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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Montrail TRANS ALPS Shoe Review

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Montrail call themselves, ‘The original trail running brand!’ And to USA based runners they may very well be. But to Europeans, they are just a name and in all honesty, I very much doubt that they have seen a Montrail run shoe, let alone used one. Of course, in the last 18-24 months that has all started to change and that is directly attributable to the UTMB.

Yes, when The North Face jumped ship sponsoring the big loop around France, Italy and Switzerland the American brand jumped it. Of course nothing is straight forward and UTMB sponsorship comes in the name of Columbia, Mountain Hardwear and Montrail. All three brands are under the same umbrella and are interconnected.

Topher Gaylord is president of Columbia’s Mountain Hardwear brand and ironically he was the man who originally set up the TNF sponsorship deal – what goes around, comes around.

As one commentator said, “Montrail was once the biggest brand in the American trail running scene, but many other brands have created more buzz in the past few years. This should certainly help create more traction for Montrail, which was acquired by Columbia in 2006.”

So as you see, a picture starts to form and although the above information doesn’t tell you if the Montrail FluidFlex FKT shoe is any good, what it does do is provide some perspective.

Dakota Jones, Ellie Greenwood and Max King have worn Montrail shoes in the past and I often looked on wondering how these shoes performed? Unfortunately, being based in Europe, the possibility to get hold of shoes was either extremely difficult or zero. With UTMB sponsorship, Montrail (Columbia and Mountain Hardwear too) are looking for increased exposure on a world platform.

Last year I tested and reviewed a limited edition UTMB Montrail shoe HERE. I recently reviewed the FluidFlex FKT HERE and I recommend you read that review before getting to grips with TRANS ALPS.

Montrail Trans Alps

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After the curve ball of the FluidFlex FKT I had high hopes for the Trans Alps. Opening the box and taking a first peak in I saw similarities immediately, the cushioning of the two shoes looked very familiar. However, as I peaked at the outsole I immediately became aware that the FluidFlex FKT and Trans Alps are like chalk and cheese – no similarity at all. Picking up the right shoe made the differences marked. The Trans Alps is heavy… I called a couple of friends, they quickly popped over to my apartment, and together they helped me remove the left shoe from the box; my back is far too fragile to lift out both pairs!

I joke of course but at 412g each for a UK9.5 these shoes are the heaviest running shoes I have ever tested.

Overall looks are pleasing, a strong blue contrasted by yellow works. Like the FluidFlex FKT the Trans Alps is on the face of it a simple shoe. So where does all the weight come from?

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Let’s first of all take one step back and clarify what this shoe is for and look at some simple specs.

The Trans Alps is a shoe that is intended to appeal to all with key buzz words like: Protection, Durability and Support. I agree, it does all these things with a huge tick. I still haven’t decided if the shoe is ‘neutral?’ It feels neutral, just neutral with support in a bullet proof casing. The Trans Alps has a full length ‘TrailShield’ to protect pretty much 100% from anything the trail can throw at you. In addition, a rubberized rock guard and reinforced toe and heel cap boosts protection to the max and with 6mm lugs on the outsole I had to start to wonder if I was looking at an approach shoe or a scrambling shoe and not a running shoe.

Ultimately, Montrail don’t try to sell or big up the Trans Alps as anything other than what is, the shoe does exactly what it says on the tin – a mountain running shoe that offers rigidity, support, aggressive traction while providing a smooth ride.

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The FluidFoam midsole was something that I loved on the FluidFlex FKT, especially the flex grooves which allowed me to run with a responsive and propulsive forefoot strike. In the Trans Alps that is all gone – yes the shoe is cushioned, it has 18mm at the rear and 10mm at the front (8mm drop) but the outsole and full length TrailShield removes any connection with the terrain leaving a flat and lifeless run, albeit protected! But this shoe is designed to protect and yes it does that with bells on. What I am getting at here is that if you require a mountain shoe and ultimate protection, this shoe does the job. If you want a trail shoe for some occasional aggressive trail and daily runs, this shoe is over engineered and too lifeless for that.

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The fit of the shoe is excellent with a padded tongue that is gusseted and sewn into the upper. If you read my shoe reviews regularly you already know I am a huge fan of this. In the Trans Alps it works well but not as well as in the FluidFlex FKT. The main reason for this is that the Trans Alps feels a ‘roomier’ shoe? I went for my normal UK9.5 but I would maybe like to try a UK9 for comparison, keep this in mind when purchasing or testing. The toe box has plenty of room allowing for good toe splay and/ or swelling. The heel box is Snug and secure.

