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Red Wing Blacksmith vs Iron Ranger Duel: Which Boot Wins? Find Out



The Blacksmith and Iron Ranger boots are quite similar and come from the same manufacturer, which may leave you spoilt for choice. We have created a table comparing the two boots only because we understand that you may not have the time to read the entire review. It should help you make a quick yet informed choice.  

A quick one on this Red Wing Blacksmith vs Iron Ranger debate! You want to note that both boots are made from premium materials. So, you can rely on them for resilience and longevity.

Head-to-Head Comparison of Red Wing Blacksmith vs Iron Ranger

Blacksmith Review [In Brief]

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If you like the plain-toe look, then you will love the Blacksmith. The thing is that you will be hard-pressed to get your hands on all of Red Wing’s most iconic leathers. That said; you will still have many color options and as for the quality, it is just as strong as that of the Iron Ranger. (As you will come to find out).

Blacksmith leaves a little more room at the front for you to wiggle your toes. The boot is sleeker as well so it may be the kind of boot to wear when you are looking to impress.


  • Sleek plain-toe with more room at the front
  • Brass hardware that doesn’t contrast much with the boot material
  • Distinct and interesting leather variations
  • Stylish with bulbous toe box and nickel eyelets
  • Toe-cap gives a masculine look and adds durability


  • The boot is not available in some of Red Wing’s most well-known leathers

Iron Ranger Review [In Brief]

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The Red Wing Iron Ranger is also known as the cap-toe killer. It is iconic and the boot to beat. With its Amber harness roughout leather, the only reason why you should skip getting this boot is if you are not into the cap-toe or the high-contrast eyelets present much of a distraction.


  • Stylish with a bulbous toe box and nickel eyelets 
  • Tanned leather
  • The toe-cap gives the boot a masculine look and adds to its durability


  • Requires shoe trees to prevent the vamp from sinking

Between Blacksmith and Iron Ranger from Red Wing, Which One’s Better?

How much do you love hiking? Or any other adventure that requires heavy-duty shoes? Okay, not shoes but boots. We bet a bit much but that also means that you will have to take care of your boots no?

The Iron Ranger boot can take such beatings quite beautifully, but it is not something you would wear to run your errands or attend social gatherings. For that, you would need something like the Red Wing Blacksmith.

We know you are probably confused and wondering which boot wins when it comes to the Red Wing Blacksmith vs Iron Ranger.

First, you are in the right place because, in this article, we are going to review and compare the two so that you are in a better position to make the right choice.

Sounds good? Let’s get to it then.


Overview of Iron Ranger and Blacksmith Leather Boots

Why don’t we start with an overview of the boots? That should get you started on the right foot; don’t you think?

Red Wing Blacksmith 

This boot takes over from where a previous boot known as the Beckman left off. You do want to note that the Beckman was discontinued.

The Blacksmith is almost identical to the Iron ranger as far as the style with only a few major differences. The first difference is that the Blacksmith does not come with a cap-toe. That means that it gives you more room to move your toes around and looks sleeker.

When it comes to the hardware, this boot has brass in place of nickel and you may be wondering whether that means anything. Well, it does. It means that the boot will blend better with any kind of leather you pick.

The Blacksmith comes in several leather types with the most popular being the Roughout, Black Prairie, and Briar Slick.

What We Liked About It

Several things stood out for us when it comes to this boot. We liked the Black Prairie leather in particular because it brings out the natural tan color through the black paint over time. It is also smooth and matte giving the boot a unique look.

Other than that, its brass eyelets complement the leather variants and do not harshly contrast as with the nickel that comes with the Iron Ranger Hardware.

What Could Have Been Better

We noticed that some of Red Wing’s leathers are missing from the Blacksmith model and we feel that they should have been available to give the customer a variety to choose from.


Red Wing Iron Ranger

The first thing we will tell you about this boot is that it gives off vintage vibes, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because it is an old classic.

With its distinct nickel-plated eyelets and cap-toe, you will not have a hard time spotting this baby from several yards away. Both the Iron Ranger and the Red Wing Blacksmith come with the same rounded toe box. Now, some people love that while others feel like it gives off a too ‘workwear vibe.

