A simple, catalyst-free growth method for vertically aligned, highly crystalline iron oxide (alpha-Fe2O3) wires and needles is reported. Wires are grown by the thermal oxidation of iron foils. Growth properties are studied as a function of temperature, growth time and oxygen partial pressure. The size, morphology and density of the nanostructures can be controlled by varying growth temperature and time. Oxygen partial pressure shows no effect on the morphology of resulting nanostructures, although the oxide thickness increases with oxygen partial pressure. Additionally, by using sputtered iron films, the possibility of growth and patterning on a range of different substrates is demonstrated. Growth conditions can be adapted to less tolerant substrates by using lower temperatures and longer growth time. The results provide some insight into the mechanism of growth.