Thursday Boots vs Red Wing: Which is the Better Boot Brand?

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

The Upstart

Thursday Boot Company

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The Classic

Red Wing Heritage

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Thursday Boot Company is one of my favorite brands because they have a wide range of stylish boots that are built well (Goodyear welted construction, great leather, etc.). They’re also very comfortable and easy to wear for long periods of time. Compared to Red Wings, they’re much slimmer, more versatile (from a style perspective), more comfortable, but less durable and less suited to working applications.

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Red Wings are classics for a reason: they’re built tough and they’re made to last. Red Wing boots are much bulkier than Thursdays, so they might make more sense for you depending on your style. Red Wing also has a more interesting collection of leathers. Whether that’s worth paying around 60% more is up to you.

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Pros:

  • Excellent value for money
  • Super comfortable
  • Stylish, with a wide variety of models available
  • Made in the USA
  • Interesting leather options that age and patina beautifully
  • Durable and can hang with work, riding, or just as a style boot

Cons:

  • Insoles don’t have quite the same durability compared to Red Wing
  • Very little shock absorption

Back when I was in college, I remember seeing a guy wearing a pair of Red Wing Iron Rangers.

They were the first pair of boots that really made an impression on me. It took me a while to track them down, but when I saw the price tag, I was shocked. 

So I started looking for less expensive alternatives. I ended up getting a pair of Thursday Captains, and my boot obsession only grew from there (I ended up getting the Iron Ranger about two years later). 

Looking back many years later (and many boots later), I can see plenty of reasons why someone would want the Captain over the Iron Ranger, and vice versa. 

Here, I’m comparing several Thursday boots to their Red Wing counterparts: most notably, the Captain vs the Iron Ranger. But not just those two powerhouses—I’ve picked up 10 pairs of Thursdays and four pairs of Red Wings in my day, so I’m also comparing what it’s like to shop with either brand and how their boots have held up over the years. 

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Thursday Boots Red Wing
Upper Thursday Chrome, Rugged & Resilient S.B. Foot Tanning Company
Sole Leather insole, DuraEVA comfort strip Leather insole, cork filling
Outsole Custom, Rubber Studded Vibram Rubber
Warranty Free 30 day returns 12-month warranty and free 30 day returns
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Thursday Boots vs Red Wing Overview

I’m going to compare several Thursday and Red Wing boots head-to-head further down, but there are some important differences between these two companies. You may prefer one brand over the other based on your needs, so I’m going to break down the relative strengths and weaknesses of each boot brand first. 

Thursday Boot Company

closeup Thursday Boots Captain in arizona adobe against concrete 1
Thursday Captain in Arizona Adobe

Thursday Boot Company is the brand I recommend for guys looking to get their first traditionally crafted pair of boots. 

Most Thursdays feature a 360-degree Goodyear welt, and use one of Thursday’s three proprietary leathers: Thursday Chrome, Rugged & Resilient, or their WeatherSafe suede. 

Thursday boots are meant for style. They typically have a slimmer toe box, and they certainly have greater variety in their models: you can find heritage style boots, combat boots, Chelsea boots, dress boots—you could easily shop Thursday for all levels of formality, which isn’t the case for Red Wing. 

As I said, the Thursday Captain was the first good boot I ever bought, and there’s a specific reason: the price. 

Thursday boots usually hover right around the $200 mark. That’s 60% less expensive than comparable Red Wing boots. 

Overall, it’s true that Thursday boots aren’t as durable and the leather isn’t as high quality as with Red Wing, but they’re still well crafted and made with excellent materials. 

In my opinion, Thursday offers a better value-for-money than Red Wing, though I’d say Red Wing is better quality overall. 

I also appreciate the variety of Thursday boots: Chelseas, moc toes, dress boots, combat boots—their boots all look cool and are versatile from a style perspective. Red Wing’s Heritage line has a few basic models and they’re not very inventive (they seem to remove their new designs after a season). 

Thursday Boot Company

Thursday Boots is my top recommendation for people looking to buy their first great-quality pair of boots. Their value for money is excellent. I haven’t found another brand that makes boots this good for under $200.

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Red Wing Boots

red wing iron ranger boots on gravel next to river

Red Wing has been around since 1905 and the Heritage line has always been made in the USA

The most popular Red Wing Heritage boots are the Iron Ranger and the Classic Moc Toe

Compared to Thursday boots, they’re much bulkier and the leather and construction can handle tough working conditions better. 

