Red Wing Iron Ranger Review
Red Wing Iron Ranger 8111 was touted as the best entry-level leather boots, and it was one of my first purchases which led me to the world of boots.
This pair of boots is a beloved of Bradley Cooper, but other celebrities like Dave Franco and Brandon Boyd of Incubus are also frequently spotted wearing them.
Celebrity affiliations aside, it is not difficult to see why this is considered the best for your first pair. It is incredibly sturdy and comfortable to wear, and the craftsmanship is top quality. It is best worn casually with jeans and has become a staple in my daily wear.
The shoes came neatly packed in a unit cartoon with the Red Wing logo at the top and the sizes labeled on the sides.
Aesthetically, the shoe has a strong masculine appeal. The distinct quad stitching on the toe cap is immaculate, as is the triple stitching on the sides. The sole is made of nitrile cork.
When you order the Iron Ranger, choose a pair that is half-size smaller than what you usually wear. Assuming you wear a regular 9, select 8.5 for the Ranger. If you buy online, it is stated in their website to go down half a size.
For reference, I usually wear US8.5/UK7.5/EUR42/26.5cm Flyknit Nike sneakers, so I purchased US8D Iron Ranger. If however, you don’t feel confident, it’s best to get a Brannock size or go to a store to get your perfect pair.
The Iron Ranger comes in two widths for each size: D for medium width foot and EE for a wider foot. The D usually fits tight at the beginning but fits perfectly after breaking in. On the other hand, EE becomes a tad loose after they break in, which is nothing thick socks can’t fix.
The Iron Ranger leather is constructed with sturdy full grain leather which is considered the best in the market. It is the top layer of the steer's hide and therefore is more durable and ages better. It is what makes them attain a unique look and a patina which I love. However, I found that the leather is not the most comfortable one due to lack of inner lining.
One of the striking things about the Iron Ranger's leather is the thickness. It could easily be more than 2 millimeters which gives it a distinct shape and makes it durable.
As with any new footwear, expect a little discomfort during the first few days of wearing your Iron Ranger. I was a bit worried at first as I have heard about them taking forever to break in. However, after three weeks of wear, I was able to break them in.
I wore them on alternate days for about 6 to 7 hours on a day. During the first 2 to 3 wears my feet hurt but rubbing mink oil helped soften the problem areas. Another tip is to spray with 50:50 solution of water and rubbing alcohol to soften the leather.
Step 1: Deep clean - Remove the laces first. Pour the Red Wings' foam leather cleanser into warm water (2 caps per 3 ounces of water). Mix thoroughly to foam.
Dip a sponge in the solution, squeeze out the excess water and scrub to remove dust and grime. Then wipe clean to remove the entire residue. Let it air dry.
Step 2: Condition - Put the boot oil on a soft cloth to condition the leather. Then spread the oil by brushing with a buffing brush. Conditioning the leather keeps it nourished and flexible while preventing it from getting dry and cracked and extends its life.
Step 3: Protection - As a final step, mist the boot evenly with leather protector to protect it from elements such as dust and moisture.
The Red Wing Iron Ranger made before the summer of 2018 were made of nitrile cork outsoles which were accused of being very slippery on wet surfaces. The newer versions are now made of Vibram mini lug sole. It is 7 millimeters thick, oil resistant, flexible, and more shock absorbent than its old comrade.
The boots' interiors wear a somewhat frugal look with a simple leather insole, a cork, and a shank. The advantages of using organic and naturally occurring materials are that they fit you like a second skin and extremely durable. However, they can rot if moisture accumulates, so they need to be aired frequently.
The sole is attached to the boot with 270-degree Goodyear welt which makes it more flexible and also provides an additional layer of oil resistance. It also gives the boot a sleeker look. On the flip side, the 270 welt makes resoling a bit harder and less water resistant.
Having your Iron Ranger occasionally drizzled upon is nothing fatal, but they are not designed for constant use in water or snow, even with regular waterproofing maintenance.
However, the newer designs have lugged sole which provides extra traction on wet surfaces. If you live in an area with frequent rain or snow, it will do you good to buy a boot that can battle the harsh winter elements.
Red Wing Iron Ranger ranges from $240 to $350 depending on the color and size you are getting.
There wasn’t much visible wear and tear after my Iron Rangers turned a year older. As you can see from the above picture, the threads show no frays, no scuffs on the toe cap, and the welts are in pretty good condition. The only differences I noticed are the insoles becoming a little darker and a slight change in the overall appearance of the leather which took on a vintage look, and I loved.
The Iron Rangers are notorious for being too casual and not fit for formal wear, but they can easily be styled with a dressed down shirt, tee-shirts and jeans or chinos. With no insulation and a slippery sole and a rather steep price, it is by no means a perfect value buy.
However it is an excellent piece as first investment footwear. The durability and the overall performance and the distinct look far outweigh the minor inconveniences of the boot.
The Iron Rangers have the terrible reputation of being of too casual. Of course, you cannot wear it to a red carpet event, but with the right pieces, you can style it in different ways.
Iron Ranger with jeans - Iron Ranger is best paired with jeans. The skinny jeans and the straight-legged jeans will give you the best silhouette. Pair your favorite light washed denim with a tee for a casual laid-back look. Put on a leather jacket for a rugged feel.
Iron Ranger with chinos - Tailored chino paired with Iron Ranger is a perfect outdoor look. A simple tee-shirt and belt in a similar color as your boots can make your outfit put together. You can put on a bomber jacket or a knee-length wool coat for colder climates.
Iron Ranger with suit - Iron Rangers are not traditionally associated with a suit, but if you know how to work with colors, they work pretty well together. For instance, a dark brown Iron Ranger fits perfectly with a grey suit for an office look, while a black boot works with a black suit.
If you know how to put colors together and are willing to explore, Iron Ranger boots are not as limited as they’ve been made out to be. They can transform a relaxed outfit into a well thought, polished look.