INOV-8 Shoe Review X-TALON 225

‘What shoe shall I use for a muddy race or run?’

It’s a question I get asked a great deal and my answer is always the same –Have you considered inov-8?’

inov-8 has been making shoes for muddy conditions for over 10-years and as such they are my ‘go-to’ brand when I need something to handle ‘off-trail’ conditions such as fell, mountain, open fields, mountain terrain and so on.

I photograph, test and run in many many shoes and no shoes come close to handling thick, sloppy and unpredictable mud like inov-8.

A firm favourite is the Mudclaw 300 which has a 6mm drop. You can read a review from 2016 HERE.

In the last 12-months, inov-8 has tweaked its line of shoes once again and the popular Race Ultra has now become the Trail Talon (one of my favourite trail shoes for dry conditions HERE) and we have the X-Claw 275 (HERE) which is a favourite for me when I want to mix up good trails with mud and rock for longer duration, the 275 version with wider toe box and 8mm drop is perfect.

The X-Talon shoe has been around for sometime as an inov-8 classic and certainly the 212 (6mm drop) is a shoe that I have used time and time again. HERE 

Usually, I prefer 6-8mm drop shoes, however, if I am just running in soft mud, a lower drop of 4mm or 3mm is usually fine and providing I am not running for too long it is preferable as I feel lower to the ground and more connected.

The 225 is a 4mm drop shoe with a 3mm footbed and a stack of 19.5mm at the heel and 15.5mm at the forefoot. The lugs are the same as the Mudclaw 300 with 8mm depth. 

It’s easy to see from the off that the X-Talon 225 is designed for a more efficient runner and having switched between the Mudclaw 300 and the X-Talon 225 the main differences come with a touch more cushioning in the Mudclaw, otherwise, both shoes feel very similar as they have ‘precision’ fit, same lug depth, similar lacing and a similar feel when running. Obviously, the X-Talon is 25% lighter and that does feel different! 

Running off-trail in muddy and sloppy conditions requires control and precision, therefore, the X-Talon 225 is a precision fit shoe. You need your foot to feel controlled and yes, maybe a little tight in the shoe. This is what gives you the control and the security to let yourself go. The only time you would compromise on this precision feel is if you were running for hour upon hour or running a very long race where the fit may cause an issue. Therefore, I see the X-Talon as a perfect shoe for up to say marathon distance – it does depend on the runner?

They are feather light. You pick them up and you know straight away they will be a delight to wear. They are simple and no fuss. Good bumper around the toe with a reinforced section. The upper is durable, lightweight and designed to be breathable and protective. The tongue is lightweight and the laces almost feel inadequate but they really pull the shoe tight and give a wonderful secure feeling around the middle of the foot to offer that security and control that is so essential when running in the sloppy and unpredictable terrain that mountains or fells give us. The heel box is classic inov-8 and wraps around providing a comfortable and secure hold with no rubbing. 

The X-Talon is ultimately what is on the bottom of the shoe and as the name suggests, you have a plethora of 8mm talons to provide maximal grip. The compound is DUAL-C as seen in other inov-8 shoes and this works well in transitioning from mud to rock without a compromise on grip. The configuration is designed to shed mud and debris, however, I have yet to find a shoe that when it’s really muddy sheds the mud as I run. Certainly, transitioning from muddy terrain to harder, firmer or dry trail and the mud falls away quickly.

Another key feature is META-FLEX which allows the shoe to bend just in the correct place to facilitate the propulsive phase. One of the tings I love about inov-8 shoes is this really does work! It’s not some name jargon that doesn’t mean anything.

IN USE

My daily trail run requires me to run a 1-mile of road to the trail and 1-mile home. The X-Talon handles this well and just for kicks, try it yourself – you will here the outsole grip to the pavement and road. It’s quite a feeling! Of course, you want to keep road use to a minimum in a shoe like this – the outsole won’t thank you for rubbing it against such an abrasive surface. Ideally, this is a shoe that you will put on just before you start to run. Rest assured though, the shoe gives a wonderful feeling on hard pack. How wonderful depends on you, your efficiency and your need for cushioning. If you are looking for a shoe that can handle some road, some hardback trail, rocks and some mud – I recommend the X-Claw.

I mix between shoes with a wider toe box such as the Trail Talon and X-Claw and can quite happily use a shoe with a more precision or tighter toe box such as the Roclite, Mudclaw or the X-Talon, so, the precision fit is not a problem for me.

I prefer a higher drop shoe of 6-8mm but the 225 with 4mm felt really great on soft and muddy trails – I didn’t really notice the lower drop and the lightness/ flexibility is a real pleasure.

