Icebug Oribi2 RB9X GTX - A versatile winter shoe!

87 / 100 by Lars Wichmann • Level 3 expert

Despite many years as a trail runner, the Icebug brand was fairly unknown to me before this review. After some research, I found out that Icebug is a minor high-end shoe company from Sweden. They specialize in shoes and boots with good grip in icy conditions. Running-shoe-wise they have "gained some traction" in their homeland for their studded BUGrip system, especially among the OCR and orienteering elite.

That boded well for my review of their "Oribi 2 RB9X GTX", as I prefer rugged trails and live where ice and snow is common in the winter. Unfortunately, I received the shoes in the midst of a historic heatwave. Hence, I was unable to test them on their "home turf": snow and ice. What I was able to do though, was take them through a series of other suitable trail conditions.

I thoroughly enjoyed testing out and reviewing the Oribi 2 RB9X GTX, which is a nice trail shoe with plenty of features to like and enjoy, but there are also "a few flies in the ointment".

 

Design & Looks

My wife's immediate comment when she saw the Oribi 2 was "huh, that's bland ... erh what type of bug is it?". That probably requires a bit of explanation. The upper is entirely black apart from a lime-colored Icebug logo (a stylised bug) on the outside of the shoe.

 

 

There are a bit of contour/material shades if you get a close-up look, otherwise, it is all black in black. The outsole is lime colored and the midsole is bright white.

Aside from the logo, they look (from a distance) very much like a nondescript pair of Nike (swap a bug with a rounded checkmark). This is not a plus in my book. I mean, if you buy a special shoe from a niche/specialist brand you'd want it to stand out and scream "Unique"! Don't you think?

The Oribi 2 is the second iteration of the Oribi RB9X. The first model came in more joyful and distinct colors, with the men's in bluish and the women's in purple/pinkish colors. Both the second and third iteration of the Oribi sport the Nike-like black upper and white midsole.

Icebug, if you read this, please go back to the bright colors. For example like the BUGrip version of the Oribi! That shoe looks awesome!

 

Fit

How a shoe fits you is highly personal. Not only are our feet shaped differently we also have individual preferences. My feet are rather wide in the front, narrow in the middle and back, and I have somewhat high arcs.

Despite my high arcs, I prefer neutral shoes with little cushioning. I normally go for comfortable shoes with room for my toes to splay. Please notice that this review reflect my personal view on how the Oribi 2 fits me - it may fit you quite differently.

The first few runs in the Oribi 2 were okay and rather typical for new running shoes. They clearly needed breaking-in; my toes got squished, and my right pinky got beaten up pretty good.

That did not hold me back though, and as I put in more runs they got somewhat comfier. After some 60+ kilometers, I found them to be fairly well broken-in. At least the classic "new-shoe-numbness-feeling" was gone by then.

 

 

There was one particular run that made the Oribi 2 jump several steps comfort-wise. I accidentally employed an old army trick for breaking in leather boots.

During an otherwise normal everyday run on the beach, I ventured into the Baltic Sea. I let the shoes get completely soaked, and then ran along as usual for another hour or so (to test what happens when the shoes get waterlogged).

After a few days of air-drying the overall fit was a lot better; though still a bit on the tight side in the wiggle-your-toe-room-department. I don't know if Icebug will endorse this method - but it sure turned out rather well for me. From bearable to quite comfortable in one fell swoop. Well, if you can call running for an hour in waterlogged shoes a fell swoop.

My biggest gripe with the fit of the Oribi 2 is the height and stiffness of the ankle collar. In short: it scrapes my malleolus - medially as well as laterally. The level of scraping is acceptable on flat and even trails without many turns.

But as soon as you get into rocky, technical trails with many twist and turns they are right out uncomfortable. The only method I have found to avoid the scraping is to have the laces fairly loose, allowing the collar to give way (rather than the malleolus). That, however, comes at the cost of a generally looser fit.

 

Upper

Despite testing the Oribi 2 in the midst of a historic drought I managed to find some water.

