Red Wing vs. Thorogood Reviewed: Who makes the best boots?

The Red Wing and Thorogood brands have been battling it out for the longest time as two of the most prominent boot brands in the market. No doubt, both companies bring something worthwhile to the table. But to settle the contest, I decided to dive into both brands, see what they have to offer, and set them against each other to see who comes out on top.

Now, after in-depth research across many shoes and boots in the product lines, I’ve come to find that the Thorogood brand might be ahead of Red Wing in terms of performance and quality. That’s not to say that Red Wing isn’t worth purchasing – just that Thorogood has a few extra features up its sleeve that make it a better performer overall.

If you’re still stuck deciding on a winner for this long-standing battle of the boots, read on through to find out what I learned during my research.

More About Red Wing

First established to cater to workers in the demanding industries of mining, logging, and farming, Red Wing has been around for 110 years. Today, the brand continues to design and manufacture hardy shoes and boots that are mostly intended for challenging work environments.

What sets them apart from other brands in the industry is that they use their own premium Red Wing leather that’s designed to be both pliable and durable, perfect for long term use.

More About the Thorogood Brand

The “Jobber” was the first ever Thorogood boot. Its design made it easier and safer for linemen to hold tightly onto telephone poles with their legs. The boot was so successful that it became a popular product in lots of different trade circles during the time of its release.

Since then, Thorogood has come out with a variety of work boot designs. The reason why they’ve become so successful up to present times is the fact that they cater to all types of workers in a number of different work environments. With boots that incorporate both safety and non-safety designs, you can be certain to find a style that suits your needs.

Matching Up the Moc Toes

Both Thorogood and Red Wing are known for their moc toe boots. Of course, they both take their own spin on the moc toe blueprint, so they cater to completely different users all together despite using the same silhouette.

The Thorogood American Heritage 6” Moc Toe Boot

At first glance, it’s easy to see that the Thorogood Moc Toe Boot has more beef to it. Tanned to perfection, the leather used for the Thorogood Moc Toe Boots is both tough and stylish. It’s also a lot thicker and heavier with more resistance to movement and wear and tear. They do break in after a while though, and become much more comfortable and permissive after a few weeks or months of use.

Image of the Thorogood 814-4200 American Heritage 6

The boot uses industry standard Goodyear welt construction connecting the upper to the soles. Inside the boot is a removable dual-density shock-absorbent insert that eases impact for more comfortable everyday use. Finally, a durable Vibram rubber outsole that’s both oil and slip resistant lines the bottom of the boot. This gives it superior traction on a variety of surfaces. And in that way, it’s actually really reminiscent of the original Thorogood Jobber Boot.

While it doesn’t really meet blue collar work safety standards, the American Heritage 6” Moc Toe Boot from Thorogood gives some pretty substantial protection and support for a variety of dirty jobs, DIY projects, and household repairs.

The Red Wing Heritage Classic 6” Moc Toe Boot

Probably the biggest difference between the Red Wing Moc Toe Boot and the Thorogood is the leather uppers. When I compared the two leather materials together, it was apparent that the Red Wing design lacked the density that gave the Thorogood its lasting and hardy appeal.

Image of the Red Wing Heritage Men's 6

Nonetheless, the Red Wing Classic Moc Toe Boot’s leather does have its own upsides. For one, they’re a lot softer straight out of the box, reducing the amount of time you’d have to wait to break them in. Plus, they age pretty nicely, so you won’t have to worry about having to maintain the leather too much as the years go on.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Red Wing Classic Moc Toes don’t have much of an insole footbed. The one that comes with the boot is pretty basic, although quite comfortable enough if you’re not too particular about those things.

Finally, I want to talk about the Red Wing Classic Moc Toe Boot’s rubber sole. Unlike the Thorogood’s these don’t use any special material – just a standard rubber sole material. While they do offer sufficient traction out of the box, they can wear out pretty quickly. So you may have to visit that Red Wing restoration service sooner rather than later.

Image of the Red Wing Heritage Men's 6

Even then, the boots can also be a functional companion for everyday duties and chores, and other activities like woodworking, landscaping, and household repairs.

Comparing Other Boot and Shoe Designs

Although moc toe boots are the brands’ bread and butter, they do have quite a number of other footwear designs available. I’ve spent quite some time researching available options, learning about their specifics, and reading up on what other buyers thought. So I was able to come up with a pretty complete picture of how the two brands’ designs manage against each other.

Thorogood Boots Were Made for Hard Workers

Thorogood manufactures boots and shoes in both safety and non-safetly designs. But even their non-safety options – like the Moc Toe Boot – are pretty sturdy and supportive, making them a good pick for any heavy duty chores you might do around the house.

