Review by Arnie P
Wolverine Fulcrum Hiking Boots
The Fulcrum hiking boots were provided by Wolverine for review purposes. The full title for these boots on the web site is: Fulcrum – Wolverine ICS Mid-Cut Gore-Tex Off-Road Hiker. Now that is a mouthful! Now, I will give my impressions of the Fulcrum boot.
The Fulcrum comes in widths EW and M in men’s sizes 7 to 12 in half sizes and 13 and 14. The available colors are: Brown, Chile, Stone, and two styles of Black. In my experience, being able to pick a width for any shoe has become the exception.
Size: 9 US
Left boot: 27.3 oz
Right boot: 28.4 oz
My early recollection (1940’s) of Wolverine is that they made shoes and gloves for workers in physically demanding jobs that required a tough durable product. These boots have the same rugged look that I remember.
I would describe the Fulcrum as a leather Gore-Tex over-the-ankle boot. The toe is protected by a small rubber bumper. The heel has a groove which can be used for securing a pair of traction devices or snow shoes. The soles have open spaced tread for better traction in tight rocky areas. There are seven pairs of riveted closed lacing lugs. The lower four are single riveted and hinged. The top two pair are single riveted but not hinged. The remaining pair is double riveted, not hinged, and set back. All the single riveted lugs are flexible and move as one is walking. This seems to provide less stress on my foot. One of the main features is a Disc which is accessible by removing the innersoles and has an adjustable comfort setting. More on this later.
Gore-Tex to make the shoes waterproof and breathable
Wolverine Individual Comfort System
The most unique feature of this boot is the Disc or Wolverine ICS (Individual Comfort System). There is a short one minute plus video on the web site that gives a good description. The Disc is easily accessed by lifting the inner sole. Adjust the setting for the Disc by rotating it into one of 4 positions: “O”, “Cushion”, “I”, and “Firm”. Explanation of the four positions follows. The “O” or Outward position is meant for people with high arches or if your shoe wears more on the outer edges. Wolverine’s explanation of “Firm” follows: “ A firmer heel helps return energy and keeps your foot effortlessly moving forward. When set to (Firm), Wolverine ICS is shown to provide more energy return compared to other leading brands. To comfort fatigue, set to (Firm)”. The “I” or Inward is for those who have low arches (sometimes called flat feet). If the soles of your boots wear on the inner edges, the best setting would be “I” or Inward. The “Cushion” position reduces pressure and helps reduce discomfort caused from twisting of the foot. I noticed that the Disc are marked “L” and “R” so makes it easy to put the Discs back into the correct shoe, otherwise the settings would have the opposite effect. This appears simple and quick enough to do while hiking if the landscape changes or your load changes drastically. For more information please visit the web site at www.wolverine.com/ics.
There is a 30 day comfort guarantee. For more details on this visit www.wolverine.com/guarantee, or call 1-800-699-7369.
Trying the Fulcrum out
I have gotten so used to having a pull tab at the heel to help me put on my shoes. I figured that with a boot, which usually requires more effort, I would miss this feature . I was wrong. The back of the boot slopes down from about midway to the back of the boot. On my second time wearing the Fulcrum boot, I used my left hand to hold the right boot at the arch and guide my foot in with very little effort. I tried all 4 major positions. My arches have fallen too much to use the Outward position. I discovered that there seem to be half positions between the main positions making a possibility of eight outcomes. My plan initially is to omit the top set of lacing lugs. This is a personal preference. When I feel the boots are broken in, which probably should not take long, I will try using the top set of lacing lugs. I just like the feel of a looser fit at the top of my boots. The down side if I don’t use the top lug is that I tend to get more trail debris in my boots/shoes. In addition to hiking, I will do a lot of ladder work on my house. Now for the fun part, wearing these boots in real time. Please check back in about a month when I will have more to say about the Wolverine Fulcrum boots.
