No-Slip Winter Boots: New Vibram Arctic Grip Soles Somehow Stick to Wet Ice

November 28, 2016


We are entering the season of slippery sidewalks and treacherous trails. As ice slicks our favorite stomping grounds, it’s time to prepare with the grip you need to stay upright and face plant-free all season long.

Sure, you could strap on any number of ice-grabbing, metal-toothed winter traction devices or even a pair of shoes with embedded metal studs in the sole. But you don’t want to be stomping around indoors with these and taking them on and off all the time can be an annoying hassle.

Enter the new Vibram Arctic Grip, available on a range of no-slip winter boots. Introduced earlier this year at the Winter Outdoor Retailer show, this proprietary new technology somehow magically provides far better traction on wet ice than any other non-toothed footwear out there.

How’s it work? Vibram isn’t saying, other than that it’s a “unique polymer blend coupled with an advanced filler system/new processing technique.”

But work it does, as evidenced by numerous online reviews and videos, including raves from Gear Institute and GearJunkie, which gave it a Best in Show award at Outdoor Retailer. (For more, check out the videos below. They’re pretty convincing.)

As an added bonus, the soles feature small thermochromatic bits that turn blue when temperatures drop below freezing. (This is mostly a gimmick—the color change doesn’t have anything to do with the sole’s traction capabilities.)

As part of an exclusive arrangement for the 2016/17 winter season, Arctic Grip is only available from shoe companies that are part of Wolverine Worldwide—Merrell, Saucony, CAT, Sperry, Hush Puppies, and Wolverine itself.

I’m particularly intrigued by the offerings from Merrrell, both because they are reasonably priced ($140 to $170) and because I’ve have had many good experiences with Merrell footwear over the years; they tend to hold up very well over time and they usually fit my size 15 Sasquatchian feet quite nicely. (Heads up that most Merrell footwear tends to run a bit long…you may want to try on or order a half size or size smaller than you usually wear.)

My only concern is that Vibram Arctic Grip works for “at least 200 miles.” That may sound like a lot, but it’s easy to rack up more miles than that if your boots last for a few seasons and you wear them regularly. Time will tell when it comes to durability.

Enjoy winter!


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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.