Midwest Living Review
While Red Wing Pottery has often grabbed the limelight for locally made goods, Red Wing Shoes have recently stomped center stage. Visitors can't miss the 16-foot-tall, size 638 D work boot on display in its downtown storefront and free museum. (And in case you were wondering, it would fit a giant 12 stories tall.) The first floor of the Main Street building is Red Wing's showroom of current styles, including men's lifestyle shoes (a huge seller overseas), Vasque hiking boots (part of the Red Wing company), stylish women's shoes and serious work boots. With the lower level's outlet shoe and boot selection, the store carries close to 30,000 pairs. The upstairs museum explains how the company founder saw the need for sturdier, more comfortable footwear among tradesmen who were building the country in 1905. Red Wing churned out boys' boots with a spot for pocketknives, the state's first ski boots and more than 200 sizes of military boots for World War II soldiers. It's fascinating to see how different styles cater to different industries: manureproof leather for farmers, nailproof Kevlar-coated soles for construction workers, even boots with antistatic soles for certain industries. Who knew work boots were so specialized? Just as fascinating as the museum is the chance to see the boots being made at the factory in Red Wing. Pride is tangible during public tours that began in 2010. The walking tours stop at several production stations where specialists cut, stamp and emboss leather, stitch together pieces and add steel to toes or protective Kevlar to soles. Tours are at 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, May through October. Be sure to wear close-toed shoes (it is a factory) and arrive about 10 minutes early.