First off, it probably makes sense to introduce Icebug as a company, if any of you are as ignorant as I was when I first got my pair of RB9X’s. They’re a Swedish footwear brand founded in 2001, specializing in mud running/off-road/trail shoes. A specific niche, for sure, but it’s one that this company has really settled into and dominated since they first began selling shoes. With a unique rubber compound used in their soles, Icebug has changed the approach to off-road racing, making shoes “sticky” as they like to describe them through tiered undersides and a soft but clingy material. The traction they supply is unrivaled by any other running shoe I’ve felt, but how does it actually stand up to the competition?
The Icebug Men’s RB9X Model, shown here in the gray/orange style, is a gorgeous shoe to behold. As a guy with incredibly skinny feet, I always wonder how the shoe will hold up when it’s tightened all the way, and Icebug passed with flying colors. I tested their limits, putting lots of strain on the stitching and seams, but Icebug’s shoes managed to withhold all the pressure without the smallest sign of conceding structural integrity. It may just be me, but I love the choice of gray/orange, even if the colors fade into a browner color after time (this can be expected however, given that they are built for mud running and get pretty dirty). The bottom had the potential to be very chunky and cumbersome, and though it’s not perfect, especially while running on leveled ground or sidewalks, the cleats don’t get in the way too much. They come in handy when the terrain grows treacherous, and that’s what the shoe is intended for, so by all accounts they achieved the goal of the product. The more you wear them, the less boxy they look, and the sleeker the profile becomes
Straight up, these shoes do what they were meant to do very well. Any use beyond the scope of intention, and they grow slightly burdensome, but if you’re looking for a mud run shoe, you can’t get yourself a better pair. The sole, though stiff for the first three runs, loosened up quite nicely, and it didn’t take long for them to feel like a natural extension in my gait. I took them out for their most difficult trial roughly two weeks ago, on a run through dirt roads and rock faces across the Wissahickon trail system, mere hours after a torrential downpour and flash flood warning. Where my other classic running shoes have failed me in the past, the RB9X Model shoes exceeded expectation, and gave me an honestly comfortable and exciting run. The carbide-studded soles gripped the trail to the point that I couldn’t tell they were ravaged by the rain, and the tough, water-resistant exterior made cleanup a breeze afterwards. I felt comfortable hosing them down, knowing that they wouldn’t retain too much water weight and would be ready to go within 24 hours.
To this point in my training, there has honestly been no issue with wear and tear. I almost prefer when shoes show a small sign of degradation, because then I know that I’ve been working hard with them, but Icebug’s shoes aren’t granting me that satisfaction (which is a very impressive feat). Kudos for making a shoe that’s as tough as the trails it’s meant to run across.
As far as quality goes, these shoes are well above average. I enjoyed the insole very much, and it gives good support to a wide range of feet. If you have a serious pronation issue, you might want to consider an insert, because though they are decently supportive, there’s only so much that a shoe designed to be rigid enough for trekking can do. The materials of the shoe, though rather stiff on first inspection, turned out to be adaptable and molded to the shape of my foot within a week of usage. My only gripe about them is how boxy the back of the shoe feels, and how that can sometimes interfere with the comfortability. Without high running socks, my feet developed blisters quickly, and though this could easily be alleviated, it was still a slight burden. Getting beyond this small error in design, the Icebug RB9X’s are a stunning pair of shoes. I may not pull them out every day, but whenever I’m considering a trail run, a mud run, or just a day out hiking with friends, they are the first item on my list. Limited wear and tear, defined shape, and a surprising amount of flexibility for a shoe designed to withstand everything.
For hikers, outdoorsmen, and anyone who generally loves the woods, you could not find a more resilient shoe. It has a specific genre of athlete in mind that it definitely is trying to pin down, and it does so with flying colors. To the casual urban runner who makes their way out of the city once in a while, I would say skip this product and go for a regular pair of trainers, but for the woodsy type of adventurer, I cannot recommend this shoe much higher. Icebug has come on to the scene swinging, and I look forward to what improvements they’ll be able to make to their already impressive products.
Nick Dahl is a student athlete competing on the East Coast for Germantown Friends School. He is the NBN Outdoor Champion 2-miler, 2nd place finisher in the NBN Outdoor 1-mile, as well as a Penn Relays and Arcadia qualifier. Nick Dahl is a nutritionist in training, Paleolithic dieter, and experienced distance consultant. He has taken courses in Anaerobic Energy Systems, Lactate Capacities, and Neurosciences, and is studying Physiological Chemistry. He currently lives in Philadelphia with his family.