Aspen Times Weekly: Vibram ‘Arctic Grip’ Sole |

Aspen Times Weekly: Vibram ‘Arctic Grip’ Sole

Winter was disappearing near my home. But I had one last cold-weather gear test to perform, and the lake ice under a nearby bridge (wet, smooth as glass, still a foot thick in the shadows) would provide a perfect venue for the review.

I laced up the test subject, a pair of Wolverine boots adorned with to-be-released Vibram Arctic Grip soles, and then I climbed over a railing onto a frozen plane. The rubber underfoot, a new invention, was purported to grip wet ice almost like metal spikes.

Indeed, Arctic Grip is advertised to give “up to three times better grip” on wet ice surfaces. It does this via lugs made of a special material that feels gritty to the touch.

The company will not reveal any details on the materials used, which are a proprietary mix of rubber and other constitutes.

On ice, the Arctic Grip lugs turn blue, which Vibram calls a “thermochromatic” effect. Though the color change is only aesthetic, it’s made to call attention to the innovation built into the tread.

For walking on wet ice, the Arctic Grip technology truly adds a level of grip heretofore unseen from an all-rubber sole.

Under the bridge, I took a couple fast steps and attempted to slide. The Vibram sole, which mixes traditional winter-oriented rubber with the Arctic Grip lugs, did not immediately “stick” to the ice; I was able to glide on my boots a few feet.

However, while walking on the wet ice, the Arctic Grip shined — with each step the boots subtly gripped to keep me upright and confident on ice so sheen I could look down and see my reflection in the frozen water below.

The technology was most noticeable when compared against another boot. Arctic Grip does not take the place of crampons or YakTrax. But compared to normal hiking boots, it’s an impressive upgrade for anyone who spends time tromping around in the cold.

Basically, the Arctic Grip gives a bit more traction on ice. You are able to steadily walk across glare, wet ice without hesitation.

Sudden movements and short bursts, however, still are subject to the slick properties of frozen water underfoot.

Beyond the Wolverine brand boots I tested, Vibram’s Arctic Grip soles will be seen on footwear from Saucony, Merrell, Sperry, Chaco, CAT Footwear and other Wolverine Worldwide brands this fall.

In 2017, Vibram will offer its ice-gripping sole to brands beyond the Wolverine group.

Check it out if you’re in need of extra traction — and the confidence that comes with it — on ice anywhere outdoors when the temps drop low and the ground gets slick.

Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at

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