Better Than New.

Re-crafting the Red Wing 1905.

My love of Red Wing began early one Saturday morning when I was thirteen years old. My father came into my room and woke me up and drove me to the Red Wing store in my hometown on the East Side of Cleveland to get my first pair of work boots. The excitement of the gift of work boots from my dad quickly faded when I realized that I was then being conscripted into weekends and summers of manual labor. What I leaned about working for my dad was sort of surprising to me; I loved working outside and I loved manual labor. When the job was done, you are done. And each day held huge feelings of accomplishment. It was through this experience that my life long appreciation and connection to the Red Wing Shoe Company was forged.

A great part of buying a Goodyear-welted boot was the fact that I could have them re-soled, and even have it done multiple times. When you are doing physical work on your feet all day, it doesn’t take you long to realize that breaking in new boots adds a seriously unwanted wrinkle into earning a paycheck. My solution was to own two pairs of Red Wings. When the soles on one pair would wear out, I would send them in to be re-soled and would wear the back up pair while they were away. So if a pair was at the factory being re-crafted, the other pair would be comfortably on my feet. For me, breaking in new boots on the job was a thing of the past.

In 2005 I picked up the pictured pair of 100 year anniversary 1905s at the Red Wing work store in my hometown. Back in ’05 I was living in New York and was no longer harnessing the wonders of hydraulics to smash things (professionally anyway), but I still loved wearing my Red Wings. Eventually my 875s needed to be redone and I shipped them straight back to the factory in Minnesota. Since we (my marketing company Paul + Williams; full disclosure) work with Red Wing now, I asked some folks there to snap some photos of my 1905s while they were being re-crafted so I could share the transformation here.

The process is pretty significant as you can see from the photos below. The truly amazing thing is, the boots come back literally better than new. They fit you perfect and are as comfortable as ever — but have an entirely new outsole. It’s a wonderful thing. For this service Red Wing charges $95 (which includes shipping both ways). To me it is like getting a brand new pair of the most comfortable boots. I’ve had boots go through this process five, six, seven times and they only get better with age.

Little did I know that my dad would impart so much wisdom that fateful Saturday morning, but I sure am happy he did.

Comments on “Better Than New.

    Michaelon January 25, 2012 @ 3:16 PM:

    so boss

    Sangsouvanh Khounvichiton January 25, 2012 @ 3:32 PM:

    I will never tire of seeing this process documented.

    carlon January 25, 2012 @ 3:34 PM:

    Amazing. How to welts stand up to multiple resolings? I can’t imagine they align the stitchholes for the welt in the same place each time, so I doesn’t this eventually tear the welt beyond use?

    jettisonon January 25, 2012 @ 3:36 PM:

    amazing… thank you so much for sharing!

    Miguel Ramalhãoon January 25, 2012 @ 3:36 PM:

    It’s so cool that a pair of shoes can be brought back to life!
    Great post… As usual … Cheers

    Kevinon January 25, 2012 @ 3:41 PM:

    Nice to see that craftsmanship still exists. Good points about the break-in period. So many people would throw out the old pair, but re-soling makes much more sense.

    Bruce Bon January 25, 2012 @ 3:46 PM:

    Why just still photos when Red Wing has this beautiful little film that tells the story so well?

    Andrew Payneon January 25, 2012 @ 3:47 PM:

    Beside the history behind your connection to the Red Wing brand, I really love the overall statement for quality. None of this would be possible with a cheaply made shoe. A lot like the post you wrote a while back about your baseball glove. Great stuff, Michael.

    vanderleunon January 25, 2012 @ 3:54 PM:

    What a wonderful item. I thirst for thøse shoes. Couldn’t blog a pointer to it fast enough.

    maton January 25, 2012 @ 3:56 PM:

    turned out very well didn’t they

    Bee Nguyenon January 25, 2012 @ 4:11 PM:

    this was a great post! I would have never known that Red Wing offers this service and I am a huge fan of Red Wings, I have like 5 pairs that need new soles done!

    cheers. and great blog BTW.

