American made heritage boots are iconic footwear staples. Nothing tops a carefully crafted boot that only looks and feels better with time. In this Red Wing vs Wolverine comparison we are going to compare each brand's most popular heritage boot: the Red Wing Iron Ranger and the Wolverine 1000 Mile.
We’ll be pitting these two classic boots against each other to see where they differ in construction, materials and fit. By the end of this write-up hopefully you’ll have a better understanding of what makes each boot special and have a solid opinion on the Red Wing Iron Ranger vs Wolverine 1000 Mile discussion.
|Red Wing Iron Ranger||Wolverine 1000 Mile|
|Uppers||S.B. Foot Tanning Co. Oil-Tanned Leather||Horween Leather or Charles F. Stead Suede|
|Outsoles||Vibram Mini-Lug or Nitrile Cork||Leather outsole with rubber for traction|
|Insole||Tanned leather insole||Horween leather footbed|
|Construction||Goodyear Welt||Goodyear Welt|
|Sizing||Narrow fit||Truer to size|
|Style||Casual heritage work boot||Dressier boot|
|Made in USA||Yes||Yes|
|Price||Check the latest price on Amazon||Check the latest price on Amazon|
Heritage: A Quick History
The 1000 Mile boot is one of Wolverine’s most popular boot models with thousands of pairs sold over it’s long history. The name comes from the claim that the boots are so well made that they will last you “1000 miles of wear”. Thankfully, the claim isn’t so far off as these boots are known for their superior craftsmanship and robust construction.
What’s special about 1000 Mile boots is that Wolverine stays true to it’s heritage by offering the same design as when it was originally introduced in the early 1910s. With over 100 years of time-tested craftsmanship it’s no wonder why the Wolverine 1000 Mile is an icon of American made boots. After outsourcing most of their footwear line to overseas manufacturing, the 1000 Mile is one of the few Wolverine boots that are still made in the USA. Each pair of Wolverine 1000 Mile boots is still handcrafted in Big Rapids, Michigan.
Like Wolverine, Red Wing also shares a long history of American bootmaking. The brand first introduced their iconic Iron Ranger boots in the late 1800’s to miners who needed a tough oil-resistant boot while mining for iron ore in the Mesabi Iron Range of Minnesota. In fact, the name Iron Ranger comes from these miners who were called “iron rangers”. Today the Red Wing Iron Ranger is many things: A time-tested work boot, a stylish casual boot and a boot for those who love old-fashioned craftsmanship. However you choose to wear the Iron Ranger, you'll be wearing a boot with a rich heritage. Each pair of Iron Rangers is still made in Minnesota.
Red Wing Iron Ranger vs Wolverine 1000 Mile
Now let’s dig deeper into the differences between the Red Wing Iron Ranger and the Wolverine 1000 Mile. We will go over leather, construction, fit and style. Let’s start with leather.
Red wing vs wolverine: Upper Leather Comparison
When comparing the Iron Ranger to the 1000 Mile the first topic of discussion is usually about the leather. Red Wing sticks to leather from S.B. Foot Tanning Co. in all of their Iron Ranger boots. S.B Foot Tanning leather is true high quality American leather. The company sources their hides from Nebraska and the tannery itself is located in Red Wing, Minnesota where the finished product is made. The leather is oil-tanned which makes it highly water and stain resistant. And because only the best full grain leather is used, the leather on the Iron Ranger are pliable and durable allowing the boots to form to your feet over time.
Wolverine uses Horween leather in most of their 1000 Mile boots. Horween specializes in what’s called Chromexcel leather. Horween Chromexcel is a pull-up leather that is highly durable and develops character over time. Along with Horween Chromexcel, Wolverine 1000 Mile boots also feature Horween Cavalier leather which not only offers vibrant color options but gives the boots a waxy appearance. Although most Wolverine 1000 Mile boots use Horween leather, some special suede models actually come from Charles F. Stead of England. This English suede is the same suede used in Clark’s Desert Boots. The suede itself is know for it's tight structure that helps prevent the leather form stretching over time.
So what’s the difference between Red Wing and Wolverine leather? The leather on the Iron Ranger has a less polished look than the Horween leather used in the 1000 Mile boots. With Iron Rangers, you can expect boots that can handle everyday wear and even be worn in harsher weather conditions thanks to it’s stain repellent properties. The downside is that the leather finish looks rougher, making it less of a polished boot when compared to the Wolverine 1000 Mile.
