Rope Dye Crafted Goods

Everything You Wanted to Know About Red Wing Shoes: Part 2 – Breaking-In

In this part 2 of our ultimate Red Wing guide we look at what you can expect when breaking in your Red Wings as well as the ethical impact of your choice.

tips and tricks to Breaking-In your red wings

The first moment you step into your new Red Wings you probably wish for a second that you’d stuck to sneakers. We can almost guarantee that we are not going to get the same comfort right away.

But once they’ve broken in there’s nothing like ‘em. In this Part 2 of our definitive guide to your Red Wing Shoes, we are going to look at what you can expect while breaking in your new boots. Alongside this we will discuss at what your decision means on a larger scale.

We look at the environmental implications of choosing quality over quantity and exactly where your boots come from, both physically and philosophically.

Red Wing Denimhunters. In this part 2 of our ultimate Red Wing guide we look at what you can expect when breaking in your Red Wings as well as the ethical impact of your choice.

Relationships Take Time, and Effort

Red Wings take time to break in. They provide outstanding quality, but there’s no promise that the boots will be your best friend after two days. It’s a relationship that has to grow. Don’t try to do too much too soon; you should not walk around for eight hours in a brand new pair of Red Wings. Try wearing them at home, let your feet get used to them slowly. A good sock will provide protection from the new stiff leather. It will also provide some cushioning for the foot.

Red Wing Denimhunters. In this part 2 of our ultimate Red Wing guide we look at what you can expect when breaking in your Red Wings as well as the ethical impact of your choice.

It Is a Shift of Expectations: The Goodyear Welt

As Marcus Fuhrmann from the Hamburg store notes:

“The machines that make the Goodyear welt are 50-60 years old so you can’t expect the same comfort you get the first moment in sneakers. Nowadays, most people never learn how to break in a pair of boots. A hundred years ago people couldn’t afford a pair of shoes every year. Breaking in their footwear took a long time, but they kept their boots for years.”

A Note on Materials and Sustainability

The notion of sustainability and material choice is becoming more and more prevalent nowadays. Customers want to know where the products they buy come from and if anyone or indeed anything suffered in the production process. With the internet it is easy for people to inform themselves about such topics and this really makes a difference when it comes to product choice.

Red Wing Denimhunters. In this part 2 of our ultimate Red Wing guide we look at what you can expect when breaking in your Red Wings as well as the ethical impact of your choice.

The Red Wing Footprint

So where do Red Wing Shoes sit in the scheme of things? They are first class in terms of sustainability and ethical manufacture. All Heritage models are manufactured in the USA.

The leather itself is also domestically produced. It is all Texan leather and tanned in the S.B. Foot Tanning Company in the town of Red Wing, MN. The Red Wing factory itself is also located there.

This ensure’s a small environmental footprint when bringing the bulk of the materials together for manufacture.

All other components are also produced in the US. Again ensuring less impact on the environment.

“The whole ‘production cycle’ from the tanning of the leather to the construction of the boots takes place in a radius of two miles.”

The Ethical Issue of Working Conditions

Another advantage of producing in the USA is that it ensures that the boots are made in an ethically. The workers in the Red Wing factory are paid a fair wage for a normal day’s labour.

There is no child labour involved, no abuse of workers and the working conditions are closely monitored.

Red Wing Denimhunters. In this part 2 of our ultimate Red Wing guide we look at what you can expect when breaking in your Red Wings as well as the ethical impact of your choice.

The Positive Impact of Built to Last

The longevity of a pair of Red Wings is in itself has a positive impact. Unlike cheap boots or a pair of trainers; when you buy a pair of Red Wings you will not need to replace them in six month’s time. They will last you years.

When the soles wear out you can replace them and most breakages or failures in the stitching can be repaired. As Marcus says:

“It’s not only about the resoling, the boot is such good quality and the leather is so stiff I hardly see a boot with broken leather. This will only happen over a long period of time where no care was taken with the boot at all.”

Red Wing Denimhunters. In this part 2 of our ultimate Red Wing guide we look at what you can expect when breaking in your Red Wings as well as the ethical impact of your choice.

What to Expect From the Break-In Process

Having gone through the process of breaking in a pair of Red Wings before, I know what you’re in for.They will be uncomfortable for a while; you may get a blister or two, but after a couple of weeks you will be rewarded with a pair of boots that are truly yours.

The boots will have broken in around your foot, giving support where it is needed and flexibility in all the right places. More than this, you can walk around knowing that these boots will last you decades if you treat them right.

When you look at it in this way, a couple of weeks work for years of reward is not all that bad.

All in all, breaking in your Red Wings take patience and hard work, literally. To make sure you get the right fit and size, simply follow the tips in part 1 of our guide and I promise you will get a pair of boots that you will love and will be with you for many years to come. In the 3rd and final part, we will discuss how you can ensure a long and happy life for your Red Wing Shoes. We will look at the various ways you can care for your boots and your options when it comes to resoling.

Images courtesy of Axel Mosch, Nicholas Bech, and Red Wing Shoes.

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Mike October 23, 2014 at 17:29

Is this a discussion on how to break in your boots, or an advertisement!? My feet are killing me, and I shelled out $270 bucks!