    A. Frankelon January 25, 2012 @ 4:44 PM:

    Great writeup. The photo of the heat lamps has to be one of the coolest things here; the individualized attention is pretty incredible.

    misterandersenon January 25, 2012 @ 5:29 PM:

    these classics go hard.. great that you were able to document the process, very cool.

    jjon January 25, 2012 @ 7:19 PM:

    5 pairs of Redwings that need to be resoled? You must use your feet Fred Flintstone Style to stop your car. You guys need to get off the pavement and out working in the yard :) Does Redwing still do plastic welting on some of their boots?

    Noble County Golgon January 25, 2012 @ 8:08 PM:

    Manual labor, something everybody should experience. That’s the stuff that built this country. Keep ‘Em Coming Mister Williams.

    Andrewon January 25, 2012 @ 8:24 PM:

    I just had my GTs resoled, def more comfortable then ever. The two boot plan is the way I go!

    chrison January 25, 2012 @ 8:48 PM:

    Did they condition/oil the leather as well?

    BCMon January 25, 2012 @ 10:46 PM:

    Great post. I’ve worn Redwings for decades. Just curious about the white crepe sole. Is it a comfort thing? Or a non-slip kinda thing? Electrical hazard kinda thing? Or what? I’m just wondering because it’s such a unique style of sole compared to everything else out there. And it looks great! Educate me. The photos are fantastic!

    Scalewormon January 25, 2012 @ 11:46 PM:

    Great post. I remember when I was a young’un (about 8?) going with my pop (a Journeyman tool maker for Chrysler’s Mack Avenue stamping plant in Detroit) to get my first pair of real shoes (work boots like these) that were union made.
    I just had my Bean boots resoled, and a pair of buffalo hide smoke jumper boots resoled.
    I love my boots real American shoes. I am a white collar employee (teacher) with a tried a true blue collar heart (Always will be too).

    Brian Milleron January 26, 2012 @ 1:43 AM:

    Lovely re-soled boots. And after seeing how unevenly the wear was (you supinate as badly as I pronate, apparently) I feel better for your knees and ankles.

    JRSon January 26, 2012 @ 7:52 AM:

    Wow – nothing better than fixing rather than replacing. Very well done.

    Katieon January 26, 2012 @ 9:30 AM:

    Such a great photo essay. Thank you for sharing this!

    Chrison January 26, 2012 @ 10:40 AM:

    Allen Edmonds performs the same painstaking, manual recrafting of their products used by those of us who demolish things professionally with financial derivatives. Would enjoy seeing a pair of your cap toes getting some love from the hardworking craftsman of Wisconsin one day also. Nice work as always.

    Michael Williamson January 26, 2012 @ 10:53 AM:

    Well said Chris. I went to the Allen Edmonds Port Washington factory two years ago and we saw the re-crafting area. They resole a shit ton of shoes there. Anyone know if Alden has a similar program? I imagine they do.

    Paton January 26, 2012 @ 10:56 AM:

    Thank you for this post. In my past life I was a welder and used to wear Red Wing Irish Setters all the time. It was great when a “boot mobile” used to come to the job site and we could order the boots we wanted. I am an attorney now and miss wearing real clothes (Carhartt)and real shoes to work. Really love your work. Regards.

    Minus Manhattanon January 26, 2012 @ 10:56 AM:

    I just picked up a very similar pair down at the factory store in Red Wing (see here: Love that I’ll have them forever and can get them re-soled but keep the broken in feeling.

    Jeremiah Simmonson January 26, 2012 @ 11:10 AM:

    Yes, Alden has a resole/restoration process. Had an old pair of wing tips done through Alden and they came out really well.

    Kyleon January 26, 2012 @ 11:16 AM:

    Michael, awesome write-up. Did you use a Red Wing store to send yours back from the NYC area? I need this done as well.