The shoes are really comfortable and secure. The heel box really grips and the lacing really holds the foot secure. I had no movement or sloppiness.

Toe protection is good. I’ve had a few toe collisions with rocks and had not problems. The 3mm footbed and 15.5/19.5 cushioning is certainly on the minimal side and when running on rocky, dry or stony trails I could certainly feel the ground beneath me. Again, this comes down to choosing a shoe that is fit for purpose and fit for the duration you are running. Again, need more shoe? Look at the Mudclaw 300 or X-Claw 275.

Grip is awesome and few shoes in the marketplace can compare to the grip offered by the 8mm lugs. The compound also works great when transitions from mud to rock – a real winner.

SUMMARY

If you need a low drop, lightweight shoe with loads of grip and a precision fit, look no further than the X-Talon 225. This shoe has very little not to like and actually the negatives for some are what make this shoe great:

  • Low drop
  • Light
  • Minimal
  • Deep lugs

If all of the above is ‘too’ minimal for you, look at the Mudclaw 300 and if you need a higher drop (8mm), a little more toe width, good lugs but not as aggressive and more cushioning, you can’t go wrong with the X-Claw 275. If I was only going to have one pair of shoes for trail, mud and rock then I would go for the X-Claw. However, if I can pick and choose and use shoes shoes like weapons, the X-Talon 225 would be fast and light shoes for racing a fast and furious fell race, Skyrunning race or even a VK.

SPECS

  • Fit
  • Precision
  • Drop
  • 4mm
  • Footbed
  • 3mm
  • Lug Depth
  • 8mm
  • Midsole
  • Injected EVA
  • Midsole Stack
  • Heel 19.5mm / Forefoot 15.5mm
  • Shank
  • DFB™
  • Product Weight
  • 225g / 7.9oz

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New Shoes from INOV-8 2016

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It’s been a while since we have posted a shoe review and we have good reason, we have been testing and trying out shoes on the trails and mountains. Coming up over the next few weeks we will be posting reviews of new shoes in the inov-8 line up and I am pleased to say, there are some real quality products to look at!

TRAIL TALON 275 (click on images to view larger)

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Perfect for long miles on hard-packed trails, the TRAIL TALON 275 delivers the perfect fit and unrivalled comfort with next generation ADAPTERFIT technology. A two-piece Powerflow midsole delivers optimum levels of shock absorption and energy return. Standard fit and 8mm drop.

X-CLAW 275
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The ultimate shoe for running long distances over extreme terrain. Delivers outstanding claw cleat grip, comfort and protection while retaining lightweight flexibility. Ideal for high mileage training in the mountains and fells.  Standard fit and 8mm drop.

X-TALON 225

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Designed for running fast over extreme terrain, the newest addition to the legendary X-TALON range offers increased durability and improved grip in a perfect lightweight, agile package. Ideal for fell and mountain racing. Precision fit and 4mm drop.

TRAIL TALON 250

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The lighter version in the series, the TRAILTALON 250 has been designed for speed and delivering the best grip possible on hard-packed trails. A two-piece Powerflow midsole delivers optimum levels of shock absorption and energy return. Standard fit and 4mm drop.

All shoes available in men’s and ladies sizes

Detailed reviews of the following shoes will follow in the coming weeks

inov-8 logo

https://www.inov-8.com

inov-8 TERRACLAW 220 – Shoe Review

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The Terraclaw 220 is the stripped down version of the recently reviewed Terraclaw 250 by Niandi Carmont on this website (HERE).

I have been using both the 220 and the 250 for the last 4-months and in all honesty, much of what I have to say applies to both shoes. The biggest and most obvious differences are:

4mm drop in comparison to 8mm drop

220g weight in comparison to 250g weight

Less cushioning in the 220

Different lacing system

If you are new to inov-8 shoes, they always add the weight of the shoe (based on a UK8.5) to the name. In this scenario 220 relates to 220g. I like this, from first glance you get an understanding of where a shoe fits in the big picture. It’s safe to say, the less weight = more minimalist.

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For me, the 220 and the 250 Terraclaw shoes are an extension from the Race Ultra models, the 270 (4mm drop) and 290 (8mm drop). The Race Ultra, as the name implies was designed for longer days running and the shoe had a sole that was good for dry trail and road. A key feature was the wide toe box that would allow the toes to spread out and also allow for swelling. It’s a shoe that had many new features and I must add it proved (and still proves to be) very popular. My initial impressions were good but that is where it stopped for me. I found the Race Ultra in both models lacked feel for the ground, comfort and responsiveness. They just didn’t light my candle.

