Simple but good-looking, Spirit Lake boots are Indian Motorcycle-branded and made in the state of Minnesota; wanna guess how I feel about them? If you guessed, “fucking love them,” give yourself a pat on the back.
Fortunately, the boots are well-made, comfortable, and durable as hell. So, even if you aren’t an Indian fanboy or Minnesotaphile, there’s a good chance you’ll still like these boots as much as I do. One of the reasons they are so damn good is the fact they are made by Red Wing Shoes, the southern Minnesota company that’s been making long-lasting work boots since 1905.
Of course, therein lies what may be the biggest stumbling block for many folks: Red Wing boots aren’t cheap. Priced at US $319.99 (£238 in the UK), the boots are effectively handmade in Red Wing, Minnesota – a small town about 50 miles down the Mississippi River from my old stomping grounds of St. Paul. The boots are available in men’s US sizes 7-12, with half sizes offered.
Spirit Lake boots are based on Red Wing’s popular Iron Ranger style, the primary differences being that the Spirit Lake is taller (8 inches, rather than six) and there is a subtle Indian Motorcycle logo on each heel. I mean, really subtle. Keen eyes will note that I’ve worn these boots on a number of test rides (eg, on the BMW K 1600 B) and I’ve never been called out by press guys for being off-brand.
Which is kind of a shame, really. Ever since I scored a free pair of Triumph-branded thermal underwear as “punishment” for turning up at a Tiger 1200 press ride bedecked in Harley-Davidson-branded base layers, I’ve made it a point to wear the “wrong” stuff in hopes of being given more free shit.
Anyway, although the boots were originally designed with Northern Minnesota iron miners in mind, their sturdy triple-stitched welt construction, tough Vibram sole, and double-layered toe all help to make them good motorcycle boots, as well. They’ve got a great classic aesthetic that fits the jeans-and-leather-jacket look, and, since I used to own a pair of very similar Red Wing boots, I know they look even better with a year or two of wear on them.
Straight out of the box, Spirit Lake boots fit exactly as you would expect a pair of sturdy leather boots to fit. Which is to say, they will need some time to break in; don’t plan any big hikes. I first got these just in time to bring them with me for last summer’s launch of the Indian Scout Bobber and was so excited at the prospect of being able to fanboy out on an Indian that I didn’t really think things through, and neglected to bring any other footwear. Fast forward to Chris walking through Minneapolis with blisters forming across the top of his foot (at the point where the boot bends when walking).
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Thankfully, summer in Minnesota means thunderstorms. Riding home from a friend’s house one evening I got caught in a full-on downpour so heavy it flooded the streets (Related fact: the Indian Springfield is a damned durable motorcycle that can be ridden through 2 feet of standing water) and soaked every article of clothing. It took two days for the boots to dry (my 55 Collection Hard jacket took three days), but once they were again wearable they were considerably more comfortable.
A few treatments of leather protector and another heavy rainstorm in Spain have gotten them to the point where they are now all-day wearable. They are still quite sturdy, holding the foot firmly in place, but I’m now able to walk good distances in them. Laces that run a few inches above the ankle mean the boots can be made to fit snugly, or loosened if you’ve been on a long flight and your feet have swollen.
Red Wing suggests ordering a half size smaller than what you normally wear. I took the company’s advice and had no issues.
Spirit Lake boots are, of course, just really well-made, sturdy work boots, rather than motorcycle-specific gear. So, you know, don’t wear them when doing motocross. Like the Corcoran Jump Boots I’ve had for many years, they don’t have any fancy armor or EC rating; they’re just tough as hell (I crashed while wearing my Corcoran boots and they remain perfectly useable).
Being tall, the boots offer a certain degree of ankle support and the double-layered toe means there are no issues with gear shifters. A steel shank means extra support and having to remove your boots when going through airport security – so be careful not to lace them all the way up when traveling internationally.
The fact that I keep referencing my wearing these boots in airports should give you a sense of how useful they are. I now confidently bring them to press rides as my only item of footwear, knowing I can walk the 800 miles of Schiphol’s terminals then ride another 800 without needing to switch boots. Paired with, say, a pair of Pando Moto riding jeans, Spirit Lake boots give you the ability to ride to your favorite ice cream parlor, then not feel too conspicuous when consuming your raspberry ripple.
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An added benefit is that these are the type of boots for which the soles can be replaced relatively inexpensively, which means it’s going to take you a very, very long time to wear them out.
Take a look at the cost of Red Wing Iron Ranger boots and you’ll see Indian has not marked up its Spirit Lake boots a single penny. Props to Indian for doing that; it eliminates the question that I usually have about branded gear regarding the monetary value of intangibles (What price the good feeling of being able to let everyone know your favorite brand?).
Nonetheless, there’s no getting around the fact these are expensive boots. For me, however, they’re worth the cost because they are good-looking, timelessly styled, and so, so durable. As I say, I used to own a similar pair of Red Wings, which I never bothered to treat with leather care, and they lasted five years of everyday use (in Minnesota, where they were exposed to heat, rain, snow, and salt) before I gave them to a friend who wore them to work every day for five years more.
As I said at the beginning, I fucking love these boots – not simply because they allow me to represent one of my favorite brands, or because they were made in one of my favorite places, but also because they are standalone fantastic boots. The fact they’ve got a cool Indian logo on the heel is really just the cherry on top.