    Also, Alden does the same recrafting service as Allen Edmonds (which I’ve used and is amazing). Check it out here:

    Staffordon January 26, 2012 @ 12:00 PM:

    How long does this take? I need to send mine in but I wear them everyday and I’ll miss them.

    maurizioon January 26, 2012 @ 12:31 PM:

    This is one of the most inspiring post ever. Thank you Mr Williams.
    Forget about starting new brands. The world needs people that can fix things that are important and essential, like a good pair of shoes.
    We have so much of anything we really don’t need much more.
    This post makes me think about seriously stopping the madness of making more stuff and learn the joy of giving good products a new chance. A second life.
    A great post.
    …… and so many sincere and friendly comments.

    Tyleron January 26, 2012 @ 12:42 PM:

    Did Red Wing also provide the leather laces pictured here?
    Those are great — I want to make sure they use those next time I send my boots to get resoled…

    henrikon January 26, 2012 @ 12:52 PM:

    That recrafting job looks top notch. I should have done that to my last pair of Wings… Sure do miss them. Ended up hawkin’ them on the bay. Replaced them with a pair of Timberland Boot Co Tackhead boots… You know… I really like the tackheads, but functionality wise, they are just a fashion boot. They are rather subpar in the elements of any kind. They will prolly hit the bay aswell. I am tempted though to replace with another pair of Red Wings, but alas, I recently moved to Portland, home of Danner! Ahhh, the choices to make…

    Timon January 26, 2012 @ 1:24 PM:

    very cool. i hope they gave you the little american flags that go on your laces!

    Peteron January 26, 2012 @ 1:50 PM:

    Re the white soles: One thing i found is that almost every contractor in California wears crepe-soled boots, whereas on the east coast there seems tobe a lot more lugged soles. I think it’s because there’s more mud/muck in the east.

    jiheisonon January 26, 2012 @ 1:57 PM:

    Its great that Redwing, Allen Edmonds, Alden, LL Bean etc. make shoes that can be recrafted and offer the service. Recraftability is a factor when I buy a pair of footwear.

    At the same time, this seems like a good opportunity to support a good local cobbler (if you can find one that can do the work). The only thing I prefer over American-made is local.

    If anyone knows, I’d be interested in a response to carl’s question about restitching. Presumably, there is a solution. . .

    Daveon January 26, 2012 @ 2:02 PM:

    Alden does a fantastic job of re-crafting. I’ve had 3 pairs of cordovan shoes come back from them better than new, new box, shoe trees, and covers included. I have a pair of suede chukka’s that I’m debating (would be curious to hear of anyone else’s experience with suede reconditioning) sending. While a bit more expensive ($150) they have the same deal shipping both ways, and still way cheaper than, in the case of cordovan, buying new ones. Process takes a good 6-8 weeks, but, like I said, well worth it. Also, worth it to note that anyone who has Brooks Brother’s Cordovan, (made by Alden) they will treat them just the same…they even put them in a BB box when they return them.

    Noelon January 26, 2012 @ 2:22 PM:

    I just had my red wings refinished in November 2011. They do an amazing job. The leather feals great and they are as comfortable now as they were when I first broke them in.

    Michael Williamson January 26, 2012 @ 3:35 PM:

    @tim I actually still have the 100th anniversary boot lace badges…good stuff.

    Michael Williamson January 26, 2012 @ 3:39 PM:

    The white crepe sole on the 875/877 was originally designed for farmers in the upper midwest. These days a lot of ironworkers wear the boots because the flat sole (and lack of heel like on lug soles) make it easier to not fall off of the tall buildings the workers are constructing:

    Ray Hullon January 26, 2012 @ 4:16 PM:

    How au courant to have the one-piece sole/heel now too! Look fine there, but I think them a bit pretentious on dressier boots (just returned some Trusardis because of that look).

    M. Douglas Wrayon January 26, 2012 @ 9:06 PM:

    Love Red Wing!! What a joy to see this.

