I've long been an admirer of Swedish company Icebug's Speed mid boots since I first saw them on PTC*'s blog way back in 2007 when I was living in the mostly flat, never snowy south of England. I would never have needed them of course but they just looked 'right'. Fast forward a wee while and I found myself living in Norway and despite residing on the west coast, cosseted by the Gulf Stream, there were plenty of occasions last winter when the Icebug BUGrip system of 16 carbide steel tipped studs per foot would have kept me from employing the 'ass crampon' so frequently in the frozen icy hills. When I finally tracked down some Speeds in a local shop they were sold out in my size and Spring was beckoning so they got added to the Wanted list and filed away in my wallet.
When the Gulf Stream decided to have a month off, starting just before Christmas 2009 and plunged Bergen into rare Arctic mode the need for some winter boots came flooding back. At first, with a few feet of fresh soft snow and playground duty having to be endured at -20C I went looking for a pair of Sorrels. When I got to the sport store I saw my beloved Icebug Speeds back in stock and I snapped up a pair.
Lovers of Keen, Vasque and the 'proper' Inov8s (Terroc 330s and Flyroc 310s) rejoice because the Icebug Speeds have a nice wide, high volume fit, perfect for winter socks (no need to 'size up'). The BUGdri waterproof membrane has so far worked perfectly but as ever, time will tell if this continues to be the case. The lining has a brushed fleecy finish and feels slightly insulated and I can attest that the -20C rating that came with them is accurate. Hours of standing around on the frozen wastes of the playground at work have been a pleasure, especially compared to my poor old Montrail mids that left me with cold feet within minutes.
Obviously it's the sole unit that sets the Icebug Speeds apart and so far they have proved brilliant at keeping me on an even keel. They have seen far more action than the weekend's forays into the hills and my morning commute across half an hour of compacted ice and snow has been achieved without a slip-up. I'm not sure that the 'Smart Studs' are quite A grade students, sure they grip to ice and snow very well but they don't really get out of the way as claimed when walking on concrete or tarmac and can be a bit noisy. The rubber compound on the rest of the sole is nice and soft which makes them insanely grippy but care need to be taken to reduce the amount of road miles the boots are subjected to or else you will, as PTC* so poetically put it "tear the arse out of them". Best not to wear them indoors either unless you fancy re-laying the hallway floor.
They're not for everyone, you need to be sure you're going to be walking on a fair bit of ice and snow for them to be worthwhile but if you do find yourself enjoying such conditions then the Speeds will keep you upright, especially on the trail before crampons are necessary. Others happily use them with a pair of Kahtoolas when the contour lines get a bit close together. They've also helped kept me warm and dry too, especially in this recent blast of winter. How long these Arctic conditions remain for is yet to be seen but so far I've been very happy with my Icebug Speed BUGrips.