Icebug are specialists at studded shoes, be that for orienteering, trail running or winter running. The ICEBUG ROUTE is considered an entry level shoe with a combination of features designed to appeal to experienced or novice runners. I have been using the Icebug Route in rotation with several winter shoes: VJ Sport Xante, inov-8 Arctic Talon, inov-8 OROC and notably, the Icebug Pytho 5.
Read articles on winter:
Winter Running HERE
Embrace Winter HERE
Fastpacking and Camping in Winter HERE
Clothing Layers HERE
The Icebug Pytho 5 is solid shoe, I wrote, “works exceptionally well as an ‘all-rounder’ and is sold as such, recommended for trail running, forest running, orienteering and winter ice running.” The Pytho uses BUGrip and so does the Route.
BUGrip is the secret weapon of Icebug winter shoes and it this technology that provides grip in the most demanding and slippery conditions. The outsole is made from a special rubber compound, there would be typically 15-19 studs inserted. The Pytho 5 has 17 and the Route a maximum 19. The studs work independently from each other and are not completely fixed. When weight is applied, the studs push in toward the surface of the sole. How far they are pushed in depends on the pressure exerted by the user and the resistance from the ground. Quite simply, the secret of running in studded shoes is ‘trusting’ the outsole to do its job. The more confident you are, the harder you place your foot and the more you believe in the outsole, the better the grip will be.
The Icebug Route has been somewhat of a revelation. And I say this as many of the selling points are not what I would typically look for in a shoe, notably, 12mm drop. I am a neutral runner and typically run in anything from 0 to 8mm drop.
Designed for winter road conditions, I have been using the Route on trails with rocks, tree routes covered in snow and ice, frozen lakes, iced pavements and iced single-track, so in summary, pretty much everything… I have not used them on mountain terrain.
The Route is light, for example, in comparison to the Pytho 5 they are 30g lighter and they feel it. There is a life in the Route that I did not expect and comparison to the Pytho 5, the feel is considerably more preferable.
Listed as a cushioned shoe with a comfortable feel, I can confirm the ride is very plush with great flex, bounce and still with a feel for the ground. The propulsive phase is very good with great flex around the metatarsals. The midsole is Bloom Foam, EVA with ESS stabilizer. I have not been able to find any measurements for front and rear cushioning, but based on other test shoes and experience, I would estimate 8mm front and 20mm rear – this is a guess though!
The upper is not insulated and this is a notable point, the shoes in sub-zero winter runs of snow and ice are noticeably colder than some of the competition. Top tip – I use neoprene socks as standard with temperatures below zero and this makes a huge difference, especially with the Route. Breathable is not a good selling point for a winter shoe. Made from 100% recycled polyester textile, the upper is very durable to winter conditions. Toe box protection is minimal. There are no reinforced panels on the upper and the shoe does not suffer from it.
The toe box is wide and spacious, ideal for a winter shoe allowing the toes to splay and move. You don’t want your toes squeezed in a shoe in cold weather, some space allows for blood flow.
The lacing is simple with 5 eyelets on either side and an optional lock-lacing eyelet at the top. Importantly, the laces really pull and hold the foot providing reassurance on any terrain.
The heel box is comfortable, holds firm, caused no abrasion and importantly, when going uphill, causes no slipping. It’s well-padded and very comfortable.
The insole is Ortholite Hybrid designed to create a cooler, drier environment inside the footwear.
The outsole is the star of the shoe and the 19 dynamic steel studs perform superbly adjusting to the terrain and conditions providing supreme confidence. Notably, when running on road sections lacking snow or ice, the Route is still comfortable and unlike other studded shoes, I don’t feel the studs coming through to the insole. It goes without saying, that running on roads or pavements without ice or snow should be kept to a minimum. It is easy to lose studs and the BUGrip outsole is designed to work effectively with 2 or 3 studs missing. It is possible to replace studs, you just need to contact Icebug for spares. Notably with studded shoes, they work remarkable well on trail providing exceptional grip on tree roots, rocks and other obstacle; they are not just for snow and ice.
Finally, the Route has a good look with a blue fade and yellow patterned overlay including the Icebug logo.
True to size, the Route is immediately comfortable when you slide your foot in. There is little to distract in this shoe, quite simply, lace up and off you go.
The width in the toe box is notable but not so wide that you lose feel or precision when running on more technical terrain.
Comfort is immediately noticeable from the cushioning and not at the expense of feel for the ground or flex in the propulsive phase.
Considering the shoe has a 12mm drop, I have to say, the Route did not feel out of place and at all times, on every run, has felt comfortable. This has made me very curious and I still do not have an answer? Maybe the soft snow, ice and the mixture of conditions masks the higher drop? Ultimately, the only consideration is comfort, and the Route is extremely comfortable.
The studs have been superb at providing the required grip as and when required, noticeably, in comparison to some other studded shoes, I like the way the studs adapt to the terrain and pressure from the runner to provide the grip required only when needed. Don’t get me wrong, the studs don’t disappear when there is no snow or ice, they are just not as noticeable.
The upper is surprisingly not ideal for a winter studded shoe. It’s durable, however, it lacks warmth and insulation. So, make sure you use appropriate socks for conditions. I recommend Merino socks as a base layer with a warmer sock over the top. I personally use neoprene socks as I know they work and keep my feet warm. Other options would be Merino socks with a Gore-Tex sock. Top tip – Ideally take appropriate socks when trying for size. It’s not unusual with winter shoes taking a half-size larger to compensate.
Before I used the Icebug Route I had wrongly anticipated I would not like the shoe. After all, who uses 12mm drop shoes these days? I was completely wrong. Light, cushioned, great comfort, amazing outsole and room in the toe box all combined together to make the Route one of the best winter shoes I have used. Alongside the VJ Sport Xante, they are now one of my preferred shoes. I even prefer them to arguably, in Icebug terms, the better shoe Pytho 5 which in comparison feels a little over engineered and heavy. I must clarify here, the Pytho 5 is a really great shoe. One thing the Route has taught me, is not to let shoe specs and details get in the way of how a shoe feels and runs. The Icebug Route is a really excellent winter shoe that excels on hard iced trails. The downside of the shoe is the lack of warmth in the upper which can be compensated for with good socks.
To clarify, the shoes were provided to test, as are all the shoes that I review. But this is not a paid review.
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