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6 Best Red Wing Iron Ranger Alternatives

William Barton
Expertise:

Boots, Leather, Heritage Fashion, Denim, Workwear

William founded BootSpy in 2020 with a simple mission: test and review popular men’s boots and give a real, honest opinion. Since then, we've welcomed over 5 million readers on our boot reviews and boot care guides. Reach out to him for your own personalized boot recommendation at william@bootspy.com. Or join 50,000+ subscribers on the BootSpy YouTube channel, or send him a message on the BootSpy Instagram. Read full bio.


Last Updated: Apr 4, 2024
11 min read

If you’re searching for a new pair of high-quality boots , you’ll undoubtedly have the Red Wing Iron Rangers on your radar.

It could be because of their cool history. They’ve been a boot icon since Red Wing created them for miners in the 1930s.

Whether you’re looking to save some cash, or you’re just not a fan of the famous “clown toe”—we’ve pulled together the seven best Red Wing Iron Ranger alternatives.

Why Should You Consider Opting for an Alternative?

Red Wing Iron Ranger 5
  • Price: The Iron Ranger isn’t the cheapest service boot out there, so you might want to consider a more affordable pair with an equal price-to-quality ratio. You may also just want to save your pennies with a full-on budget-buy.
  • Style: When you look at a pair of Iron Rangers, you might think to yourself, “I’d totally buy these if they didn’t look so…” Fill in the blanks. One common issue is the bulbous toe box. I personally don’t love how the nickel eyelets contrast so hard with the leather. Find exactly what you want with alternatives. 
  • Variety: Some guys already have a pair of Red Wings, but can’t get enough tough and masculine military boots into their closet.
  • Fit and comfort: If you’ve owned a pair of Iron Rangers and they never got comfortable enough, it could be your subjective relationship with the construction. You may need a military-style shoe with an EVA sole, or thinner leather, and so on.
  • Uniqueness: The Red Wing Iron Ranger is the boot world’s go-to service shoe, but maybe you’re not a traditionalist. You might be the boot version of the guy who’d rather have the cool new microbrand dive watch over the ubiquitous Submariner.
Here’s a video version covering my favorite boots like the Red Wing Iron Ranger.

My Recommendations

Best Value: Thursday Boots Captain

1.
Thursday Captain

The Thursday Captain is an excellent deal. Made with Thursday's Chrome leather from Le Farc tannery (often compared to Horween Chromexcel), these boots are still holding up well after five years of wear. When (if?) these ever wear out, I’ll be getting them again.

Check Price Read Our Review

A service boot born from the internet age, the Thursday Boots Captains are a sleek and modern take. Thursday focuses on striking a balance between fragile but stylish fashion boots and practical but cumbersome workwear.

Thursday captain boots on wet ground

Visually, the Captains have a slimmer profile and a less bulbous toe compared to the Iron Rangers. Their dark eyelets are also less industrial looking than the Red Wing’s nickel hardware. These make the Captains more versatile, if slightly less “authentic.”

They’re made out of Thursday’s proprietary Chrome leather from Mexico, which is similar to Horween’s Chromexcel, making for a supple and durable boot that’s also more affordable.

Thursday Captain Side on Outside

While the Red Wing’s full-grain Nubuck construction, quad-stitched toe cap, and triple back stitching give it champion-level durability, the Captain can still handle a beating. The leather is full-grain, its Goodyear welt stitched, and their studded rubber outsoles are exceedingly grippy even in rain and snow.

I compared the Thursday Captain to the Iron Ranger in a video, so check it out if you want to see all the differences side by side:

What Makes Them Similar?

  • Their full-grain leather constructions are durable and rich-looking.

  • Both are chrome tanned giving each a level of self-conditioning, though the Thursday Captains are also partly vegetable-tanned.

  • Goodyear welt stitchings and steel shanks provide protection and long-lasting endurance.

What Makes Them Different?

  • The slimmer silhouette and modern updates makes the Thursday Captains slightly less rugged, but more versatile.

  • They’re immediately more comfortable thanks to the EVA comfort strip.

  • Thursday Boots are more affordable.

Are They for You?

