Rich saddle leather, Vibram sole, Goodyear Welt. These words are associated with toughness, quality, and craftsmanship. The Red Wing Heritage Blacksmith Boot embodies these plus a healthy dose of classic style.
So the story goes, back in the day men would wear these rugged leather boots around the shop or in the muddy fields. Then they would come home, shine ’em up, and hit the town. And while I have opted to try and retain the boots largely matte finish for now, I expect them to patina nicely over time.
The Red Wing Experience
I needed a stylish but solid boot that could last me through my travels too and hopefully years to come. With the Red Wing Heritage Blacksmith boot on my wishlist for a few years, I finally bent and took the plunge.
I ended up at the nearest Red Wing retailer in Burbank California. I forget the gentleman’s name but being as I was the only one in the small store, he came over quickly and offered to answer any questions. We nailed down the boot I was looking for and he showed me their stock noting that “this lighter tobacco leather is discounted because it didn’t sell as well as expected.” That lighter tobacco leather was precicesly what I was looking for.
As per his role, he upsold me on some insoles, and I opted for the contioner and cleaner too, might as well buy in fully since I’m dropping so much on these puppies. He explained the return policy on both the boots and the insoles and my waryness was quelled.
A swipe of the magnetic money strip, my John Hancock a drying, and then the most wonderful thing happened, the gentleman extended his hand across the counter. We shook and he stated, “Welcome to Red Wing.” A sign of pride in ones work? Perhaps a corporate requirement? Gah, no matter, I was sold.
The First Month
I had been warned by friends that Red Wings are notorious for their break in period. In the first week, I should wear only thick socks. And as per the salesman’s advice, perhaps only wear then for half a day at a time for the first two weeks. This was complete overkill as I found the boots instantly comfortable for everyday wear and had no problems while working with normal thickness boot socks. I even wore my thinner socks several days during the first week and despite noticing the ridgidity of the new leather, I never developed a blister. Thats more than I can say for my new trainers!
I laced them up to just under the first eyelet as the salesman had, and the waxed laces never untied throughout a full day. With the addition of the insoles, my feet were never tired even at the end of the day. I took them off at night only to stretch my feet and under the general understanding that leather shoes need to dry out between use.
The lighter tobacco colored leather took few light marks during this first month, and the cuffs of my raw selvedge denim jeans did deposit some indigo dye onto the leather that I haven’t tried to hard to clean off.
While the Blacksmith boot is obviously not a tennis shoe, the vibram soles and the custom inserts caused my feet to forget during normal activities. For sure I could feel the ‘clomp’ of my boot as the heel struck first and the rest of my foot tried to catch up with the sudden angle shift, but it was never so ridged that I felt I was walking on a wood block. I expect them to be even more comfortable as the sole begins to flex more easily in with time.
All in all, with light use, they still appeared brand new and never hurt my feet.
The First Leather Conditioning
As I said before I bought the Red Wing Heritage Blacksmith Boot in a lighter tobacco leather knowing (and warned by the salesman) that they would darken severely with their first cleaning or condition.
Aside from brushing off any light dirt or mud that may have accumulated, I was told to skip the deep clean the first month and simply condition them.
Pine. The leather conditioner smelled like the forests of my youth and I liberally worked the paste into the leather with my bare hands. I took care to cover all the seams and stitches near the sole figuring it probably helped with waterproofing. This could be completely wrong but I felt better about it.
True to form the boots took on a healthy patina and instantly darkened to a rich orange-cherry leather color. The toe cap and heel unexplicably turned a darker color than the rest of the shoe, probably something to do with the leather used there, but I didn’t mind as this seems to be typical of leather shoes.
The leather was supple and just a tad sticky to the touch but they felt so good. I couldn’t notice a difference yet on my feet, but to the eye, they no longer looked like brand new boots; instead, very well cared for leatherbound legacies in which my form traversed. The only tell tale sign was the still very new sole and the unmarred goodyear welted edge.
I expect my Red Wings to last me a very long time and share many adventures.
The soles are thick and do a fantastic job keeping my feet dry. I have, however, noticed the lack of insulation as the shoes are essentially just a thick leather everywhere else. You will definitely need thick warm socks if you want your feet to stay warm.
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