As the Director for Parker Street Ministries, my work calls for me to have to go from a meeting where I’m dressed in normal clothes to swapping out chainsaws, loading furniture, roofing a house, or helping someone move. Having a good pair of all-purpose boots is huge. Add to that the fact that I live in rainy Florida and waterproof safety-toe boots become essential. What’s been particularly attractive to me about the Red Wing 4216 Work Boot is that after weeks of wear, I can dust them off, and they still look pretty good—sometimes nice enough to wear for a meeting.
What I like most about these particular Red Wings is, as you might imagine, their new BOA lace-up system. There are no shoelaces, so they never come loose, and they never get hung up on anything. The boots operate almost like a pair of slippers in that they are able to be zipped up quickly. I’m used to having boots with long laces, and these are infinitely better. The BOA system uses three components to make everything work: the cable, the integrated lace guides, and the dial that frees the system or allows you to twist it to crank everything down. The laces are actually made from nylon-coated, stainless steel. They are, literally, tough as nails. While it appears to be one wire, the system is actually made from 49 individual strands. In use it will remind you of high-test fishing line, except that it doesn’t break, and it doesn’t stretch.
These 6″ boots are also extremely comfortable, which really shocked me. It’s not that I haven’t experienced comfortable boots before (I’ve owned Red Wings, CATs, Timberlands and Wolverines), but these are the first boots I reach for when I’m not wearing slacks. During days when I end up doing a lot of squatting down, I’m accustomed to my feet hurting at the top as I go to stand up. With the Red Wings, my feet still feel fine.
Testing out these boots was easy since I’m in the middle of renovating two houses. That involves a lot of demo work, hauling off trash and, at times, just kicking holes in walls (just happens to be one of the more fun parts of my job). The soles on the 4216′s were thick enough, thankfully, that stepping on a few exposed nails didn’t result in spiking my foot. We also do a ton of mowing and edging, and, once a month, we have a work day where we invite volunteers over to help us in a massive inner-city neighborhood clean-up. Throughout all of this, the Red Wings stayed comfortable and easy to wear.
Really, the only thing I longed for with these boots was an option of a smoother outer leather: one that might clean up even better than the more natural–looking material of this boot. The soles are also a tad less aggressive than I’m used to, but that’s mostly preferential. I did notice that these boots come in an 8-inch version which will offer more ankle stability, plus you can get them with a rubberized outsole. Depending on your preferences, those are also great options.
Looking back, I’ve never owned a pair of boots that I could chase kids in. In our after school program I found that I could come in from a day at work in the neighborhood and have no problem goofing off with the kids at a moment’s notice. Probably the best thing I can say is that as a “poor” ministry guy I’d actually buy these boots all over again. It’s an investment that has been well worth it.
Tim Mitchell is the Director of Parker Street Ministries, where he’s become more than a little proficient at using outdoor equipment, power tools and more, as he takes a front-line position in neighborhood clean-ups, landscaping projects, home repair, and historic-era home renovation.