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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Wolverine Fulcrum Boots > Test Report by Brian Hartman

WOLVERINE FULCRUM BOOTS
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
LONG-TERM REPORT
February 22, 2012

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 44
LOCATION: Westfield, Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been hiking and camping for over 20 years and enjoy backpacking solo and with my kids in Scouting. I especially enjoy fall and winter backpacking and camping. My backpack and gear are older and weigh 40+ lbs (18 kg). This has limited the distances I have been able to cover while hiking. My goal over the next several years is to replace my existing clothing and gear with more suitable and lighter weight alternatives.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Wolverine World Wide Incorporated IMAGE 1
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.wolverine.com/
MSRP: US $200.00
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 3lb 13oz (1.7 kg)
Available Colors: Brown, Black
Available Sizes: 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 11.5 12, 13, 14
Available Widths: Medium, Extra Wide
Size Tested: 10W, Brown

Product Details:
Full-Grain Leather Upper
Gore-Tex Liner
OrthoLite Insert with Performance Arch
Polyurethane Midsole
Vibram Rubber Outsole
Wolverine ICS

Wolverine describes the Fulcrum hiking boots as offering "relentless performance and personalized comfort for serious outdoor adventures". In fact, they are classically styled full-grain leather hiking boots which are ideally suited for backpacking long distances with moderate to heavy pack loads. The Fulcrum boots feature a Gore-Tex liner, Wolverine's Individual Comfort System and a Vibram sole. The Gore-Tex liner makes the boots waterproof and breathable. In this regard, perspiration can escape through the waterproof membrane while water cannot get in. They also feature Wolverine's patented heel system called ICS (Individual Comfort System). This system allows you to adjust the boot's heel for more springiness or more shock absorption or for foot stabilization depending whether you have high arches or flat feet. Finally, these boots incorporate Vibram's aggressive rubber outsoles for sure grip while on the most unforgiving terrain.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I first became familiar with Wolverine boots while working as an electrician for a few summers during college. Most of the people I knew on the plant floor wore Wolverines. The boots had a reputation for durability and no one ever complained about sore feet, so I assumed they were comfortable as well. In preparation for this report, I decided to do some research on the company and discovered something noteworthy, especially in this day and age. Wolverine (who later changed their name to Wolverine World Wide Inc.) has been in the business of boot making in Rockford, Michigan for over 128 years. The company started in 1883 and was an innovator throughout the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing high quality boots that were worn by the people who built our cities, skyscrapers, railroads, highways and bridges. Wolverine World Wide Inc. is also the parent company of the well-known brands of Merrell and Hush Puppies and the manufacturer behind such brand-labeled boots as Caterpillar and Harley Davidson. They are most certainly an American icon.

The Fulcrum boots arrived at my doorstep in a tan and black cardboard shoe box with Wolverine's name, logo, and a large, rather intimidating wolverine (animal) on the front. Upon opening the box, I found the Fulcrum's neatly wrapped in tissue paper with additional paper stuffed inside the boots. Although I had viewed these boots earlier on Wolverine's website, I was immediately impressed with their rugged design and good looks, which are defined by their dark brown leather uppers, yellow stitching for securing the leather, and black metal eyelets that capture their thick boot laces.

IMAGE 2IMAGE 4IMAGE 3
The Fulcrum's are 8.5 in (21.6 cm) tall when measured to the top of the tongue and they taper to 6.25 in (15.9 cm) at the back of the ankle collar. Their construction appears to be solid throughout. They have smooth full-grain leather uppers with a fully gusseted tongue to keep water and debris from getting inside. Seven pairs of metal eyelets are riveted to the boots and the bottom four pairs of eyelets are hinged so that they can swivel in and out as the laces are adjusted. The rubber outsoles are made by Vibram and feature an aggressive tread pattern that appears very durable and sticky. In addition, the outsole extends approximately 1 in (2.5 cm) up the front of the toe box to protect it from nicks and scratches due to rocks, tree roots etc. Finally, a thick piece of black leather is sewn to the back of the boot, protecting the lower ankle area from abuse. All the stitches are solid and accurate, and the boot laces are well-captured by the metal eyelets. By design the eyelets form circular channels that the laces must be threaded through; in this way there is no possibility of the laces coming loose as sometimes happens with eyelet hooks.

