the price can fluctuate a bit, and you can sometimes find them on sale under $300. Thursday boots, on the other hand, are only $199 from the company’s site and on Amazon.
The Bottom Line
We like the Iron Ranger as much as we like the new guy. If you’re looking for a heavy, chunky outdoorsy, classic world work boot, Red Wing might be the best option. Undeniably the shock absorbency isn’t the best, and you can’t wear these with slacks or most business casual outfits. The boots are not fancy, modern, or dressy. But on the bright, it’s absolutely classic and tough as nails.
Aside from saving you a hundred dollars, Thursday’s Captain boot is well known for versatility. You don’t have to hate the Iron Rangers to admit that Thursday has succeeded in delivering a combination of dress boot/work boot that can be worn with just about anything. They are lighter, more comfortable, and even more water-resistant.