On Target Review: Wolverine C3 Boat Shoes

Handsome, light with great soles, the Wolverine C3 Boat Shoe is a perfect complement to civilized tactical wear
article top
Handsome, light with great soles, the Wolverine C3 Boat Shoe is a perfect complement to civilized tactical wear such as Kitanica pants.

Editor’s Note: As anyone who has been reading our holiday gift column series knows, we’ve looked at tactical wear with the emphasis on apparel that can be worn both on and off the range. To date we’ve looked at pants and belts. So what’s missing?

For one thing…shoes!


by Rob Kay

For shoes we wanted something attractive and durable enough to handle just about any situation. This had to be an item that could be worn with ease on the range, on a fire road, scaling a fence or, at a BBQ, hoisting a bottle of beer.

Our choice was the C3 Boat Shoe from Wolverine, the Rockford, Michigan industry icon established in 1883. A publicly traded company with annual revenue of over $1.6 billion, they proudly proclaim:

Wolverine made the original boots that helped build the railroads, erect skyscrapers, and expand highways across this great country.

The company will also will have a booth next month at SHOT, the largest firearms trade show in the nation (held in Las Vegas).

Wolverine has a presence in 200 countries and operates a number of other subsidiaries including Bates, Chaco, Cushe, HyTest, Hush Puppies, Keds, Merrell, Saucony, Sebago, Soft Style, Stride Rite Children’s Group, Track ‘n Trail and Sperry Top-Sider.  

Sperry Top-Sider is of course the Waspy sounding boat shoe with a history going back to 1935. The story is that the light bulb went off when the inventor, Paul Sperry, noticed his dog’s ability to maintain traction while running on an icy surface. Perry figured out how to emulate his dog’s capabilities by developing a shoe with wave-like soles.

His IP was so good that in 1939 the US Navy got the rights to manufacture the shoes for its sailors, which Wolverine continues to this day. Sperry Top-Siders are good for boats but if you’ve ever tried to hike with them you’ll discover they don’t do well in mud, clay or even grass.

Enter the Wolverine C3 which may look like a boat shoe but in my estimation is a lot more.

I see the C3 is a sort of hybrid that has the best of all worlds—traction on land and water. Its been able to do this with a very business-like Vibram rubber outsole and, opanka construction.

Vibram is recognized as a top notch soling product used in rugged, outdoor and service footwear. Shoes designed with opanka construction aremade with heavy threads which allow for durable attachment of the shoe’s upper and lower. Opanka construction also ensures flexibility and can be seen in sandals, boots, moccasins, etc. One industry wag stated that “Opanka construction generally is seen in casual footwear with a purpose.”

Although dubbed a “boat shoe” the C3 has a Vibram sole–miles apart from the Sperry Top-Sider, the archetypal nautical shoe which has much less grip on its sole.

Other features worth noting: The C3 has a patented dual-density EVA midsole with anti-microbial treatment that allows water to channel out of wet shoes as you walk.

What’s an EVA midsole? It stands for ethylene vinyl acetate, a type of foam. (The midsole is between the outsole and the insole of a shoe). Thus, an EVA midsole has thousands of foam bubbles that act like cells to cushion your feet. Wolverine says their show allows for air to circulate to cool and dry your feet.

One thing I noted, was how light these C3s were compared to shoes of similar construction that I purchased years ago from Timberland.

So there you have it.  An attractive, very comfortable hi-tech shoe that’s at home just about everywhere except the Opera Ball.

You can purchase these on Amazon for $80.

Shot Show 2014 update: I had a chance really give these shoes a thorough “road test” at SHOT 2014, the annual firearms industry trade show in Las Vegas in mid January. I must have walked over 30 miles on the concrete floors of the enormous Sands Convention Center over the four days of the show. I can say unequivocally that every step was comfortable in these shoes.  

Photos courtesy of On Target staff.

Questions?  Comments?  Contact us at ontargethawaii@gmail.com

Rob Kay writes about firearms for Hawaii Reporter and is the author of How to Buy an AK-47.
Read more of Rob’s articles on OnTargetHawaii.com