I think my hunting dog judges my boot choices—and he might be a snob about it.
Unless I’m wearing topnotch footwear, that black spaniel simply won’t flush those pheasants and grouses out the way he’s supposed to.
Okay, so maybe it’s me. When I’m less effective on the field, he is too. And I’m less effective when I’m wearing bad boots.
The Irish Setter Wingshooter is made for upland hunting, and a good upland boot is also a good general off-trail boot. After all, pheasants, grouse, and woodcocks are found in a broad range of habitats and elevations.
This boot may be a legend in the sport, even named after the proper shooting technique, but in this review, I’m going to scrutinize the Wingshooter like a suspect being interrogated. By the end, you’ll know whether it’s right for you.
Irish Setter Wingshooter Overview
The popular and highly-esteemed Wingshooter is Irish Setter’s original boot. Introduced in 1950, this hunting boot has taken on modern upgrades while maintaining the classic look.
The upper is 100% full-grain leather, which wraps around a proprietary layer, Irish Setter’s UltraDry membrane. This coating is a fabric that combines a moisture-wicking nylon lining with other waterproof materials, so that it keeps water at bay from the outside and disperses moisture from the inside.
Goodyear welted to the upper is the boot’s iconic white outsole, which is made of two kinds of thick rubber.
This specific Wingshooter model is seven inches tall for an ankle-high fit, with two pairs of speed hooks per boot. It’s built with a steel support shank, a heel molded counter, and a moc toe.
Things to Consider Before Buying the Irish Setter Wingshooter
The three most common uses for the Wingshooter are outdoor activity, as a work boot, and as a casual shoe.
If you’re using it for outdoor recreation, the first thing to consider is your specific activity. This boot is built to be an upland hunting boot, which means it’s best used off-trail. If you’re going on a long trail hike, you’ll want something lighter, with a slightly deeper tread. Second, if you’re going to be exposed to snow, you’ll want to trade the ankle-high Wingshooter for the nine-incher.
If you’re using this shoe as a work boot, the main thing to keep in mind is that it has a moc toe, not a steel toe. When it comes to hunting, this shoe offers sufficient protection. As a work boot, a moc toe won’t protect your foot from the heaviest falling tools the way an ASTM rated steel toe can.
As a casual shoe, I think the Wingshooter is really cool-looking because of its rugged and adventurous style. Plus the Goodyear welt means it can last you a long time, especially if you aren’t actually putting it to work. Have fun choosing a color, but keep in mind that the break-in period is pretty bad—more on that later.
Irish Setter Wingshooter Review
Immediately, I absolutely loved the style of this boot. As an upland hunter, I’m fully familiar with the iconic look and was thrilled to be holding the boot in my hands.
It’s well-structured, with the shaft and quarter triple-stitched to bottom, and a leather back stay further fortifying this connection. The black and white stitching throughout not only indicates solid construction, but adds a dynamically segmented aesthetic. The moc toe is even sectioned off with three contrast stitches on each side.
The granular brown leather looks tough and sturdy like a football, smells and feels natural, and contrasts well with the Wingshooter’s trademark white outsole.
I also think the embossed Irish Setter dog logo on the side and the stitched shield on the lip are nice touches.
This boot is super easy to slip on and the speed hooks make it really quick and convenient to take off. It’s noticeably comfortable around the ankle thanks to the padded collar and lined lip, which is attached to the body of the shoe.
That’s where the comfort ends though. The footbed felt stiff upon first wear and the thick outsole put a lot of pressure on the balls of my feet whenever I’d bend them. On top of that, this boot felt so tight at first, I thought I ordered the wrong size.
Leather Quality and Care
The leather feels supple, but definitely stiff at first. It stays relatively hard even after it’s broken in, but easily bendable where it’s supposed to.
I like this because it offers great protection out in the woods, and sticks and bush won’t scuff the upper easily.
The back of the lip is lined with cordura, which is a synthetic fiber that’s durable, abrasion-resistant, and much softer than the leather on the front of the lip. This makes the collar super comfortable, even when you go tight on the laces, which you’ll want to do to seal the top.
Between the SuperDry interior and the leather exterior, the Wingshooter is truly waterproof. I’ve been out in the rain in this boot, and the water definitely didn’t get through.
During one of my hunts, I accidently stepped into some pretty thick mud. To get the muck off of my boot, I stomped around in a puddle, the depth of which completely covered the toe portion of the shoe.
The puddle water didn’t get through. Moreover, the mud slid right off of the upper and the outsole.
Which leads me into the next great quality: This boot is pretty easy to clean. I found this surprising considering how textured and architectural it is. There are a lot of nooks and crannies for dirt to stick to.
Still, running water easily dislodges any stuck dirt. Just make sure you do it immediately after a day out. For a proper clean, you can just use a cloth with warm soapy water.
Once the Wingshooter is broken in, its sole is impressively grippy on the field thanks to the outsole’s clever design.
The main body of the outsole is a thick, white rubber with a shallow wavy tread that grips loose dirt, snow, and shallow mud without holding onto it. In the center of this white rubber, are two pieces of harder rubber, each dotted with smaller rounded treads for heavier duty situations. These are helpful when the mud, dirt, or snow is deep and more tightly packed.
There’s a slight, non-dramatic heel, so it gives you more grip than a regular wedge, but all of the comfort and stability (eventually).
