PxPixel
Wolverine Monroe shoe - SNEWS

Wolverine Monroe shoe

When it comes to outdoor footwear, consumers are looking for shoes that go from the trail to town and allow them to achieve a custom fit. Wolverine’s series of ICS shoes have a mechanism in the heel that adjusts the cushioning so the shoes work well in a variety of conditions.
Author:
Publish date:
Wolverine_Monroe_shoe_09.jpg

Two major consumer trends have captured the attention of footwear companies. First, shoppers on tight budgets want versatile products that deliver more bang for the buck. And, second, they want products they can customize to meet their own needs. When it comes to outdoor footwear, consumers are looking for shoes that go from the trail to town and allow them to achieve a custom fit.

Wolverine’s series of ICS (Individual Comfort System) shoes have a mechanism in the heel that adjusts the cushioning so the shoes work well in a variety of conditions. Plan on walking all day? Then, set the heels for firm support. Plan on standing around for hours? Dial up more cushioning. Or maybe you want to place the majority of support on the inner side of the heel or the outer side to suit high or low arches, or to counter the supination or pronation in your stride.

Typically, if you want to customize the level of support and cushioning in a shoe, you have to buy an aftermarket insole from companies such as Superfeet, Sole or Shock Doctor. But casual shoes and boots in the Wolverine ICS line have a removable disk made of flexible, synthetic material that you can set to one of eight positions, with each position providing a different level of cushioning or resistance. There are four main positions -- Firm, Cushion, Inward, Outward -- and there are also four intermediate positions between these.

The soft disk has eight raised areas, like little peaks, and these peaks nest inside the valleys of a firm plastic disk that is attached to the heel. The interaction of the soft peaks and firm valleys determines the cushioning.

Over the course of a few months, we tested the Monroe, a slip-on men’s shoe with ICS, and found that the system worked moderately well. Overall, the Monroe is well-built and comfortable, while the central feature -- the ICS adjustment -- makes a bit of a difference, though its effects are subtle.

The first thing we liked about the Monroe was that Wolverine placed the ICS in what is otherwise just a really good casual shoe that can handle light duty on trails. The suede leather upper kept its good looks even after months of wear in extremely wet fall conditions. We subjected it to muddy trails, wet fields of grass and the typical around town wear and tear. There are some nice details, like a full-grain leather liner, a padded collar to protect the ankle, and a durable outsole that provides moderate traction, but doesn’t have huge lugs to appear clunky. Because the Monroe is a slip-on, we didn’t feel comfortable using it in rugged terrain, but it works well for a stroll on packed trails. On sidewalks, city streets and in malls, you can walk and stand comfortably for hours.

Of course, the main element of the Monroe is its insole, which includes the ICS. We first noticed that the insole is beefy, with thick foam cushioning from heel to toe, plus a strip of raised foam at the arch. Imbedded in the heel of the insole is the firm plastic disk, and the soft disk rests in it, flush with the rest of the sole.

Imprinted on the base of the insole are the words F-Firm, C-Cushion, I-Inward and O-Outward. The flexible disk has corresponding letters -- F, C, I and O -- and you align these letters with an arrow imprinted on the sole to set the desired level. We tested the shoe on every setting, on different types of terrain, paying close attention to see if we could detect changes in the feel of the shoe. We liked that it was easy to slip the shoe off, pull out the insoles and quickly change the position of the disk. The process was simple enough that we really could envision a person dialing up different settings to suit the moment.

Our testers said they did feel the difference when it was set to Cushion or Firm. In these settings, we noticed a definite softness or rigidity with each stride. However, the Inward and Outward settings were so subtle that our testers had a hard time detecting a difference between the two. The intermediate settings were even less discernable.

One of our testers who over-pronates set the disk to the Inward position to reduce the degree to which his foot rolls inward. But over the course of many walks, he could not feel a great advantage compared to the times when he walked with the disk set to the Outward position. Granted, some people might supinate or pronate to a greater degree, and they might be able to better detect the difference. Since we felt a definite change from Cushion to Firm, we know that the system does have some effect. We just can’t predict that every consumer is going to slip these shoes on and declare that they can feel a change, or rely on this system to correct their stride.

When we first glanced at that the ICS adjustment, we had our doubts and thought it might be a bit of a gimmick. But we think Wolverine is on to something here. The technology seems to have some merit, and it’s easy to use, made of durable materials and incorporated into a comfortable and attractive shoe. Plus, it addresses consumer demands for things that are versatile and can be customized to suit their needs. We’re intrigued to see how this concept evolves.

SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $125

For more information: www.wolverine.com

Related

Golite_TrailShoe.jpg

GoLite Discover Lite / Trail Lite shoes

GoLite’s design philosophy with shoes is to turn everything on its head – that is, the company’s shoes put the cushioning near the ground to absorb the bumps and lumps of the ground, and place firm support underfoot. In theory it sounds like a good idea, so the SNEWS® team ...read more

ExOfficio-Caravan.jpg

ExOfficio Caravan travel shoe

Like any explorer, a good travel shoe must be flexible and able to handle a variety of situations. First, it should offer plenty of support and cushioning for hours of walking and standing, whether you’re strolling city sidewalks or negotiating airports. Adventure travelers also ...read more

Trail_Run_Footwear_072911.gif

How to Sell: Trail Running Shoes

If there’s one thing all trail runners need it’s the right pair of shoes to keep them comfortable and protected. That’s where this chapter of the SNEWS® Retail College comes in. Filled with all the basics about shoes and fit, it’ll make every salesperson feel more confident when ...read more

Timberland_RipCurrentTech_shoe.jpg

Timberland Rip Current Tech water shoe

As water shoes have become more popular the last few years, companies have tweaked their designs so that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to get a truly amphibious shoe. Timberland’s Rip Current Tech is a good example. After wearing these water shoes for a couple of months ...read more

Teva_Sunkosi2.jpg

Teva Sunkosi 2 water shoe

As a concept, water shoes are a fine idea. But we've suffered painful scrapes and blisters from poorly designed amphibious footwear, and frowned over many models that didn't dry as quickly as advertised. But Teva's Sunkosi 2 performed well, and proved to be exceptionally ...read more

Lowa_AL-X.gif

Lowa AL-X 66 Shoe

Lowa Boots has utilized a new injection molding technique that's intended to shave weight from the light hikers currently in its line without diminishing the support those light hikers have long been recognized for. With the new AL-X series, Lowa injects polyurethane and other ...read more

Altra1.jpg

Icon breaks tradition by purchasing shoe company

Icon Health & Fitness broke its mold recently when the fitness equipment company purchased a small running shoe brand. “If we were going to be in footwear we decided we should either build it or buy it – but it had to be innovative,” said Colleen Logan, vice president of ...read more

TheNorthFace_TrailRunning.jpg

How to Sell: Trail Running Shoes

If there’s one thing all trail runners need it’s the right pair of shoes to keep them comfortable and protected. That’s where this chapter of the SNEWS® Retail College comes in. Filled with all the basics about shoes and fit, it’ll make every salesperson feel more confident when ...read more

SharkTank.jpg

Xero Shoes dives into the Shark Tank

Steve and Lena Sashen have spent countless nights during the past two years parked in front of their computer, captivated by ABC’s "Shark Tank" episodes on YouTube.The premise of the reality television show is this: People pitch their business plans and products to a panel of ...read more