Wolverine Compass Boots

Wolverine Compass Boots
Review by Coy Starnes
Boots provided by Wolverine for test purposes
Click on any image in the report for a full size view.
Wolverine Compass Boots

side view of Wolverine Compass boot

I would consider the Wolverine Compass a mid-weight hiking boot.  They are lighter and more flexible than full on hiking boots but offer more support than a trail runner type shoe.  The uppers are a mixture of nubuck leather and some kind of synthetic materiel listed as mesh in the specifications.  The boots feature a GORE-TEX membrane for wet conditions. Of course with the top of the boots at only 5.5 inches high, I will still need to be careful not to get water over the tops of the boots. The boot sports a pretty big toe guard made of what looks like some kind of  tough plastic or rubber.  According to the scales at my local post office the pair (men’s 11.5 EW) weighs in at 3 lb 6.1 oz.

However, the thing that really sets the boots apart from other similar boots is the iCS system which is Wolverines acronym for Individual Comfort System.  I’ll try to briefly describe the system and illustrate with photos.  The system revolves (and I mean that literally) around a round disk in the heel area that can be turned (like a compass) inside the boot.  By selecting the orientation of the disk you select the support you prefer.  The compass points are I (Enhanced Inner Support), O (Increase Outer Support), F (Go Firm) and C (Add Cushion).  Basically, the disk fits inside a similar shaped disk in the footbed, and by selecting a letter and placing that letter in the front, you have set the boot to that configuration.  I think I will like the firm setting best (testing will tell) but the boots came in the C setting (Add Cushion), and I have to admit, they felt really good when I put them on.  I’ll try them both ways and skip the different side support modes as I have a fairly normal foot with normal arches and my feet are neither pronated or supinated.  According to the pictures on the hang tag and inside the shoe box, the settings of the iCS system should be set to match the following conditions. Click on image and you should be able to read the text.

Chart explaining iCS system

Chart explaining iCS system

The disk that fits inside the footbed has protrusions that go from high on one side to low on the opposite side in a waffle or W like fashion.  The receptive part of the footbed is shaped the same as the disk, only it is even all the way around.  So the F (firm setting of the disk which has the least protrusion) will not sit all the way down into the footbed no matter which way it is turned.  On the other hand, the C setting (cushion) fits all the way into the footbed no matter which way it is turned. If this does not make sense maybe the pictures below will explain it better.  In the first picture, if you look at just the disk you will notice it is slightly thicker on the left side. The second picture shows the disk inserted into the footbed and inside the boot, set in the F (firm ) setting).

 iCS disk and footbed

iCS disk and footbed

iCS disk in footbed

iCS disk in footbed

The tread on the Compass boot is pretty aggressive.  I have already went for a hike down to the holler. With all the recent rain the trail was slick but I found the traction to be very good.

 

tread on the Compass boot

tread on the Compass boot

The Compass has seven lace points.  The bottom five are typical pass through and the top two are speed hooks.  This photo shows the lacing arrangement and the toe guard.

front view of Compass boot

front view of Compass boot

Fit and Feel

The boots I am testing are men’s 11.5 in the EW width.  The website did not say this stands for Extra Wide when looking at the boots, but I found the answer by looking under the FAQ section which states; 2E or EW = Extra Wide Width.  11.5 is my true shoe size but I will go for 12s if the shoes are narrow as I can’t stand my toes to be scrunched.  Anyways, I feel these boots are true to size.   And with the extra wide, the toe area in these boots is nice and roomy.

With the boots set on the F (firm setting) I wore the boots around the house and yard several hours the first day I had them.  The next day I wore them all day long and also went for  a 2 mile hike down to the holler.   I was not sure if the boots might need a little break-in, but so far, the boots have not caused any discomfort at all.  I know 2 miles is not that far, but the trail to the holler steep enough that I can usually tell if my boots are going to cause me trouble.   I think the good fit and the fact the front half of the boot is quite flexible contributed to the comfort I experienced right out of the box.  I also waded a little while at the creek to see if the boots would leak and found them to be waterproof.

fisrt waterproofness test

first waterproofness test

So far I am extremely pleased with the Wolverine Compass boots. Stay tuned for my next update which should follow in approximately one month.

Wolverine Compass Boot Update

June 21, 2011

I have now worn these boots enough to make a few observations.  The first one would have to be that these are extremely comfortable boots.  I had absolutely no problems with break in, which I have experienced with several other boots I have worn over the years.  Not that the other boots did not turn out to be very comfortable, but I don’t like having to suffer through weeks of discomfort like I have before.  I also found that despite being pretty big boots, I have not felt clumsy in them. Clumsy might not be the exact word I’m hunting but what I mean is that the boots are similar in feeling to wearing much smaller trail runners.  For example,  when hiking around the creek I would step on many uneven and usually slick rocks that often moved under me.  I also walked a log  several times to get across when the creek was up.  No matter the terrain I always felt very secure in the Compass boots.

