For those of us who run Obstacle Races on a regular basis, gone are the days of simply throwing on an old pair of well-worn tennis shoes with the intention of destroying and subsequently retiring said shoes on race weekend. We seek shoes that are lightweight, that provide quality traction on rough terrain and slick obstacles, and that won’t drag us down as we travel through mud, muck, and water.
As the sport of OCR becomes increasingly popular each year, many athletic wear companies have introduced their own unique style of shoe which they claim will be the perfect accessory to help you perform your very best come race day. While each racer maintains their own preferences with regards to which shoe suits them best, the Icebug line of OCR shoes has emerged as a favorite of seasoned racers.
Icebug, a Swedish footwear company which specializes in trail and rugged terrain shoes, has created a series of shoes which obstacle racers have come to admire for their stellar grip and performance. While their brand tends to top the charts when it comes to overall cost ($150+ per pair for many of their shoes), many OCR fanatics have come to swear by these innovative shoes as their footwear of choice, and I’ve been curious to give them a try for quite some time.
This curiousity turned to excitement when I recently received my very own pair of the Icebug Zeal RB9X, and I was eager to take them out for a test as quickly as possible. At the time, my next race was local Florida favorite Mud Endeavor, and I knew that this nototiously soggy race would provide the perfect opportunity to take my new shoes for a solid spin.
Race day arrived, and it didn’t take long for me to make a couple of very quick judgements about the Zeal RB9X as I progressed through the course. To begin with, the shoe is incredibly lightweight yet extremely durable. It also includes a reinforced midfoot on the interior side of the shoe which delivers an incredible amount of protection, providing a quality feature built for a course which promises technical terrain with little to no water. That said, I found my experience with the exceptionally wet, muddy course of a Mud Endeavor race less than ideal. I was faced with an interesting situation as I found myself thankful for the traction and stability the shoes provided, yet I was less than pleased when I also realized that the midfoot protection prevented excess water and mud from escaping the shoe. In the end I found myself able to easily maneuvery obstacles and hills while the shoes remained fairly lightweight and performed well on slick surfaces, however each squishing step reminded me of the trapped water and dirt that was unable to escape, causing my feet to shift around in the shoes.
I walked away from Mud Endeavor with mixed feeling about the Icebug Zeal RB9X. On one hand, I loved the lightweight yet extremely durable quality of the shoe, and was thrilled about the stellar traction and maneuverability. However I was not entirely pleased with the lack of drainage. Since then I’ve taken the opportunity to test out my Icebugs on a couple of occasions, and have come to the conclusion that while they are a quality pair of shoes, I believe that they are best suited for an OCR which provides a heavier focus on technical terrain than water and mud.
Interested in getting a better look at what the Icebug Zeal RB9X can offer you? Here are a few technical stats regarding the makeup of this particular model:
Icebug offers several unique styles of OCR and trail running shoes, and I recommend checking out their website to get a feel for which shoe style will fit you best!
I’d like to thank the folks at Icebug for providing me with a pair of Zeal RB9X to test and review. I appreciate the opportunity! All opinions shared in this review are my own, and I have not been compensated for sharing my thoughts.