Icebug SPIRIT OLX

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

They come from Sweden. They are set with grid patterns of carbide-tip studs. Their job is to conquer the gnarliest terrain a runner may ever see.

The Icebug SPIRIT OLX, an aggressive yet fabulously nimble sports car of a shoe, is among the coolest footwear introductions I’ve seen this year. The company, a small brand that launched in 2001, unveiled the SPIRIT OLX this summer along with a new push on the North American trail-running market.

icebug olx shoe.jpg

Icebug SPIRIT OLX shoe

With its design roots in sports like orienteering and fell running, the SPIRIT OLX may strike as an extremely niche product. But the shoe, which has the feel of a trail-oriented racing flat, is adaptable and speedy. Serious trail runners looking to gain significant speed — while sacrificing some comfort and foot-protection features — could easily fall in love with the OLX.

I sure did. On the shoes’ maiden trail run last week, I tackled a leafy singletrack that angled uphill for 200 feet. The Icebug studs — 14 fixed carbide tips per shoe — ate into the dirt, piercing leaves and gripping so well that my feet never slipped.

In addition to great grip, the OLX is made to strike a balance between support and low-to-the-ground control. It has a “foot-shaped” anatomical last. Its sole is flexible, accommodating metatarsal movement and allowing your anatomy — not engineered components in a bulky midsole — to absorb, react, and rebound in fast cadence to the terrain underfoot.

icebug sole.jpg

Carbide-tip studs on Icebug sole

It is a lightweight shoe, too. A men’s size 9 weighs just less than 10 ounces. My test shoe, a size 12, measures 11.7 ounces on my scale. This is a couple ounces lighter than an average trail-running shoe, and on the feet the difference is noticeable.

The shoes were developed in coordination with Peter Oberg, a rock star of the Swedish orienteering world. Materials used on the OLX are smart and thought through. The company (http://www.icebug.se) employs non-absorbing materials throughout, meaning the OLX shoes will not retain much water, even if you stomp through a stream.

The uppers are rip-stop nylon reinforced by high-frequency welded straps. The midsole is a lightweight EVA foam with just enough support.

Overall, in my trail tests so far, the OLX shoes get a big thumbs up. The shoe successfully combines great fit, light weight, exceptional grip, and a nimble design that engages a natural running gait. For what it’s worth, they look cool, too.

But, alas, a sports car of a shoe must come with a sports-car-type price tag. The OLX shoes retail for $159, making them among the pricier products in their class. If you can afford them — and if you need maximum grip from a nimble trail shoe — Icebug’s fully-studded runners might be the shoe for you.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.

Posted by jared - 09/01/2010 10:04 AM

Isn’t the point of these shoes to be able to run confidently on when you may hit patches of ice?

Posted by Gear Junkie - 09/01/2010 02:34 PM

Right. As the name implies, traction on ice is an attribute, too. These OLX shoes are more warm-weather oriented than other Icebug models. The company has winter-specific footwear, too.

Posted by AO the Swede - 09/09/2010 04:22 PM

I´ve been running with the stud-free version (Celeritas) all summer long. It is the F1 car of trailrunning, super fast and nimble. Its lighter than Inov-8 X-talon (not on papper but in reality). I use Spirit OLX when wet and you never lose the grip!
Look out for the 2011 model Anima. “More Shoe” if your not racing and witn non-absorbing materials.

Posted by Alexander - 09/10/2010 11:49 AM

I bought these a couple of days ago and wet, unpredictable and rough terrain has become my new favourite terrain by far. Looking forward to giving these a go on the ice this upcomming winter.

Posted by Miguel - 12/13/2010 08:21 AM

Ice Bug Celeritas are great in snow, whether powder og slush and on other soft surfaces – but they are absolutely useless on slippery wooden bridges or wet rock, had me skating on butt and elbows more than a few times.

Posted by Editor - 12/13/2010 10:31 AM

Miguel – The Celeritas are a diff. shoe. They have no carbide tips (just rubber outsole).

Posted by Miguel - 12/13/2010 12:50 PM

I’m perfectly aware and merely pointing out that there are different shoes for different conditions. For ice and other slippery surfaces you need spikes, for soft surfaces the Celeritas is great and for fell running (roots, gravel/rocks and wet wooden bridges) the x-talon is top dollar.

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