If you ask us, we think that the Iron Ranger strikes the perfect balance when it comes to ruggedness and elegance.

Sure, it is a bulky boot, but its full-grain leather surface and adequately slim sole make it look classy.


What We Liked About It

We’ll be honest here, the amber colored leather will be a bit difficult to break in but to make up for that, it develops a beautiful patina the more you wear the boot.

As if that is not enough, the contrasting eyelets and toe-cap give the boot a rugged look that we found to be extremely appealing.


What Could Have Been Better

This boot’s vamp does not retain its shape, as well as the toecap, does. That means you will need to get shoetrees to help keep the vamp in shape over time. This is something that the manufacturer should have addressed during construction.


The Features

Here are some of the features you get with the boots.

Leather Quality and Maintenance

At this point, you can tell that the Red Wing Blacksmith and Iron Ranger boots are very similar even though we have touched on their differences.

Both feature full-grain tanned leather from a company in Minnesota known as SB Foot Tanning Company. The leather is 2mm thick and what that does is offer you durability.

The Black Prairie leather on the Blacksmith boot is smooth and matte while the Amber Harness on the Iron Ranger is matte as well – just not as much as the Blacksmith.

As far as maintenance, you can use shoe cream for polishing but Red Wing does endorse neatsfoot or boot oil. The only reason why we would discourage you from using the recommended Red Wing boot oil is that it will significantly darken your boots.

The most important thing when it comes to both boots is to use cedar shoetrees. Why? Simply because any footwear made on the Red Wing is prone to plummeting in the vamp. The shoe trees work to help retain the boot’s shape.


Waterproof Ability and Lining

If you could get a chance to talk to boot manufacturers, you will realize that it is not easy to make breathable boots that will also be waterproof. Nonetheless, Red Wing has been able to do that with both the Blacksmith and Iron Ranger.

 Both boots feature a Goodyear Welt. Okay? What is that? It is simply a leather strip that makes the buffer zone between the upper surface of the boots and the outer sole. This strip makes the footwear waterproof and if you ever need to change the boot soles, it would be very simple. 

Besides, the boots come with an extremely thin waterproof sheath that works to keep moisture and water out. That means that even if you walk through snow or water, your feet will stay comfortable and dry throughout.

As far as the lining, both boots do not come with one, and unfortunately so because you get no insulation. What that means is that the boots will not keep your feet warm if you stay in ice or snow for too long.



When it comes to the bottom, both boots are fitted with a Vibram 430 mini-lug sole. From reviews, the Iron Ranger’s heel looks new after several months even with consistent wear. Granted, you are not likely to wear your boots out within several months but users have reported being quite impressed with the longevity of the sole.

Another thing about the boot’s sole is that it offers great traction, especially in wet and muddy terrain. Both boots have the same leather insole but you do want to keep in mind that neither comes with outstanding shock absorption. You, therefore, do not want to wear them if you will be standing on one spot for a long time.

The boots are not the most comfortable for extended periods of standing, but they will become more comfortable over time.


Fit and Sizing

The best thing about the Iron Ranger boots is that you can have them sized for your feet. Red Wing uses a machine to measure your feet digitally.

Now, there is a little bit more room in the toe area of the Blacksmith compared to the Iron Ranger. Although this does not make much of a difference in the feel and fit for most people, it does matter for people with narrow feet.

If your feet are narrow, Red Wing does suggest going a complete size smaller because, with the Iron Ranger, your toes might feel a bit restricted. The additional quarter-inch that the Blacksmith offers is a lifesaver if that is your predicament.


Break-in Period

The first few weeks of wearing your Iron Rangers are going to be rough. You are likely to sweat through your socks especially if you wear them in the summer but if you can withstand that just to look good, then go ahead and do it.

There have been complaints about the same online as well.

As far as the Blacksmith boots, breaking in the Black Prairie leather will be a breeze. The worst you can get is a tender heel and after sleeping on it, it will as good as new.

The next time you wear the boots, it will be business as usual.



Perhaps you know this or not, but support is one of the most crucial features when it comes to boots. Here, we are referring to the entire foot support that is mostly derived from the shanks.