Dipping my Oribi 2 in the Baltic Sea clearly demonstrated that the upper hold out water nicely. I even did a few deliberately clumsy creek-crossings just for good effect. Dry feet - nice! I think this will come in handy in the cold/wet season.

 

 

An added bonus of the waterproof upper is that it makes the Oribi 2 grit/sand-proof. This is particularly handy if you - like me - happen to run a lot along beaches and dunes. With a suitable gaiter, you are good to go for many miles without stuff getting into your shoes. Icebug even sells their own gaiter (sold out at the moment though).

Once you venture into more rugged/muddy stuff where the water eventually gets into your shoes (from above) the Oribi 2 is not so great. Waterproof shoes do not allow moisture to escape quickly, irrespective of membrane technology. This is a generic issue and not limited to the Oribi.

Nonetheless, it must be mentioned as a serious drawback. If moisture gets in, it will stay in and do what water does rather well - be heavy! I cannot recommend the Oribi 2 for fell, OCR or adventure-race type runs.

 

Tongue

The tongue is like no other shoe I have come across. It is made from a rather thin velvety/leathery material and is very short. It is completely attached to the upper along the sides (for waterproofness I presume) except for a few cm near the top.

I don't mind the thinness (almost flimsiness) of the tongue material. It is quite novel and not uncomfortable as you would think when you first see it. What I don't like is having to fiddle too much to get my shoes on.

Because the tongue is so short and flimsy it is hard to get a good grip on it. Furthermore, it has a tendency to get in the way or fold unless you are careful. Getting the Oribi 2 on is not as easy as I would expect.

 

 

Shoelaces

Well, how often do you see a section on shoelaces in a shoe review? I simply need to bring attention to the novel laces on the Oribi 2. I don't know how to describe them properly, but they are "wobbly"!

Instead of a straight smooth piece of string, the laces have a varying thickness along the length of the lace. Like some little genie put small beads inside the lace every three mm or so. This in effect restrains the laces from untying and it seems to work quite well. No need for double knots or gaiters to counter the laces untying themselves. Brilliant!

 

Midsole

The Oribi 2 is a medium cushion shoe with an integrated rock shield. Despite this, it is my impression that you still get a fairly good feel for the track.

At the same time, it provides a fair amount of cushioning when running on hard surfaces, and a suitable protection from sharp objects. Not too much - not too little. Good!

 

 

Outsole

The tractor-tire-like threads dug into soft tracks and offered excellent traction on anything I threw at them. But it was when running on rocks the formidable stickiness of the RB9X material really shone. It is simply superb!

I'm close to saying that the RB9X outsole is the best I have ever tried when it comes to grip on rocks and rocky terrain. They also worked better than most shoes on wet and algae-covered boardwalks, which was the most slippery surfaces I could find (in lack of ice).

Testing these shoes in the summertime is not ideal, and I have not yet had the opportunity to run on ice/snow. But considering their general grip and that icy conditions is what Icebug shoes are built for in the first place, I suspect the "ice-grip" will be equally good.

 

 

Performance

During my testing of the Oribi 2 RB9X, I ventured out on a variety of surfaces: road, paths, sandy beaches, mud, rocky beaches, forest floor, dirt single track, gravel roads, dunes, rocks, boardwalks. Nowhere along the way did the Oribi 2 feel "out-of-place". In short, it is simply one of the better all-around trail shoes I have tried.

The Oribi2 RB9X is not an overly heavy shoe - but imho not a very light shoe either. My brand new pair (UK 7) weighed in at 494 grams, or 247 grams each. Some people may argue that 247 grams for a size UK 7 are rather light.

They are to some extent right - at least for a shoe with both rockplate and GoreTex membrane. My point is that there are plenty of lighter alternatives out there that occupy the same usage-niche as the Oribi 2.

 

 

Speedwise the Oribi 2 have been pretty much on par with the rest of my shoes. Perhaps a bit on the slow side, but not by much. They excel on hard surfaces like rocks and rocky beaches. They are fine on forest tracks, sandy beaches and other soft terrains - perhaps a bit "overkill" in the cushioning department.

