The question of Red Wing versus Wolverine has been the most hotly debated since time immemorial (or at least since online message boards were invented) and with good cause. The two companies’ flagship boots — the Iron Ranger and the 1000 Mile — are true icons of American footwear. Both companies are super old, both boots are considered by many as the perfect entry level boot, they both have 270-degree Goodyear welts, and they both have cult followings. These are some of the most popular boots in America and because they’re so close in price, well, people are constantly comparing the two.

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Which comes out on top? While they have a lot in common, there are also a lot of key differences to take into consideration, particularly with regard to the leather, the sole, and most importantly how they aged — I have owned and worn both boots for months and unlike a lot of comparisons out there, I didn’t buy try on both boots and return one after walking around my living room. I’ve trudged through storms, hiked through blizzards, conditioned and re-conditioned these bad boys. And I think theres a pretty clear winner.

First Glance

Red Wing Iron Ranger

I own the Amber Harness Iron Ranger, which is the most popular version of the boot. (Yes, they’ve darkened a bit since I bought them — Obenauf’s Leather Oildid a great job of keeping the leather moist over the years, but Red Wing’s own boot oil probably would have been better for maintaining the color.)

The defining feature of the Iron Ranger is the toe cap, which critics correctly call bulbous but I really like. It really emphasizes the fact that unlike the 1,000 Mile it’s not a remotely dressy boot. This is comfortably a work boot, designed to be reminiscent of the footwear Red Wing used to make for the iron miners toiling inside the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota.

The functional aesthetic is further emphasized by the triple stitching, the shiny nickel eyelets, the thick oil-tanned leather, and the sole. The sole has traditionally been cork but if you’re buying Iron Rangers today, you’re in for a super functional Vibram sole; Red Wing changed all of the models’ soles from cork to Vibram in summer 2018.


Red Wing Iron Ranger Vs Wolverine 1000 Mile: Who Wins?

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the 1000 Mile if you were trying to decide between the two and you wanted a more formal boot that wouldn’t lookasout of place with nice khakis. If versatility and dressiness is what you’re after, the Wolverine — while far froma dress boot — is your best option.

But if you’re just looking for a high quality boot you can wear with jeans or khakis, go with the Iron Ranger.

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It’s cheaper, it has better grip, it’s better at supporting the foot, and most importantly it ages much, much better.