Now, both the Iron Ranger and Blacksmith booths feature steel shanks but let us explain what that is first. A steel shank is a thin, flexible piece of steel that is placed between the insole and outer sole. It works to support your foot as you walk as well as keep the sole aligned.

Note that your entire foot needs support but the most crucial areas are the heel, ball of the foot, and arch area. Whether you have a high or low arch or even flat feet, these boots will work just fine. Nevertheless, you may have to switch to custom insoles that offer the right support where you need it.


Stand-out Features

Here are some stand-out features we noticed with the boot.



The Iron Ranger comes with a quadruple stitched cap-toe. Usually, this will only add to the aesthetic and style of the boot although there is a little bit of abrasion resistance that comes with the additional leather.

Now, if your feet are smaller, you want to avoid the cap-toe simply because it visually shortens your foot’s length. Still, on that, neither the Blacksmith nor Iron Ranger is flattering for shorter feet because they are bulky, stocky boots.



The Blacksmith has brass-plated eyelets while the Iron Ranger has nickel-plated ones and speed hooks. Granted, the difference is minimal, but it could turn out to be the determining factor for you depending on your taste and preference.

What we can tell you here is that the Blacksmith’s hardware compliments leather, while the Iron Ranger’s hardware contrasts. 

Again, you want to keep in mind that there is no there’s no integral benefit to either—it’s simply a matter of preference. 


So, Which Boot Should You Get?

If at this point you are still on the fence about the boots, we have some not-so-good news for you: Both boots are similar and equal in all features.

You simply have to pick whichever appeals to you most.

Our Top Pick

Of these two boots, we’d choose the Red Wing Iron Ranger, and here’s why.

If you can make it through the break-in period, the boot will repay you with a rugged boot that is likely to last a long time without needing a lot of maintenance.

We feel that the contrasting hardware and cap-toe are resilient and rugged-looking which is what you want if you care more about your style even when you are hiking in the mountains.

You may also want to note that the Blacksmith is normally $30 cheaper than the Iron ranger but we didn’t think that made much of a difference especially if you will be buying a $300 boot.

If you honestly are unable to pick one of the two boots, we would encourage you to go for the Iron Ranger simply because it merges functionality with style. 

That doesn’t mean that the Blacksmith is not a good choice either. If you prefer its plain look, you will still get the same value and quality that the Iron Ranger offers.

Regardless of what you pick, you won’t lose. The only loss you would incur is not picking either. That would be tragic.


Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have any questions as far as the Blacksmith vs. Iron ranger debate? We cannot address all of them here, but we have answered a few commonly asked ones below in the hope that you will get a better understanding.


Are Iron Rangers comfortable?

Only a handful of boots can offer the classic look, durability, and ultimate comfort that the Iron Ranger boots from Red Wing offer.

The boots are likely to give you a hard time the first few weeks of wearing them but after that, you will love them.



How long are Red Wing Iron Rangers likely to last?

These boots come with a break-in period that will last anywhere from two weeks to two months. However, when they do break in, they will fit like a glove and last years with proper care and maintenance.


Can I wear Iron Rangers in the rain?

Yes, you can. The Iron Ranger is a 6-inch first-class boot made from purpose-built Amber Harness Leather from the S.B. Foot Tanning company. 

The leather is not only perspiration-resistant, and stain-proof, but also waterproof all without sacrificing the boot’s natural look. That makes it ideal for wearing in the rain.



In summing up this Red Wing Blacksmith vs Iron Ranger debate, we’d like to say that both boots are highly similar in terms of construction, material, and fit. These similarities will certainly leave you overwhelmed or confused.

The Iron Ranger is a typical vintage boot with a unique work boot style. Its round laces and cap toe lend it a bold look that will work for your casual days. If you intend to wear them in the snow or rain, consider getting the Vibram Mini-lug over the Nitrile Cork outsoles.

On the other hand, the Blacksmith boots are a little bit dressier because of their round toe, sleek look, and flat laces. 

In the end, whichever you choose between the two will be based on your preference so go ahead and make the right pick.


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