One of the biggest questions I had before buying my first pair of good boots was how long they were supposed to last.
When you’re spending a few hundred dollars, you want to know you’re going to get something that you can wear long enough to make it worthwhile.
With most Red Wing boots costing over $300, that’s not a purchase a lot of us can make every year.
How you treat your Red Wings will obviously impact how long they last, but I want to give you some guidelines on what you can expect from your Red Wing boots, and what you can do to make them last longer.
How Long Should a Pair of Red Wing Boots Last?
If you wear your Red Wing boots every day without any care, cleaning, or resting, they should last you about two years.
I’ve heard of people wearing through their Iron Rangers in six months when wearing them on a job site. On the flip side, I’ve also met people who’ve owned their Iron Rangers for 20 years.
A good bench mark is two years. At that point, if you wear your Red Wing boots several times per week, you’ll probably need to have them resoled.
That said, here are my Iron Rangers after two years:
As you can see, my Iron Rangers don’t need a resole any time soon. I might hit the resole point at five years.
But I have dozens of boots and wear my Iron Rangers probably once a week—sometimes twice.
Here are my Red Wing Moc Toes after a year (Slate Muleskinner leather):
Again, these are looking a bit dirty, but certainly don’t look like they need a recraft or like they’re on their way out.
At the rate I wear my Red Wings, they’ll probably last six or seven years before I need to resole them.
And depending on the cobbler you go to, you can have your boots resoled an unlimited amount of times.
3 Tips to Make Red Wing Boots Last Longer
If you want your Red Wings to last longer than two years, here are the three biggest things you can do:
- Give them a day or rest in between wears
- Use cedar shoe trees
- Condition the leather every 6-12 months, depending on how often you wear your boots
The most important thing you can do to make your boots last longer is to give them a day of rest in between intense wears.
So if you work in your boots, I recommend getting two pairs of boots and alternating between them.
Red Wing boots use exceptional leather, but when you wear your boots every day, moisture can build up in the pores of the leather. When you rest your boots, you give the leather a chance to release some of that moisture.
This both helps the leather insole and the upper.
It’s even better if you rest your boots with cedar shoe trees in them, as that’ll speed up the drying process (and you get the bonus of better-smelling boots).
I highly recommend a quality set of cedar shoe trees for any boot you want to take good care of. These Strattons are the best I've found. The spring is firm, but not overly so, making them easy to take out, and the design means they'll fit a wide range of your boots and shoes.
As for conditioning, I don’t like to over-condition my leather. Certain Red Wing leathers like the Amber Harness are pull-up leathers, meaning they’re packed with natural oils and waxes already and they don’t need much care to stay supple and flexible.
But even with a rich pull up leather, it’s a good idea to condition your boots once a year.
For Red Wing’s Amber Harness, Ebony Harness, and Briar Oil Slick leather, I love to use Venetian Leather Balm. It keeps the leather supple without changing the color or adding any shine.
After testing 10 of the most popular leather conditioners, Venetian came out as my top pick because it nourishes leather, doesn't change the color, and actually adds a decent amount of weather resistance as well.
For Red Wing’s roughout leathers like the Slate Muleskinner or the Copper Rough and Tough, you can just use a suede brush or a horsehair brush—no conditioner necessary. If those leathers are getting really dry, I would use Saphir Renovateur spray so you don’t change the knap of the boot.
Red Wing Resole
If your Red Wing boots are in need of a resole, there’s one really important consideration to make when deciding who to send your boots to.
Red Wing does offer to resole their boots for about $115.
And if you go through Red Wing, you can likely get your boots resoled twice (so three new soles total), before the leather that attaches to the Goodyear welt is completely shot out.
But if you go through a hand-welting cobbler (like my local cobbler Wyatt & Dad), you can have your Red Wing boots resoled an unlimited amount of times.
So why the difference?
A great cobbler will deconstruct the boot and use the same holes that were originally punched in the leather to sew a new welt on.
Red Wing doesn’t do that—they just machine punch new holes and quickly sew on a new welt.
Initially, there’s no difference—you’ll still get several years of wear out of each resole.
But if you send it back to Red Wing again, they’ll punch another new set of holes in the upper leather and attach another welt. Now you have three separate sets of holes—you won’t be able to notice a difference from the outside. But if they were to try and resole a third time, the leather would break apart and the welt wouldn’t be able to stay stitched to anything.
It’s definitely more expensive to go to an independent cobbler—my Wyatt & Dad repair on my Thursday Captains cost around $220.
So that’s an important consideration: Red Wing’s resole cost $100 less, but you only get two of them.
An independent cobbler may cost $100 more, but you’ll be able to resole your boots 50 times if you really wanted.
Red Wing Boot Warranty
The Red Wing boot warranty will cover your boots if there’s a major defect that causes the boot to break down from regular wear.
Their warranty doesn’t cover if you’re working in harsh conditions though, so there’s not much you can do if you work construction and beat up your boots.
Most factory defects are pretty immediately apparent and are often caught before they leave the factory, so there’s a good chance you’ll never have to use the Red Wing warranty.
The most common issue that leads to using the Red Wing warranty usually has to do with the insole lifting up, or the outsole becoming detached. However, Red Wing’s quality control team is really solid—those issues almost never happen.
But those types of cases are definitely covered by the warranty.
Red Wing for Life?
Some guys are Red Wing fans for life. I get it.
They’re fantastic boots, and if you treat yours right, you could own a pair for the rest of your days.
Crazy to think about, right?
Do Red Wings have a lifetime warranty?
No, Red Wing boots have a 12-month warranty.
Does Red Wing clean boots for free?
Yes, many of the Red Wing stores will clean your boots for free if you bring them in.
When should I resole my Red Wings?
Consider resoling your Red Wings when the heel wears down to such an angle that it’s near touching the midsole. If the rubber sole ever wears down to the point where there’s a hole, it’s definitely time to resole. That may take two or three years of consistent, everyday wear.