By T.C. WORLEY
For my latest hiking boot test, I did something a little gutsy — I went from box-to-trail with a brand new boot, fingers crossed and hoping for the best. What could have ended in a blistery disaster actually turned out pretty well. The boot was made by Wolverine, a company perhaps best known for adorning the feet of service-industry professionals all over the nation. Our test boot, the Fulcrum, is made for outdoors types, and it will retail for $200 when it comes to market this fall.
The Fulcrum is a classic-style leather boot with a GORE-TEX liner to make it waterproof. The company advertises it as “suitable for long hikes with heavy gear.” To test them, I did just what the company recommended on a trip to Michigan this month.
Over three days in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I hiked in the Fulcrums carrying a large pack. At first, the steep angle inside the boot — a high heel-to-toe drop — took some getting used to. The boots were somewhat heavy, too, weighing in at nearly 2 pounds per foot. This is average for a hiking boot but bulky compared to my normal hiking footwear, which are trail-running shoes.
But the burliness pays off on a tough trail. In the Porcupines, I walked over and through everything in my path — mud, puddles, rocky climbs, swamps, and creek crossings up to 6 inches deep. Thanks to the GORE lining, any moisture in these boots was from sweating.
Aesthetics and overall design get a thumbs-up. The Fulcrums have butter-soft leather uppers and a smooth lacing system. They are easy to tighten on the foot, and they hike comfortably, even right out of the box as I found. Materials are top notch, including the soft Vibram “Mutant” soles.
There is a hidden tech touch in the boots. In pursuit of comfort, Wolverine uses a proprietary heel-fit system. It’s called ICS (individual comfort system) technology, and essentially it is based on a rubbery disc found under the insole where your heel plants down. The disc can be spun to several positions to change softness/firmness of that area in the boot.
You remove the insole to access the ICS disc and choose your desired setting. I tried it a couple ways and found the difference to be subtle, though noticeable for sure. I’d suggest experimenting with the settings to find your own optimal “sweet spot.”
The Fulcrums come out in September (2011) in brown or black. Overall, we were impressed. These boots represent a new take on the age-old problem of uncomfortable hiking boots that need “breaking in.” Seems the company knows this, too: To show its confidence in the system, Wolverine offers a 30-day “comfort guarantee.” If you’ve had comfort issues with trail boots in the past, these well-made hikers are worth a look.