Red Wings aren’t as comfortable as Thursdays because the insole is made traditionally: leather and cork (with a steel shank). Thursdays also have leather, cork, and a steel shank, but they often have a Poron insole and a DuraEVA comfort strip in the midsole so you get a lot more shock absorption.

However, after a month or two of breaking in your Red Wing boots, they become much more comfortable and the difference isn’t as noticeable. Still, if I had to stand for 10 hours, I’d rather be standing in Thursdays than Red Wings. 

Red Wing uses leather from their own S.B. Foot Tanning Company, which is superb quality. Thursday’s leather options are more formulaic—there are really only three leathers, and the different color options are just different dyes. But different Red Wing leathers have very distinct qualities and age in unique ways.

Red Wing Heritage

Red Wing's Heritage line is iconic. The Iron Ranger, Classic Moc Toe, and other amazing boots have made their mark on American style history.

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Thursday Captain vs Red Wing Iron Ranger

Thursday Boots Captain vs Iron Ranger0

For most folks, this is the ultimate showdown: which is better, the Iron Ranger or the Captain?

They’re both cap toe boots, and this comparison really shows the differences between the two brands. While my comparison here specifically discusses these two individual boots, you can pretty much apply everything I’m saying here to any boot from either brand. 

It’s like this: the Captain distills down everything that makes Thursday boots great, and the Iron Ranger does the same for Red Wing.

I don’t think one of these boots is better, or that you should definitely get one and dismiss the other. 

Instead, I think each boot has its strengths and that one is better for you depending on what you need. 

Thursday Captain

Thursday Boots Captain outfit 1

The Thursday Captain is one of the brand’s first launches, and like the Iron Ranger, it’s a cap toe service boot. 

It features a 360-degree Goodyear welt, a rubber studded outsole (Thursday also offers the Storm King lug sole), and comes in 16 different leather options at the time of writing. 

You can find the Captain in standard D width and many leathers are also available in EE/EEE widths. Plus, you can get sizes 6-16, so there’s plenty of options when it comes to Thursday sizing. 

The Captain is much slimmer than the Iron Ranger, especially in the toe box. It’s not a dress boot (service boots are casual), but the Captain is much more sleek looking and pairs better with slim fit jeans and chinos than the Iron Ranger does. 

If your taste in fashion is more modern, you’ll like the look of the Thursday Captain. It balances the rugged workwear vibe with contemporary fashion.

While I consider the Captain to be more of a fashion boot, it’s still made with high quality materials and construction—you can see what my first Thursday Captains look like after four years in my video review here: 

They’re holding up well. I was so pleased with them after four years, I picked up two more pairs.

Another big selling point for me was the price—at under $200, the Captain is a phenomenal value. That makes them the best entry level boot in my opinion, and they’re the first boot I recommend to guys who want good quality footwear but don’t know where to start. 

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 four years of wear. When (if?) these ever wear out, I’ll be getting them again.

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Red Wing Iron Ranger

walking down train tracks in red wing iron ranger boots
Red Wing Iron Ranger in Amber Harness

The Red Wing Iron Ranger is an absolute classic: one of the most iconic boots there is. 

I have the Iron Ranger 8111 in Amber Harness, which is the most standard and widely available version. 

With quadruple stitching along the toe cap, the Puritan triple stitch along the vamp, and an all-leather and cork insole, the Iron Ranger is able to take a beating. It’s built on Red Wing’s #8 last, which is the same as their Blacksmith and Classic Chelsea. 

It’s a bump-toe last, meaning the toe box is taller and wider. There’s definitely a lot more room in the toe of the Iron Ranger than the Captain. I don’t feel uncomfortable in either boot, but for some guys, the extra room in the toe is crucial. 

You should get a pair of cedar shoe trees for your Iron Rangers, though, because without the extra support, the leather along the instep tends to collapse, giving the Iron Ranger a bit of a “clown shoe” look. 

At the time of writing, I’ve had my Iron Rangers for about 18 months—check out my video review if you want to see what they look like after one year of wear:

The Iron Ranger also features a Goodyear welt, though it’s a 270 degree welt and not a full 360 degrees. In my experience, that hasn’t made any difference in the weather resistance or durability. 

You can also watch my video breakdown comparing these two boots below:

Thursday Diplomat vs Red Wing Classic Moc Toe

Thursday Diplomat vs Red Wing Classic Moc Comparison

This is a less common comparison, but also worth digging into if you’re interested in moc toe boots for fall and winter. 

The Thursday Diplomat is far slimmer and sleeker than the Red Wing Classic Moc Toe, and it’s the only moc toe I’d wear with slim fit tapered jeans. The Red Wing Classic Moc is quite bulky, and if you have too much taper below the knee on your pants, it can look a bit clunky. 