When it comes to the Horween Chromexcel and Cavalier leather used in the 1000 Mile boot, you’ll notice that the leather is already soft and conditioned right out of the box. Another point to consider is that Horween leather is more prone to scratches than the leather used in the Iron Ranger. Expect to regularly clean and condition the leather if you plan on wearing the 1000 Mile as your everyday boot. Horween leather can be polished for an amazing shine and this is where the 1000 Mile boot has a style advantage over the Iron Ranger.
Neither S.B. Foot Tanning or Horween leather are necessarily “better”. Determining the better leather depends on how you will be using the boot during it’s lifetime. If you are looking for boots similar to Wolverine 1000 mile but with more ruggedness then the Iron Ranger should be considered. But if you want a nice polishable boot that would do well in a business casual setting then the Wolverine 1000 Mile boot may be the way to go.
Differences in Outsoles
Now let’s talk about outsoles. Both Red Wing and Wolverine's outsole options can be divided into two categories: Original soles that don’t do well in bad weather and beefed up soles that do better in bad weather. Let’s start with exploring the Red Wing Iron Ranger options.
Red Wing Iron Rangers are offered with either a Nitrile Cork outsole or with a Vibram 430 Mini-lug outsole. Nitrile Cork is a rubber composite sole that has been traditionally used in work boots. This is due to Nitrile Cork being both oil and water resistant. The material itself is strong yet flexible which does wonders for comfort. Another great feature of nitrile cork is that it’s very low profile and light weight. The bad? It does terrible in snow and ice. Iron Rangers with nitrile cork soles become extremely slippery in ice which make them less than ideal winter boots. But because of their water resistant properties, nitrile cork actually does great in the rain. Just avoid the ice!
The second outsole option that Red Wing features in the Iron Ranger is the Vibram 430 mini-lug. This outsole offers the grip and traction that the nitrile cork lacks. The mini-lugs also make the Iron Ranger an all around safer boot to wear in the snow and during icy conditions. If you don't want to re-enact a Disney On Ice performance while walking on pavement after a winter storm, then the Red Wing Iron Ranger with the Vibram mini-lugs is going to be the obvious choice.
Now on to Wolverine’s 1000 Mile outsole options. The 1000 Mile comes in a few different flavors (more on this below) but the two main differences in outsoles come in the form of the Original 1000 Mile and the 1000 Mile Evans boot. The Original 1000 Mile offers a traditional leather sole with a stacked leather heel. The only real grip on these outsoles is a piece of Vibram rubber on the heel that gives the boot some traction.
Leather soles are great because they are classy, low profile and traditional. You’ll often see leather soles in dress shoes and this is part of the reason why the Original 1000 Mile is considered more of a "dressier" boot. But the bad news is that leather soles deteriorate over time and can be ruined when worn repeatedly in snow and slush. The leather doesn’t provide any traction and this is something to keep in mind if you plan on wearing the 1000 Mile as a daily boot throughout the fall and into the winter.
The 1000 Mile Evans boot is Wolverine’s answer to providing a beefier boot that can handle snow and ice better than the Original 1000 Mile. Unlike the leather sole on the Original 1000 Mile boots, the Evans provides a butyl-treated leather outsole with Vibram rubber on the forepart and the heel. This gives the boot much more traction and durability when compared to it’s leather counterpart. Butyl-leather is great as it’s oil treated to add flexibility and durability. The rubber forepart is lightly lugged for better traction while still keeping a low profile.
1000 Mile vs Iron Ranger: Construction and Style
Both the Red Wing Iron Ranger and Wolverine 1000 Mile feature a Goodyear Welt construction. Goodyear Welt construction is one of the oldest and most durable methods of construction in footwear. Both the Iron Ranger and 1000 Mile have that classic Goodyear look of exposed stitching on the top of the welt and on the outsole. One of the best features of Goodyear welted boots is their ability to be resoled and repaired over time.
When choosing between the Red Wing Iron Ranger and Wolverine 1000 Mile it’s important to pay attention to the small differences before decided which is better for your needs. Although both are considered heritage boots, Red Wing has all of the elements of a classic work boot while the 1000 Mile chooses style elements that are normally found in dress boots.
