American made since 1905, Red Wing Shoe Company in Red Wing, Minnesota, has earned a worldwide following for their sturdy, durable boots built to last a lifetime. Not only do they make top notch (and increasingly fashionable) footwear, Red Wing firmly stands behind their product—offering repairs and modifications to anyone with a pair in need. This unprecedented service gives well worn boots the chance to be brought back to the original workshop to be rebuilt with original equipment.
I've worn my boots for 13 years, and realized this fall that they were ready for a refresh. Although the leather uppers are absolutely in their prime, the years of wear and tear left the soles in a much sadder state. So, to give my beloved boots a little tlc and to get an inside look at the repair process, I sent them on a journey back to their Minnesota roots—with explicit instructions to keep as much well-earned character in the boots as possible.
In the same fashion as the boots were originally made, the resoling process is done by hand—with the aid of a few heavy duty machines. After the worn sole is removed the remaining material is sanded smooth, exposing a bit of the original leather last and preparing the shoe for their new soles. A layer of glue is applied to both the new sole and the old boot and left to sit under a heat lamp for some time to cure. The two are then joined together and held under intense pressure until bonded. The excess sole is then trimmed down to the proper shape and given a brief washing before leaving the re-assembly line. The boots are boxed up along with a fresh new insole and two pairs of laces, black and tan, and sent back to the owner.
Lacing them up for the first time this season was like seeing an old friend. As comfortable as ever, with their well-earned patina and some welcome new support. The rejuvenation process had breathed new life into my old boots without permanently changing the feel or overall appearance, just as I wanted. Of course, if you want them all polished up they can do that too.
The repair process includes anything from resoling and restitching to changing eyelets or hooks and is available for any pair of well worn Red Wings for $95. The price includes shipping to and from the repair shop, replacement laces and a round of leather treatment and conditioning.