Crossing a log wearing the Compass boots

Crossing a creek wearing the Compass boots

Another observation is that I could use a narrower pair for summer wear.  When I first got the Compass boots it was still early spring and I wore thick socks.  The past several weeks have seen temperatures at or above 90 F (20 consecutive days until a recent cool down) and I found that I still needed to wear the thick socks or the boots felt too big. I discovered this when I wore them with some thin socks around the house and yard one day and had to go get a thicker pair of socks after a few hours.  I’m glad I didn’t do this on a long hike because I could have easily worn a blister on the bottom of my foot.  I probably compounded the problem by loosing a few pounds since first getting the boot. Regardless, I will continue to wear them with appropriate socks and just chalk it up to poor timing.  In fact, due to the waterproof nature and the fact that I’m wearing thick socks, I have no doubt these would be awesome for winter wear even thought they are not insulated

I have not kept up with my mileage while wearing the Compass boots but I know I wore them on at least a dozen dayhikes to the holler and wore them to work, to town and around the house another dozen or so times.  My longest walk was around 5 miles but most were around 3.   Most of my hiking has been in dry conditions but I did wade in them nearly every time I went to the creek.  The soles are sill holding up well and the only visible wear is a few scratches on the leather around the side and front of each boot.  However, the rough texture of leather on these boots hides these slight scratches very well and I could no get a good photo of what I am taking about.  So far they have remained waterproof.  Here is a photo from my last hike when I stood in the water several minutes to really give them a good test.

a wade test

Still waterproof after a couple of months of wear

Before closing I should probably say something about the customizable insole, but I have not felt the need to change them from the F (firm) setting I put them in at the beginning.  In fact, I would describe the place where my foot sits, and especially the heel area where the adjustable disk is located, as slightly squishy.  Stay tuned for my final update to see if the Compass boots continue to impress me.  I know that so far I really like them!

Final Update, October 4 , 2011
wearing the Wolverine Compass boots while riding my mountain bike

wearing the Wolverine Compass boots while riding my mountain bike

July and August turned out to be very hot and dry and I rode my bike a lot more than I hiked.  However, I did wear the Compass boots several more times, whether hiking for exercise or riding my Crank Forward bike. I also recently got a mountain bike and used the boots on a half dozen of those rides.  I know this may not sound like an ideal way to test a hiking boot but since I ended up walking up so many hills, I actually put in several miles this way.  They have continued to be one the most comfortable boots I have ever worn.
Even though they are uninsulated, they were a little warm for the conditions except the past few weeks which have seen a steady drop in temperatures.  I think this may be more due to the waterproof nature of the boots because even though  they sport a breathable GORE-TEX membrane, they are not quite as quick drying from the inside as an unlined lightweight tennis shoe or even a non GORE-TEX lined boot would be.  A classic example was on one of my recent mountain bike rides when I crossed a shallow stream.  I managed to ride across but got quite a bit of water in my left boot.  I just kept riding and when I got home my left sock was a lot wetter than the right one.  On another ride I was crossing a different stream and actually fell of the bike.  I landed on my feet but was in water several inches over my boots.  I pushed my bike on across and stopped and attempted to drain them but very little water came out.  However, my socks were soaked enough that I managed to squeeze quite a bit water out of them.
I also used them on a 4 mile outing that took me four and a half hours to complete.  I know this seems very slow but I did get a great workout because I was clearing a trail for riding.  I did manage to whack them with my machete a few times but they seemed impervious to my carelessness.  One thing I did notice was that they let quite a bit of debris inside as I was knocking up bits of dirt and bark when trying to make sure and not leave anything on the trail that would later puncture a tire.  Of course this was not typical of normal hiking conditions and I never had this problem when just hiking around in the woods.  I know I had to sit down and take a boot off several times to get whatever was bothering me out during this outing.

I know the Compass boots are not actually intended for mountain bike riding but they seem to be just fine for the job except that the laces on these boots are quite long.  I rode the first couple of times with the boots tied normally but have now started going back through the speed hooks on more time so now there is not in any danger of the laces getting caught in my crank ring.  Actually I only have to worry about the right side boot but to me just doing one looks silly so I do both.  As stated earlier, I did end up walking quite a bit on my mountain bike rides because I’m not very good at climbing and about half my ride distances were uphill.   I found out very quickly that it is a lot harder to climb a hill with the front tire bumping over small downed limbs, roots and rocks while the rear was struggling to keep good traction. I never had any problem with the traction with the Compass boot though!

 

As for durability, these boots are pretty tough for a mid-weight boot.  As I already mentioned, I accidentally hit them with my machete a few time when working on a bike trail but also I wore them over some pretty rough terrain several time when out and about on other hikes.  The uppers and tread are still holding up well.  Here are two photo showing the boots after several months of wearing them at least every weekend and sometimes a couple of times during the week.

uppers still in good shape after several months

uppers still in good shape after several months

soles also holding up well

soles also holding up well

Summary
I think the Wolverine Compass boots are excellent shoes for hiking.  They are also great for other outdoor activities like yard work and bike riding when the bike in question does not require cleats.   They were comfortable from day one, and while this does not necessarily mean a superior shoe, I sure did not miss the discomfort I have experienced while breaking in some boots.  They offer good traction on all but  the slickest wet rocks, and to be honest, I have yet to find a boot or shoe that offers great traction on the rocks along the creek I am referring too.  This completes my testing of the Wolverine Compass boots.

About the Author

I am from northeast Alabama where I spend a lot of my time divided among several hobbies that include  backpacking and dayhiking, canoeing and kayaking, and just getting out enjoying nature.

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