Their safety boots on the other hand are a completely different story. Take the Heritage 8 Inch Safety Toe Work Boot for example. This reinforced leather work boot resembles the Moc Toe, but uses much more durable materials that make it a sound choice for different demanding blue collar work environments.

Image of the Thorogood 804-4208 Men's American Heritage 8

The sole is the same high quality Maxwear Outsole design which works great on both wet and uneven terrain. The boot also boasts an electrical hazard rating. So even in the presence of electrical hazards, your feet will be sufficiently protected.

Some other outstanding choices from Thorogood include the 8 Inch Side Zip Jump Boot Gen-Flex, and the Composite Safety Toe Gen Flex 6” Work Boot. Safety and durability are the main priorities of these designs. So you can use them in the most hazardous, dangerous, and demanding situations without worrying about damage or injury.

Image of the Thorogood Gen-Flex 6-Inch Lace-Toe Composite Work Boot, Black Leather, 11 M US

Red Wing Boots Were Mostly Made for Walking

Although often advertised as a worthy work boot, I have to say that I don’t really think the Red Wing boots can stand up to Thorogood’s offerings. Yes, they are quite durable, and yes, the boots do hold up against wear and tear pretty impressively. But I think the lack of structure, cushioning, and reinforced soles might make them more suitable for handiwork around home. Maybe they could do well in less demanding blue collar work environments like painting, residential construction and repairs, and maybe even plumbing.

Some other boot models worth checking out from the Red Wing brand is theIron Ranger. Compared to their Moc Toe Boot, this design uses much better sole construction and material. The leather uppers are also less forgiving of movements, so they give greater support at the cost of some comfort.

Image of the Red Wing Heritage Iron Ranger 6-Inch Boot, Amber Harness, 9.5 D(M) US

Their Beckman Round 6 Inch Boot is one of their better choices if you’re on the market for traction. The aggressive tread patterns give much greater grip, which could make the boots suitable for both wet and uneven terrain.

I’d also like to talk about how the Red Wing brand offers a little more on the aesthetic end of the market compared to Thorogood. For instance, the company has its own Weekender line of shoes and boots that are more for casual use rather than for work. The Heritage Men’s Weekender Chukka is a great example of what they offer if you’re in search of a good causal boot.

Image of the Red Wing Heritage Men's Weekender Chukka, Copper Rough & Tough, 9.5 D US

Some Picks for the Ladies

Both Thorogood and Red Wing have a narrow selection of boots and shoes for women. With Thorogood, the main focus still seems to be functionality rather than form, which is why many of their women’s boots take after the men’s designs.

TheThorogood Women’s 6-Inch MO Work Boot for example takes a more feminine approach to the moc toe blueprint. Essentially though, the boot still features the same durability, versatility, and support that the men’s variation provides.

The6-Inch Waterproof Insulated Sport Boot and the Softstreets 6 Inch Hiker bootare also some women’s boots worth mentioning. Although not quite as appealing to the eye, both are great choices for women who like to get down and dirty.

With Red Wing, the opposite seems to be true. The general direction for the brand’s women’s selection leans towards fashion and style. Most of the women’s selection lacks the necessary hardiness, sole density and traction, and overall build to make them suitable for work.

Nonetheless, they are very stylish. The Clara Boot is a common favorite among women who want a rugged yet feminine design that’s perfect with basic jean and shirt outfit combinations. The Heritage Moc Toe Boot for Women can be suitable for everyday chores and for getting around town, but ultimately, they’re more of a fashion boot than a footwear choice for hard labor.

Image of the Red Wing Womens Clara Oro Boot - 5

The Bottom Line

I think the Thorogood brand is just a cut above the Red Wing. Their boots give greater support and protection for a variety of activities. Plus the fact that they’re not that distant in terms of aesthetics, you’re basically getting a better quality boot when you go for Thorogood.

Red Wing can be a suitable choice for the purpose of style and fashion. Just keep in mind however that the brand tends to retail their boots and shoes at a significantly higher cost. So if you’re trying to work within a budget, then Thorogood would be the way to go.


2 thoughts on “Red Wing vs. Thorogood Reviewed: Who makes the best boots?”

  1. Its funny how different people’s experiences can be. In my experience so far Thorogoods are a better value than Redwings due to their low price (comparatively), but are vastly inferior in quality. I’ve had both brands in their USA-Made work-boot varieties and each time the stitching on the Redwings simply outlcasses the wide-stitch of the Thorogoods. I’ve had to have my Thorogoods re-stitched twice and now the insole has completely deteriorated after only a year and a half of use. The leather is also too soft and doesn’t hold form for me as well. But thats just my experience.

    • Thanks Dalton, I think you are right about different experiences with the same products. I appreciate your comment, it is very helpful!

Leave a Comment