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So when I received the Terraclaw models I was not over excited to take them out for a run. My preferred shoe drop is usually 8mm so I went out in the Terraclaw 250 (black and blue shoe) first and I was amazed how different this shoe felt. The sloppy feel of the Race Ultra was gone and I found this new shoe more flexible, supple, cushioned, responsive and the feedback with the ground was good. I have gone on to run many miles in the Terraclaw 250 and love them. You can read Niandi’s review HERE and for the most I agree with her thoughts.

However, I do have some other thoughts and they relate to both the 220 and 250 models.

Review

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As mentioned above, the Terraclaw 220 and 250 are almost identical.

The 250 has a cool colour way of black, yellow and blue and the 220 does not! Oh boy do I hate this pale blue and yellow. I have visions of the first Hoka’s and people saying, ‘why are you wearing clown shoes!’ Of course looks mean nothing in regard to performance but I do like my shoes to look good and I have to say, inov-8 usually do a great job of making shoes look ‘sexy!’ Not in this case, not for me anyway.

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That big ‘X’ that goes over the front of the shoe is ‘X-Lock’ – inov-8 say that is a welded overlay to hold the foot in place. I will admit that the ‘X’ adds some structure to the shoe but it does not hold the foot in place!

Why?

Well this shoe and the 250 is all about foot splay. The toe box has been designed to let the toes splay out, move around and yes, even swell if they need to. It works. Both the 220 and 250 versions give me a ‘barefoot’ feel of movement. However, the ‘X’ adds little structure or hold.

This for me is a real plus and a real negative.

1. If you are running on mixed terrain that involved some road, hard trail, a little mud, soft grass and the profile is relatively flat with a few undulations and descents – the 220 and 250 are great shoes.

2. But if you are running anything technical, running up or running down, the movement within the toe box is way too much (for me). You have no control and your foot slides inside offering no reassurance.

The two comments above are comments that relate to the shoes ‘best practice’ running scenarios. So, if you are intending to run in the number 2 scenario, the 220 or 250 is probably NOT the shoe for you unless you have a foot as wide as a Hobbit. Look at a 212 (HERE) or 300 (HERE) instead.

Niandi needs a wider toe box and this where the needs of one varies to the needs of another. To take a step back and understand the needs of the individual, for me, the wide toe box is too much when I need control but for Niandi it works. We both agree though that the outsole is NOT for muddy or slippery terrain.

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The outsole is an extension of the Race Ultra and I would imagine has come about from all those Race Ultra lovers who wanted more grip. Well they have it now but it has limitations. We must remember here that (for me) inov-8 are trying to create an ‘all-purpose’ shoe that transitions from different surfaces; road to trail? Like I always say, no shoe that compromises will ever do the extremes well. That applies to the 220 and the 250 – they are not as good as a road shoe and they do not offer the grip of an out-and-out fell or soft-ground shoe. BUT if you want a shoe that you can put on everyday and use for mixed terrain, the 220 and 250 are great for that.

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The outsole uses different compounds to provide grip on a multitude of surfaces and the grip is made up of little triangles that provide adequate grip on soft ground but not muddy ground. The spacing of the cleats is supposed to allow debris to release quicker. It made no difference for me; mud is mud and it sucks on to your shoes.

A ‘Dynamic Fascia Band’ has been embedded in the midsole and this provides some propulsion on the ‘lift-off’ phase when running. I would say that I noticed this more on the 220 (4mm drop) shoe but in all honesty, I believe that this comes from me wanting to run better in the 4mm drop shoes. You (or I) need to think more about my run style in a lower drop shoe as the mid to forefoot strike is so much more important. Hence the ‘awareness’ of the DFB working.

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The noticeable difference between the 220 and the 250 is the lacing. The 250 is conventional and the 220 sweeps off to the side. inov-8 call this Ray-Wrap and it’s designed to line with the foot’s first metatarsal. They are not the first shoe company to do this, I seem to remember using a pair of Brooks with a similar system. Ultimately it works. I am not convinced it is any better than normal lacing methods though. I personally like my shoes to hold my foot so in both the 220 and 250 models I use a lacing method like THIS and in the 220 it is a little harder to use because of the offset. The 220 also has less additional support added to the upper around the lacing. The heel box is snug and plush and the shoe fits true to size.

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Both shoes feel like slippers when you slide your foot into them and this is due to the lack of stitching. The shoes have little or no seams to cause any issues. The toe box of the 220 has less protection than the 250 and this only an issue if you are planning running on more rocky terrain or terrain with obstacles when the risk of stubbing a toe increases.

