Any distance runner will tell you that shoes have an expiration date. Going hard in an expired pair is a quick way to break down the fascia in your feet, and worn-out treading increases the risk of falling into or off of obstacles. Still, it remains common for athletes competing in obstacle races like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race to don their worn-out Asics cross-trainers for fear of ruining their fresh road kicks. Icebug, a new Swedish company, offers a more graceful solution to the problem of what to wear into the muck: a shoe specifically designed to take on the wear and tear of an obstacle course.
The 290-gram Icebug Spirit3 olx obstacle race shoe was designed specifically to resist mud and water, handle miles, and help competitors grip whatever they're climbing. Wide treads prevents the accumulation of pebbles in the outsole and 14 metal studs improve traction on logs, netting, and mud. The upper portion of the shoe is made of a breathable, but non-absorbent blend of polyester and nylon, which means Spartans won't be dragging an extra pound of water for miles after that first icy splash. The shoes come in two color combos: black with yellow trim and green with yellow trim. They look great, but it doesn't matter much because they're going to be caked in mud.
We tested our pair on trail runs, full-out sprints, walls, logs, and a bunch of slippery rocks in a creek. At first we were concerned that the studs would slip on smooth surfaces, but the shoes actually provided dependable traction on the water-smoothed stone. The reason? Icebug's "BUGrip® technology," which ensures that rubber and metal studs make contact with the running surface simultaneously.
The shoes require a serious break-in, so the first time you take them out, don't exceed a couple of miles or you'll end up running straight to blisterville. Allow for double-digit training sessions before race day and then give them hell. They may not have put on as many miles as your aging runners, but they can put up with a lot more. [$150; find a complete list of Icebug's U.S. retailers and distributors here.]