Red Wing has been selling shoes and boots of the highest quality for close to a century. That the company has managed to thrive for so long is a testament to its ability to evolve in order to suit the preference of new generations. Somehow, it continues to combine style, comfort and quality in ways that are hard for competitors to match.
Two of the most popular styles offered by Red Wing are the Iron Ranger and Beckman. While they certainly share some similarities, there are also some critical differences within the two. We go over these in detail, so that you can decide which suits you best.
However, the details they have in common should be mentioned before going any further, in case they happen to impact your general choice of boot.
- Quality – The best materials are used, and they are beautifully crafted.
- Welting – Both models feature the superior quality of a Goodyear Welt. The strip that runs along the exterior of a shoe’s sole contributes to its style, comfort, durability and support.
- Durability – The construction of these boots is so solid, that there is an excellent chance that they will outlast even Vibram® soles. But not to worry, they both feature a Goodyear Welt, which means they are easily resolable.
- Comfort – Once these boots are broken in, they are supremely comfortable.
- Relatively Waterproof – One advantage of the Goodyear Welt’s snug construction is that very little water can penetrate the insole. So your feet can remain pretty dry even when walking through puddles or snow.
- No steel toe – While both of these boots will stand up to any number of job sites and tough conditions, they are not recommended for environments where steel toes are a necessity.
- Unlined – Although the toe box is lined with a thick, durable leather, the rest of the boot is left raw. So there is no insulation against snow or extremely cold temperatures. If you are outdoors during those conditions for any significant length of time, your feet are going to get very, very cold.
- Heavy – These boots can be comfortable to wear for long periods of time, but they are noticeably heavier than typical hiking boots. So they should probably be avoided for any serious hiking.
- Run long – Most Red Wing boots should probably be sized down by a half, or even one full size.
There is no question that both the Beckman and Iron Ranger are fine looking boots of the highest quality in construction. And they even share some similarities in style. However, while there are other important differences between the two, there are two which are so basic, they to be considered first.
The Beckman is a much dressier shoe than the Iron Ranger. If you are looking for a rough and tough boot that can hold up at the job site, but also make an easy transition to a casual office or even a decent restaurant, then the Beckman is far more versatile in that regard than the Iron Ranger. They probably won’t go so far as being appropriate with a suit, but Beckmans will probably look good with most anything up to that point…with qualifications we will go into below.
Iron Rangers are notorious for being potentially dangerous if the ground is in the least bit wet. The soles are far too slick to handle snow and rain. However, Red Wing has addressed this issue recently, so at least there are alternative options available now. We tell you what to look out for, but just be aware that you need to be very careful in choosing your Iron Rangers if you spend a great deal of time in extremely cold or rainy climates.
Red Wing Beckman
What a gorgeous boot the Red Wing Beckman is. The sturdy construction is certainly appreciated, but it’s that streamlined profile and smooth leather uppers that draw the eye. The gap between rugged and refined is effortlessly bridged by the Beckman’s clean design.
Yet, they are more than rugged enough to withstand outdoor environments and job sites. They look great with both jeans, khakis, chinos and more. Beckmans are truly one of the most versatile shoes you will find anywhere.
Of course, they are not perfect. So you just need to decide if any of the drawbacks are deal breakers for you. Here are the features and flaws.
- Versatility – The smooth leather with minimal detailing and a plain toe give Beckmans a more refined look which allows them to serve multiple roles in your wardrobe.
- Soles – The practical Vibram® sole mini-lugged rubber outsole makes the Beckman a safe shoe even if you’re stomping through snow. If you live in a harshly cold climate, these will allow you to wear Beckmans regardless of the weather.
- Short Laces – This many not be a big deal for some, but it’s inexplicable that lacing through the eyelets at the very top of the boot results in little lace nubs. You can certainly look for replacements, but these are heavy duty waxed flat laces, and you shouldn’t need to scout around for longer ones.
- No speed hooks – Again, this may not seem like a big deal, but what it means is that you have to take the laces completely out of the top three holes every single time you put your boots on and off. So the process is much longer and more difficult than most boot designs, and one that many people simply will not want to deal with on a daily basis.
- Long break-in period – This is particularly noticeable if you are used to boots made from softer leather or synthetics. But even compared to Iron Rangers, the break-in process is considerably lengthier.
- Bulbous Toe Box – While the Iron Ranger toe box is very similar, particularly in photos, the Beckman’s seems more bulbous in real life. And, according to many buyers, this is even more noticeable on smaller sized feet or when pants break anywhere below the ankle.
Red Wing Iron Ranger
The Iron Ranger is one of the most popular of the high-quality entry level boots available today, and no wonder. Buyers regularly get asked about them, due to the extraordinary design details. This boot is as excellent a combination of style and function as you will find anywhere today.
However, that wasn’t always the case. Red Wing needed to make some significant changes, and some of the older models are still around. That is why you need to pay close attention when choosing the boots which will best fit your needs.
- Design – Few people can deny that Red Wing Iron Rangers are among the most aesthetically pleasing styles of boots you will see anywhere today. While not quite as versatile as the Beckman, they will not look out of place in most casual environments.
- Speedhooks – Unlike the Beckman, you can completely unlace Iron Rangers around the ankle without having to rethread the eyelets when you’re ready to put them on again. This makes for a much faster and easier process.
- Durability – Quality leather and stitching, Goodyear welting, steel shank – all of the Red Wing features that contribute to a boot that can serve you well for years.
- Suede – For those who want boots in a suede-like material, Red Wing offers one of the absolute best. It’s called Hawthorne Muleskinner, but not all models are available with it, including the Beckman.
- Toe Cap – Not only does the toe box on the Iron Ranger does not seem quite as bulbous as on the Beckman, but it is accented appealingly with four rows of stitching, which kicks the style meter up a notch.
- Break-In – All rugged leather boots will require at least some period of break-in, you can’t expect them to feel like sneakers right out of the box. But Iron Rangers have a relatively easy break-in period, not too very long or painful.
- Sole – Older models of Iron Rangers have a cork sole that is extremely comfortable. The problem is, it is way too slick for surfaces that are the least bit wet. If you live in a dry climate, this is not a problem, and you can opt for the extra comfort. Otherwise, you want to be sure and choose one of the newer models with a Vibram® mini-lug sole that will provide traction and stability in the rain or snow.
Both the Red Wing Beckmans and Iron Rangers are beautifully designed, well-constructed high-quality boots. If those are your only criteria, then you can enjoy either of them for many years to come.
- Climate – If you need boots that can handle snow and rain, you will need to make sure you get the latest models of Iron Rangers that feature Vibram® soles, or choose Beckmans.
- Suede – If you want suede boots, your only choice is Hawthorne Muleskinner Iron Rangers.
- Versatility – Beckmans will take you to slightly dressier places than Iron Rangers.
- Pants length – Some buyers have said that if you let your pants break at normal or longer lengths, then the bulbous toe box of Beckmans could give you a slight resemblance to Super Mario.
Now you have the information you need to choose between two excellent styles of boots. But no matter which way you decide, you can rest easy knowing you will have a very eye-catching pair of boots for a very long time.