The OrthoLite performance inserts are approximately 0.35 in (0.9 cm) thick and have a molded heel cup and preformed arch support. They are made of open cell foam which is designed to wick moisture and allow air to circulate around the foot. The foam is impregnated with anti-microbial agents to fight fungus, bacteria, and odor in the boots. As a bonus, they can be tossed in a washing machine and cleaned as needed.

IMAGE 5 The polyurethane midsoles provide a firm and stable ride while absorbing shock loads, ideal for long hikes with heavy gear. Upon further testing I will report how well they perform and whether they do a good job of cushioning my steps and absorbing large impacts. Another great feature of this boot is the nylon shank which provides torsional stability and increased stiffness for much better comfort than a tennis shoe on rugged terrain.

Moving to the inside of the boot, the top portions of the tongue and ankle collar are lined with smooth yellow nylon which feels quite comfortable. The organic inner lining which Wolverine mentions in their literature is visible inside the boot. This lining supposedly helps to reduce odors and wick away moisture. Also of note, a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane is hidden beneath the lining on the sides and bottom of the boot. According to Gore-Tex, their membrane is exceptionally breathable and yet waterproof so it should keep my feet both comfortable and dry.

The most unique thing about these boots is Wolverine's patented Individual Comfort System (ICS). ICS is essentially a two-part insole which consists of a raised heel bed with a cavity that allows insertion of an adjustable heel cushion. The heel bed is affixed to the inside of the boot while the heel cushion is a removable gel disc that can be inserted into the heel bed in one of four positions. The four positions allow for the following "customizable" settings: comfort position (maximum shock absorption), firm position (maximum energy return and bounce), outward support (for high arches or to reduce outward tilt) and finally inward support (for low arches or to reduce inward tilt). The bottom of the gel disc has a saw tooth construction that fits into the boot insole. The disk is 2.75 in (7 cm) in diameter and varies in thickness around its lower perimeter.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

IMAGE 6 Three hang tags were secured to the Fulcrum boots when they arrived. The hang tags provided general information on Gore-Tex, Vibram and Wolverine's ICS technology and read as follows:

Gore-Tex makes Wolverine boots and shoes waterproof and breathable. Perspiration escapes through the Gore-Tex membrane, but water cannot get in.

Vibram rubber compound gives Wolverine outsoles high traction, heat, chemical, oil and slip resistance.

Wolverine's Individual Comfort System allows you to go further with less fatigue. Using Wolverine's exclusive patented technology, simply adjust the gel disc under the insole to personalize your level of support for how you walk:

1. Cushion - A cushioned heel helps reduce pressure and maximize shock absorption.

2. Firm - A firmer heel helps return energy and keeps your foot effortlessly moving forward.

3. Inward - If you have low arches or "flat feet," inward stabilization helps reduce discomfort of the foot due to over-pronation.

4. Outward - If you have high arches, outward stabilization helps reduce stress on your foot due to under-pronation (supination).

Finally, taped to the inside cover of the box was a card which explained Wolverine's 30 day comfort guarantee. It read: "Try a pair of Wolverine ICS boots or shoes for 30 days. If you're not completely satisfied that they're the most comfortable boots or shoes you've ever worn, send them back for a full refund."

TRYING THEM OUT

The Fulcrum boots came pre-laced, so all I had to do was slip my feet in and tie the laces. With mid-weight hiking socks, the boots felt very comfortable and provided great support as I walked around my house with no pressure points or tight spots. Unfortunately, I was not able to lace them tight enough to prevent my heels from slipping up and down. The person I spoke with at Wolverine was very gracious and has made arrangements to exchange the boots for a smaller size. Once the new boots arrive, I will continue testing.

