Icebug is a shoe manufacturer you’ll probably not have heard of. Founded in 2001, this Swedish company has been a huge hit in their home country, and their shoes have been on the feet of champion off road orientering and winter ice and snow runners.
Now, they are pushing into the North America market, and we’re fortunate enough to have them available to us through the fine folks back at Shale Hill Adventure Farms, in VT.
This post is a more of an introduction to the brand and what they do differently – long term, I’m going to be wearing a pair of their shoes to races and OCRs, and will be able to provide some wear testing too.
Primarily, I’m going to be comparing them to the Inov-8 range – more specifically the X-Talon 190’s and TrailRoc 245’s, which are the shoes I’ve had most experience with.
The shoes I’ll be testing are the Spwider 0lx model, in mens 12. These were not “test shoes”, and I purchased them out of my own money, so the testing and review will be independent.
One of the big selling points for me, and one of the big things that makes Icebug different to many other shoes on the market, is the BUGrip. This is a special rubber compound sole, with a bunch of tiny carbide tips in them. On ice, or mud, or trail, those carbide tips will grip and grab the ground – in a way I’ve certainly never felt on another shoe. Once you hit something hard, like tarmac or rock, the tips are pushed back into the sole of the shoe, and the regular (aggressive) rubber grips kick in, and the shoes perform like a normal trail shoe would.
Rather than just post this, I headed for a 5k hike/run up Wachusett Mountain – covering a bunch of different types of terrain, from gravel path, to sloppy mud, to sheer rock, over approx 1800′ elevation change.
I was impressed.
A couple of things I noticed – when stepping up onto fallen tree limbs, something that could be quite treacherous in another shoe, was never a problem – the studs gripped the branch and didn’t slip. Same for the gravel and muddy trails, never a single slip.
Running across the tarmac roads, the shoes are noisy. Those studs will tip and tap along as you run – those who have run roads in x-talons will be familiar with the noise of it.
My only concern, and to date, this is unproven, but when I was in the boulder / rock section of the trail – a spot that had sheer, flat rocks to hike up – I didn’t feel *quite* as confident that they were gripping to stone in the same way my Trail-Rocs would, and when I was running back down the hill, I was being pretty careful through here. I never slipped or lost grip, but I was being more careful than I normally would.
Having said that – not many races involve that kind of terrain, so I’m not too worried about that, long term.
As for fit – the sole has a 4mm heel to toe drop on this model, so they fall into the “minimal” category (the Trailroc 245’s are 3mm, the X-Talon 190’s are 0mm), but they are definitely a lot more of a rigid and structured shoe than the Inov-8’s I’m used too. Icebug also sell sole inserts for those who need specific types of support, but that wasn’t something I needed to worry about. This particular shoe falls into their medium width toebox, and me, with my wide and flat feet, had no problems. Many Icebugs have narrow toe boxes, with their winter shoes going wider again for comfort.
I’m planning on wearing these to the weekends races, and getting some real wear on them – I’ll be reporting back next week to let you all know how they go.