Red Wing 8085 Copper Rough & Tough Iron Ranger Review vs Viberg 2030 Last

I recently purchased Red Wing 8085 Iron Ranger in Copper Rough & Tough leather, worn them in for about 10 days before taking these pics. It took quite a bit of peer pressure jokingly from members of the LA Denim Hangs to persuade me to get these at Freenote Cloth flagship in Highland Park.

Here are a couple reasons why I purchased this specific pair:

  • Copper Rough & Tough has been my favorite leather from Red Wing/SB Tannery for quite a while. I’ve seen pictures of the leather patina and it’s quite amazing! The leather has a pullup quality similar to Chromexcel. The leather starts as a reddish tan that darkens over time. I like things that get better with age.
  • The price was discounted about $100 dollars off retail (subtly disclosed in person) because the store was trying to make space on their shelves for upcoming Truman Boots. I’ve noticed online that Red Wings go on sale very often, and even Red Wing seconds only have defects that I consider minor/cosmetic.

  • The Iron Ranger boot is a style I’ve wanted and it has speed hooks for easy on/easy off. The only previous pair of Red Wings I owned was a pair of Red Wing 9011 Black Cherry Featherstone Beckman sometime in 2012. I’ve never had a break in period that tough with any other boot ever since. The Beckmans scraped my heels and made my ankles bleed the first couple of times. On the numerous occasions I went to San Francisco, I saw a total of at least a dozen Iron Rangers on people’s feet. The reason I sold the Beckmans not too long after I started purchasing Aldens and Vibergs.

  • I felt the Iron Ranger design was most suited for my current aesthetic. It is a captoe boot with speed hooks in a lighter tan colored leather. I think that the Red Wing moc toe’s ventured too far into work wear than I’d like to be. I tend to like sleeker boots. I’ve experienced that Alden’s speed hooks are much harder to lace. Alden boots typically have 4 narrow speed hooks bunched together. It’s common that I miss a hook lacing up.  The Iron Rangers have three speed hooks spaced decently spaced apart.

  • Red Wing shifted their typical soles on the Iron Ranger from a nitrile cork sole to a mini vibram lug sole which provides additional traction. I don’t live at all in an area where I need that grip, but I’d like the flexibility, and I’ve heard many people slipping on snow/ice with the cork sole.

Impressions:

Red Wing is the American heritage boot company. I very well respect what quality footwear Red Wing can offer at such a reasonable price. I consider them the best bang for the buck footwear you can get. You can wear only Red Wings for the rest of your life and you’d be content. Once you move up into higher priced footwear, you’re paying premium mostly for the style rather than the construction/quality.

The quality of the boot is solid. No missed stitches or extra threads hanging around. Red Wing is one of the best companies in quality control.

The Red Wing 8085 Iron Rangers took about a half dozen wears to break in comfortably. I sized them the same as I did with the Beckmans – a 9D. The part of the shoe that was most constricting initially was the width. I sped this process up by stuffing shoe trees wrapped with thick wool socks into boots every night.

The Copper Rough & Tough leather developed character very quickly. I wore them during my day-to-day tasks which primarily consisted of walking.

It was about a week and a half until I took the first pictures of them (maybe 9-10 wears) and I decided to compare them to my girlfriend’s growing collection of Red Wings and also my Viberg x 3sixteen Olive Chromepak unstructured service boots on the 2030 last. As far as I know, Viberg currently is not producing boots with an unstructured toe, so this comparison won’t be too practical. You can see the other toe structure comparisons in my other post along with my sizing.

Red Wing 8085 Iron Ranger: Size 9D
Viberg Olive Chromepak Service Boot on 2030 last: Size 9
Alden Trubalance Last: Size 9D
Alden Barrie Last: Size 9D
Wolverine 1K Mile: Size 9D
Crockett & Jones 365 Last: Size 8.5UK

Structured vs Unstructured Toe Box and Shoe Sizing

The left three boots have a structured toe box. The differences in toe boxes are minimal with the Vibergs (middle 4) as the 2030 Last is very sleek.
The left three boots have a structured toe box. The differences in toe boxes are minimal with the Vibergs (middle 4) as the 2030 Last is very sleek.

In this post, I will try to explain the difference in construction of a structured toe box versus an unstructured  toe box accompanied with some pics! The brands included in the following pics are: Meermin, Viberg, Alden, Wolverine, Red Wings, Crockett & Jones, and Common Projects.

Viberg Natural Chromexcel vs Color 8 Chromexcel
Viberg Natural CXL (structured) vs Viberg Color 8 CXL (unstructured). Slight collapsing of the left.
Collapsed unstructured toe boxes

Shoes typically fall within one of three categories: an unstructured toe box, a partially structured toe box, and a fully structured toe box. It’s probably best to compare within a brand because of the varying lasts (mold/shape) between different brands.

