Red Wing and Wolverine are two of the most reputable boot companies still in business today. With decades of experience, they create quality work and dress boots for any environment. Footwear enthusiasts usually compare two of the companies’ oldest models, the Red Wing Iron Ranger and the Wolverine 1000 Mile. While both are excellent boots, they have different uses.
For men looking for a durable work boot that you can dress up with a casual outfit, the Iron Ranger provides all of the protection that you need.
However, your best choice would be the 1000 Mile if you are looking for a reliable dress boot that suits a variety of settings.
|Feature||Red Wing Iron Ranger||Wolverine 1000 Mile|
|Price||Expensive||Slightly more expensive than the Iron Ranger|
|Construction||6" ankle boot||6" ankle boot|
|Outsole||Vibram rubber with deep lugs|
|Leather outsole with Vibram rubber heel|
|Upper||Oil-tanned, full-grain leather with reinforced lace holes and metal eyelets||Chromexcel polished leather with reinforced lace holes and metal eyelets|
|Stitching||Triple-stitched||A combination of Single, Double, and triple-stitching|
|Color||Amber Harness (brown)|
Black Harness (black)
|Sizing||Large but narrow|
|Large but narrow|
Medium, Wide, and Extra Wide
|Durability||Unfinished leather is thicker than 1000 Mile||Polished leather scuffs and creases easily|
Vibram heel detaches
|Best Use||Work boot||Casual dressy boot for social settings|
Iron Ranger vs. 1000 Mile
We’ve compared Red Wing vs Wolverine head to head before, but now let’s focus on these best selling boots and how they stack up to one another.
Red Wing Iron Ranger
The Red Wing Iron Ranger was one of the company’s first successful designs. Originating in the 1920s, this 6” ankle boot is long-lasting leather footwear with decades of tradition. Available in brown and black, the Iron Ranger is a durable work boot with a rugged and classic appeal. Inspired by the first work boots supplied to miners, Red Wing makes their Iron Ranger in the United States, from the outsole to the upper. Since their inception, the company has used traditional methods to craft stable, tough work boots that hold up better than most other brands on the market today.
Wolverine 1000 Mile
The Wolverine 1000 Mile is also an American-made 6” ankle boot. Released in the early twentieth century, this boot’s name comes from its original construction. The leather and sole of this work boot lasted for 1000 miles of walking before it started to fall apart. Unlike the Red Wing Iron Ranger, the Wolverine 1000 Mile has the aesthetic of a casual shoe than a work boot.
With a more formal look, it is polished and sophisticated, perfect for settings that require casual dressy attire. The 1000 Mile has more color options than the Iron Ranger so you can always find a pair that works for your style. That’s not to say that they aren’t durable. With a leather upper and a Vibram heel, this leather boot holds up to daily use in mild terrain. However, the rugged Iron Ranger is sturdier than the Wolverine 1000 Mile.
Both the Red Wing Iron Ranger and the Wolverine 1000 Mile run large but narrow. The companies suggest ordering a ½ size down from your regular boot size. Neither model comes in narrow sizes, but medium widths are available. While the Iron Ranger has wide options, the 1000 Mile goes up to an extra wide. Both boots are expensive and require extra care, like any leather footwear. The Wolverine is slightly more costly than the Iron Ranger, and the polished leather needs more conditioning.
Since its first release, the Iron Ranger had an oil-resistant cork outsole. In summer 2018, Red Wing changed the design, opting for a Vibram rubber outsole. Although you can still find models with the cork sole, the Vibram-soled Iron Rangers are more slip-resistant. Vibram, an Italian footwear company, manufactures vulcanized rubber outsoles with defined lugs. They have excellent multi-terrain traction in slippery conditions. With a 0.5” platform and a 1” heel, the elevation adds extra shock-absorption to relieve impact off of your heel and the ball of your foot. The 270-degree Goodyear welt and nail-seated heel are easily re-soled, giving you more life out of your boot.
Compared to the Iron Ranger, the Wolverine 1000 Mile’s outsole fails in comparison. It also has Goodyear welt construction, but the outsole is stacked leather with no grip. As you walk in the shoe, the abrasion will help with traction. However, it is nowhere near as grippy. A Vibram rubber heel is shock-absorbent and slip-resistant, but it isn’t as tall. Many owners complain that the heel falls off within a few months of constant wear, but a cobbler can reattach it.
The Red Wing Iron Ranger has an oil-tanned, full-grain leather upper. In the company’s signature, this durable material is triple-stitched with the same Puritan sewing machines used over one hundred years ago. The same traditional construction methods give this rugged work boot a longer lifespan. As full-grained leather gets older and weathers more use, it shapes to your foot. After the break-in period, the Iron Ranger’s upper will hug close to your foot without being too tight for a more comfortable fit – almost like a second skin.