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Drop at 8mm is perfect and completely appropriate for a shoe of this build. The drop allows for long days out and when you get a little tired or your form falters, the 8mm will work well and not punish you. The Trans Alps works exceptionally well when walking – I’d go as far to say that if you are a walker looking for something lighter and more ‘shoe’ like for mountain days out that may involve some jogging, this would be a good choice as an alternative to boots.

©iancorless.com_Montrail-06547The upper is simple, breathable and seamless. A real plus as this should almost certainly reduce the risk of getting blisters or rubbing from any seams. Reinforcement comes on the side of the uppers from thermoplastic strips which leads to the lace holes. Pull the laces tight and this along with the gusseted tongue holds the foot secure. The mesh is breathable and durable.

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The outsole has 6mm aggressive lugs which run the length of the shoe providing grip on a multitude of surfaces. Although aggressive, the grip is not great on mud or sloppy trail. It’s ok, at best adequate, but the Trans Alps is certainly not a shoe I would choose for regular running on this type of terrain. The Trans Alps excels in the mountains where rocks, scree, boulders and all sorts of obstacles and irregular objects can get in the way. But the shoe and sole is so inflexible it does contradict itself at times. It all comes down to compromise. At times I loved the rigidity as it offered confidence, at other times I wanted the shoe to flex more to allow me and my feet to reach more challenging places.

In conclusion, the Trans Alp is not a bad shoe if you use it for its intended use – tough mountain days either running, running and jogging, jogging/ walking or even just walking. Personally I feel it fits the latter options better. I spend many a long day in the mountains with a camera bag covering ground at a slower pace and I wouldn’t hesitate to use the Trans Alp for this use. As a run shoe, it lacks feel, responsiveness and excitement for me. It’s a shoe that you can turn to any day and it will do its job. A little like practical workwear, it will do the job but you are not excited to wear it. Having said all this, the Trans Alp will suit male and female runners who require a sturdy/ bullet proof shoe. It may well be that you are taller and heavier and a flimsy shoe just is ‘too’ flimsy for you and this where the Trans Alp has a place. Also, although not a shoe for a ‘racer,’ if you participating in a multi-day event on a mix of terrain, I am pretty sure the Trans Alp would be as solid on day 6, 7 or 8 as it was on day 1.

Finally, this shoe has lots of pluses – plush and secure fit, 8mm drop, cushioning, rigidity, stability, durability and if this criteria is high on your list, check it out. The Trans Alp is definitely not, responsive, light, fast with a connection for the ground or surfaces that you will run on.

Montrail website HERE

    

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

The North Face #TNF Ultra Endurance Shoe Review

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3919A couple of weeks ago I took a look at the TNF Ultra TRII, I said then that TNF are really getting their act together with run shoes. The recent products from the brand have continued to impress and the addition of the ULTRA ENDURANCE adds another quality shoe that offers runners another option to tackle the trails. The current TNF line up is as follows:

ULTRA TRII read my review HERE

ULTRA CARDIAC read my review HERE

ULTRA MT read my review HERE

and the ULTRA ENDURANCE

In a review toward the end of 2015, when I compared many leading shoes against each other (not all shoes I must stress) the Ultra Cardiac very nearly took top honours, it was just pipped by the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac. (Read the review HERE).

If I did that review now, I strongly feel that the battle between the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac and the TNF Ultra Endurance may well be even closer but the Supertrac would still get the nod from me due to the outsole which is extreme and made from a superior wet traction rubber compound that works really well on a multitude of surfaces, overall comfort and flexibility.

To provide some clarification, we need to look at the current TNF line up and see how (in simple terms) the shoes are to be used so that you can decide which shoe is for you:

ULTRA TRII – Is a dry trail, light and fast shoe for a runner who like a more minimalist feel. Cushioning is 8mm/ 16mm and It has an 8mm drop.

ULTRA CARDIAC – Is a cushioned trail/ mountain shoe that feels plush, fits snugly and works well and on dry trail, wet rock and very moderate mud. Cushioning is 12mm/ 20mm and it has an 8mm drop.

ULTRA MT – Has an aggressive outsole and is designed for off-road use in mud, mountains and demanding terrain. Cushioning is 9mm/ 17mm and it has an 8mm drop.

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Enter the ULTRA ENDURANCE – 9mm/17mm with 8mm drop.

