Red Wing vs Thorogood: Which Moc Toe is Better in 2021?

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

The Original

Red Wing Classic Moc

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The Value-Bomb

Thorogood Moc Toe

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The Red Wing Classic Moc is an homage to traditional boot making, and the leather and construction quality are higher. But the crepe rubber sole and lack of a shank means that it’s not the best choice if you’re planning on buying boots as a tradesman---linemen, plumbers, electricians will likely prefer Thorogood. That said, Red Wings will likely age and conform to your foot better.

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If you’re looking for a solid wedge sole boot that you won’t mind beating up as part of your daily job, the Thorogood Moc Toe is my top choice. The leather isn’t as thick (or as high quality) as Red Wing, nor will the insole comfort to your foot as well, but the polyurethane sole, fiberglass shank, and Poron insole, plus the less expensive price make Thorogood my go-to choice for workmen.

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Pros:

  • More aesthetically pleasing leather options
  • Tougher leather and durable stitching on the upper
  • Leather footbed with cork midsole
  • Easily find steel toe and eight inch versions
  • Virtually no break in
  • Lower price than Red Wing

Cons:

  • Footbed can be stiff and break in can be rough (depends on the leather)
  • No speed hooks
  • The insole is made with synthetic materials, which won’t last as long as leather
  • Stitching quality isn’t as solid as Red Wing

Ah, the great moc toe debate. 

Thorogood? Or Red Wing?

Which should you choose? 

After wearing both for several months, and reading dozens of other reviews, I have a firm opinion on which boot you should get. 

What I learned might shock you.

Thorogood vs Red Wing Overview

Red Wing 8863 Classic Moc Toe Product Shot
Red Wing Classic Moc Thorogood Moc Toe
Upper 2.3mm Oil Tanned SB Foot Tanning Co 2mm thick Oil Tanned Leather
Sole Leather and Cork Poron and Leather
Outsole Crepe Rubber Wedge Polyurethane
Welt 360-degree Goodyear Welt 360-Degree Goodyear Storm Welt
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Red Wing Classic Moc

Red Wing Moc Toe across river

The Red Wing boot company started in Minnesota in 1905, and their heritage line (the Classic Moc included) is still made in Red Wing, Minnesota today.

The Classic Moc was introduced in 1952 and it was the first of its kind. 

So yes, you’re reading that correctly: all other moc toes are imitators. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the imitation isn’t just as good (or better) than the original. 

Red Wing Moc Toe next to sewing machine

In short, the Red Wing Moc Toe is constructed more robustly than the Thorogood Moc Toe, and the leather is higher quality, too. And in my opinion, it’s better looking, as well. Not just because the profile is a little more tailored, but because the leather from S.B. Foot Tanning Company is more interesting. 

But before you go picking up some Red Wings right now, I definitely feel there’s a time and place for the Thorogood Moc Toe.

Red Wing 8863 Classic Moc

The Red Wing Classic Moc Toe boot has quite a large toe box, which can be off-putting for some, though it’s an ideal match for American Heritage workwear aesthetic. The Puritan Triple stitching, 360-degree Goodyear welt, and thick full grain leather footbed all make for a beast of a boot that will easily last years. The 8863 is made from Slate Muleskinner leather---a roughout suede that I think looks super cool.

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Thorogood Moc Toe

model wearing Thorogood for sizing

Thorogood emerged a little later than Red Wing, releasing their first work boots in 1918 right near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

The company is unionized and employee-owned, and they produce their boots in Wisconsin, making them pretty much the most American brand of all time. Thorogood released the “Hike ‘N Camp,” their version of the classic moc toe style back in 1964. 

While they’ve ditched the original name, the boot has remained largely the same since then and is still Thorogood’s most popular boot.

Thorogood closeup american made tag

The Thorogood Moc Toe is a staple—I’m willing to bet that if you go to the nearest construction site, you’ll find at least one guy wearing a pair of Thorogood Moc Toes. 

Why? They’re well built and relatively inexpensive. 

The leather isn’t as thick and the stitching isn’t as robust as on the Red Wing Classic Moc, but it’s also a lot less expensive. So if you work a trade and tend to break your boots down in under a year, the Thorogood Moc Toe is an excellent choice. 

Thorogood Moc Toe

The Thorogood Moc Toe is an excellent value buy work boot. While I don’t think it’s as stylish as other alternatives, lightweight features like a fiberglass shank and Poron insole boost the rugged durability while cutting cost and weight. If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive moc toe work boot, the Thorogood Moc Toe is my top choice.

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Red Wing Classic Moc vs Thorogood Moc Toe

Style

Red Wing Moc Toe slate closeup

Both the Thorogood Moc Toe and the Red Wing Classic Moc feature a 360-degree Goodyear Welt. The Thorogood has a storm welt attached, which offers a bit more weather resistance, but unless you often work in inclement weather, I don’t think you’ll notice much of a difference.