Red Wing’s leather upper is thicker than the Wolverine 1000 Mile, making it a better option for a protective work boot (that’s why you can’t go wrong with Red Wing work boots). The unfinished edges add to its outdoorsy appeal, but the leather will change color over time. Red Wing offers several conditioners for their products. Using these materials during your routine maintenance will preserve the appearance of your boots for years to come.
Other protective features add to the Iron Ranger’s durability. A wide back strap adds heel support for long days on your feet. A gusseted tongue – the sides of the tongue attached to the upper – keeps water and debris out of your shoe. The Iron Ranger has a bump toe, which slightly turns up at the end of the upper. This gives you more wiggle room, allowing you to naturally splay your toes when you push off of the ball of your foot.
The cap toe – which is an extra piece of leather that covers the toe box – gives you more protection around your toes and it adds to the unique look of the boot. Unlike the rest of the triple-stitched upper, the toe cap is quad-stitched for even more security. The metal eyelets and reinforced lace holes keep the leather from ripping – a common occurrence in work boots that do not have this feature. To complete the look, the Iron Rangers come with tough Taslan laces that measure 48” long.
The Wolverine 1000 Mile has a cleaner and more sophisticated look, without the same durability as the Iron Ranger. It has the same gusseted tongue, reinforced metal lace holes, and metal eyelets, but the leather is different. Crafted from Chromexcel leather, this boot’s upper is tanned leather treated with oil and wax for a month for a polished, vibrant appearance. The 1000 Mile’s upper has more flexibility, but it scuffs and creases much more easily than the Iron Ranger.
The 1000 Mile does not have a toe cap, which takes away from the protection of the upper. When you place the boots side by side, the 1000 Mile doesn’t have as much toe height as the Iron Ranger. This limits the room of the toe box height-wise, giving your toes less room to move. While the Iron Ranger is triple-stitched along the whole boot, the 1000 Mile has a combination of single, double, and triple stitching. The most secure triple stitching is along the forefoot, with double stitching around the heel. The rest of the boot is single stitched. While there is more protection along the high-impact areas, the upper of the Wolverine 1000 Mile is more fragile than the Iron Ranger.
Other details make the 1000 Mile much more appealing as a dress boot. They come with flat, waxed laces for a cleaner look when laced up. They might look better, but they are not as durable as the Red Wing’s laces. The edges of the leather are finished, providing the fancier look that you would want to see in a dress boot.
When it comes to comfort and support, the Red Wing Iron Ranger is the better option. With a fabric interior lining, your feet slide inside the boot without any friction. The liner also protects your feet from blistering from the stitching along the upper. A full-grain leather footbed is more durable than other materials – such as EVA foam or gel – and it molds to the shape of your arch over time.
The leather insole is not removable, but you’ll be surprised at how comfortable it is. The connected insole and cork midsole work together to form to the shape of your foot. Even if you are tempted to order a size up to accommodate an extra insert, you really shouldn’t. This will alter the fit of the boot overall, and the Iron Ranger will fit too loose on your feet. A steel shank in the Iron Ranger provides stability and arch support when you are walking. Steel and nylon shanks are common in work boots, as they add shock-absorption when your foot hits the ground. This relieves pressure off of your joints and high-impact areas of your foot for more comfortable, all-day wear.
The Wolverine 1000 Mile fails to deliver the support of the Iron Ranger. It has the same cork midsole as the Red Wing, but there is no interior shank for stability or arch support. The 1000 Mile has a leather interior lining instead of fabric, so it may not be as comfortable if you are wearing thin socks.
The Bottom Line
With all of these similarities and differences between the Red Wing Iron Ranger and the Wolverine 1000 Mile, which is the better boot? Every man should own a pair of dress boots to go with any occasion. The Wolverine 1000 Mile comes in many colors for any outfit, and their shiny appearance makes them an excellent accessory for dressy casual settings. The Red Wing Iron Ranger is much more durable than the Wolverine, but it doesn’t have the classy look of the Wolverine 1000 Mile. Either way, both boots will need the same care, and they cost about the same. If you are willing to give the required attention to both models, they will last a lifetime compared to other boots on the market.
“Wolverine Boots: How to Make the Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot.” Wolverine Brand. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNSnsuWugzg
Red Wing Shoe Company. “Style No. 8111: Iron Ranger.” Red Wing. https://www.redwingheritage.com/us/USD/product/mens-footwear/6-inch-boots/6-amber-8111-08111#productDetails1
Jennifer Conerly is a writer and editor with extensive retail experience in athletic shoes and fitness she never thought would come in handy.