The first thing I noticed when I pulled the Icebug Juniper RB9Xs out of the box was their weight. “I thought these were supposed to be boots, not running shoes,” I thought. Well, they look like boots, but weigh less than most trail-running shoes. The Icebug Juniper RB9Xs are lightweight, waterproof, super-sticky winter sneakers.

Comfort

When I get a new pair of footwear, I don’t want to take it slow and break them in over multiple outings or wear them around the house before I actually test them. Somehow, I’ve been blessed by the foot gods, because I almost never get blisters. After running the Mountain Masochist 50-Mile Ultra, I ended up with a blister on my pinky toe about the size of a pin head. That was 2006, and I haven’t had a blister since. With the light weight and flexibility of the Icebug Juniper, I figured a ridge traverse covering 15 miles with 10,000 feet of elevation change was in order.

Wearing these is like wearing your favorite old running shoes. When laced properly, I found the ankle support to be adequate and the base platform stable. Two-thirds of the traverse was off-trail, over loose rocks, scree, ice, and about a foot of loose snow on the north-facing slopes. The sole is very flexible, but protected my feet from rocks and kept my soles bruise-free.

icebug-juniper-rb9x-top

Specifications:

Colors: Charcoal (shown)

Sizes available: 8-12 US

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Weight: 21 oz / 595 g per pair (size 11 on my personal scale)

Upper material: Icebugs’s BUGdri waterproof membrane with honeycomb textile. During my time using the footwear, I have yet to experience water or moisture leaking through the membrane. The tongue is sewn and connected to the rest of the upper, reducing the chance of debris or moisture entering the footwear. The inside lining, with very few seams, overlaps the other upper stitching, giving a sock-like feel.

Outsole material: The outsole is made of a rubber compound called RB9X. This stuff is super sticky and resembles approach-shoe rubber or climbing-shoe rubber more than a running shoe. The tread is ergonomically designed to provide traction for both uphill and downhill movement. The tread on the heel is specifically shaped to prevent the heels of the shoe from slipping on uneven or wet terrain.

Due to the short duration I have worn the Juniper RB9Xs, I cannot attest to the overall wear of the tread or speculate how many miles I will get out of the sole. I will give an update after using these through the spring and summer.

MSRP: $130.00

icebug-juniper-rb9x-sole

Application:

The Icebug Juniper is listed as a winter sneaker, but I believe it is much more than that. With the waterproof membrane and super-sticky outsole, these are every bit as capable off-trail as on. Unless you plan on carrying extremely heavy loads (I carried a 25-pound pack during the ridge traverse), these winter sneakers provide excellent protection and stability. From contracting overseas during the cooler months to thru-hiking the PCT, you won’t be slipping and falling due to your footwear. I have even crossed a number of wet Pacific-NW logs and felt just as surefooted as if I was in the dirt.

Pros:

  • Waterproof
  • Ultra-sticky rubber compound with specially designed tread for traveling not only uphill, but downhill.
  • Sealed tongue
  • Lightweight
  • Comfort 10/10. Obviously, every foot is different. I don’t find the toe-box to be abnormally wide or narrow, and my heel was kept locked in place.
  • After a full day of wear, even in warmer weather, the lining dries very quickly.

Cons:

  • Durability and wear of the tread is an unknown.
  • When the temperature rose to over 60º F, my feet got pretty warm and sweaty.

Bottom line:

Overall, I am very impressed with the Icebug Juniper RB9Xs. No matter the terrain, traction is excellent. If you are searching for a very light, cool-weather sneaker for hiking, scrambling, or operating overseas, these are definitely worth looking into. If you live in the northeastern United States, head out to Icebug’s new and first official test center in North America at the world-class permanent obstacle course racing facility in Shale Hill Adventure Farm, Benson, Vermont. The facility is open to the public, with footwear on site to run through the paces.