    21st&Superioron January 27, 2012 @ 2:28 AM:

    I was a Honda mechanic for six years and I wore the same pair of Doc Martens Monday through Friday-eight to six. Still play paintball and hike in them.

    Smith&Ratliffon January 27, 2012 @ 4:59 AM:

    Really great piece, Michael.

    Patrickon January 27, 2012 @ 7:47 AM:

    Great post. I actually have a pair of 875s that will eventually need re-soling and I just wanted to know if the shoe came back as dark as the last picture. Was it just a leather treatment?

    Ryonon January 27, 2012 @ 1:01 PM:

    Damn Michael, that is some serious heal-drag. Those crepe soles are really soft and do tend to wear out rather quickly though. The uppers still look strong. Very nice.

    Georgeon January 27, 2012 @ 2:34 PM:

    You guys are jokes. I’ve worn Red Wing boots every day for the last 40 years. My son showed me this page and I laughed for an hour. City slicking men wearing red wing boots so chicks think you may have once done something remotely masculine. Guess what? When my wife was impregnated on our living room floor, I was wearing my Red Wings. When the plant exploded and melted steel was raining down like hell fire, I climbed up to a second story window and jumped. One of my red wings caught the ledge and was torn off, tumbling back into the quickly burning plant. Of course I went back in for it, even though my co-workers called me “bat-shit crazy” and “brainless.” Sure, I lost three fingers on my right hand and I’m half blind in one eye, but I still have my Red Wings.

    Toni (ITS WITH AN I!!!!)on January 27, 2012 @ 3:01 PM:

    God I love my R-Dubs! They have been with me through thick and thin. Let me tell you a little story. I was in ‘Nam with some of the finest company I ever knew. Charlie was closing in on us from all sides. All of the boys except for me were wearing military issue boots. Me? I insisted on wearing R-Dubs. Well, we blocked ourselves off with a barricade made of reinforced steel (like the toes of my R-Dubs) but the bottom 4 inches were wide open! Those crafty gooks caught on and aimed low. All of my boys went down that day as the bullets went straight through their boots. All of them except for me, of course. Got Dayum, that’s why you never leave home without your R-Dubs! To make a long story short – I ate a couple of our military issued Go Pills (speed is what we call it now) and pulled that M2 Browning straight out of the ground and fired away! 100 dead gooks and 12 hours later, the medics came and saved my boys. Of course, they had to calm me down with a heavy dose of benzos for I was in an amphetamine rage, but wooo! Nailed a Ho Chi Min City Stripper that night with my R-Dubs on! God, I love my R-Dubs!

    Minus Manhattanon January 27, 2012 @ 4:10 PM:

    @Toni – Ignoring how awful everything you wrote is, they actually have had military issue Red Wings:

    Duncanon January 27, 2012 @ 10:10 PM:

    I find this story of the Red Wing boots *MUCH* more inspiring than the latest iPhone 4S, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

    I know I would get lasting satisfaction from a pair of these in a way I could never ever hope to achieve with an iPhone. Granted the iPhone is a beautiful device in its own way, but what it comes to represent, & how it is put together, depending on globalism, which I think is not going to last, is something I find deeply troublesome. For me, I think I would find an iPhone a ridiculously intrusive device. I have even gone back to a land line w/an answering machine hooked up. Not home? Leave a message, I’ll get back to you. When I’m out the door, I have my freedom.

    I will even go so far to say I think all the “essential” gadgets are there to distract us from reality & the world that exists around us. Problems? What problems? Get texting! Check out to latest app! Same thing with TV, I’m always surprised nobody seems to draw the connection regarding why the content is called “programming”. I know this will piss someone off, & for that I’m sorry, but I threw my television out of the window about four years ago. That’s another machine I don’t want to be dependent on:) I have often asked myself why some folks get upset when I tell them I chucked my television, & I think it is because the TV is the talisman of “community” of participation in a world of shared activities & shared meanings, when in fact its a very isolating activity.

