Is the Icebug Oribi running shoe suitable for more than running on wet or slippery surfaces?
On the box containing a pair of Icebug running shoes, you will find these words: “Safe grip, free mind.” If this does not seem to be quite clear, the Swedish company also uses another motto: “The world leader for traction.” Yes, this is the company that promises that on wet or slippery surfaces, its RB9X surface shoes grip “better than anything else on the market.” You could walk across an ice rink in a pair of Iceburg shoes. But how does one of their offerings work on the trails and roads of the U.S.? See the verdict below.
The Oribi is named after an African antelope, an animal with “speed, grace and agility.” This hybrid shoe weighs just 8.1 ounces – although one would think it was heavier due to the rather substantial rugged outsole, it offers a 7mm drop (versus a 4mm drop in the Icebug Acceleritas RB9X), and is said to to offer medium cushioning and flex. The Oribi has a polyester mesh upper, a lightweight EVA midsole, a TPU mudguard upfront, and a rock plate in the center of the forefoot. I ran in this striking beryl/cobalt colored shoe, provided by the company, on various surfaces.
The Icebug has a straight last and provides a snug fit. However, there’s room on top of the foot – something I mention because several other trail shoes seem to be too low-cut these days. Due to some toe issues, I requested a model one full size up. This meant there was some initial space-caused slippage at the rear heel area of the shoe – a matter remedied by wearing a pair of mid-weight running socks.
On a dirt and gravel-covered trail, I quickly noticed that the Oribi delivers a straight-ahead ride. This was made more evident when I ran on the same trail in another manufacturer’s shoe and found my feet moving around more than necessary. The Oribi makes one feel like your feet are locked onto a rail. This is good. Less wasted movement equals less wasted energy.
On asphalt, the ride is surprisingly smooth and comfortable. Not only is there no wasted energy, one feels the energy return from the responsive but not overly firm midsole. One may look forward to mid-range and long training runs in the Oribi.
The Oribi’s lugs allow one to dig in on a mowed grass trail. There’s stability front and rear, as well as from side to side. Because of these properties, I found myself running too fast and almost falling. Thanks to the Oribi’s “torsional stability” system, I was able to remain upright.
The Oribi is 100% protective on concrete. One can feel the ground but without punishment to the feet or sensitive metatarsals. This model absolutely shines on a hard-packed dirt trail, offering – to use an automobile analogy – what feels like four-wheel drive. For my feet, this felt like the best shoe ever on this type of surface!
On a trail loaded with large and small rocks, the Oribi offers just enough feel while protecting the feet from pain or discomfort. Thanks, rock plate. On a fire road, the shoe produced a B+ ride and offered some fun using the shoe’s moderate lugs to beat down high grass and brush to get there.
The clearest view of the Oribi’s nature came when I ran on the well-trampled down dirt and rock path around a city park. This is when I realized that the Oribi allows the foot to move through its natural full range of motion – heel to midfoot to forefoot, on every step. Initially in my mind, I thought that the Oribi provided the ride feel of a Nike trail shoe or of an early Asics Gel DS Trainer. But then it hit me, “This feels like a Pearl Izumi trail shoe!” Ah, yes, a number of movers loved the Pearl runners. Sadly, Pearl Izumi withdrew from producing their running shoes at the end of 2016. One can no longer purchase one of their exemplary models. Fortunately, the Icebug Oribi is here to fill the void.
At a list price of $149.95, the Icebug Oribi is not inexpensive. But it’s a shoe that does everything well on almost every surface (including ice and snow), offers almost endless protection for tired and worn feet, and is durable enough to last for several hundred happy training miles on natural trails and city streets. The Oribi will be a bargain for the runner who uses it to replace not one but two shoes in his or her rotation stable, as it can be used as both a trainer and race day shoe.
Note: Icebug USA is based in Bellingham, Washington.
This review was first posted on the Blogcritics site: