|The Icebug Pythos are a lightened trail running shoe, designed for optimum traction in ‘all conditions’, but most notably giving an advantage in icy conditions. The unique selling point of the Icebug range is the BUGrip sole, with its 16 carbide tip studs, much like you’d find on the end of trekking poles.
Metal studded footwear is nothing new; orienteering shoes have been using them for years, but the BUGrip system on the Icebugs is different, with studs that are dynamic and adapt to different terrain making them more versatile. There are 5 studs in the heel and the remaining 11 spread evenly around the forefoot, each in its own special rubber compound that combines with the design of the stud, to allow it to move in towards the sole under pressure.
How far they are pushed in depends on the pressure from the user and the reaction from the terrain underfoot. On softer terrain the studs protrude to their maximum extent but on harder ground they are compressed somewhat (but not entirely) back into their rubber surround enabling more rubber than metal to contact the ground. The majority of trail shoes with a reasonably lugged sole will grip well in most conditions, but there are two things that normally get the better of pretty much every other shoe I’ve used – ice and wet tree roots. Now this is where the Icebug excels like nothing I’ve ever used. Ice covered concrete, slippy tree roots and even wet, mossy rock were handled with aplomb. On asphalt and hard trail, the studs can be heard and ever so slightly felt through the sole, but not to the extent to be a problem or cause discomfort.
With a sole designed for performance on ice and a tough, water-repellent upper then these looked to be a great winter racing/training shoe and I used them on the Bergson Winter Challenge as well as several jaunts in the snowy Highlands. However, the steel studs don’t grip well into snow or soft mud – you need some deep lugs for that – and the heel on the Pytho is just not deeply lugged enough for confidence on steep descents, leading to me taking a few unexpected tumbles.
The forefoot has a series of transverse raised rows so has pretty good fore-aft grip and a TPU shank in the midsole keeps it torsionally stiff for contouring action, but the heel still really lets it down on muddy descents. Time has taken its toll on some of the studs, which have departed the sole but its not affected grip too much as the remaining studs take over.
The Pytho is designed to have a low profile for control on rough ground, so the EVA midsole is fairly thin compared to other trail shoes, but provides cushioning in the heel from a “squish unit” and a “bouncy unit” in the forefoot for responsive take off. It works fine in most conditions but can be a bit hard on the feet on sustained hard surfaces, so if you’re a bit heavier or just need that bit more cushioning, then Icebug make the Gryllo with a thicker midsole as well as greater protection on the uppers.
The upper is coated with polyurethane for effective water repellence, but this water repellence is at the expense of any venting or drainage holes, meaning they are not ideal if you’re likely to immerse your feet. They are great though when used in ‘damp’ conditions, absorbing very little liquid and are more breathable than a fully waterproof liner like Gore-Tex.
The tongue is very thin to reduce moisture absorption which does mean that overtightening the laces can cause some discomfort so a bit of care needs to be taken. The tongue is attached with a thin gusset to help keep debris and water out and it works pretty well. The foot is held well in position by a TPU ’skeleton’ attached to the midsole.
The fit is good in the heel and midfoot, with a snug secure fit, giving me no problems with slipping or rubbing. The forefoot is roomy and wide, (even with my wide feet and bunions!), giving room to accommodate some foot swelling during longer races. The toe box is protected round most of its edge by a rubber bumper, which also helps when kicking steps in steep snow.The Pytho is a superb shoe in some conditions (ice, wet roots, wet trails) and a good all rounder in most conditions.
It’s only weakness is on steep mud and snow slopes but I still reached for this shoe more than any other over the winter months. It was comfortable, durable and opened up new trails on the coldest of winter days but will also work well in all but the hottest of conditions. The Pytho is also available in a women’s version, which doesn’t come in girly pinks and pastels, but is exactly the same as the gents, though with a ladies last.
Icebug has just been relaunched in the UK so availability should be increasing but at the moment are available at www.fastandlight.co.uk
For more details please visit: http://www.icebug.se