On roads and road-to-trail type runs they are quite fast. Mind you they are not road shoes, and I would expect the outsole to wear down quickly if you "go road" too much. But only time will tell.

The Oribi 2 are clearly made for cold conditions. I need to say that reviewing these shoes in the summertime has been a bit of a pain. They are very warm and not well ventilated.

I have no doubt that the Oribi 2 will become a regular for me on winter runs. But as soon as I am finished putting "review miles" on them they will be put back on the shelf until winter.

When tightened properly the Oribi 2 offers a solid locked-down feel, which in combination with a wide midsole/outsole provide a strong sense of stability. The straightness of the last also adds to this sense of secureness.

In another review of the Oribi 2, the reviewer used the expression "it's like running on rails". I had a bit difficulty understanding that notion when I first read it. But after running in the Oribi 2 I agree completely. The shoes naturally point your feet straight ahead and keep them that way when you land/set off.

 

 

The longest run I have done in my Oribi 2 so far is 28 km (mixed trail). That went rather well without too much discomfort from a shoe perspective. However, by the time I got back to the car my toes were beginning to feel a bit squished. I was also starting to notice the effects of the ankle-collar scraping - despite having them loosely tightened.

Apart from those two issues I consider the Oribi rather suitable for long runs. They provide that extra bit of cushioning that will make the long hours more comfortable.

Furthermore, I think the "running on rails"-feeling has its clear advantage when you start to tire. I'd say the Oribi is an excellent choice for ultra runs - provided that you do not have issues with the high ankle collar and tight toe space.

 

Quality / value-for-money

The Oribi 2 RB9X is not a cheap shoe. As of summer 2018, the retail price is EUR 159.95 at the international Icebug website. Searching the web I managed to find them on discount as low as EUR 90 but in a limited selection of sizes. This is right up there with more well-known brands like Inov-8 and Salomon, and even other OCR/orienteering specialist brands like VJ sport.

I have only put around 100 km on my Oribi 2 so far. Apart from a bit of dirt, the upper looks new. Then again, apart from a few dips in the Baltic, they haven't been overly abused either. Come winter they will be put through the real tests - I wonder how the GoreTex membrane will hold up once I start to challenge it?!

There is no major wear on the outsole either. You may notice a few of the micro-grooves gone on the down-facing side of lugs - but that's it. All in all the build quality seems as good as you would expect from a high-end shoe.

 

Conclusion

The Icebug Oribi RB9X GTX is a versatile cold-weather shoe with a very good grip. It is suitable for everybody who likes trail running, and prefer a medium drop and a bit of cushioning. It performs excellently on rocky terrain, and well on most other surfaces. It is suitable for anything from short runs to ultras.

The Oribi 2 RB9X would be a solid choice for someone new to trail running and in the market for their perhaps first and only trail shoe.

NB! Always try before you buy! Especially so with the Oribi 2 as you may encounter fit issues such as tightness in the forefoot/toe-area, high ankle collars, and little arc support.

I am certain the Oribi 2 will become part of my regular rotation come winter. And I strongly expect to keep running in my Oribi 2 until they are worn down. They are simply too good to leave on the shelf.

 

Disclaimer:

Please note that I am an independent recreational runner, and not in anyway affiliated with or paid by Icebug for this review. The shoes were provided to me free of charge by RunRepeat.com for whom this review is written. 

Lars Wichmann

Lars Wichmann • Level 3 expert

Hi, I'm a recreational ultra trail runner doing some 2000+ km per year, almost exclusively on trails. I did my first marathon in 1995 and my first ultra in 2001. I run to exercise my body and relax my mind. I love to reach that blissful state when there is nothing but you and the trail, and once you get to your destination you can't recall how you got there and how much time has passed. I'm a gear-freak and running shoe aficionado and regularly browse the web for inspiration and good deals.

Interested in writing a review?

Become an expert