High latitudes, short days, copious snow and ice, and long winters give the Swedes every excuse to embrace staying active in the cold months of the year.
This includes running outdoors on any kind of frozen, slushy or slippery terrain, and thus the appropriate footwear to handle the pursuit.
Icebug of Gothenburg, Sweden, offers shoes designed just for staying upright on the dankest of winter days.
I have run in the brand’s shoes for years, including many subfreezing miles on roads and trails coated in various incarnations of frozen H20. (Back in 2007, I gave a pair of Icebug shoes a nod as one of the top products in my “Greatest Gear of 5 Years” article.)
This winter, I’ve been testing the company’s ANIMA2 BUGrip shoe. It comes with 19 sharp studs embedded into its rubber sole.
They dig in for grip and are a tactile as well as a crunchy audible reminder while running that what I am doing is at least half-sane.
Last week, on a 10-degree day, I was alone running on a path around a popular urban lake. Despite skating-rink-like stretches for a couple miles underfoot, I never slipped.
The carbide-tip studs bite into the ice and give incredible traction. On glare ice (like a skating rink) they work, though you skid around and leave long streaks on the surface — the carbide studs are just 1mm long or so and thus do not stick into the ice, but rather grip the surface.
You can run on pavement, too, though the studs are noisy. They also catch and can trip you up if not careful. I recommend the shoes only for full-on snowy runs.
Caveat: Do not forget to take them off when you go indoors; the Icebugs cause havoc to a wood or Linoleum floor!
The ANIMA2 shoe itself is lightweight at about 12 ounces in my size men’s 12.5. That is comparable to my normal running shoes.
They are flexible, too. The Icebugs are not constricting and feel much like the running shoes I wear in warm weather.
Granted, the ANIMA2 shoes are not a replacement for winter boots. Snow comes into the shoes if you step off a plowed path. Be sure to wear gaiters to avoid snow getting in if you plan to run a winter trail.
The uppers are water-resistant, but not waterproof, and the shoes are not insulated. I can go for about 5 miles in cold temps and my feet feel fine in the shoes. Any longer outside and I will wear something with more insulation or boots.
But I can’t run in boots. The Icebugs, to me, are a key piece of gear in keeping me active and running outside all winter long.
You do pay a margin extra for the special winter shoes. Icebug sells the ANIMA2 shoes for about $155. Buy them if you’re a dedicated runner who needs to keeping going, no matter how cold or icy it gets out there.
—Stephen Regenold is the founder of GearJunkie.