Published: April 19, 2013
Quality footwear is an essential part any outdoor pursuit, especially hunting. Hunting boots need to keep your feet warm, dry, and comfortable. They also need to provide traction and support while walking over rough terrain. The Espen V-Frame Velocity series boot by Wolverine served me well during this past archery season in western Pennsylvania.
The Espen is a 9 inch high boot made with a combination of several different materials. On the outside, the boot has waterproof full-grain cow-hide leather, Mossy Oak camouflage 1000 denier nylon, and translucent TPU. Wolverine offers 2 colors to choose from: Mossy Oak and a non-camouflaged Real Brown. The translucent TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) is a flexible, rubbery- looking material that covers the majority of the front and side of the boot. The soles have an aggressive traction pattern with a dual-density Ice Grip rubber.
On the inside, you have abrasion-resistant mesh lining in a sock-style booty. The Espen is made with PESU II EVA sockliner footbeds with NXT odor control and 600 grams of 3M™ Thinsulate ™ Ultra insulation. The boots are described as waterproof, specifically having a waterproof membrane, waterproof leather, sealed seams, and heavy duty construction to keep water out. As you’ll read later, I did have an issue with the waterproofing.
Overall, the high quality boots look handsome and sturdy. The Mossy Oak denier provides an excellent camouflage pattern for the woods of western Pennsylvania. The boots I wore for this review were a size 12.
I wore the boots on several archery hunts in October. In this review, I’ll group my tests into three categories: general walking around the woods, walking across rougher terrain, and walking on wet terrain or stream crossing.
My first set of tests included walking to and from my tree stand and scouting for deer sign in between hunts. The first thing I noticed was the excellent support these boots have. Most of my hunting spots are not accessible via a smooth, defined trail, so the terrain is uneven and the layers of fallen leaves hide many obstacles. The Espen boot provided strong lateral support for my ankles as I hiked around. I felt very confident with each step, and at no time did my ankles give out. The boots were stiff without being uncomfortable. Also, the soles provided excellent traction on the forest floor. In areas with heavy brush, the tough outer materials held up well. High grass, fields of golden rod, and thorny brush couldn’t penetrate the tough denier, leather, and TPU. In the early morning and late afternoons, you can really feel the temperature changes as the sun comes up and goes down. The 600 grams of Thinsulate™ provided enough warmth that I never felt uncomfortable.
For my next round of tests, I spent time walking up and down hills, across rocky terrain, and over fallen trees and tree limbs. Walking up or down inclines was a breeze. Again, the boots provided excellent traction and support. The footbeds were just cushy enough but still supportive. Traction over bare rock was also excellent. Because the woods are littered with fallen tree limbs, stepping on them is common. It’s easy to lose your balance when inadvertently stepping on branches hidden by leaves, but the Espen’s soles held up well and made recovery easy.
I did have some comfort issues after a few hours of wearing the boots. Towards the middle of the day, I found that with each step, part of the boot on the inside of each ankle flexed inward rubbing against my ankle bone. I found that if I wore thicker socks, this was less of an issue. In addition, my past experience with boots has taught me that they often take a while to wear in and become more form-fitting. I suspect these will become more comfortable as I use them more.
For my final set of tests, I spent time walking through dew-soaked brush and stream crossing. Often, to get to a good hunting spot, I have to cross a stream, so it is important that a boot be waterproof. While the traction of these boots remained excellent even when wet, after walking across a stream, I felt a little bit of cool dampness on the outer edges of the footbed. At the time, I couldn’t tell if the boot was leaking or if it just felt cooler due to the cold water. Later, at home, I did some more tests where I submerged the boot in a few inches of water. After about 2.5 minutes, water began to seep inside the boot. I reported this to Wolverine, and they sent me a replacement pair. I tested the new pair in the same fashion, and I am happy to report that the second pair remained dry.
(Editor’s Note: Any time we have an issue with a review item we contact the company and give them a chance to address. Any company can have issues at times and we like to see how they deal with it. The folks at Wolverine were on the spot with their concern over making sure the product was right. The first set of boots we had was a preproduction pair sent out early for media evaluation. They asked for the boots back so that they could see what it was that failed and make sure it’s an issue that gets rectified if it was anything more than a fluke. The second pair the sent was a production pair and we were happy to see that that pair performed as it should. I asked when we spoke to them if the replacement that we received would have been standard practice if we were simply a customer who had purchased the boots and had an issue and they assured us that the same thing would have happened regardless f how you got the boots. Wolverine has a great warranty and seems genuinely concerned with customer service and customer satisfaction. – Tim)
Throughout all of my testing, the Wolverine Espen V-Frame Velocity Series boots excelled in the areas of traction, support, and durability in both wet and dry conditions. I found them to be supportive, well-built, and good looking with tough, abrasion-resistant materials. Also, the Thinsulate™ insulation kept my feet warm. The Espen retails for $190, but an internet search will return prices in the $120 to $190 range.