If versatility, sleekness, and price are your priorities, the Thursday Captains are one of the best alternatives on the market. You get higher leather and build quality with the Iron Rangers, but the two boots are pretty much equal when it comes to their quality-to-price ratio.

Best Value
Thursday Captain

The Thursday Captain is an excellent deal. Made with Thursday's Chrome leather from Le Farc tannery (often compared to Horween Chromexcel), these boots are still holding up well after five years of wear. When (if?) these ever wear out, I’ll be getting them again.

Check Price Read Our Review

Watch my YouTube review of the Thursday Captain below:


Most Stylish: Grant Stone Diesel

2.
Grant Stone Diesel

The Grant Stone Diesel is a no-frills mid-weight boot built with superb attention to detail and materials. The quality is comparable to other boot makers who retail for $450-600, but the Diesel is much less expensive. It’s one of the better price for value buys you’ll find.

Check Price Read Our Review

While Chinese-produced shoes are known mainly for being budget-friendly, Grant Stone Diesels are one of the few high-end leather boots made in China.

Grant Stone Diesel profile view closeup

This is because each part of the boot is purposefully sourced from all over the world. The chrome-tanned leather lining is from Milwaukee, while the vegetable-tanned upper is from the Badalassi tannery in Italy.

On top of that, the Diesels boast a 360 Goodyear welt construction and a cork filling for a personalized fit after break-in. The triple rib steel shank takes up a generous amount of real estate, for superior protection and shape maintenance.

Grant Stone Diesel on model in brown shirt and green pants

This attention to detail results in an impressive quality-to-price ratio. They’re pricey, but they’d be more expensive if they were made in Europe. The full leather heel blocks are even made in-house.  

Grant Stone Diesel packaging with bag on white background

The Diesels are more polished-looking than the Iron Rangers and can be worn in more formal situations. The toe box is wider on the inside than it looks on the outside, for a slim appearance but roomy fit. The vegetable-tanned leather also takes on patina quickly, giving the shoe a lot of personality.

What Makes Them Similar?

  • Both boots feature a Goodyear welt construction, providing them with long lifespans.

  • They’re built with a triple rib shank for protection and shape maintenance.

  • The cork filling allows the boot to accommodate the specific shape of your foot.

  • At anywhere from ~$300 to ~$350, they’re both in the investment-price category.

What Makes Them Different?

  • Even when looking at the cap-toe versions, the Diesels have smoother, more versatile silhouettes.

  • They’re made in China, with parts sourced from the US and Europe.

Are They for You?

If you want a high-quality boot that isn’t as rugged and rounded at the toe, the Grant Stone Diesels are for you. They may not have as much history and reputation as the Red Wings, but the Diesels are equal in quality.

Most Stylish
Grant Stone Diesel

The Grant Stone Diesel is a no-frills mid-weight boot built with superb attention to detail and materials. The quality is comparable to other boot makers who retail for $450-600, but the Diesel is much less expensive. It’s one of the better price for value buys you’ll find.

Check Price Read Our Review

Watch my Grant Stone Diesel YouTube review below:


Best Plain Toe: Wolverine 1000 Mile 

3.
Wolverine 1000 Mile

The Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot is like an all-star team of America’s best boot-making materials. The Horween Chromexcel leather and Vibram heel cap offer rugged durability that can easily go for 1000 miles---or a decade, whichever comes first.

Check Price Read Our Review

Equal to the Iron Ranger in rank and esteem, the Wolverine 1000 Mile is well-built and boasts a historical design. These rugged shoes are an authentic throwback to an original 1918 Wolverine boot line.

The biggest off-the-bat difference is the classic 1000 Mile’s lack of a cap-toe. This gives it a cleaner look and a less rounded toe box. If you think the Iron Ranger is too clownish, you’ll likely prefer the shape of the Wolverine.

Wolverine 1000 Mile boots with raw denim jeans

It also has a leather outsole and darker eyelets, which blend in better with the shoe, compared to the Red Wing’s nickel hardware.

