Wolverine Pulsar ICS ReviewNovember 24, 2012
- Firm flex provides secure footing.
- Good protection from underfoot hazards
- Very comfortable
- A certain amount of customization is allowed by the gel disc heel insert
- Good arch support
- The gel-disc heel insert provides a limited amount of customization
- The lacing system would provide better support if it went farther toward the toes.
- Somewhat heavy for a low cut hiking shoe.
- Expensive compared to similar shoes.
The Wolverine Pulsar is a fairly burly but comfortable hiking shoe suitable for rough conditions and moderate pack loads. The customization from the gel-disc heel insert is more effective in addressing mild pronation or supination than changing the overall firmness of the sole, and it adds weight and cost. These are probably not suitable for people with narrow feet.
Wolverine’s Pulsar ICS is a medium-high volume hiking shoe with enough support and protection to handle rough trails and moderate loads. It has an eccentric gel insert in the heel just below the footbed that can be rotated to customize the support somewhat.
Support and Stability
In uneven terrain, the PU midsole’s firm flex and strongly supportive midsole gave me plenty of stability. Although there was a little loss of agility due to the thick sole, my foot stayed locked down and didn’t roll around inside the shoe. If the short lacing system went farther down toward the toes it could better dial in the fit and support.
The Pulsar comes with Wolverine’s ICS—Individual Comfort System—which is basically a gel disc insert that goes under the heel. It can be rotated to provide support or cushioning to different parts of the heel. The theory is that by placing thicker gel padding under one side or the other of the heel, it can address pronation (inward flexing of the foot) or supination (outward rolling of the foot). Or, if the thickness is placed forward or back, arch support can be increased or decreased.
In my testing, I couldn’t feel any significant difference when setting the insert for more or less arch support. I could however feel a difference when I set the insert to adjust for pronation or supination. The support in those positions was noticeable, but somewhat subtle. I don’t think there’s enough corrective force to deal with moderate to severe biomechanical foot issues. This seems like a solution to a problem not many people complain about. It’s an open question whether the ICS gel insert system is worth the weight penalty.
Protection & Comfort
The thick outsole, the PU midsole and sturdy toe bumper provided hefty protection from rocks and roots, and there’s fairly standard amount of ankle and tongue padding. The Pulsar comes with a relatively thick soft foam footbed that cushions the ride even more, and the overall result is a very comfortable shoe.
Construction and Design
The trade-off for the protection of the burly sole construction and the ICS gel disc customization is added weight: though it was protective, the Pulsar wasn’t a very nimble shoe. If the laces went farther down towards the toes there would be more precision, and the shoe might be able to accommodate narrower feet.
As comfortable and protective as the Pulsar was, there was a performance trade-off with higher weight and decreased agility. Rain didn’t leak through the Pulsar during testing, and my feet stayed dry standing in water for 10 minutes.