I tried to climb up onto a ramp of ice in my normal winter boots. They’d served me well last winter and seemed like a good pair to test against the new material Italian shoe company Vibram was selling.
I braced myself on the handlebars, and leaned all my weight onto my shoe, that sensation of zero traction was immediate and I quickly stepped away. “Okay,” the PR rep cooed a little too paternally, “try the other foot.”
I was wearing a shoe with Vibram’s new Arctic Grip material on my other foot. I placed it on the slick ramp, leaned in. And the shoe didn’t budge. There was the unmistakable feeling of an excellent, almost tacky grip. The material itself feels like a fine grit sandpaper when you run your finger across it.
This new material is Vibram’s first real new effort since unleashing FiveFinger barefoot running shoes onto the world. And it actually works. Unfortunately, it only works on slicker ice. A key component of its ability to maintain traction is the moisture content of the surface it’s on. So don’t expect miracles when trying to walk on black ice.
Arctic Grip, which doesn’t increase the cost of shoes it’s on, is currently being licensed exclusively to Wolverine, and will be used in shoes from its brands, including Sperry, Merrell, Hush Puppies, Saucony, and CAT. After a year of exclusivity, other manufacturers will have access to the material. So hopefully by next Christmas, you’ll be able to find it in shoes that don’t cling to the Ugg or dude-bro hiking boot aesthetic.