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We spent the day hiking around the Brick Works, getting the scoop on Wolverine’s new ICS technology from Yahn Lebo, product line/category sales manager for the footwear company’s Rugged Outdoor collection.

Let it be known that as much as I love cycling, hiking and paddling, I hate shopping. I especially hate shopping for – gasp! – shoes.

“How could that be?” you ask? “How could anyone hate shoe shopping?!” Alas, I detest the task. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t like shoes; what I can’t stand is the struggling to find a pair that sorta, kinda fit. I’ve resigned myself to the never-ending challenge of finding a comfy pair of sporty shoes that fit my small but wide feet while offering enough support and cushioning. I dread shoe shopping so much, I actually avoid buying athletic footwear till I desperately need new gear on vacation!

So when Elevator Inc. recently invited me to their Wolverine “Take a Hike” event at Evergreen Canada’s Brick Works – one of my favourite outdoor spaces in Toronto – I was eager to get my feet into some Wolverine ICS Salina hiking shoes  ($144.99). From Wolverine’s Fall 2012 Rugged Outdoor line, they’ve a special snazzy feature that’s perfect for finicky feet like mine.

When I hike, I usually wear my Keen boots, but lately they’ve been doing more harm than good: while training for the Camino last year, I had to buy gel heel insoles to alleviate pain in my Achilles tendons when I hiked. Boy, what a difference did those gel insoles make!

So let’s just say that I was “keen” on trying out the Salina’s gel cushion, which provides adjustable comfort.

Yes, you read right: the shoes offer built-in adjustable comfort! The Salina features Wolverine’s amazing new Individual Comfort System (ICS) technology, which lets you personalize your footwear’s level of support by rotating the gel heel disc hidden under the removable insole of each shoe or boot. The thickness of the gel disc varies at different points, so as you rotate the disc, you’ll get more or less cushioning and support.

The idea of having what’s essentially multiple gel insoles in one shoe is pretty cool! It means you can customize your hiking shoes on the go, without ever enduring the hassle of purchasing and trying out specific insoles. With ICS, Wolverine builds in those options for you!


The Individual Comfort System has four settings that you can adjust to suit your comfort level: Cushion (C), Firm (F), Inward (I) and Outward (O).

According to Wolverine, each setting helps reduce force and torque on your body with each step you take. It’s easy to adjust the disc: simply lift up the insole (as shown above), pull out the gel disc and rotate it so your comfort setting points to the arrow in the footbed, then insert the disc and replace the insole.

Here’s what ICS looks like in action on a demo piece. (The red piece is the gel disc for the right foot, as viewed from behind; the black part is the footbed.)

cushion As I learned when I used my gel heel insoles on the Camino, a cushioned heel aids shock absorption and relieves pressure on your joints. You can see that this setting provides a bouncy, airy support at the back of the heel. Yahn Lebo, product line/category sales manager for Wolverine’s Rugged Outdoor collection, says this is the ideal setting to start on; as such, when you try on a new pair of Wolverines with ICS, Cushion is the default setting.

firm When we started our hike through the quarry gardens, all of our discs were set on Cushion. Partway through the hike, we stopped and switched the setting to Firm, and within a few minutes, I noticed a difference. My feet felt more comfortable and I actually had a bit of a spring in my step. The Firm setting has thicker support at the back of the heel, and according to Wolverine, it gives you more energy return, so it’s best for those hikes when you want to go harder and farther.

inward This setting is for people with low arches, or those who tend to wear out their soles on the inner edges. You can see that it stabilizes your foot by providing more firm support along the inside edge of your foot and more cushioning along the outside.

outward People with high arches should try the Outward setting. The reverse of Inward, it offers firmer support for the outer edge of your foot while providing more cushioning for the inner edge. As you can see here, it also slightly repositions your foot to offer more stability.


When I showed up to the event, Yarn (shown at left) was eager to explain how ICS works, and the brand experts on site where equally eager to get us into a pair of our very own Wolverine ICS shoes.

I was given a choice: the lace-up Salina or the Outlander, a waterproof leather moc. While I love the ease of a slip-on, I picked the Salina because laces allow for a more custom fit – and what is ICS about if not a custom fit?

I’m really glad we had the chance to talk to Yahn and that he suggested we switch settings while on our hike. As I said above, I felt more comfortable walking the gentle trails of the Brick Works with the disc dialed to Firm, but I’ve noticed since then that my aching heels really appreciate the Cushion setting when I’m standing more than walking.

As I head out on my first major camping and hiking adventure this summer, I’m sooo gonna put my Wolverine ICS hikers to task, adjusting the gel cushion as the terrain and my pace change! I’m also crossing my fingers that Wolverine expands the Spring 2013 line to include ICS boots for women…a gal’s gotta have a good, supportive mid-height four-season hiker to muck about in the mud and snow, natch!


What: Wolverine ICS Salina trail hikers from the Rugged Outdoor collection.
Colours: Cement/Royal (shown), Sand/Orange, Khaki/Fuchsia
Cost: $144.99 Cdn
Where to buy: The Salina and other shoes from the Rugged Outdoor line, featuring ICS technology, are available in Canada through the Wolverine website. The Salina is also available at the following retailers: Traxx Footwear; Work N Play; Centre de Chaussures, Victoriaville, Quebec, 819-758-4389; Bi-OPFrenchie’s Service Centre. Go! Get your Wolverine on!