Wolverine 1K Mile vs Viberg Color 8 CXL
Wolverine 1K Mile Addison (Structured) vs Viberg Color 8 CXL (Unstructured)

 

3 footwear with unstructured toe boxes. Alden footwear is typically structured with the exception of their unlined pairs like this Alden 1493 Snuff Suede Chukka.

Structured toe boxes typically have a Celastic material, a plastic fabric that is suitable for toe puff material because it is easily shaped during construction, but inflexible once set. Imagine a ping pong ball that you squeeze, but then returns to its original shape. Other common materials used for toe puffs include leather and canvas. The material is placed between the inner lining and the outside material to help maintain its structure. The fine line between between partially structured and fully structured is the rigidity of the toe box material.

Alden Indy 403 vs Viberg Color 8 CXL
Alden Indy 403 (structured) vs Viberg Color 8 CXL (unstructured)

The recent trend towards slimmer fits in denim and boots has been quite prominent in the recent years. I myself prefer unstructured toe boxes because I tend to wear my denim with a slimmer opening. However, all toe boxes will compress over time with wear, and the major difference is just how the boots look from the side initially.  In addition, shoes with “captoes” have an additional layer of material which also may minimize the shoe creasing.

Structured on left vs unstructured on the right.

 

Wolverine 1K Mile, Alden Indy 403, Viberg Color 8 CXL
Wolverine 1K Mile Addison, Alden Indy 403, Viberg Color 8 CXL

 

3 structured toe boxes – Red Wing Iron Ranger, Viberg Black Waxed Flesh Service Boot, and Viberg Natural CXL Service Boot. Even structured toes will collapse over time.

With some companies such as Viberg, Dayton, and Truman Boot Company offering different toe types, it’s hard to make a choice.  If you have a sedentary job such as working indoors in an office, your boots may keep their structure fine over many many years. However, if you work outdoors in harsher environments, you may want a structured toe or even a steel toe. Unstructured toes tend to appear more casual than structured ones.

Wolverine, Alden, Viberg Side Profiles

 

C&J, Wolverine, Alden, Viberg Side Profiles
C&J Islay, Wolverine 1K Mile, Alden x Jcrew Captoe, Alden 403 Indy, Viberg Color 8 CXL, Viberg Brown Waxed Flesh

Some think that a structured toe leads to a “bulbous, clunky toe”. Red Wings one of the boot companies most notorious for this aesthetic has decided to produce a “Flatbox” model in FW2017 very recently (within the last few months) for the Japanese and Singapore markets.

Bulbous structured toe on Red Wing Iron Rangers compared with an unstructured Viberg Boondocker Boot.

 

Top down view of Crockett & Jones, Wolverine, Alden, Viberg

Some companies even have a relatively a slim structured toebox like the Alden Indy Boot, but regardless, everything will flatten with time. Even my Viberg Natural Chromexcel Service Boots from Mr. Porter with a partially structured toe has flattened out a bit (seen in the first picture).

Common Projects Derby Shine vs Common Projects Achilles

 

 

Top view of the Alden 1493 Snuff Suede Chukka vs Viberg Black Waxed Flesh Service Boot laying on their sides.
Top view of the Red Wing 8085 Iron Ranger vs Viberg Olive Chromepak Service Boots laying on their sides.

 

Top view of the Viberg Boondocker vs Viberg Natural CXL Service Boot laying on their sides.

 

Viberg, Alden, Wolverine, and Crockett & Jones

My advice is that you should buy footwear because you love exactly how they are, not because of what you expect to happen to them in 1, 5, or 10 years. Just wear them; the story is told later on when as the boot ages. I adore the look of all my boots as its part of the process of wearing stuff in!

Here are my shoe sizes including some not pictured that I no longer own. I recommend to measure first using a Brannock Device. The order of shoe sizes listed below is very similar to the order I purchased them in with the oldest starting from the top.

My brannock size is 9.5E

Nike Flyknit Chukka/Racer/Trainer: 10

Red Wing Beckman/Iron Ranger: 9D

Alden 403 Indy Boot (Trubalance Last): 9D

Wolverine 1K Mile Addison Boot: 9D

Common Projects Achilles and Derby Shine: Size 42

Alden x Jcrew Shell Cordovan Captoe Boot (Barrie Last): 9D

Oak Street Bootmakers Trench Boot: 9.5D

Viberg 2030 Last: 9

Viberg 2040 Last: 9

Crockett & Jones Islay (365 Last): 8.5UK

Meermin Hiro Last: 8.5UK

 

Crockett & Jones Islay, Wolverine 1K Mile Addison, Alden x Jcrew Captoe, Viberg Color 8 CXL, Viberg Brown Waxed Flesh, Meermin Mallorca Rapello Suede

Lateral view of toe boxes
Side view of toe boxes