SUMMARY

So far, I really like the Wolverine Fulcrum boots. They are very well constructed with full-grain leather uppers and tight seems and stitching. Wolverine has incorporated several great technologies into their design including Gore-Tex, Vibram and OrthoLite. In addition, they have created what appears to be a very stable heel platform utilizing their ICS design. In my brief testing, the boots feel quite stable and seem to provide solid ankle and arch support which may allow me to wear these boots without orthotics. I am anxious to put some miles on these boots over the next several months while testing their overall comfort and durability.

This concludes my Initial Report.



FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1 I have had the opportunity to test the Wolverine Fulcrum boots under a variety of conditions during my Field Test. I have worn them on warm, dry days as well in wet weather and in snow. Most of my hiking during this period has been on hard packed dirt and gravel trails with frequent jaunts across streams and through brush and muddy areas. My pack weight during these outings was approximately 32 lbs (14.5 kg).

I wore the Wolverine Fulcrum boots on three backpacking trips during the past two months as well as on several day hikes. My first backpacking trip was a 14.1 mi (22.7 km) journey through the Hoosier National Forest in Indiana. The terrain was mostly hilly with dirt trails, some of which were quite muddy. Temperatures ranged from 56 F (13 C) to 72 F (22 C) during this outing with partly cloudy to sunny skies and light winds during the three days. Elevations ranged from 530 ft (161 m) to 720 ft (219 m).

My second trip was an over-night excursion to the Charles Deem Wilderness in the Hoosier National Forest just outside of Bloomington, IN. I stayed mainly on established trails during this 9.8 mile (15.8 km) hike although I ventured off-trail to explore around my campsite in the evening. Temperatures ranged from 39 F to 55 F (4 to 13 C) and skies were overcast.

My final trip was to Devil's River in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. This rail trail was 14.2 miles (22 km) long as it wound through farmlands, prairies and wetlands. Along the route were two railroad trestles which crossed the Devil's River and its tributaries. Temperatures were in the upper 20's to low 30's F (-2 to 3 C) during this outing.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During the past two months, I have logged approximately 32 mi (51 km) with the Wolverine Fulcrum boots. They have performed very well and have kept my feet warm and dry in a variety of conditions and in temperatures down to 25 F (-3.8 C). While backpacking, I generally wore mid weight Merino wool socks with sock liners inside these boots and they seemed to provide the best fit. Below are some of my observations from wearing them in the field:

Fit and Comfort: The Fulcrums run true to size and I haven't experienced any fit issues aside from some initial heel lift which caused rubbing of the boots against the outsides of my ankles. This was due to the boots being slightly too large for my feet. Once I exchanged the Fulcrums for a smaller size, the issue went away. Throughout Field Testing, the Fulcrum boots were comfortable to wear and I experienced no hot spots, blisters or pinch points. With their smooth interior lining, the Fulcrums were always easy to slip on and the laces were easy to snug up for a tight fit. The boots provided great arch support and a firm, stable base that made carrying my 32 lb (14.5 kg) pack more enjoyable. Early on in my testing, I experimented with the position of the ICS disc and could tell subtle differences between the four settings. After my initial trials with the ICS disc, I found the setting I preferred (inward stabilization) and have not changed it. As testament to the disc working correctly, I have had no arch pain or discomfort while wearing these boots. In fact, the foot bed has been very comfortable and it has supported my fallen arches well enough that I have gone without my arch supports on several day hikes. As it relates to comfort and fit, the outside of the boots are made of soft leather that flexes as needed. This allows the boot to conform to my foot while hiking rather than rub against it.

