It’s hard for most runners to find shoes that maintain traction in the snow and ice. Personally, I dread running in the winter; watching the ground ahead of me for icy spots and dodging around patches of snow is always such a chore, which is why I was excited to try out the Icebug Pyth02 Bugrip. Icebugs are the brainchild of Peter Öberg and Erik Öhlund, who wanted to create a shoe that would provide traction in ice and snow without sacrificing the performance of a top-notch running shoe. Peter and Erik worked to create the best shoes for orienteering, which is a form of running that focuses on finding the quickest way between two points. With the new Icebug line, runners no longer need to be afraid of blazing trails through the ice and snow.
Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical of all these shoes claim to offer. Like most wintertime runners, I am used to navigating icy trails and hopping between clear bits of pavement. That’s just the way it is. End of story. However, I was curious to see if the Icebugs could really improve my winter running experience, especially with their BUGrip technology – dynamic spikes in the sole that claim to provide both traction on slippery surfaces and retract on clear pavement.
My first reaction upon taking the shoes out of the box was, “Wow, these shoes look really cool.” I was expecting a very industrial-looking shoe, based on all the technology the Icebugs have to offer – however, the design and the colors make the shoe look really flashy. Don’t get me wrong, these shoes are heavier than your average running shoe and thicker to accommodate for cold temperatures, but they are far from bulky. When I first tried on the shoes, I could feel that they were a bit heavier and stiffer than typical running shoes. At 10.2 oz for women and 12.4 oz for men, the shoes do add some extra weight, but they need to be sturdy for running through ice and snow, so the weight is necessary. In fact, I ran the Chicago Marathon in October 2010 in Mizuno Wave Creation 11s, which weigh in at 10.4 oz, so I don’t mind the weight of the Icebugs at all. I can see where someone who is used to running in light shoes might have to adjust to the weight, but I think an extra few ounces in worth the freedom to run through the elements.
It was only after trying out the Icebugs at home on some snow and ice-covered roads in northern Wisconsin that I fully believed in their technology. I put these shoes to the test – I sprinted down an icy hill and stopped on an incline, I ran through patches of snow, I even went running out on an ice-covered lake – and through it all, I didn’t slip once. The best part was that I didn’t have to shorten my steps and sacrifice my stride at all to run over slippery surfaces; I could run as easily as if I were on a clear road. Interestingly, the shoes performed well even when the road was clear. I was afraid that I might have to purposely run on snow and ice with these shoes so as not to damage the BUGrip spikes. However, the technology does exactly what it claims. When my foot applies pressure over a surface with greater resistance, such as hard pavement, the spikes retract back into the sole. After running in the shoes for about a month over ice, snow, and pavement, the spikes look the same as they did when I first took the Icebugs out of the box, so the BUGrip technology seems to be a success. The shoes also kept my feet warm and dry – the BIGdri technology absorbs moisture from the foot, and the thick outsole keeps my feet comfortably warm. After some runs, I would look down to find that the top of my shoes were wet from sweat, but my feet were completely dry. These shoes definitely seem to live up to their promises, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my regular shoes for winter running. I’m sold on the Icebugs.
I only have a few minor complaints about the Icebugs. For one, the stability of the shoe compromises flexibility. Although I felt comfortable running in these shoes over all types of surfaces, my feet didn’t feel as cushioned or free as they do in my regular running shoes. When I run, I like to feel that my shoes are part of my foot and can move with me throughout my stride, but the Icebugs tend to feel a bit stiff. The shoes are not uncomfortable by any means, but I can definitely tell that these sturdy shoes are made for tough running conditions, not everyday running. Another minor issue I have with these shoes is that in snow over an inch deep, they don’t perform much better than regular running shoes. In deeper snow, the small spikes didn’t do much to increase traction, and my feet still slipped a bit in that footing. Still, I was amazed with the Icebugs’ performance on slippery surfaces, especially ice – they really do make winter running much more manageable and enjoyable.
Overall, I would have to rate the Icebugs as an A-. These shoes are incredible over ice and light snow, and they keep my feet warm and dry. However, the heavier weight, the slight stiffness of the shoe, and the way the shoes handle deep snow are all minimal issues. Still, I highly recommend this shoe to any running orienteers out there who want to take control of and enhance their winter running experience.
Available now: Icebug Pyth02 Bugrip
*Performance Review shoes provided by Eastbay*