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In Use

Although the 220 and 250 are very similar, are they for different runners? The 250 is a great ‘all rounder’ that will appeal to many runners because of the following features:

8mm drop

Good cushioning

Mixed terrain outsole

Wide toe box

Great for longer runs

The 220 though is a much more streamlined shoe and the 4mm drop and less cushioning will appeal to more efficient runners who cover ground quicker with a forefoot/ mid-foot run style. For example, I can see a runner using the 220 for short training sessions, faster training sessions or racing. They then may well use the 250 for longer training runs or longer races. I don’t think that 250 users would necessarily drop down to the 220.

I have enjoyed the 220 for ‘keeping me on my toes’ on runs of up to 60-75 minutes on road, grass, forest trail and canal path. When I have wanted to run longer I have used the 250.

When running on technical trails with more mud, rocks and longer descents and climbs I have always preferred to use a different shoe. Currently the Mudclaw 300 (HERE) as this seems a natural extension of the 250 with a more aggressive outsole, precision fit but good cushioning.

Ultimately, if you need a shoe that will allow you to run on mixed terrain and you need a wider toe box, the 220 or 250 should be on your list of shoes to look at.

Despite misgivings on the lack of support in the upper, I have found the freedom that both shoes provide very liberating and they do give a ‘natural’ feel similar to running barefoot. The outsole has worn well even with road use and they compare well to other shoes on the market.

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Conclusions

I have always admired inov-8 for thinking of runners when they make shoes. Silly thing to say you may think, but how many other brands provide shoe models with varying drop: 3,6, 9 and 12mm or 4 and 8mm and at the same time have offered standard or precision width fittings in certain models. The arrow system on the rear of the shoe in many ways inspired a whole new generation of runners who wanted to get ‘lower’ with drop and inov-8 facilitated that. So, I’m an inov-8 fan. Over time, they have tweaked models and expanded the range. The Race Ultra and now the Terraclaw are shoes that hove come about with the growth of ultra running and the need (or desire) for a wider toe box. They have answered that demand and in doing so, once again they have provided two options in drop to ensure that nearly everyone is happy. If you are in need of a shoe that can handle a mix of terrain (not all road and not all mud) then a 220 or 250 may well answer your needs.

Pros

Wide toe box

4mm drop for the more efficient runner

Fast shoe

Lightweight

Responsive

Cushioned (but not too cushioned)

Great feel

Outsole for mixed terrain

Cons

I’m not convinced on the lacing but then again it caused no issues

Outsole lacks grip on mud, when climbing or descending

Toe box (for me) feels sloppy on technical terrain, when climbing and when descending

Less cushioning than the 250

Upper lacks support when required

Technical Specs

Weight: 220g/ 8oz

Fit: Standard

Footbed: 6mm

Midsole: Compressed EVA

ShankL DFB

Drop: 4mm

Sole: Terraclaw

Outsole: Dual C

What inov-8 say:

inov-8 say:

From single track to steep descents, the TERRACLAW™ performs on the widest range of trails imaginable. Our unique lug design releases debris and grit like no other, delivering optimum grip with every foot strike. At just 220g, the lightest version of the TERRACLAW™ is stripped-back for racing super-fast with a finely tuned balance of performance and protection.

inov-8 TERRACLAW 220 and TERRACLAW 250 First Impressions

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inov-8 love bringing out new shoes. Not all of them are perfect. I think we can forgive them for that. It’s good to experiment and you can have shoes in a test scenario as much as you like but it’s only when people start paying for them do you really get the true feedback.

I am lucky, I have been fortunate to test many of inov-8’s new shoes. So receiving the latest invention (a shoe that I actually had a first look at in October 2014 at Limone Extreme) the TERRACLAW I was really interested to see what the brand had done with this shoe and what it offered.

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I have the TERRACLAW 220 and the TERRACLAW 250. This is a first impressions article, so don’t expect any great detail on what they are like to run in, that will come later.

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The TERRACLAW 220 is a UK7 so this shoe will be tested by my partner, Niandi. The TERRACLAW 250 is a UK9.5. For simplicity, the blue shoe is the 220 and the black shoe is the 250. They are ‘Standard Fit’ which offers a wide toe box. This allows the toes to splay when running naturally. It also is perfect if you have a wider foot or maybe when running long and you expect your feet to expand. I am usually a UK9.5 in inov-8 but I would be interested to try a size 9. I can definitely run in the UK9.5 but the shoe allows just  a little too much movement in the toes. So, if you are going to purchase online think about this.

They are light!

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inov-8 always name the shoe based on the weight, so a 220 weighs 220g and a 250 weighs 250g. In our scenario, the 220 in a UK7 weighed 219g/ 7oz and the 250 in a UK9.5 weighed 258g/ 9.1oz. Spot on!

