Review by Coy Starnes
Shoes provided by Wolverine for testing purposes
The Wolverine Creek Bed shoe is certainly an interesting looking shoe. Wolverine lists it as a Multi-Sport shoe but the words “performance water shoe” are printed on a hang tag on the shoe. All I can add is that after wearing them down in a creek bed, I can honestly say the name “Creek Bed” seems very apt and is a good indicator of the type of terrain these shoes are designed for. The shoe does reminds me of a water shoe but with more rigidity in the sole. I know I plan to use them as a hiking shoe when wet conditions are expected and the weather is warm enough. The shoe is also very lightweight. The website does not give the weight but I weighed my size 11 EW (extra wide) at 23 oz, so about 11.5 oz per shoe. Since the upper of this shoe, including the tong, is made almost entirely of an open mesh material, the Creek Bed might not offer as much ankle support as some would prefer for tough terrain. However I found them perfectly adequate for my hike down in the holler and this hike does involve some very steep sections of trail. The shoe does not have an obvious raised heel and the sole is thicker than the ones found on minimalist footwear but it is still a very thin sole compared to most hiking sneakers I have worn.
I am not a shoe expert, but hopefully my description and a few accompanying photos will make things clear. As already mentioned, the Wolverine Creek Bed shoe is basically a mesh shoe. There is a rubber toe bumper across the toe area as well as a slightly raised rubber area around the heel. Here is a photo of the toe bumper.
The outer sole is pretty flat from end to end and the tread is not all that aggressive but has a sticky feel to it. I have already worn the shoes on some slick rocks and found the grip to be very good, yet the shoes picked up very little mud when I was in muddy areas. Here is a photo of the tread.
The insole is different than hiking shoes and even water shoes I have worn but its design is what lets the shoe drain out water very quickly. There are channels running parallel to the footbed but on the underside there are channels that run perpendicular to the shoe. This lets water drain down into the top (parallel) set of groves and then quickly out the sides. I wore them in water well over the top of the shoes and just as soon as I would step out of the water it would drain away in less time than it took me to say this sentence. Anyways, if the insole design is not obvious by now then these two photos should help.
I’m not sure what the strings are made of but I assume some type of synthetic material. They are not smooth. If I grasp the string and pull it between my fingers I can feel the unevenness. This is just a guess but I think this is probably to help the shoes stay tied better if the strings become wet.
Trying them out
I was not sure whether the Creek Bed shoes were intended to be worn with sock or not but the first time I wore them I did have on some thin low top socks. I was in town most of the day while looking at trucks on several dealer lots. I wore them again the following day without socks when I went to get the truck I finally bought. The shoes felt comfortable both times. The next time I wore them was on a hike down to the holler. I did not wear socks because I knew I was going to be wading. I found the shoes were very stable on the hike down to the creek. This trail is very steep in several places and I was using my hiking poles, but more because my left knee, while feeling much better, still feels a little weak going down steep hills. I was glad to find out my foot stayed securely in place because if the slide forward it causes my toes to hurt. Once I arrived at the creek I commenced to wade around in the water. They worked great for this. It was especially nice that I could feel the cold water moving through the shoes instead of just getting trapped inside them.
When I got out of the water all the water basically drained away immediately. Of course my foot and the shoe still felt wet but I was surprised that my foot did not feel like it was resting on a wet insole. By this I mean my foot felt damp but not overly damp and they did not want to slide around inside the shoe. That’s all for now. I will update this report in about a month and let everyone know how they are performing. My thanks to 4Alloutdoors.org and Wolverine for this testing opportunity.
Update: September 3, 2013
I have now worn the Creek Bed shoes on numerous occasions on varying types of terrain. They have worked really great in all situations so far. I have continued to wear them on my exercise hikes to the holler. I’m not sure I will be able to use them year round for this, but as long as it is fairly warm, these shoes appear to be just about perfect for this type activity. I am not loaded with a heavy pack but the trail is still steep enough and slick enough at times that having a good grip is paramount and the grip on these shoes is excellent.
I also wore them on a backpacking trip. The trip actually got derailed due to some issues my hiking partner was having, but I still was able to assess the shoes under a pretty heavy load on some fairly challenging terrain. We hiked about 4 miles total and my pack weighed in at 30 lbs. When we turned around I carried both packs so I ended up carrying about 45 lbs for 2 miles. The Creek Bed shoes were great. I did have hiking poles and was extra careful at all the places that required a big step up or down (especially down). I was wearing a single layer of thin wool socks and experienced no rubbing or sign of blisters at all during the hike. My hiking partner had on some very comfortable walking specific tennis shoes, but for some reason developed some blisters during the hike. I do go barefoot a lot during the summer so my feet are tougher than most.
After this hike I used them for more day hiking and just as a casual shoe. A few weeks later I wore them on a 3 day canoeing trip on Black Creek in southern Mississippi. Actually, I used my kayak and the other 2 guys rented a canoe. Anyways, I must say, these shoes were absolutely great for this type of use. The only downside I found was that sometimes I wanted my shoes off for a short period of time while underway and these are not real easy to get back on when sitting in my kayak. Then, at night I sometimes needed to get up from my hammock and again found the Creek Bed shoes a little slow to get on. However, I usually had time to check out my surroundings before turning in for the night and was able to just go barefoot when I needed to get up. However, the campsite on the third night was in an area with quite a few briers so I carried some easy to slip on shoes (Crocs) to keep under my hammock that night.