Wolverine 1000 Mile boot on rocks next to river

The leather outsole is accurate to the original vintage design, but it doesn’t provide as much traction as a rubber sole. Wolverine slaps a vibram heel cap on it, so it’s still an effective everyday shoe. It’s just not the best for wet, snowy, and slippery situations.

closeup on Wolverine 1000 Mile boot leather sole

The Horween Chromexcel leather construction will last for years, and can last for decades. It’s packed with oils, and is shinier than the creamy and matte Iron Rangers. As shiny shoes do, the Wolverines scratch easier, but also buff out just as easily.

What Makes Them Similar?

  • Red Wing and Wolverine are both time-tested and trusted American heritage brands.

  • Both are authentic service boots, with a muscular and sturdy aesthetic and Goodyear welt constructions.

  • Their midsoles are made of cork which provides a custom mold once broken in.

What Makes Them Different?

  • The 1000 Mile’s Chromexcel construction and lack of cap-toe gives it a shinier, sleeker, and less bulbous look.

  • The leather outsole isn’t as durable and grippy.

  • The Wolverines have a much less painful break-in experience.

Are They for You?

Just as with the Red Wings, you get a piece of American history with the Wolverine 1000 Mile Boots. I recommend them to anyone who finds the Thursdays too slim and fashion-forward, and the Red Wings too rounded at the toe.

Best Plain Toe
Wolverine 1000 Mile

The Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot is like an all-star team of America’s best boot-making materials. The Horween Chromexcel leather and Vibram heel cap offer rugged durability that can easily go for 1000 miles---or a decade, whichever comes first.

Check Price Read Our Review

Watch my Wolverine 1000 Mile YouTube review below:


Most Durable: Nicks Handmade Boots Americana

4.
Nicks Americana

If price is a secondary consideration and you’re looking to get a pair of boots that will last you the rest of your life, check out Nicks. Yes, they cost a pretty penny and your order can take up to six months to get to you if you get a customized boot, but the quality is unmatched.

Check Price Read Our Review

American brand Nicks Handmade Boots makes some of the most durable boots in the world. The Nicks Americana is part of the brand’s heritage line, and while it doesn’t have the same insane build as their work boots, it’s still overbuilt in all the best ways.

For my Nicks Americanas, I got the Horween waxed flesh, which took a while to break in, but ages like a fine wine.

nicks americana in waxed flesh roughout 1
I got the Nicks Americana in Horween waxed flesh

You can fully customize your Americanas if you want, and there’s a whole host of different Vibram soles to choose from.

What Makes Them Similar?

  • Both have a cap-toe style, and both are real cap-toes.

  • Both shoes are rugged and traditional service boots.

  • Both boast durable and long-lasting full-grain leather from legendary US tanneries.

What Makes Them Different?

  • The Nicks Americana is completely overbuilt. It’s awesome.

  • You can customize your Nicks from the hardware to the sole, plus many other options.

  • The break in on the Americana is tough.

Are They for You?

If the Iron Ranger looks too lightweight for you and you want something that’ll last basically forever, then check out the Nicks Americana.

Most Durable
Nicks Americana

If price is a secondary consideration and you’re looking to get a pair of boots that will last you the rest of your life, check out Nicks. Yes, they cost a pretty penny and your order can take up to six months to get to you if you get a customized boot, but the quality is unmatched.

Check Price Read Our Review

Watch my Nicks Americana review on YouTube:


Most Versatile: Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill

5.
Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill

The 1757 last is slim and has a sleek instep, which gives this boot and excellent balance between rugged and classy. It’s a beauty. What's more, Allen Edmonds offers a huge variety of sizes, including B and EEE widths, and you won’t find those widths in many other bootmakers unless they’re completely custom. 

Check Price Read Our Review

The ultimate combination of best practices, Allen Edmonds Higgins Mills are the fanciest and priciest Iron Ranger alternative. They’re of similar high-end quality as the Wolverines, but their reduced toe box allows you to wear them with more formal outfits.

Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill profile view on metal staircase

The uppers are beautiful Horween Chromexcel leather, while the Dainite outsoles boast superior traction, weather-resistance, and ease of maintenance. Since mud and dirt don’t stick to it that well, cleaning them is a breeze.

man putting on Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill boot

The Higgins Mills’ biggest style strength is that it’s the most versatile alternative. You can very easily pull them off with both ripped jeans or nice trousers.