Durability: The Fulcrum boots have proven to be well constructed and very durable. Despite having worn them on numerous rocky and muddy trails, they have held up exceptionally well. Other than some light fraying of the laces and normal tread wear, they look as good as when they arrived. All the stitching is intact and the rubber toe caps show no signs of peeling away from the boot body. There are also only minimal signs of wear or scuffing on the toe cap. The boots have also been subjected to lots of water as I have taken every opportunity available to walk through shallow streams and creeks. This has not caused any water stains or deterioration of the leather uppers. IMAGE 2

Waterproofness: Thanks to their Gore-Tex lining, these boots have displayed excellent water resistance. Despite trudging through shallow creeks while in southern Indiana and upper Wisconsin, there was absolutely no leakage of water through the seams or leather into the boots. In addition, water beaded up on the full grain leather uppers during a few light rain showers I experienced while day hiking. The Gore-Tex lining also seems to be doing its job of letting moisture vapor escape from the Fulcrums as my feet have never been wet from perspiration after hiking or when I remove the boots at night.

General performance: Overall, these boots have performed admirably on the trail. They have provided excellent support and traction while hiking with a heavy pack. The Vibram soles have kept me on solid footing as the aggressive treads grip very well on both dry and wet surfaces. The Fulcrums have struck a good balance between being rugged yet lightweight and comfortable yet supportive. As these boots are not insulated, I don't expect them to be as warm as winter boots. Having said this, my feet have stayed warm so far while wearing the boots in light snow and freezing temperatures. With a bristle brush, cloth and some water it has been fairly easy to clean the boots to remove dirt and mud.

SUMMARY

Overall, I have been very happy with the Wolverine Fulcrum boots. They are well-designed boots that are both comfortable and durable. They fit my feet well and I have experienced no blisters or hot spots during this Field Testing period. They have kept my feet warm and dry during several wet muddy outings and have been comfortable to wear for extended periods. The boots have also provided me with good support while carrying a fairly heavy pack. In addition, the soles have provided excellent traction in various terrains and weather conditions. Overall, I consider these to be excellent boots.

My Long Term report will be appended to this report in approximately two months. Please check back then for additional information. This concludes my Field Report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During the past two months I wore the Wolverine Fulcrum boots on three backpacking trips for a total of eight nights. I encountered a few warm days with weather in the mid 50's F (13 C) but typically daytime temperatures ranged from the upper 20's F (-2 C) to mid 40's (7 C). Night time temperatures varied from the low 20's F (-5 C) on a few occasions to the upper 30's F (3 C). The terrain I crossed varied from rolling hills to flat paths and creek beds.

1. My first trip was to Devil's River in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. I hiked 14.2 miles (22 km) during this three day adventure, mainly on established trails. Temperatures were in the upper 20's to low 30's F (-2 to 0 C) with traces of snow still on the ground from earlier in the week.

2. My second trip was to Brown County State Park in Indiana. Daytime temperatures during this three day backpacking trip ranged from 28 F (-2 C) to 34 F (1 C), with nighttime temperatures around 22 F (-5 C). The weather was cloudy with light winds and intermittent showers. The terrain was hilly and trails were slippery and quite muddy. I hiked 12 miles (19 km) over the course of this trip. Elevations ranged from 530 ft (161 m) to 720 ft (219 m).

3. My third trip was near the town of Oldenburg in southeastern Indiana. During this two day outing I mainly hiked off-trail through woods and farmland several miles outside of town. I covered 9.5 miles (15.28 km) across moderately hilly terrain while temperatures ranged from 39 F to 50 F (4 to 10 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Wolverine Fulcrum boots performed very well during my Long Term testing. My observations during the last two months support my prior assessment of these boots. The foot bed was comfortable during long hikes with pack loads up to 35 lbs (16 kg). The boots kept my feet dry in wet, muddy conditions without causing them to sweat. And the boots provided great traction on about every type of terrain I encountered including snow packed trails, muddy ground and wet creek beds.