But the real bright spot of these shoes was that they kept out all but the very smallest gravel out of my shoes when I would need to hop out of my kayak and into the river for whatever reason (it happens quite often). Some very fine gravel would end up lodged in the drain channels of the insole, but there were never enough that I even noticed them until looking inside the shoe. On previous trips I had worn some toe shoes that would almost immediately let gravel inside the shoe and I spent a lot of time taking them off to remove gravel that would hurt if left in. I wore the Creek Bed shoes almost the entire time we were on the water and I never did have to take them off to remove gravel. I did get some sand in them, but even that was not bad. The toe shoes would allow sand to accumulate in the toe area so much that getting them back on was difficult unless I spent several minutes clearing sand from the toe pockets. I think the open mesh of the Creek Bed is responsible for these shoes performing so well in this type environment. Of course it was also nice that these shoes let all the water drain away, but apparently this process took away nearly all the sand, yet the mesh was tight enough to prevent the larger stuff from getting inside the shoes. I did experiment with wearing the Crocs in the river and found they were even worse than the toe shoes as far as getting gravel under my feet. Of course they are much easier to get off and back on, but, I had to be real careful not to turn them loose or they would get away from me. I had to have one of my fellow campers grab one of my Crocs on one occasion or I would have lost it for sure. We were beached for the night and our boats were well out of the water. We were wading in a rather swift but rocky section of the creek and I got gravel in under my feet. I was trying to just hold each foot up and let the water clean them out when one came off. Lucky for me there was someone downstream to catch my shoe. This also got me to thinking, would I prefer a shoe that was as easy on and off as the Crocs but in material similar to the Creek Beds. The answerer is actually no, well, no in so far as that I want my water shoe to fit tight enough to prevent rocks from entering from above the shoe in the first place. I also don’t want a shoe in that will come off easily in swift water, and if it does, I would prefer it not have the floating characteristics of the Crocs so I might have a better chance of grabbing them.
Summary So Far
I don’t know if it came across that these are just about the prefect shoe for kayaking/canoeing and wading in creeks and rivers, but just in case, they are. They work well for hiking too, but, I could just as easily hike in a pair of trail runners. However, I think these might be better suited for extremely hot conditions due to the open mesh. I know they are better if wet creek crossings are expected and I can’t or don’t want to take my shoes off. I would not mind seeing a similar version with a slightly thinner sole for a more barefoot experience, but for the vast majority, I think the sole on the present version would be preferred. Stay tuned for my last update to see how these shoes continue to perform.
Final Update, November 1, 2013
I don’t have a lot to add but, now that the shoes have a few more months of wear I can safely say that they are the best shoe I have ever used for my activities that involve lots of water. This has included more hikes to the holler and subsequent wading around in the creek as well as several more kayaking trips. I recently got a fishing specific tandem kayak and have taken it out 3 times so far, with my wife, with a friend and also solo. Each time I wore the Creek Bed shoes. On the solo trip I put in at the lake but paddled about 2 miles to a creek which I then paddled into and fished. The trip lasted about 6 hours and I had to get out of my kayak twice to drag it over beaver dams. At one beaver dam the spot where I needed to get out the water was about 2 feet deep and my paddle was sinking a lot further into the bottom. I knew I would probably sink to at least chest deep and the creek water was cold. However, I had no other option other than turning around so I decided to go for it. As expected, I ended up sinking at least 2 feet down into the creek bed…(pun intended) but the Creek Bed’s stayed on my feet just fine. When I got back in my kayak and held my feet over board I was able to swish my foot around and remove nearly all the silt from my shoes without removing them. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure very little silt and mud actually entered the shoe, but of course since I did not remove them I can not say for sure. I had to cross the beaver dams 4 times, once going in and then again coming back out. I also had to wade when I put in and then back at the put in spot when I finished paddling.
Another thing I appreciate was that fact that the shoes provided a very good grip on the deck of my kayak. It is a wide stable kayak that is designed to stand in if the fisherman so desires. I was a little wobbly but the Creek Bed shoes stuck to the slick hard plastic bottom just fine.
The shoes do look a little dingy now, however, the tread on the bottom is still in good shape. I have not worn them on pavement a lot though. I have rinsed them off after most uses, especially if I got them muddy or after trips to the lake which has much dirtier water than the creek. They have not developed an odor but for good measure I probably should wash them in a bucket with some dish detergent. They could go into the washing machine if I felt real lazy.
I will not be able to wear them a whole lot now that it has started too cool off because they do let my feet get wet while walking around in my yard or the woods if the ground is damp. I was walking around in my yard the other day and the grass was wet. I noticed my feet felt a little chilly even thought it was not real cold, the temperature was about 50 F. I did not really notice that my feet were getting wet but when I came back inside and took my socks off they were pretty damp. However, the same characteristics that will be a problem in the winter make them just about the perfect shoe for summertime use.
This concludes my reporting on the Wolverine Creek Bed Shoe. I would like to thank Wolverine and 4AllOutdoors for the opportunity to test these shoes!
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.