The Red Wing Classic Moc Toe is a great boot for working, and I won’t say the same is true for the Diplomat

I did a test comparing some of the most popular moc toe boots (Thursday, Red Wing, Danner, Thorogood) on the market and had some very interesting findings. 

The Red Wing and Thursday soles both had the same level of traction on oily concrete—they beat out Danner, but didn’t have as much traction as Thorogood. 

Another surprise is that the Thursday Diplomat has a steel shank, and the Red Wing doesn’t. Because these boots both feature a wedge sole, the steel shank is less important, but it still offers a little extra arch support. 

Thursday Diplomat

The Thursday Boots Diplomat is a one-of-a-kind moc toe. Most comparable boots have a huge toe box that doesn’t work well with a pair of fitted jeans or chinos. Combine a slim design with high quality materials like a Vibram Christy wedge sole, steel shank, and Thursday’s excellent oil-tanned Rugged & Resilient leather, and you’ve got a winner here.

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I think the biggest reason to choose one boot over the other is the style. If you’re doing any sort of work in these boots, I’d definitely choose the Red Wing Classic Moc because it has a lot more room in the toes. But that also makes the boot much bulkier. 

Red Wing 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.

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That extra bulk might fit your style. But if you prefer slimmer jeans and a more contemporary look, then the low profile and sleek instep of the Thursday Diplomat is going to suit you better. 

Thursday Boots vs Red Wing: Which is Best for You?

Thursday has the greatest variety of styles, and they’re much better about keeping consistent stock on their site. If you’re shopping online, it’s a much easier process with Thursday Boot Company

Red Wing boots are iconic: the Iron Ranger and Classic Moc Toe are excellent boots. If you’re looking to try some boots on in person, you’ll have a much easier time finding a Red Wing store to go get your fit in person (or you can read my Red Wing sizing guide here). 

Both brands use a Goodyear welted construction for the majority of their models, and I still haven’t had a boot from either brand break down. I know my Thursday Captains are still going strong after four years, and while I’ve only had my Iron Rangers for about 18 months, I’m sure they’ll last at least that long, too. 

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 four years of wear. When (if?) these ever wear out, I’ll be getting them again.

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Thursday boots are more comfortable because they have the DuraEVA comfort strip and the Poron insole. But Red Wing insoles are more durable because they’re all leather and cork. 

Red Wings have more room in the toes, but that also makes them much bulkier. If your style is more traditionally rugged, then this bulkier look is ideal. 

But if you have a more slimmed down contemporary style, Thursday Boot Company has better options for you. Plus, Thursday puts out a lot of different boot styles so it’s easy to pick up multiple pairs. 

You may be all about price and value for money. Consider this: the Thursday Captain costs about 60% as much as the Red Wing Iron Ranger. You can get two Thursdays for one Red Wing (can you see why I own 10 Thursdays and four Red Wings?). I think Thursday offers better value for money.

Thursday Boot Company

Thursday Boots is my top recommendation for people looking to buy their first great-quality pair of boots. Their value for money is excellent. I haven’t found another brand that makes boots this good for under $200.

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Though from a pure quality perspective, Red Wing wins with their superb leather options and construction durability. 

Red Wing Heritage

Red Wing's Heritage line is iconic. The Iron Ranger, Classic Moc Toe, and other amazing boots have made their mark on American style history.

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I love both brands, so I don’t think you can make a wrong choice. But I’ll break it down like this: if you want a boot for style, pick Thursday. If you want an everyday boot that you can beat up for years, choose Red Wing.

So what will it be for you?

FAQs

What boots are comparable to Red Wing?

There are a few boot brands that are comparable to Red Wing. Check out Wolverine, Thursday Boot Company, Thorogood, Oak Street Bootmakers, and Grant Stone. These brands are all very different and have some aspects that are similar to Red Wing and some major differences.

Are Thursday boots good outdoors?

Thursday boots do well outdoors because they have a Goodyear welted construction and the Poron insole plus DuraEVA comfort strip make them easy to walk long distances in. I wouldn’t get Thursday boots specifically for outdoor use because there are better outdoor boots, but if you have a pair of Thursdays and you’re wondering whether you can do one or two hikes in them, I say go for it. 

Do Thursday boots fit wide feet?

Thursday offers their most popular models in EE/EEE sizing. If you have wide feet, I recommend choosing an EE/EEE size rather than sizing up a D-width boot.

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