Growing up around a multitude of tradesmen in the Midwest taught me a few things. One of those things (aside from a few too many curse words) was pretty simple; if you're going to spend all day on your feet, buy good boots. Seasoned professionals often advised me to buy a set of Red Wings—which upon closer look at the time appeared to be the unofficial boot of any job site I happened to come across. About a decade later, to much excitement, I finally stumbled upon my own pair of Red Wing Boots.
While Red Wing also makes a full commercial line of boots, I found myself drawn to their Heritage Collection, which seemed to be more up my alley these days. The collection pulls inspiration from the company's early years, slightly modernized with the wonders of today's technology. The Red Wing Heritage Style No. 8146 Moc Lug, which showed up on my desk about three weeks ago, to say the least, is an incredibly sexy boot. According to Red Wing, the American-made product is modeled after the original work boot styles that made them famous. The Briar Oil Slick leather, with its reddish tint, is nothing short of stunning, and the white offset-color stitching really gives the boot a unique yet classic look. There's no doubt this is one of the best looking boots I've worn in a while, perfectly complimenting my criteria for items that I travel with, which must be appropriate from the "trail to the embassy."
Goodyear welt construction and an aggressive Vibram lug sole really gave this boot potential for a dual-purpose success. The potential to resole them also goes a long way to help make that $240 price tag a little bit less painful.
After wearing them for about about two-weeks around town and receiving quite a few compliments about their good looks, I decided to include them into my travel kit for a two-week trip I was about to leave on in a few days. The break-in period was fairly short, and almost non-existent due to the flexible sole and lightweight construction of the boot; so without delay, I set off to spend some much-needed time on the road. The Red Wings felt perfectly at home from swanky nightclubs in Las Vegas, to trendy markets and restaurants in Los Angeles and San Francisco where they're nothing short of hip. The problem however was with the other areas and places I wore them, places overlanders wear their boots. Salt flats, sand dunes, beaches, and rocky trails, I encountered all of them and more during my trip. It's here where the fashion-forward design of the 8146 really starts to show its flaws.
Still, I persevered, perhaps thinking the boot needed more time to break-in, but the more I walked, ran and hiked; the more uncomfortable the boots became. Eventually, about a week into the trip, I switched to my other boots. which happen to also be part of a heritage collection from another American boot icon. Proof that a fashion-forward, retro-styled boot can still walk the walk and talk the talk when the going gets rough.
Specifically I believe the problem lies with the Vibram soles as the lugs are simply too aggressive and deep for the construction of the boot. It's impossible to count how many times several rocks would lodge themselves into the lugs of the sole, producing an annoying tap-tap-tap as soon as you reached a hard surface. Further proof that it's actually the fault of the sole lies in the tremendous hotspots I experienced on the bottom of my feet. Usually, when a boot is uncomfortable, I often find that the problem manifests itself with painful arches. In this case the lugs of the sole directed all of the pressure and energy to the balls and heels of my feet, causing very uncomfortable pressure points after a few hours of use.
Still, all beautiful things in life come with a price. There's a reason I still drive a Land Rover even though it's likely one the most unpractical vehicle you could choose for exploring the area in which I live. It's beautiful; kind-of like these boots. Are they the best choice for an overlander or a world traveler? Probably not, but if you like a little bit of pain, they're certainly beautiful.