I will say that when it gets far below freezing out, the outsole stiffens if you’re static for too long. On days like that, I recommend either finding a more winterized boot or just making sure you don’t stop moving to keep the rubber flexible.
The dual-density sole balances out the thick outsole. However, the insole is a skinny single-density polyurethane. It was okay for me, but if you have foot conditions that cause discomfort, you’ll definitely need something more sophisticated.
Fit and Sizing
As mentioned, I initially thought I ordered the wrong size because the boot felt so tight. Once the boot was broken in though, my true-to-size 8s fit like a glove.
It also offers great support, which I’m sure is because of the steel shank.
One great thing about the Irish Setter Wingshooter is that, depending on the style, you can get it in a wide range of sizes and widths. They offer sizes 6 to 16, in narrow, regular, wide, and extra wide.
This is where the Wingshooter loses some points.
A few reviewers mention that the break-in period takes about a day. For me, it took almost two weeks. Hopefully your experience will be more like the former.
The leather started out stiff and the shoe felt super tight around my foot. I had to put soft tissues near my ankle bone because the shaft was digging into it.
The outsole was so rigid, that it created hotspots on the balls of my feet, since any bending was met with stubborn resistance.
I wore these every other day before they started to feel broken in.
What do Other Reviewers Say?
Most, if not all, aggregate reviews rate the Wingshooter pretty highly. Reviewers are a balanced mix of hunters, general outdoor enthusiasts, and fashion buyers.
Most love the style, the unique and adaptable outsole, and Irish Setter heritage.
There are a minority of complaints regarding the shoe being made in Asia. Irish Setter is a division of Red Wing, so there are a lot of comparisons to the two. Those who aren’t satisfied with the Wingshooter’s quality point out the skinny insole, and compare the shoe to American-made Red Wing shoes.
Some reviewers recommend ordering half a size bigger. I think this is a mix of people writing reviews before the boot is broken in, and those who just prefer a slightly looser fit than I do. Fortunately, the availability of half sizes gives you room to decide.
Irish Setter Wingshooter Alternatives
Irish Setter Ashby
Visually similar to the Wingshooter, the Irish Setter Ashby is the work boot equivalent of its hunting shoe cousin. They have an identical silhouette and they both sport a tough waterproof leather exterior.
The Ashby’s outsole, however, is heat-resistant up to 475 degrees. It’s electrical hazard rated, and features an aluminum toe protector, which is protective but not as heavy as a traditional steel toe.
It also has a simpler tread and lacks the convenient speed hooks. If you like the Wingshooter, but wish it was more worksite-appropriate, the Ashby is your best bet.
Thorogood Moc Toe
Like the Wingshooter, this Thorogood boot is ankle-high, equipped with a moc toe, and features great water resistance. They’re also both Goodyear welt stitched.
The main difference between the two is that the Thorogood is a lot lighter than the Wingshooter, which means it will fare better on long trail hikes.
Instead of a steel shank, this boot has one made of fiberglass, which offers all of the support and much less of the weight.
While the Thorogood Moc Toe is considered a true work boot, another reason it’s so light is because the outsole isn’t as multi-faceted. It’s a similar white shallow treaded rubber as the Wingshooter, without the harder rubber component that makes the Wingshooter so versatile.
My Overall Thoughts on the Irish Setter Wingshooter
What I Like
The full-grain leather upper is tough, not easily scuffed, and fully waterproof.
The Goodyear welt construction is reassuring and a great value for money.
With two materials and two tread designs, the outsole provides traction on mud, brush, grass, and even snow.
The Steel shank provides stability and protection.
Well-structured and offered in several colors, the style of this boot is stylish and classic.
What I Don’t Like
The break-in period is painful and long.
I don’t like how the thick outsole stiffens up in extra cold temperatures.
The pull-on tab is pretty big and has the potential to get caught on things.
Who is the Irish Setter Wingshooter For?
The Wingshooter is made especially for hunters and boasts all of the necessary features that make a good hunting boot. Once broken in, they’re comfortable enough to stomp around different kinds of terrain for hours at a time. That being the case, this shoe is a proficient choice for outdoor sportsmen in general, as long as you aren’t required to run.
As it turns out, the Irish Setter Wingshooter is still fully deserving of its superb reputation. Its best qualities are its waterproofness, dynamic outsole, and the Goodyear welt which ensures durability and longevity.
While some purists are disappointed that this classic American boot is now made in Asia using materials that aren’t as high-end as the more expensive Red Wing heritage boots, Irish Setter has done a commendable job keeping up with new technologies for the past few decades. Overall, the Wingshooter is a high-value boot for those looking for proper hunting footwear.
Do Irish Setters run true to size?
Most Irish Setter boots are true to size, with the exception of the steel-toe loggers which run small.
Where are Irish Setter Wingshooters made?
Irish Setter Wingshooters are made in Asia, usually in Vietnam or China.
Are Irish Setters good shoes?
Yes, they offer good value for their price, which is why they’re so popular among workers and hunters. Just make sure you choose the exact model for your needs.
Are Irish Setters made by Red Wing?
Yes. Irish Setter is a division of Red Wing. Depending on the model, some Irish Setter and Red Wing lines are made in Minnesota, and others are made in Asia.