The two shoes on face value look the same until you take a closer look. I will come on to that in a moment. A key factor is the drop, the 220 is 4mm and the 250 is 8mm. So before we go any further, the shoes will have a very different feel when running. In addition, cushioning in the 250 is noticeably different to the 220. It all comes down to personal preferences but one could arguably say that the 220 is an out-and-out faster trail shoe for shorter races and the 250 will be better suited to longer races.

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The outsole on both shoes is the same, so there is no compromise between the 220 and the 250. As you can see from the images, the sole is aggressive but not ‘too’ aggressive. Both these shoes sit somewhere between a RACEULTRA in the 270 (4mm drop) and 290 (8mm drop) versions and  a X-TALON and/ or MUDCLAW.

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I think it’s therefore safe to assume that the TERRACLAW 220 and 250 are designed at trail runners who require a shoe with comfort, cushioning and more importantly, grip. The RACEULTRA provides this already but with no grip and the X-TALON and MUDCLAW are out-and-out fell shoes or soft ground shoes. So, if the TERRACLAW performs I am pretty sure it’s going to be a popular shoe in the inov-8 line up.

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The grip on the outsole is really spaced out which will allow grip (similar to a football boot) but in theory will stop the sole clogging up with debris. Several buzzwords appear on the outsole:

  • META-FLEX
  • DYNAMIC FASCIA BAND
  • DUAL C
  • TERRADAPTER

Oh yes, just like many other shoe manufacturers, inov-8 have come up with a whole new wording system to describe some key features.

Meta-Flex allows the foot to bend across the metatarsals, an important feature in any shoe but especially useful for off road running, Many shoes that provide grip can be too inflexible. The Meta-Flex on the 220 and 250 does really add to the feel of the shoe based on just a couple of runs.

Dynamic Fascia Band is in the midsole and is designed to help maintain stride efficiency. The jury is out on this at the moment. It certainly doesn’t seem to harm or damage the feel of the shoe, but equally I am not sure at this stage I feel the benefit?

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Dual C represents the two compounds in the sole. Black and Yellow on the 220 and Black and Blue on the 250. The black area is made of a more durable material and increases protection, the coloured area is softer and stickier for increased grip. If you get a hold of the shoe and press the different compounds you can really feel the difference. I do wonder though if the coloured section is wide enough, only time will tell?

On speaking with inov-8, they say that Dual C compounds negate the need for a rock plate. I am not convinced, soon as you got on hard terrain you feel the ground beneath you. That’s a great thing, I love to feel the ground. But the odd sharp stone or pebble does make it’s presence felt.

The upper is where the two shoes differ quite considerably. Most notably, the lacing!

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The 250’s lace conventionally and the 220’s lace using inov-8’s new RAY-WRAP system which is designed to align with the first metatarsal. In principal this is designed to make a more secure, close and comfortable fit. I have witnessed this before in a pair of Brooks shoes and I enjoyed the comfort and reassurance it offered. However, this does feel quite unusual at first. Niandi has expressed similar concerns with the 220. But lets be clear, it’s too early to tell and and make a judgement on this. The tongue in both shoes is padded well and offers great comfort. The laces are thin but pull tight providing a secure foot hold and if tied in a double not they do not slip.

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The heel area on both shoes is roomy, plush and holds the foot firm. No issues here from just a couple of runs.

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The upper on both the 220 and the 250 is light and breathable and both shoes utilise inov-8’s new X-LOCK welded overlay Yes folks, can you see that big yellow X on the 220 and the big blue X on the 250? That is X-Lock!

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X-Lock is designed to hold the foot firm within the shoe. It differs greatly between the 250 and the 220. Just look above. The pattern is completely different. We will feedback on this more with more use. You will also notice in the above image how the 250 (left) has considerably more toe protection than the 220. The 220 has a yellow reinforced soft band, to be honest it offers no protection against rocks. Whereas the 250 has a tougher fabric and just a fraction more protection against rock impact.

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Let’s be clear, this is a first impressions look at the TERRACLAW and our verdict is impressed! As I have stated on many occasions recently, 8mm drop is for sure a sweet spot in the trail running shoe market and nov-8’s addition of a trail shoe with cushioning and grip is welcome.

For faster and more minimalist runners, they too will have a smile on their faces knowing that they have also been looked after with a 4mm drop.

Time to hit the trails and we will feed back on how these shoes perform, what the comfort is like and importantly do all these new features -‘X’ this, ‘RAY WRAP’ that and ‘DYNAMIC FACIA’ this really work?

The 220 in Images:

The 250 in Images:

220 v 250

The TERRACLAW shoes will be available in September 2015. Check out inov-8 HERE