Wolverine ShiftPlus Polar Range Boots Review

Wolverine ShiftPlus Polar Range Boots Review

Wolverine ShiftPlus Polar Range Boots are winter boots rated down to -40F with 400-gram Primaloft Aerogel insulation.  They’re not specifically designed for winter hiking and lack some of the features found on good winter hiking boots like a curved rockered sole designed for walking, an extended flange to hold a rear snowshoe strap securely, or a gaiter ring. Mid-height boots don’t normally come with 400-gram insulation and are usually only found in calf-high boots. Nevertheless, 400-gram winter hiking boots are in such short supply this year, I wanted to see if they’d be a viable option for my readers. Wolverine ShiftPlus Polar Range Boots are only available in men’s models. Extra-wide sizes are also available directly from Wolverine.

  • Gender: Men’s 0nly
  • Type: Mid-height
  • Insulation: 400 gram Primaloft Aerogel
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Breathable: Yes
  • Weight: 2 lb 15,2 oz / pair (men’s size 11)
  • Wide sizes: Yes
  • Fit: True to size lengthwise, but narrow

Wolverine ShiftPlus Polar Range Boots have leather uppers, a stiff heel counter to prevent pronation, and a solid toe kick for front protection. The Vibram sole is very stiff and flat without an arch outside to accommodate a gaiter strap and there’s not much of an arch inside either. The interior insoles are cheap foam inserts, however, that you may want to replace if you prefer more foot support or want an Oboz footbed that has an aluminized reflective liner. These boots do have a very large and spacious toe box though, which is a great feature in winter if you double-sock or prefer more forefoot space.

The ShiftPlus has good toe protection and a rigid heel counter to prevent pronation but there’s no gaiter ring or arch for a gaiter strap.
The ShiftPlus has good toe protection and a rigid heel counter to prevent pronation but there’s no gaiter ring or arch for a gaiter strap.

Internal gaiter

While the ShiftPlus boots have fleece-lined ankle cuffs, they come with a sewn-in gaiter to help keep snow out of your boots. But there’s a “potential fly” in the ointment. The internal gaiter is a bit oversized and tends to bunch around your ankle. It’s not made with fleece or lycra, but with ribbed synthetic fabric. When it bunches around my ankle, it causes a pressure point on my upper ankle that I find quite painful. Your experience might be different, I can’t say. They still might be worth a shot.

The ShiftPlus Boots have an internal gaiter that bunches up around the ankles

Rather than let sleeping dogs lie, I attempted to modify the internal gaiter by cutting out the offending portions and after that removing it completely. None of those modifications worked. The gaiter is an extension of the tongue, so you can’t remove the front portion over your ankle, because the boot laces will rest directly on it, which is extremely uncomfortable. If you just remove the rear portion of the gaiter and leave the part at the top of the tongue intact, it still bunches up over the front of the ankle.

Closeup of the internal gaiter fabric.
Closeup of the internal gaiter fabric.

I think these boots would be much better if Wolverine had simply left the gaiter out, made it all with a softer fleece, or patterned it after the internal gaiters included in cross-country ski boots which are external to the top boot cuff. I think it’d be agonizing to hike in these boots for 8 hours or more, which is often required for long winter hikes…at least in my neck of the woods. It was bad enough just testing them out on my local trails. But as I say, you might have a different experience than me.

Outsole

The lugs on ShiftPlus are adequate for winter hiking with enough inter-lug space to provide decent traction, but the soles themselves are flat and don’t walk themselves, like a hiking boot. While they have Vibram Arctic Grip soles for better traction on wet ice, the truth of the matter is that you’ll be wearing microspikes or crampons already. Net net, these shoes are really designed for sidewalks and streets and not the irregular surfaces, you’ll find on winter hikes in the backcountry. Still, you could use these boots for winter hiking: they’re certainly waterproof and warm enough, but they’re far from a top pick.

The outsoles include a thermochromatic lug on each sole which turns from white to blue as the temperature nears 0 degrees celsius to let you know that the temperature is low enough for ice formulation
The outsoles include a thermochromatic lug on each sole which turns from white to blue as the temperature nears 0 degrees celsius to let you know that the temperature is low enough for ice formulation. Cute, but hard to see when you’re standing on them.

Assessment

Wolverine ShiftPlus Polar Range Boots aren’t intended for winter hiking and lack the features of a winter hiking boot,  but if you’re really desperate for a 400 gram insulated boot this winter, you might give them a try. Mid-height boots usually come with 200-gram insulation and are intended for warmer weather use, while 400 grams boots are usually only available in calf-height sizes. The fact that these are mid-height can actually an advantage, particularly if you’re calves sweat a lot in a calf-high boot with 400 gram insulation: these will be a lot cooler and you’ll sweat less.

Winter hiking boots are remarkably scarce this winter because of supply chain issues, so if you find these comfortable, you might give them a go. I found them uncomfortable to wear due to the internal gaiter described above, but that might work for you. REI sells them, but you have to buy them directly from Wolverine if you want a wide size. Wolverine also sells them with Boa lacing, which we did not test.

Disclosure: The author purchased these boots.

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4 comments

  1. I have owned a pair of wolverine boots, once. The experience was not at all pleasant and I found them uncomfortable, lacked any performance, certainly not good for hiking, trails, or generally wearing to walk in them. At the time they were my least expensive option and in the end I wouldn’t even wear them to shovel snow or mow my lawn.

    • I think it’s going to depend on the shoe. BTW, wolverine also owns the following companies: Merrell, Stride Rite, Chaco, Hush Puppies, Hytest, Keds, Saucony, Cat Footwear, Sperry, and Harley-Davidson Footwear – so I suspect you’ve worn some of their other shoes and not known it.

  2. Boa lacing boots seem to be dis-continued and not found on the web page any longer.

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