    When I think of essential things, I think of air-can’t go for more than a few minutes w/out that! Water-can only go a few days without it, and food-can only go a few weeks w/out that too. Okay, I also throw in a really good pair of boots:):)

    These boots are likeable in a way that could never be achieved from a marketing dream team from corporate America.

    g_wynandon January 28, 2012 @ 12:37 PM:

    Nice to see that I’m not the only person with serious heel drag. I wonder if they offer this service to canadians or if I should take a chance with my local cobbler.

    TMHon January 31, 2012 @ 9:23 AM:

    Great Post Michael.

    Victor Deltaon January 31, 2012 @ 11:54 AM:

    Yep. I’m retired so my Redwings lead a pretty quiet life. They are great for pushing the lawn mower around…..the sole doesn’t rip up the turf. They really stand out on the hiking trails amongst the latest and greatest from new age high tech lo cal action footwear.
    I go for the 877. Its side profile channels the Alden long wing tip.

    Daveyon February 1, 2012 @ 2:26 AM:

    Best advice I have ever received from a gray beard was at 18 as an apprentice carpenter. “Don’t be a dickhead and buy yourself a pair of Redwing boots.”
    Also, if your going to buy a pair of Redwings make sure they are the ones that are made in America, not the boots made in china, or else you are just missing the point.

    Chrison February 1, 2012 @ 2:33 PM:

    awesome. I was about to buy this pair but went with the Heritage work chukka instead because of the casual nature of the boot. But reading this makes me itch to get these after all. Nothing like a pair of worn in work boots. Thanks for sharing

    Gerardon February 2, 2012 @ 5:24 PM:

    @ George: Relax, some of us “city slicking” guys just want QUALITY PRODUCTS made by our fellow Americans, not some foreign crap. Like the writer said, he USED TO work on a factory but later opened a “city job” so to speak. He kept his Red Wings because it’s the shit, not to mention the connection with his Dad.

    dintxon February 3, 2012 @ 1:30 AM:

    I just think its awesome you still wear the same size shoe as when you were 13 – talk about bang for your buck…

    nice post – it is crazy how they do this – turning shit to gold… thanks!


    Duncanon February 3, 2012 @ 9:45 PM:

    Dear Michael,

    I was so inspired by this post, that I managed to find a Red Wing dealer about a half hour walk from my house. I went over & tried on a pair of 875 boots-which apparently come in a bewildering variety of colors, & picked up the normal tan ones.

    I normally take a 10D, but also tried a 10B-somewhat narrower-and they both seemed fine. The inside soles are pretty rock hard, & the sales lady told me they would take a few days to break in, so don’t do too much walking at first in them.

    I can’t believe how solid & sturdy the things are. I also showed her your website in the store, and she smiled & said “I see boots like that *ALL* the time!!!”

    Thanks for all that you do.

    brewdogon February 14, 2012 @ 11:49 PM:

    my mom just found my old redwing Ruffnex which i used for boy scout trips 40 years ago. had them resoled (vibrams, not the original) and buffed/polished for about $60 at our local cobbler and they look amazing, and my kids wear them now. wish i knew about the redwing recrafting service because for an extra $30 it would have been a more thorough updating; but, these are incredible boots that last.

    Dekeon February 15, 2012 @ 10:25 PM:

    Just a word of warning to those on the east coast: if you bring your Red Wings into a Red Wing store for resoling, they will send them to a cobbler on Long Island. They do this because it takes a lot less time. I had a pair re-soled last summer, and I wasn’t blown away by the job they did. I’d seen the little movie about the re-soling at the factory, and I actually wish they’d told me they farmed them out to a cobbler beforehand. In fact I bet every town has a cobbler that will do about as good a re-soling job as the Red Wing guy did for me. I would’ve prefered to send mine directly to the factory as Michael did.

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