PERFORMANCE AND DURABILITY: Although the Fulcrum boots are not insulated, they performed well in below freezing temperatures as long as I wasn't trudging through deep snow or wading in creeks. When sitting around camp at night my feet eventually became cold but this was something I expected. The Fulcrum boots did a great job of handling temperatures down to about 28 F (-2 C) if I kept moving. The boots also protected my feet while hiking on rocky or uneven ground so that I never twisted an ankle despite having multiple opportunities to do so. These boots have proven to be durable and are constructed very well. I am very confident they will last a number of years. After four months of testing there are no signs of abnormal wear. The leather has held up well and I have had no issues with loose seams or frayed laces. All the stitching is intact and the rubber toe cap has shown no signs of peeling away from the boot body. The boots continue to look really good despite having been worn in snow, mud and dirt as well as over rocks and in streams during the past four months. They have seen just about every type of weather condition as well as temperatures above and below freezing, and notwithstanding some scuffs and scrapes they look as good as new. The toe cap has done a decent job of protecting the toe of the boot from rocks etc but there are still quite a few scratches on the leather. In this regard, I would have liked to see the toe cap extend higher for added protection of the leather. Finally, the Vibram soles are still in great shape with only minimal signs of wear.

COMFORT: The foot bed was very comfortable and supported my fallen arch well enough that my feet never felt tired or sore from hiking all day long. One thing I noticed when looking back over my four months of testing was that it seemed to take me a little longer to break in these boots. After the first month of testing I wasn't completely comfortable in these boots and still had some concerns about hot spots especially up near the ankles and whether they would go away. However, after three months of testing, I didn't worried or hesitated taking these boots on long trips. For me the secret was wearing a pair of liner socks and tightening the laces evenly to secure the boots so they didn't slip. Now that the boots are fully broken in they feel very good on my feet. Regarding weight, the Fulcrum boots are fairly lightweight when compared to other mid-cut hiking boots but definitely heavier than hiking shoes. A few advantages to these boots versus my hiking shoes are their more aggressive soles, sturdier base and more cushioning when carrying a heavier pack load. Based on these advantages, I expect these boots will continue to see quite a bit of use from me throughout this spring and then again next fall.

WATERPROOFNESS: The Gore-Tex lining worked exactly as advertised. The boots got wet on numerous occasions but my socks always stayed dry. Even when wading through icy creek beds the boots remained completely waterproof. In addition, my feet never sweated during testing even though I wore medium-weight merino wool socks and sock liners.

TRACTION: These boots have excellent traction. They gripped everything I came into contact with very well and I was able to hike through mud and over slippery rocks with minimal sliding. The aggressive treads did a great job of keeping me well planted. The Vibram soles also allowed me to climb steep inclines with no worry of slipping. Although the boots got covered in mud on various occasions, the lugs eventually discharged it as long as I kept moving.

MISCELLANEOUS: With our mild winter weather and plenty of mud (common theme), I'm pleased to say the Fulcrum boots were very easy to clean. I was generally able to rinse the boots off with a garden hose and then scrub off the mud with a light bristle brush before letting them dry. Throughout testing, I did not have any major problems putting on or taking off the boots. Although they do not have a heel loop, the Fulcrum boots were fairly easy for me to put on or take off as long as I took the time to open the laces. I'm sure this was also partly due to the fact that the boots are generously sized for my feet in the heel area.

SUMMARY

I have been very pleased with the Fulcrum boots during these last two months of testing. They provided great traction while hiking on slippery trails and remained durable and waterproof after five months of abuse. In addition, I had no problems with support while wearing a heavy backpack and the footbed is very comfortable. I did experience some rubbing just below my ankles on my last hike as first mentioned in my Initial Report and I expect that it had something to do with the lighter weight socks I was wearing which allowed my heel to slide up and down slightly. All in all, these boots provided a great alternative to heavier insulated boots during our mild winter this year and should also work well in spring and late fall. However, I will most likely go back to hiking shoes for the summer months as that will save me at least 2 lb (0.9 kg) of weight.

This concludes my test of the Wolverine Fulcrum boots. Thanks to Wolverine World Wide Inc. and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test these boots.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
Read more gear reviews by Brian Hartman

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