Both have a triple-stitched upper (Red Wing uses their iconic Puritan stitching with two dark threads and one white thread). 

Overall, the Red Wing Classic Moc is much more shaped and slimmed down compared to the Thorogood. 

The Thorogood Moc Toe is quite chunky and unrefined from a style perspective. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as a lot of guys like that super rugged workwear style. 

Red Wing Classic Moc vs Thorogood Moc Toe Comparison

You’ll also notice the Thorogood Moc Toe is about an inch taller than the Red Wing Classic Moc, despite both being advertised as 6-inch boots. The Thorogood also features a pull on tab and has a padded collar around the ankle, whereas the Red Wing just has a simple leather piping detail.

Style is a subjective thing, but I think the Red Wing is a more stylish boot given its more contoured design. 

On the flip side, if you absolutely love the USA and get the chills thinking about the fact that your boot has a tiny American flag on it, you might prefer the style of the Thorogood Moc Toe. 

Both of these beauties featured in our YouTube round-up of the best boots for fall in 2021. Check it out here:

Leather

Red Wing Moc Toe

Red Wing uses their in-house oil tanned leather from the S.B. Foot Tanning Company. My Classic Mocs are in Red Wing’s new Slate Muleskinner leather, which ages really well and can take a beating without needing much extra care.

There isn’t any information on where Thorogood sources their leather, but I can attest that the most popular version of the Moc Toe, the Tobacco leather color, is also tough and doesn’t require much maintenance. 

After measuring both leather thicknesses, Red Wing comes out on top. Their Classic Moc has 2.4mm leather, while Thorogood’s is a respectable 2mm flat. 

While there isn’t any grain to discern on my Slate Muleskinner leather, if you were to compare the Thorogood Tobacco Leather to the Red Wing Oro Legacy, you’d find that the grain is much tighter on the Red Wings. 

Thorogood moc toe boots dirty

They both use full grain oil tanned leather, so you wouldn’t be able to tell a significant difference just looking at the specs on each respective website. But a closer inspection shows that Red Wings leather is superior in just about every way. 

For this reason, I would choose the Red Wing Classic Moc if you’re looking for more of an everyday boot you can wear for several years. Because of the tighter grain, it’s going to age more gracefully and pick up a beautiful patina. 

Sole

Thorogood white wedge sole

While Red Wing takes the point for leather quality, the sole is an entirely different story. 

Thorogood features a storm welt, which has all the same recraftability as the Red Wing, but adds even more weather resistance. 

Beyond that, the Thorogood features a fiberglass shank. There is no shank in the Red Wing. So for arch support, Thorogood is a clear winner. 

The Red Wings have a crepe rubber sole, and while I normally don’t like crepe rubber, this sole must be the highest possible crepe quality because it’s way more sturdy than other crepe soles I’ve tried. 

Due to its softness, it has much more slip resistance than the Thorogood sole. 

The Thorogood features a polyurethane wedge sole, which is harder than crepe rubber. Between the two, I suspect the Red Wing sole will wear down much quicker. The flip side of the coin is that the Thorogood doesn’t have quite as much slip resistance. 

The insole showcases another major difference that might make all the difference for you. 

Red Wing Moc Toe sole detail on white background

The Red Wing insole is made from natural materials—all leather and cork. What that means is that the insole will continue to get more comfortable over time and after a few months, you’ll have a boot that feels custom fitted to your foot.

The Thorogood insole is rubber, fiber board, and Poron. It’s more comfortable upon the first wear, but it’s not going to last as long as the Red Wing. 

Now that’s not a death sentence for Thorogood, however. I know of some guys whose profession makes it impossible to keep a pair of boots around for much longer than a year, regardless of whether they’re working with Red Wings, Thorogoods, or something even higher level like Nicks or Whites. 

If you work in construction, you may prefer the softer, more shock absorbent feel of the synthetic insole in the Thorogoods. You may not get to a point where the synthetic materials shrink and compress, so it may not make a difference. 

Fit & Sizing

Red Wing Moc Toe being tied

Both the Red Wing and Thorogood fit similarly. I’m usually a size 10.5 in sneakers, and I picked up both boots in a size 10. They fit perfectly well and I haven’t had any issues with rubbing or blisters for either brand. 

I do like that Thorogood offers a few 8-inch versions of their Moc Toe, as well as some steel toe and composite toe choices. 

Red Wings most popular leather options are available in sizes 6-15 and widths D, E, and EEE. 

Thorogood break in period

Thorogood offers some wide sizes (and even a few narrow sizes), but they’re not quite as comprehensive as Red Wing. 

Still, if you can find your correct size, they’re both equally comfortable after a few weeks of wear. 

Break In Period

Thorogood broken in moc toe detail

Reviews of other leather options for the Red Wing Classic Moc (like the Oro Legacy and Briar Oil Slick) report that the break in can take a while. 

