Running in winter poses numerous problems that athletes need to address the most important of which might be which sneakers are going to keep you upright on surfaces of icy, wet or snow-covered trail or asphalt. Even in the summer those athletes that are taking it off road, or through messy urban environments, may want to use shoes that provide them with some extra grip on unstable trails covered in mud leaves and other detritus. The Icebug Spirit 4 OLX is a shoe that might fit into your rotation when conditions are a little untamed
Starting at the bottom, the secret sauce of the Spirit OLX is in its outsole: hard rubber in a diagonal ridge pattern with 14 carbide tipped studs embedded strategically to give the athlete a little more traction on slippery surfaces – even ice, when needed. The entire shoe is constructed using a narrow shoe last, with the midsole a lightweight EVA foam with an integrated arch stabilizer. On top, the upper is non-absorbent woven polyester and nylon with the stitching done so that it is protected from fraying while off-road. Interestingly, the sneaker is very flexible and has a drop of only 4mm – very much like a “minimalist-style” running road shoe. And, the sneaker is surprisingly light; weighing in at 290 grams (10.2 ounces) for a men’s size 9.
WINTER in NYC
NYC was hit with several winter storms, one of which would shut down the city even though it wasn’t all that bad. While the City may have been shut down, I still had to run and the conditions gave me a great excuse to put on sneakers I thought I would only use on the trail.
Although the ride is noisy – think of a studded snow tire, I did not feel the fixed carbide-tipped studs even while running on solid surfaces like asphalt. In fact, because the sneaker is lighter and responsive I was more aware of the rubber tread than the studs. Though I was aware of the tread, it did not interfere with comfort nor my ability to run. I was especially appreciative of the studs because I could easily go from snow covered asphalt to slick ice covered asphalt (mountaineers: think vergals) without loss of stability or traction. After the first transition from dry to icy, I realized I was rock solid so paid it no mind.
I ran intervals on these mixed surfaces as well as on the Central Park bridle path, accumulating total time on feet of around 2 hours on several occasions. My normal running sneakers are of a minimalist bent, so I was surprised again, by the shoe thinking that my feet would be beaten up by the harder asphalt and ice surfaces meeting the knobby outsole and studs of the sneaker. They were not!
I also had the occasion to wear the Spirit 4 OLX’s on the snow and ice-covered trails in and around New Paltz, NY. These sneakers were designed with off-roading in mind, so they were in their natural element. They performed as would be expected, but on the trails I think I got a better appreciation of the non-absorbent upper and heel cup because even after several hours of running, it did not feel like I was carrying extra water weight from snowmelt – though I did have to brush off the sneakers from
time to time.
The geometry – 4mm drop and fit was very familiar and comfortable even for my wide feet as they felt like running shoes although they happen to have “all weather tires” attached. The sizing ran true, though if you are going to be punishing your feet for hours on a trail in the summer, be sure to pick the size that you would normally wear to account for swelling.
Although billed as an off-road or orienteering shoe, I would put the Icebug Spirit 4 OLX’s into my rotation for icy and snowy weather even if running in an urban setting since they felt like my “normal” running shoes. I was able to get a real running workout in – intervals, some strength and speed work, even as the conditions would normally have dictated I cancel my workout. Further, they are going into my gearbag when I am hitting the trail in the winter or in the summer. I think that they would be excellent shoes for trail running especially in wet or muddy conditions because of the non-absorbent materials and the gnarly tread and carbide-tipped studs. I would also consider using these shoes at the next obstacle course race I do where the conditions are muddy wet and trail-like. BTW I hear that Icebug is coming out with an OCR specific shoe this spring and if the Spirit 4 OLX is any indication, they are going to produce another excellent shoe.
Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).