What Makes Them Similar?

  • Both are top-quality boots from trusted brands and are Goodyear welt constructed.

  • Their cork soles provide a custom form and fit.

  • They’re both handcrafted in the US.

What Makes Them Different?

  • With a lower toe box and slimmer silhouette, these boots can be worn more formally.

  • The Dainite sole is simple to maintain, durable, and the stacked leather heel is easily replaced. 

  • The Higgins Mills is at least $100 more expensive than the Iron Rangers.

Are They for You?

With its elegantly slender shape and low rise, the Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill is by far the most stylistically versatile option. Unlike the Iron Ranger, you can wear these boots in smart casual situations, even ones that lean heavily into the formal side.

Most Versatile
Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill

The 1757 last is slim and has a sleek instep, which gives this boot and excellent balance between rugged and classy. It’s a beauty. What's more, Allen Edmonds offers a huge variety of sizes, including B and EEE widths, and you won’t find those widths in many other bootmakers unless they’re completely custom. 

Check Price Read Our Review

Watch my Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill YouTube review below:


Best on a Budget: Golden Fox 6″ Boondocker Service Boot Pro

6.
Golden Fox 6" Boondocker Service Boot Pro
The Golden Fox Boondockers aren’t just for those prioritizing budget above all else. Their entry-level price makes them an excellent first heritage-style boot if you’ve never had a pair before. You’ll also prefer them if you like the lightweight desert boot style.
Check Price Read Our Review

The Golden Fox Boondocker Service Boot Pro is an impressive heritage-style boot for its price. It’s made from full-grain leather, Goodyear-welted, and has a steel shank.

It comes with an OK arch-supported insole that you can easily replace. Meanwhile, the crepe sole is comfortable, slip-resistant, and gives it a desert boot aesthetic different from all of the other options. Because of this, the Boondockers can easily sit in the same closet as any of the other pairs on this list without being redundant. 

That said, these boots are definitely a budget-buy due to their much thinner leather construction than the other options. They’re also unlined and single-sewn stitched. At this price range though, you get a lot of boot for your money.

What Makes Them Similar?

  • They’re both made of full-grain leather, though the Golden Fox features a thinner Crazy Horse construction.

  • They both sport a classic heritage-style appearance.

What Makes Them Different?

  • They run half a size bigger than Red Wing shoes do. 

  • They’re unlined, lighter in weight, and single-stitch sewn.

  • The crepe sole gives it a less durable construction, but a lot of slip-resistance and comfort.

Are They for You?

The Golden Fox Boondockers aren’t just for those prioritizing budget above all else. Their entry-level price makes them an excellent first heritage-style boot if you’ve never had a pair before. You’ll also prefer them if you like the lightweight desert boot style.

Best on a Budget
Golden Fox 6" Boondocker Service Boot Pro
The Golden Fox Boondockers aren’t just for those prioritizing budget above all else. Their entry-level price makes them an excellent first heritage-style boot if you’ve never had a pair before. You’ll also prefer them if you like the lightweight desert boot style.
Check Price Read Our Review

Red Wing’s Pinch Hitters 

Convinced? There are plenty of excellent alternatives to the Red Wing Iron Ranger.

Best Value
Thursday Captain

The Thursday Captain is an excellent deal. Made with Thursday's Chrome leather from Le Farc tannery (often compared to Horween Chromexcel), these boots are still holding up well after five years of wear. When (if?) these ever wear out, I’ll be getting them again.

Check Price Read Our Review

Thursday Boots Captains provide a modern take on the Rangers.

Meanwhile, Wolverine give us more minimalist options, with all of the heritage and history as Red Wing.

Equal in construction and material quality are the more formal Allen Edmonds or the less rugged Grant Stone Diesels.

Most Stylish Iron Ranger Alternative
Grant Stone Diesel

The Grant Stone Diesel is a no-frills mid-weight boot built with superb attention to detail and materials. The quality is comparable to other boot makers who retail for $450-600, but the Diesel is much less expensive. It’s one of the better price for value buys you’ll find.

Check Price Read Our Review

The affordable Golden Fox is great for first-timers, and their crepe sole makes them visually unique.

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