Shoe Review | Karhu Ikoni Trail

In Finnish mythology, the word Karhu is rarely spoken out loud for fear that speaking the name of the most revered beast of the forest would bring bad luck during hunting season. Karhu, Finnish for ‘bear’ is a time-honored legacy brand hailing from the Artic forests of Finland with a long tradition of crafting unique and high-performing shoes. During the opening decades of the 20th century, Finnish athletes racked up wins at international competitions earning the epitaph the Flying Finns. This early success led Karhu to become a modern legend in their own right, outfitting these remarkable athletes.

Their latest offering is the Ikoni Trail, a unique turn for Karhu. First, let’s get something out of the way: this is not a trail shoe that everyone will like. While most trail shoes are tailored to either the two massive continental spanning trails, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail, or the western races, the Ikoni Trail is a bit different. This shoe was designed with northern, wetter, and colder climates in mind meaning that this shoe should perform well from the Autumn through Spring here in Ohio. After running and hiking in these a few times, I can confidently say that I could see myself trekking through the wilderness of Scandinavia finding the magic and mystery of Väinämöinen in this shoe and feel perfectly at home. 

           This shoe is super lightweight for a trail shoe, partially owing to there not being a rock plate. That said, with the stack and the Fulcrum; that rock plate isn’t missed. This brings me to the Fulcrum technology, aka the bread and butter of Karhu. Karhu pioneered what they termed The Fulcrum, a plate that adds to the function of all of their shoes. The Fulcrum runs either ¼, ½, and ¾ of the way through the shoe depending on the model. This adds some stability and rock to the shoes. The Ikoni Trail has the ½ plate giving the shoe some support to the foot not normally found in a trail shoe. The other thing that the Fulcrum does is that it acts as a natural propellant for the shoe that pushes the runner forward without having that rocking shape found in other shoes. While on paper this may not seem like a big deal, on foot it means that there is a much more natural glide to the shoe versus other shoes that feel much more mechanical. Another detail that stands out is that the Ikoni Trail comes in a weather-resistant model. This shoe lends itself well, yet again, to being that shoe for the northern climate. I can speak from experience and the weather resistance does a good job of keeping elements out of the shoe while still being light and not overly hot.

           Now as much as I enjoyed running in this shoe there are a few things that stand out that could be improved. First, the tongue isn’t gusseted. I kept having to adjust the tongue which got a bit annoying. Not a deal breaker by any means but something to keep in mind plus the no gusset means that there is much more volume in the shoe than one would think. The second issue is that because of how the lugs are designed, they sometimes have an issue gripping on semi-damp terrain and leaves. Again, not a deal breaker for most people but something to keep in mind as well. This would be a great second shoe for someone wanting something lighter and faster or someone who wanted an all-around more rugged everyday shoe that can conquer the cityscape and tundra.

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