Denimhunters October 24, 2014 at 08:49

Hi Mike,
We completely understand you, especially if you’re a first-time Red Wing buyer, but have a little patience – and bring extra shoes with you to wear if your Wings get too uncomfortable in the afternoon. Eventually you will see why people love Red Wing.
However, without knowing anything about where you bought the shoes, it could be that you’ve bought the wrong size/fitting for your feet? But if this is not the case, you simply just need to wear them in, there’s no way around it.

Navy June 8, 2015 at 08:54

I am right there with you. I have bought red wings for years however this is my first pair of the Heritage Collection. These things kill worse then my Flight Deck boots I was issued in the Navy back in 1993. I bought a pair of 2943s and the leather is digging into the inside of my ankles like knifes. I will give it couple of months but after that I will have to shit can these things if no improvement.

Navy June 29, 2015 at 10:55

Mike, how are your boots doing now after eight months. Just a FYI, I took my boots to a shoe repair guy and had them stretched. After they were stretched they felt a lot better. I still had the issue with the crease, where the tongue connects to the boot, digging into the inside of my ankle bone. I took the boots back to the shoe repair guy and after a few whacks with a hammer the boots have been very comfortable with no issues

Ballsac Magee February 27, 2015 at 05:11

Give it time you puss-cake. Wear them 10+ hours a day for at least a month before you can expect them to get comfy. Totally worth it!

A's&co August 13, 2015 at 07:28

Hai there
May i know what is the leather protect care to lover boots? Which one is better obenau’s LP or Huberds Grease?

alwin vrm October 27, 2015 at 16:34

Just another perspective here.

My right foot is wide since a toe incident in the army and my left has a painful heel. I tried my Iron Rangers Amber Harness after struggling for a while with other shoes and unexpectedly the heel pain got better. Since then I got the Moc Toes and 3 days ago I bought the Blacksmith in Hawthorne.

In spite of my difficult feet and the slightly harder Hawthorne leather I wore the Blacksmiths for full days since day one, no blisters, no pain; same story with the Moc Toes and Iron Rangers of course everybody is different, and YMMV

The Amsterdam shop was patient to let me try different sizes (online bought) and advised me well. Don’t have preconceptions about your size, take your time, be critical. Choose what feels good. RW’s don’t get longer but do get a little bit wider over time, but not like sneakers. Shoes that are too short or are painfully narrow with thin socks are a risk. Not all leathers feel equal. Amber Harness feels softer from the start than e.g. Hawthorne. (no affiliation with Red Wing, etc, etc. )

Denimhunters October 27, 2015 at 16:39

Hi Alwin,
Thank you very much for that super personal comment! 🙂

Sven November 1, 2016 at 01:37

There is barely anything about best practices for breaking in boots here. It’s an advertisement plus w sentences of content. I want my time back.

Carolina June 2, 2017 at 22:21

Hi there. I can give you some tips, I’ve made, repaired and sold shoes for some time.
Here are some tips: First with leather shoes is better to start snug, don’t get them wide from the start, that leads to other issues such as blisters because of the movement as well as shorter life to the boots as you’re moving inside the stitches loose up faster over time; if they are welted shoes (stitched to the upper, can be re-soled) slipping in the heel is expected as the leather in the insole and soles haven’t flexed yet; the ball of your foot (widest part of your foot) should be in the widest part of the boot; the eyelets should be as parallel as possible all the way to the ankles and with a distance of at least 3 cm so you have room for adjusting the boots when they stretch; if you are in between sizes, and the heel is loose you can add a half insole underneath the original footbed at the front of your shoe instead of heel pads. If you need your shoes to stretch use mink oil; even though leather loves mink oil, I wouldn’t recommend use in it for conditioning as it will stretch your shoes. There are many other suggestions, all would depend on your particular feet, assessing your pressure points and following the shape, room on the toes you would need, maybe the use of insoles to help you support your weight, there are many factors that can help your feet and your footwear to perform better. I hope this is helpful, I manage a Red Wing Store and we do measure people’s feet, take the time to find the right fit; not trying to advertise but in any store you’re in just make sure the person who helps you know about shoes and is honest when something is not suitable for you, in some occasions I rather lose a sale than giving the wrong thing to a customer.

Ꮥმἶղէ September 5, 2017 at 09:06

wow this is the BEST and most detailed reply i have read on how to choose and break in a Red Wing boot. Thank you so much for sharing this information! I just purchased a pair of Beckman and was concerned with the heel slip, your advice has put me at ease.

Brandon K October 25, 2017 at 16:29

Thanks your short paragraph was as helpful or even more so than his.

Paul March 25, 2018 at 22:58

Hello and I hope you are still monitoring this thread.
I wish to know the most durable of these three types of RedWing Tanning:



#8830…Copper Rough & Tough.

I do not find any of these processes result in the Russet or Reddish color of my 20-year old 877’s. I read somewhere that the original tanning process that gave that rich reddish hue was halted in June-2013 and replaced by the Oro-Legacy. Any insight there?

It appears the #8830 Copper R&T has a superficial final finish because there is a surplus of this material on the white stitching and it has stained the white stitiching at these locations.

I did find the #8830 leather to almost immediately form around my ankles in the store while the 877 & 10877 were less pliable.

Primarily I am wondering which tanning process is going to have the longest life.

I appreciate your excellent contribution above.


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