“Is this the most sustainable trail running shoe in the world?” Rather than make the claim, Icebug asks the question in a press release to introduce its new Outrun RB9X model, calling on other brands to challenge the company and offering to share its knowledge in the belief that cooperation is a key to sustainability.
The Swedish company's new shoe for the spring/summer 2020 season, which will be displayed at the new OutDoor by Ispo show starting in Munich on Sunday, features sustainable materials in the upper, the midsole and the outsole. The textile upper and the linings are both bluesign certified. In the midsole, 20 percent of the material is Bloom Foam, a type of foam made from algae. The outsole is 15 percent made with recycled rubber.
Developed in cooperation with a Taiwanese company that has been a minority shareholder of Icebug since its foundation, the shoe will be manufactured by the company's long-time supplier in Vietnam, which also works for other brands. David Ekelund, Icebug's founder and chief executive, is encouraging its other clients to help it to become more sustainable, making greater use of renewable energy, such as solar panels. Like many other factories in Asia, it is currently 70 percent dependent on fossil fuels and hydroelectric energy.
As previously reported, Icebug claimed earlier this year to have become the first climate-positive outdoor footwear company in the market (Compass Vol. 12 N° 5+6 of March 31). It had promised to reach that goal in 2020, based on a three-step United Nations program, but it actually met it last February. It had overestimated its carbon emissions by 30 percent.
Icebug, which started as a supplier of footwear with a special grip for icy or slippery conditions, still gets about 75 percent of its revenues from winter products, but has been gradually moving into summer sports, starting ten years ago with orienteering, which is big in the Nordic countries. One of its ambassadors is Tove Alexandersson, a 26-year-old triple world champion in conventional orienteering as well as ski orienteering and skyrunning. Icebug has developed with her a sky running shoe, the Capra RB9X, for the spring of next year.
Thanks to the special rubber compound used in their outsole, its trail running shoes are said to offer 40 percent better traction than other rubber compounds and an abrasion resistance that is 50 percent higher than the recommended level for a normal asphalt running shoe, says Icebug. The company claims that its Outrun shoe also offers a high degree of cushioning and other comfort features, making it suitable for long-distance and recreational running.
The company itself was at one point running very fast, with an annual growth rate of around 30 percent, particularly after taking over the distribution in the U.S., Norway and Germany between 2013 and 2016. However, it has now decided to soft-pedal its development, particularly since it suffered cash flow problems after stretching itself too far in the U.S., offering too much product in the market without a guarantee of orders.
Icebug recently appointed two women from other sectors, Jennifer Coe and Korey Krasue, to steer its U.S. subsidiary on a quieter course, more like its German subsidiary, which has been headed up since 2016 by Mathias Basedow, a former marketing manager of the European Outdoor Group.
One of the results has been an improvement of 127 percent to 19.3 million Swedish kronor (€1.8m-$2.1m) in the operating profit (Ebit) of Icebug in the past financial year on a 12 percent increase in revenues of SEK 191 million (€18.1m-$20.6m).
The company has become more agile in the allocation of its resources, says Ekelund. After these strategic moves in the areas of sales, product development and sustainability, Icebug is now also more open to new partnerships in Asia and other parts of the world, he adds.