I first encountered the Wolverine Vortex Boa boots last winter at Outdoor Retailer, well before they hit stores. Fast-forward 10 months, and the Wolverine Vortex are in stores and ready to help keep you warm, safe and secure in any winter 2017-18 activity.
Warm, safe and secure? Those aren’t words you’d normally associate with boots. But hey, Wolverine isn’t often a brand you’d associate with winter boots, so why not think differently? Wolverine makes tough work boots, but recreational boots aren’t on the top of their list. Until now. As tough as the company’s boots are in industrial settings, the Wolverine Vortex Boa boots are just as tough on winter. And they check the boxes for warmth, safety and security along the way.
The biggest contributor to warmth is 3M Thinsulate insulation. Lots of companies use Thinsulate, but the Wolverine Vortex Boa boots use 600 grams of it. 600 grams! That’s 50% more insulation than the most-insulated boots I’ve tested previously. My feet get cold very easily, so that extra insulation is a gift that keeps on giving. I actually put myself on the line during field tests by wearing summertime athletic socks rather than thick winter ones. Wearing athletic socks while snowshoeing on Mt. Hood isn’t something I’ve tested before, but I figured it was the best way to see if the 600 grams of Thinsulate really made a difference. Not only did my feet stay completely warm during my adventures in the Vortex boots, but my toes actually got colder when I got back in the car and donned regular shoes. Keep in mind, that was with the heat on. Moral of the story: that 600 grams of Thinsulate does make a difference.
At first glance the Wolverine Vortex Boa boots look really awkward with that extra-tall shank. To be honest, I was skeptical that I’d enjoy hiking and snowshoeing in them. However, the leather uppers and shank are surprisingly pliable, and there’s a notch out of the back that keeps the material from banging against your Achilles. The 3M Thinsulate also goes all the way up the top, which adds some welcome insulation above the ankle.
Having a tall shank also keeps the boots’ BOA enclosure from digging into your leg. BOA is generally associated with bindings rather than lacing, so I was curious to see how it worked. As I describe in the video review below, it works really well. This is especially true when you have gloves on, which of course I do whenever I’m out in the snow. The tall shank and BOA enclosure add some ankle support, and their ability to comfortably keep the boots tight helps keep snow and ice out of your socks, too. You’ll likely still wear gaiters if you have them, but the extra level of security is a nice touch, and if you don’t have gaiters you won’t need to rush out and buy some to tackle the snow.
One of my favorite things about the Wolverine Vortex Boa boots is their use of Vibram Arctic Grip. This type of rubber sole has been out for a couple of winters, but more boots are getting it this year. In essence, when the Arctic Grip material hits freezing or sub-freezing surfaces, it turns from cat-tongue tacky to won’t-let-go grippy. It’s hard to explain, but something chemically changes in the rubber when it hits the ice that turns it into a non-slip sole. You can check out my video demo here to see what I mean. One boot has Vibram Arctic Grip, and one doesn’t. When I walk across a brick of ice, you can see the results.
Most folks would think, “oh, that’s nice.” I’m more of the mindset of “thank you, God.” You see, several years ago I fell on the ice and suffered a compression fracture in one vertebra and a cracked rib. I couldn’t lay down for weeks and was on some pretty powerful pain medications. Since that time, I’ve absolutely hated — maybe even feared — walking on ice. Although the Arctic Grip isn’t fool proof, it’s by far the most confidence-inducing sole available. The fact that the Wolverine Vortex Boa boots have it makes them my new go-to winter boot.
So yes, the Wolverine Vortex Boa boots offer warmth, safety and security, even though those aren’t all often terms you’d associate with winter boots. With 600 grams of 3M Thinsulate insulation, a BOA “lacing” system, Vibram Arctic Grip and fully waterproof surfaces top to bottom, the Wolverine Vortex Boa boots could very well be the ultimate winter boot.
The Wolverine Vortex Boa boots were provided for review. All opinions and words are my own and honest, and the article above contains no affiliate links.
Wolverine Vortex Boa Boots
- 600 grams of Thinsulate keeps toes toasty
- Waterproof means warm
- Boa enclosure is a surprisingly nice alternative to laces
- Comfortable on long adventures, even though they appear cumbersome
- They are not an inexpensive boot
- Color scheme might not be for everyone, but I love it