Update Wolverine Fulcrum Hiking Boots
The Wolverine Fulcrum hiking boots have performed well during this period. I have used the Fulcrum as a work boot, a conditioning boot, and a hiking boot.
As a work boot
This summer when I started repainting my house, I discovered rot and needed to replace several clapboards. Needless to say, I was spending a lot of time on ladders working on my Cape Cod style house. When working on a ladder for long periods of time, I usually find that my feet start to hurt where they touch the rung of the ladder. Also, if I don’t position my foot correctly on the rung when ascending or descending, my foot may slip off the rung. Both of these problems happen more with a sole that is easily bent. The Fulcrum has a fairly stiff sole and I never felt any slipping while on my ladders. I have 3 kinds of ladders: aluminum, magnesium aluminum, and wood. The aluminum ladder has rounded edges on the rungs and can be uncomfortable when standing for long periods of time. The square rungs of my magnesium aluminum ladder have ridges on the top rungs which provide very good gripping power. Also, I have made 3 wooden ladders with rungs of 1 in by 3 in fir wood. These thinner rungs on the wooden ladders are not only easier to slip off of, but also more tiring if the sole of the boot is not strong enough. I had no problems on any of my ladders while wearing the Fulcrum boots, even when I was on these ladders for long periods of time. Also, while wearing the Fulcrum boots, I always felt very secure ascending and descending the ladders.
One day, I was carrying some short boards into my house. As I was ascending the steps into my house, the board slipped and caught my leg just above the ankle. Unfortunately, I was wearing low cut shoes that day and the result was that I had some swelling and pain for awhile afterward. Most likely, had I taken the time to wear the Fulcrum boots, this would not have happened or have been be as severe.
Going on a overnight backpack usually entails hiking with a heavier load and for longer periods of time. Over the last few years, I have resorted to using lighter boots for my backpacking trips. If I use these same lighter boots, when going on shorter day hikes I am not getting as much conditioning as I would if I wore a heavier boot such as the Fulcrum. I have been wearing the Fulcrum boots for my day hikes and have noticed that when at the gym, in my regular gym shoes, I am able to use the Elliptical for longer periods of time.
A hike in Horn Pond Reservation
On this almost 2 hour hike, the temperature was in the high 40’s and there was a 15-20 mph wind. Horn Pond has a trail that is very steep with a lot of large mostly smooth faced rocks. The hill part of the trail is in sharp contrast with other parts of the Reservation where trails are mostly flat going around Horn Pond and its lagoons. There are also sections of the trail to the summit that are composed of mostly very small rocks. This tends to be quite unstable and requires a lot of focusing on where you place your foot. I have done this trail many times with lighter shoes and could feel some of these small rocks through the shoes. While wearing the Fulcrum boots, I could not feel any of these rocks. Once, my trailing foot did slip a bit as I was using it to push off for the next step. I probably took a larger step than I should have. The traction on the large smooth faced rocks was excellent. Going downhill on this trail is always a bit scary for me. I have the feeling that I am either going to topple forward or slip on a small pebbles covering the large smooth faced rocks. I did have more confidence in these boots than I have had with my other shoes or boots.
I am very pleased with the comfort, support, and stability of the Fulcrum boots. I am rethinking my view on heavier boots. The only drawback is that the Fulcrum boots may be too warm to wear in the warmer weather. I still have more to try out and report on in my next report. Please check back in about a month for my last look at the Wolverine Fulcrum boots.
A last look Wolverine Fulcrum Hiking boot
I am a little late as I as my Christmas list has grown to 23 people. In my last look at the Wolverine Fulcrum boot I will look at the Individual Comfort System (ICS) and what a heavier boot did for me.
Mittersill Alpine Resort
I usually spend a week in May and a week in November at this resort. These are usually quiet times of the year at the resort. It was in the low 20’s when I wore the Fulcrum boots to go on a 2-hour hike near Echo Lake. On this hike there were a couple very short steep areas and the boots handled this well. The traction and support was excellent. I did go off trail and I bushwhacked for a short distance. The main difference between bushwhacking and being on a regular trail is that my footing on a bushwhack can be more unstable because the surface of the ground can be spongy and or often it can give way. Despite experiencing both conditions on my bushwhack, with the Fulcrum, I felt stable and in control. I still needed my trekking poles but less than if my boots were less stable.
