Kamik Icebreaker Review
Cons: Not as comfortable as other models
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Icebreaker has top-notch traction, comfortable warmth (due to its felt liner), and looks pretty good. But while this contender scored highly in traction and warmth, we ultimately felt that they did not out-compete any of the award winners for the top spot in any metric.
With a shaft height of 14.25", the Icebreaker falls right in the middle of our test. However, these boots are unique with their lace closure system, which allows you to close the top of the boots around the calves once on. With the laces cinched shut, there's much more security against splashes and rain, though this lacing system (of course) won't keep water out if you step deeper than the shaft height. And, while we like the idea of the lacing system on this boot, we rarely find ourselves tying it, as one of our favorite parts about rain boots is how simple they are to slip on — no laces involved.
The Icebreaker boots are pretty average when it comes to comfort, though they're certainly unique. This boot uses a full liner instead of an insole, and this makes them much different than the other competitors in our test. While the liner is wonderful to step into on cold days (it feels almost exactly like putting a wool sweater on your feet), we find that the lack of an actual insole is unpleasant. Instead of an insole, the liner extends beneath the feet, and while it started a quarter-inch thick, we can feel it matting down (from the inevitable moisture and sweat) as the months passed.
When we tried removing the liner (to check if we could use the boot without it), we found that the shell is enormous — with almost an inch of room forward and back and at least a half inch of left and right wiggle room. The Icebreaker must be used with the liner. Additionally, there's no way to put in separate insoles — they won't fit with the liner, and without it, there's simply too much space.
We also found that the thin outer rubber sometimes jams into the heels strangely if you lean back too far in the boot. While this may seem like a nitpick, it definitely felt strange after a full day!
The Icebreaker has great traction, due to its variety of stud shapes and orientations. We wore them in the ice immediately after some more underwhelming boots, and, within the first 20 seconds, wrote in our notes: "These are already 200% better than the last boots".
The Icebreaker did quite well on all the surfaces we tested and even gripped pretty well on the ice portion of the test. We're impressed by how well they hold onto wet surfaces, letting us run up and down on the wet grass/mud hills without much slipping at all.
Around town and even in snowy conditions, we like how warm these boots are. And as we stated above (in the comfort section), the relatively firm felt of the liners is really pleasant. They were even warm enough to bring our feet back up to comfortable temperatures in 20-degree weather after our feet had gotten numb wearing less insulated boots.
However, these boots did not do as well as we expected in the ice-water bath test. They felt great on our feet initially, but we began to feel the cold through the liners 4 minutes in. We ultimately became unpleasantly cold after just under 12 minutes in the boots.
While we were unimpressed by performance in the cold-water test, we ultimately think these boots are warm enough to wear down to 20 degrees with good socks, as long as you're moving. If you're stationary, they're less reliably warm.
With the fabric at the top, utilitarian design, and laces, we like the way the Icebreaker looks. They work with a variety of styles, as they're clunky enough to go with workwear, while still good-looking with more trim jean styles.
The size 13 Icebreaker fits differently than all the other boots in our test due to the liner. With our size 12 feet, there's a half-inch of room forward and back, and left-right there's no play whatsoever (on D-width feet). They're also pretty snug vertically (within the boot), which holds the feet in place nicely.
For the price, the Icebreaker is a good purchase. These boots won the Editors' Choice award several years ago due to their impressive weather protection, traction, good looks, and easy use, all of which qualify them as a worthy option. However, during our testing this time around, some worries came up regarding the durability of the liner, as it began to pack out beneath the ball of the foot and heels after we'd used them for ~40 hours. The liner isn't damaged yet, but since it is the only source of cushioning and insulation in the boot, we worry that when it goes, the boot won't have much left. You can, however, purchase replacement liners for pretty cheap, allowing this boot to be renewed almost indefinitely.
The Icebreaker is a solid contender thanks to high marks in good looks, traction, water resistance, and easy usage. They don't win any awards, as we find that their lack of internal structure (in the form of an insole) and their inability to take a supplementary insole limiting their long-term comfort. But we want to be clear — with a few small changes, these boots could be great. We'd love to see them cut narrower so they could be worn without the liner. If this were the case, these boots could handle a huge temperature range. And if they came with a removable insole, we think they'd be a lot more comfortable. With both these improvements, the Icebreaker would be serious contender for our favorite boots.
— Richard Forbes