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The Icebug SPIRIT OLX, an aggressive yet fabulouslynimble sports car of a shoe, is among the coolest footwear introductions I'veseen this year. The company, a small brand that launched in 2001, unveiled theSPIRIT OLX this summer along with a new push on the North Americantrail-running market.
With its design roots in sports like orienteering andfell running, the SPIRIT OLX may strike as an extremely niche product. But theshoe, which has the feel of a trail-oriented racing flat, is adaptable andspeedy. Serious trail runners looking to gain significant speed -- whilesacrificing some comfort and foot-protection features -- could easily fall inlove with the OLX.
I sure did. On the shoes' maiden trail run last week, Itackled a leafy singletrack that angled uphill for 200 feet. The Icebug studs-- 14 fixed carbide tips per shoe -- ate into the dirt, piercing leaves andgripping so well that my feet never slipped.
In addition to great grip, the OLX is made to strike abalance between support and low-to-the-ground control. It has a "foot-shaped"anatomical last. Its sole is flexible, accommodating metatarsal movement andallowing your anatomy -- not engineered components in a bulky midsole -- toabsorb, react, and rebound in fast cadence to the terrain underfoot.
It is a lightweight shoe, too. A men's size 9 weighs justless 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 thefeet the difference is noticeable.
The shoes were developed in coordination with PeterOberg, a rock star of the Swedish orienteering world. Materials used on the OLXare smart and thought through. The company (http://www.icebug.se) employsnon-absorbing materials throughout, meaning the OLX shoes will not retain muchwater, even if you stomp through a stream.
The uppers are rip-stop nylon reinforced byhigh-frequency welded straps. The midsole is a lightweight EVA foam with justenough support.
Overall, in my trail tests so far, the OLX shoes get a bigthumbs up. The shoe successfully combines great fit, light weight, exceptionalgrip, and a nimble design that engages a natural running gait. For what it'sworth, they look cool, too.
But, alas, a sports car of a shoe must come with asports-car-type price tag. The OLX shoes retail for $159, making them among thepricier products in their class.
If you can afford them -- and if you need maximum gripfrom a nimble trail shoe -- Icebug's fully-studded runners might be the shoefor you.
--Stephen Regenold is founder and editor ofwww.gearjunkie.com.