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.
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.
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.