Red Wing Factory Seconds Buying Guide: Read This Before Shopping

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

How bad can a pair of Red Wing factory seconds actually be? 

I wanted to find out for myself, so I picked up a pair of seconds that are identical to my original Red Wing’s. 

This is the ultimate Red Wing factory seconds buying guide. I’m going to show you how a pair of factory seconds compares to full priced retail boots from Red Wing, direct you to the best place to find factory seconds, and also alert you to a few shady sites that almost tricked me into buying. 

Before you start shopping for Red Wing factory seconds, read this full guide. It’s going to help, I promise.

Red Wing Factory Seconds: Are They Worth It?

Retail red wing moc toe vs factory seconds

My biggest concern before buying factory seconds was that I’d get a messed up pair of boots that wasn’t worth even the discounted price. 

I own several pairs of Red Wing boots: Iron Rangers, Moc Toe, Classic Chelsea, Sawmill, and I used to own a pair of Blacksmiths. So I have extensive experience with the brand. 

They’re one of my favorite brands, and I’m happy to pay full price for a new pair, but the discounts available for factory seconds can be quite appealing.

What are Red Wing factory seconds?

Red Wing factory seconds are boots that have failed to meet the brand’s quality standards for one or more reasons. Most factory seconds have defects in the leather that are mostly cosmetic. However, some have faulty construction that may make one boot larger or smaller than the other.

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For the sake of experiment, I picked up a pair of Red Wing Classic Moc in Slate Muleskinner leather factory seconds. I also have a pair of the same exact boots retail (same model, same leather).

red wing factory seconds compared to original
Retail Classic Moc after 1 year of wear (left), and new factory seconds Classic Moc (right)

I wanted to do a direct comparison.

From what I can tell, cosmetically, there’s very little difference between factory seconds and full priced retail Red Wing boots. 

You’ll see in the pictures that one pair is obviously dirtier: those are the full priced Red Wings I got about a year ago (at the time of writing). The clean boots are the new factory seconds I bought for comparison purposes. 

red wing factory seconds slate muleskinner moc toe
New Red Wing factory seconds

Obviously something had to be different about the factory seconds to make them fall into that category. My best guess is that the left boot has a harsh grain break near the toe box. The roughout leather is far more napped than throughout the rest of the boot. 

defects on red wing factory seconds

I also found a small punched hole in the tongue of the left boot. 

red wing factory seconds hole in tongue of right boot

Otherwise, I couldn’t tell any difference between the factory seconds and retail. 

Now, my experience doesn’t necessarily mean all Red Wing factory seconds are almost the same as retail. I’ve read some stories about people getting seconds with deformed toe-boxes that make the boot uncomfortable.

There is always some risk to buying a pair of factory seconds online. Red Wing does a big warehouse sale where you can see your seconds in person before buying, but that’s in Minnesota. I’m assuming you’re shopping online.

But each story I’ve read of a practically unwearable pair of factory seconds, I’ve also seen two or three comments from people who own five or more pairs of seconds and have gotten a great pair of boots every time.

The most common issue with Red Wing factory seconds is a harsh grain break in the leather (what I have on my left boot). Some will be missing a stitch here or there. But ultimately, these are issues that fade as you start to break your boots in. 

Where to Buy Red Wing Factory Seconds

grain break on red wing factory seconds

The BootSpy YouTube community (over 12,000 strong at the time of writing) knows the best places to find Red Wing seconds, so I put out the call and the response was clear: Sierra Trading Post almost always has some factory seconds available.

Sierra Trading Post

This is the best place to find Red Wing factory seconds.

Shop Sierra Trading Post
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Nordstrom Rack often does, but they’re more hit or miss. And you can find factory seconds on eBay sometimes (where you can buy used, too). 

Red Wing typically hosts a warehouse sale at their Minnesota headquarters where you can try on factory seconds before buying and check out each pair’s specific defects. I’ve never been, but if you’re close to the brand’s HQ, it may be worth a try. 

I bought mine through Sierra Trading Post. They have the greatest variety, both for sizes and styles. There aren’t a lot of factory seconds at any given time, so you won’t always be able to find the style you want. I was hoping to find a pair of Iron Rangers, Blacksmiths, or even Beckmans, but none were available when I was shopping.

But I have looked at Sierra in the past and have seen some really interesting and cool Red Wings that aren’t commonly available (and I’ve also seen plenty of Iron Rangers).

Red Wing Iron Ranger Factory Seconds

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Sierra Trading Post is the only place I’ve seen Red Wing Iron Ranger factory seconds available. But when I went to buy my factory seconds, no Iron Rangers were available. They’re the first style to fly off the shelves because they’re Red Wing’s most popular boot

Sierra will also carry interesting leather options that aren’t available through Red Wing’s online store, so it’s worth checking out Sierra’s stock every few months to see what they have. 

Still, if you’re looking to get your first pair of Red Wing boots—I wouldn’t wait for factory seconds. I’d get the pair you want now. Even at full price, you won’t regret it. 

Red Wing Factory Seconds Scams

red wing factory seconds scam

I was almost fooled by a site that claims to be a USA outlet version of Red Wing’s online store. They seem to have every version of Red Wing boots available in all sizes, all for over 50% off retail. 

This is a scam site. Folks who’ve ordered from there have either received nothing at all, or they were shipped cheap sunglasses or knock-off versions (think $7 Alibaba versions—nothing you’d actually want to wear). 

As far as I can tell, that one site is the only scam out there for factory seconds (or at least it’s the only one major enough that can be easily found by anyone searching for Red Wing factory seconds). 

Worth a Second Look?

Each pair of Red Wing factory seconds is rejected from retail for its own reason. The majority of factory seconds have minor cosmetic issues like mine did (tough grain break in the front of the left boot and a small hole in the tongue). 

For me, that issue basically completely disappears within a few wears after the boot breaks in. So my experience with Red Wing factory seconds has been great. 

The only place I’ve reliably found factory seconds is Sierra Trading Post

I’ve also found some on Nordstrom Rack, though at the time of writing, they didn’t have any Red Wing factory seconds available. 

Be careful to avoid a Red Wing USA outlet site that claims to have factory seconds—that’s a scam site.

Ultimately, buying a pair of Red Wing factory seconds is a bit of a risk. I still fully recommend buying a new pair of Red Wings—even at full price, I think they’re worth it. If this is your first Red Wing experience, don’t take a risk on getting the wrong size (here’s my Red Wing sizing guide for reference). You can’t return factory seconds. 

But if you’ve already had a few good Red Wing experiences, then I think it’s worth checking out their seconds. 


FAQs

What are Red Wing factory seconds?

Red Wing factory seconds are boots that have been rejected by the brand’s quality control agents. Most factory seconds have cosmetic defects in the leather (mine, for instance, have a rough grain break at the toe of the left boot and a hole in the tongue). Many folks don’t mind these cosmetic defects because they tend to blend in after breaking the boots in. You can find factory seconds for a fraction of the full retail price.

What is the most iconic Red Wing boot?

Some say the most iconic Red Wing is the Classic Moc Toe, though I’d argue it’s the Iron Ranger. Both boots have spawned hundreds of similar boots from different brands and each style has been around for over 50 years.

Are Red Wings made in China?

Red Wing Heritage boots like the Iron Ranger, Moc Toe, and others are made in the USA. Some of Red Wing’s work boots are made overseas in factories across asia, including China.

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