I have the Slate Muleskinner leather and there was practically no discomfort along the upper.

Red Wing Moc Toe model walking across rocks

Because Red Wings use a thick leather insole, there will be a bit of break in period there, as leather isn’t the most immediately comfortable material to stand on. That said, it will mould to your foot and become very comfortable after a few months. 

The Thorogood Moc Toe in Tobacco leather also had very little break in period, and because the insole is synthetic, the insole was comfortable right out of the box. 

While I didn’t think either was particularly rough on the break in, the Thorogood has a slight edge here because of the Poron insole. 

Stand Out Features

Thorogood Moc Toe

Thorogood tobacco leather color

Two of the biggest differences between the Thorogood Moc Toe and the Red Wing Classic Moc are: 1.) speed hooks, and 2.) the fiberglass shank.

A lot of guys (me included) prefer speed hooks. The Thorogood Moc Toe has three speed hooks near the top, though the top lace is an eyelet, which I don’t understand—I’ve never seen that on another boot. 

Still, Thorogoods are much easier to put on. If you have a bad back, you’ll certainly appreciate less time spent bent over tying your boots. 

Thorogood branding tag and laces

The fiberglass shank and Poron insole may also offer relief for guys with joint and back problems. There’s a great amount of support and shock absorption in the Thorogoods. 

Finally, because the insole is removable, you can also add a custom insert, so they’re a better choice if you have flat feet and want to get a custom orthotic in your boots. If you don’t have a custom orthotic, but want more customized foot support, I recommend Tread Labs insoles. 

You can easily pop in any Tread Labs insole into your Thorogoods and have plenty of knee and back relief if that’s something you’ve struggled with in the past.

Red Wing Classic Moc

Red Wing Moc Toe boots

While the Red Wing Classic Moc may not have removable insoles or speed hooks, it also has a few tricks up its sleeve. 

The starkest contrast between the Red Wing and Thorogood is Red Wing’s use of leather throughout the insole and vamp.

Thorogoods use a cotton fabric lining around the toe, which simply won’t last as long as the leather lining Red Wing uses in the vamp. 

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Also, the Red Wing insole is made from a single thick piece of leather. 

While it’s not as immediately comfortable, this insole will stay supportive for several years, and will even feel like it’s custom-made for your feet as they break into the leather. If you have fairly standard arches and don’t struggle much with knee pain, you’ll find the Red Wing Classic Moc more comfortable over time. And it will last longer, too. 

Which Moc Toe is Best for You?

If you’re looking to invest in a heritage boot that will last for several years of casual wear, you’ll like the Red Wing Classic Moc. 

Red Wing 8863 Classic Moc

The Red Wing Classic Moc Toe boot has quite a large toe box, which can be off-putting for some, though it’s an ideal match for American Heritage workwear aesthetic. The Puritan Triple stitching, 360-degree Goodyear welt, and thick full grain leather footbed all make for a beast of a boot that will easily last years. The 8863 is made from Slate Muleskinner leather---a roughout suede that I think looks super cool.

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It has a more contoured shape, and the natural materials through the insole and the higher quality details (like stitching density and durability) mean the Red Wing will last longer with casual wear. 

Thorogood Moc Toe

The Thorogood Moc Toe is an excellent value buy work boot. While I don’t think it’s as stylish as other alternatives, lightweight features like a fiberglass shank and Poron insole boost the rugged durability while cutting cost and weight. If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive moc toe work boot, the Thorogood Moc Toe is my top choice.

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If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

While both leathers are full grain oil tanned, Red Wing typically has a tighter grain, suggesting the boot will age more gracefully—another point in their column for longevity. 

But there are some trades where no matter the quality of the boot, the conditions will break any boot down in 6-12 months. 

And if you’re looking for a solid USA-built boot for construction, electrical, or plumbing work, you’ll like the added support of the fiberglass shank, the more durable outsole, and the more shock absorbent Poron insole. 

Plus, you’ll save nearly $100 every time you have to buy a new pair of boots (again, I would only consider this a major factor if you work in a trade that requires new boots multiple times a year). 

So which boots sound like the better choice for you?

FAQs

Is Thorogood owned by Red Wing?

No, Thorogood isn’t owned by Red Wing, though Red Wing does own several other brands, including Vasque and Irish Setter. Thorogood is owned by the Weinbrenner Shoe Company in Wisconsin.

Why are moc toe boots popular?

Moc toe boots are known for their rugged durability, slip resistance, toe protection, and weather resistance. They’re an all-around safe and comfortable shoe for working, and many guys love the style.

Does moc toe mean steel toe?

No, the term moc toe refers to the way the toe is stitched to the vamp. Some moc toes feature a steel or composite toe, but not all do. You can tell a moc toe from the “U” shaped stitching along the toe.

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