Let’s start with the differences in fit and finish. Not only does Wolverine’s use of Horween leather give it a waxier “shine” but it’s generally smoother and more supple than Red Wing’s S.B. Foot Tanning tougher work boot leather. The stitching is another difference worth pointing out. The Wolverine 1000 Mile has stitching that blends in better with the uppers while the Iron Ranger features more prominent contrast stitching that really stands out when worn.
Another dressier element that the Wolverine 1000 Mile features is in the flat waxed laces. The laces really do class up the boot. The Iron Ranger instead goes for a classic round lace normally found in utility boots.
Finally, there is the difference in toe boxes. While the 1000 Mile has a slender toe box that tapers nicely to the foot, the Iron Ranger features a roomier toe box that is “bulbous”. The bulb toe box in the Iron Ranger bothers some people who don’t like the bulky look it gives. But this roomy toe-box is a classic work boot style that is meant to be more functional than stylish. The Red Wing Iron Ranger was originally a work boot after all.
Sizing and Fit
Since boots usually run larger than normal shoes you may want to go a half size to a full size down on both the Iron Ranger and 1000 Mile. The main difference in fit is that the Iron Ranger tends to run slightly narrower. In the Iron Ranger the instep is narrow while the toe box is very roomy.
The Wolverine 1000 Mile boot is available in D (medium) width and EEE (3E triple wide) width. While the Iron Ranger is offered in both D width and EE wide width. With this selection of sizing you should find a nice fit in either brand.
Our advice is to always try a new pair of boots on in person before purchasing. Many of the complaints about painful or rough fits is actually due to the wrong size and not necessarily the fault of boot itself. If finding a local Wolverine or Red Wing dealer is not possible than your best bet is to go with an online retailer that accepts free no-hassle returns just in case you purchase the incorrect size and need an exchange.
Red Wing vs Wolverine: Color Options
Now we will discuss one of our favorite topics: color and style options. Both the Iron Ranger and 1000 Mile are available in a ton of color options with the 1000 Mile leading the way in terms of style options. As discussed above in the outsole section, the Iron Ranger comes in two main varieties which are Nitrile Cork outsoles and Vibram Mini-Lug outsoles. Each outsole option has it’s own upper leather color selection to choose from.
When shopping for 1000 Mile boots you’ll notice that Wolverine offers the 1000 Mile in multiple toe styles. The toe styles range from the classic plain toe found in the Original 1000 Mile and 1000 Mile Evans to special edition styles such as the moc toe 1000 Mile 1940 and wing tip 1000 Mile Addison. Each version of 1000 Mile boot is given a different name to easily identify between styles.
Recently Wolverine has introduced a really cool feature on their website where you can completely customize your own 1000 Mile boot. Everything from the upper material, outsole and stitching can be customized to your liking. Red Wing does not offer a similar custom order service with the Iron Ranger boot. It’s safe to say that when it comes to style options alone, Wolverine wins the Iron Ranger vs 1000 Mile battle.
Now back to the Iron Ranger. Aside from your choice of leather it’s the same heritage work boot no matter which version you choose. But luckily Red Wing Heritage offers plenty of other boot options that can truly compete with the various 1000 Mile styles. For example, those looking for a nice plain toe option that is a little less work boot will really like the Red Wing Blacksmith. We recently did an entire Red Wing Blacksmith vs Iron Ranger comparison that is worth checking out. Other Red Wing Heritage styles that are good Wolverine 1000 Mile alternatives are the Sheldon and Merchant.
So now that we have really explored the differences between the Iron Ranger and 1000 Mile boot it’s time to ask: which is better? Like most of our comparison write-ups it’s always hard to crown one as “the absolute best”. This is because different boots suit different people.
Choose Red Wing Iron Ranger… if you like the look and feel of a classic heritage work boot. Red Wing does an amazing job at keeping those traditional workwear elements in the Iron Ranger and ultimately this is what gives these boots so much character. Iron Rangers are great for stylish casual wear or even light work. The water resistant cork nitrile soles and oil-tanned leather add to the overall utility of the boot. So not only do they look good but they are functional enough for real life.
Choose Wolverine 1000 Mile… if you want a piece of American heritage history that can be dressed up or down. The Wolverine 1000 Mile is a handsome boot that will attract lots of compliments. But it’s not the best for utility use such as light work or walking through snow and ice. If you are looking for a well built boot that is versatile then the Wolverine 1000 Mile will be your best choice.