Individual Comfort System (ICS)
I tried the various settings and found that I always preferred the comfort setting. I think that, as time has gone by, the length of my stride has shortened. If I were taking longer strides consistently, my foot would be hitting the ground at a different angle and the pressure on my heel would be different. Another aspect of the ICS that I will not know about for some time is how the sole of the boot will wear. In a boot or shoe without the ICS, I can observe that my boot wears more on one side than the other and all I can do is make the observation and repair it or replace the boot when it get too worn. With the ICS, I can make the appropriate adjustment. It seems that the wear pattern on my boots never was severe and now I have enough pairs of boots that I have not detected wear on the soles of any of my boots lately. The failures I have had with shoes and boots has almost entirely been with the uppers. For me, the ICS has added comfort to my heel and a reduction of stress on my foot.
What all this stuff about weight
For the last 7 years I have been looking at ways to cut down the weight I carry. The goal seemed like a good idea and in most cases I have found it to be beneficial. My range of activities is not as great as it used to be. In the past, I used different shoes for road running, tennis, biking, hiking, dancing, and every day use. I have also golfed and done a few other activities for which I could have used special shoes but didn’t. In some of these activities, weight was a factor and having a lighter shoe was beneficial. My current activities are casual, gym, home related work projects, hiking and backpacking. My initial use of these boots has been in hiking and a few home work projects. In hiking I do a lot of bushwhacking and my feet and sometimes my ankles get a lot of abuse. I am finding that, now that I am in my seventies, my skin is not getting tougher, but actually more sensitive to bruises. The taller boot protects more of my leg from abuse, gives more support for the lower leg, and has also provided me with additional stability when walking. The results are fewer bruises, reduced strain on the muscles in my legs, and less of my weight on my trekking poles. The surprising result for me from greater stability when walking, is that I am having less pain in my shoulders. I had been thinking it was caused by the lessened weight in my pack, but going to a lighter load explains only part of my reduced pain. These boots range from 10 to 18 oz heavier than the shoes or boots I have been wearing in the past year. The average weight increase is about double. When I wear the Fulcrum, I don’t feel like I am wearing a boot that is twice the weight of my lighter boots and I don’t have that great feeling of relief when I take them off. I think that the benefits of the Fulcrum outweigh any disadvantage of the extra weight of these these boots.
This was a 2-3 hour hike on a slightly windy day with a temperature of about 25 F. There had been a light snow the previous day making it a “White Christmas”. The ground was frozen solid and I will say more about this later. I entered at the “Marjam” trail head. I picked this one as it is a short distance to a steep incline which leads to a water tower. After ascending, I took a steep descent path. I had no trouble with traction on this hill going up or down. I then headed toward the reservoir on a trail that was mostly a series of rolling hills. There was very little snow on the ground, but there were several areas where there was ice on the ground. I did have to walk carefully on these areas. This is a heavily traveled area and the ice may have been freezing while it was being walked on resulting in a very irregular surface. The irregularity provided traction but the deep tread on the Fulcrum was also very helpful in these situations. Frozen ground is not only as hard as concrete, rock or asphalt but usually very irregular. When the ground has a high moisture content and the moisture freezes and expands, the process leaves the ground with all kinds of irregularities. The ICS comfort position worked well on the frozen ground. I did not get the usual shock feeling when hiking on frozen ground.
I have enjoyed using the Fulcrum as a home work boot, as a means to condition for longer hikes and backpacks, and for the comfort, support, and traction they provide. I found them a bit warm in the warmer weather but that is a small price to pay for all things these boots do so well. I wish to thank 4alloutdoors.org and Wolverine for the opportunity to review the Fulcrum boots.