Yesterday, I posted a review of a pair of minimalist running shoes that I liked very much. They were lightweight and comfortable, and very affordable priced. Today I have a very different running shoe, that was built for a very different type of runner. A shoe that is built to get dirty. One that is meant to get off the civilized confines of the street, and on to a nasty trail. But in doing so, it will give the runner all the tools they need to conquer that trail, and then some.
Awhile back, I tested and reviewed a pair of running shoes from a company called Icebug that were specifically designed for trail running in the winter. Those shoes were built to keep your feet warm and dry, while also providing excellent traction – thanks to built-in carbide-tipped cleats – on snow and ice. Now, Icebug has brought that same approach to their trail running shoes that are designed for use in the summer as well. Their new Spirit 4 OLX model has been designed to give trail runners a pair of shoes that will allow them to be very aggressive in their approach, without compromising speed, comfort, and agility in anyway.
When Icebug was creating this shoe, they were actually building it for the specific needs of world class orienteering competitors. But their needs actually align quite nicely with those of serious trail runners as well. The Spirit 4 takes some cues from Icebug’s previous model, the Spirit 3, but make some slight modifications to improve overall comfort. Those adjustments include a softer, more comfortable heel cup, and a slight lowering of that cup to reduce the pressure on the Achilles tendon.
It is important to point out that the Spirit 4 is water resistant, which means it will take on some water when they get wet, although Icebug says it won’t add more than 20% to the weight. While there are obviously other running shoes on the market that are completely water proof, those tend to not breathe as well, which can lead to hot feet during the summer months, and worse yet, blisters.
These shoes include Icebugs trademark carbide-tipped spikes to offer extra traction for runners tackling demanding terrain. Those studs actually do help, allowing the runner to dig in on a variety of terrains in order to get traction. When running a tough trail with these shoes on, I certainly felt more confident that I wasn’t going to slip and slide all over the place, even when things got a bit muddy or greasy.
Icebug built these shoes to be incredibly durable, which is why it has a sole that can shrug off punishment with the best of them. These shoes are meant for getting dirty, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll also start to fall apart once you get a little mud or water on them. While I still want to put more milage on them before I say for sure, the Spirit 4 does seem to be built like a tank, not showing signs of wear or tear in any sense of the word.
This shoe is so good at taking on tough terrain, that I almost hesitate to call it a trail shoe at all. If anything, I’d describe it at an “off road” shoe, since it doesn’t even need a trail per se to allow you to keep running. The design is incredibly rugged, the steel cleats offer great traction, and it comfortable on the foot. The result is footwear that should fit the needs of just about anyone who enjoys an active outdoor sport.
These shoes are fairly lightweight considering the fact that they have 14-fixed carbide studs on the sole. They tip the scales at 290 grams (10.2 ounces), which doesn’t put them in the same category of truly lightweight shoes on the market. But considering everything that they bring to the table, that’s a remarkable weight for sure.
Make no mistake, these shoes are not for everyone. Your average trail runner or outdoor athlete will like find them to be a bit of overkill. But if you fall into the category of runners who demands a lot out yourself, and your gear, these are excellent shoes to have at your disposal. Whether you’re competing in an orienteering competition, doing your favorite trail run, dipping your toe in the adventure racing market, or trying an obstacle course race, this is the shoe for you. It would probably even serve as a comfortable approach shoe as well, given that its design is meant to be versatile.
Priced at $144.95, these shoes aren’t a minor investment. But they are definitely worth it for the right athlete.
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