This new shoe from the TNF brand sits somewhere between the CARDIAC and MT and as you would expect, has an 8mm drop. I like this! But then again I would… I am a real fan of 8mm drop shoes and as I have said many times before, this drop sits in the perfect middle ground that can work for most people. TNF have obviously thought about this and hence the continuity between the ‘ULTRA’ range. It’s also fair to say that as the name suggests, the ‘ULTRA’ shoes are designed for running longer and therefore 8mm will be more forgiving.

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Slipping the shoe on, it does feel different to the CARDIAC but more similar to the MT. This primarily due to the gusseted tongue which is secured within the shoe – this holds the foot firmer and in addition reduces the chance of debris getting in the shoe. It’s a winning combination that I love.

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The front (toe box) is wider than both the CARDIAC and MT and therefore allows the toes to splay a little more. Protection at the front is excellent with a very reinforced toe box bumper that will definitely protect against all those unplanned collisions with rocks, stones or other debris.

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Heel box is plush, padded and holds the foot secure and has FlashDry technology.

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Key features of many TNF shoes is ‘Snake Plate’ and the ‘Cradle,’ these two elements are present here in the Ultra Endurance and add to the overall benefits of the shoe.

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Snake Plate adds protection to the forefoot of the shoe and protects against rocks/ impact and so on, TNF vary the plates from one shoe to the next depending on what they consider to be necessary. In other shoes this would be called a rock plate.

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The cradle is designed to hold the rear of the foot more secure and stable.

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The upper is breathable and most importantly seamless, therefore reducing the chance of rubbing, hot spots or the chance of blisters. The upper is welded TPU with suede overlays.

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The outsole is Vibram Megagrip which is making an appearance on countless shoes in the trail world. I need to clarify here that Vibram don’t only make one Megagrip outsole (see here). They do many variations, so, please check! A classic example is the outsole on say the TNF ULTRA CARDIAC and TNF ULTRA ENDURANCE – they use Megagrip but they each have three different variations of the product. The Ultra Cardiac having a more subtle version, the Ultra Endurance a more aggressive outsole for mixed terrain and to draw comparisons, the Scott Kinabalu Supertrace (has a special Scott outsole) that is basically just aggressive, extreme and made from a superior wet traction rubber compound that works really well on a multitude of surfaces.

For example:

Ultra Cardiac outsole:

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Ultra Endurance outsole:

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Scott Kinabalu Supertrac outsole:

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Cushioning in the Ultra Endurance is single-density compression folded EVA which does a great job of allowing you to feel the ground but provide enough cushioning for a long day out.

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IN USE

The upper is seamless and snug and the gusseted tongue is a real pleasure which holds the foot firm. The toe box feels noticeably more roomy in comparison to say the Cardiac or MT.  The shoe feels relatively light but not super light. You really feel as though you are wearing a shoe that will take a battering. This in many respects is reflected in the shoes name, Ultra Endurance.

8mm drop for me is perfect, it provides a drop that allows me to run longer and when I can’t keep my form, the extra height allows for some compensation. As I mentioned above, this is obviously something that TNF have really thought about and the whole ‘Ultra’ range of shoes has an 8mm drop. This is also great as it means I can seamlessly move from one who to the other shoe without having a shock. A clear example of this is that I have been doing road runs in the Ultra TRII and I have been out in the really muddy stuff in the MT.

The shoe works well in mud but it’s not an out-and-out shoe for muddy trails, better get the MT if that is what you need. The Ultra Endurance is a great trail/ mountain shoe that works well and transitions from a multitude of surfaces. As I mentioned above, I believe it would give the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac a run for it’s money as a potential best ‘all rounder!’

To emphasise a point, if you were looking to but just one shoe that could handle many terrains and provide you with happy and many days out on the trail, then the Ultra Endurance would be a good place to start. It’s not a great road shoe, but it will gladly provide a cushioned and responsive ride for road sections between trail. It’s not an excellent performer in very muddy conditions but it does provide some grip that will allow you to progress. Where the shoe excels is when all these elements combine, say on a long training run, long hike or a race when you may well be mixing from road to trail, to rocks, to mud, to scree and so on, here the Ultra Endurance works so well.

It’s a shoe that excels of dry trail, rocky trail (wet or dry) and some road. It has actually become a real favourite when travelling when space is limited and I need a ‘one shoe does all’ scenario. Feel for the ground is good and has improved the more I have run. The first few runs felt a little hard and flat but the shoe bedded in nicely. The Vibram® Megragrip sole is as mentioned, almost becoming a standard feature on trail shoes. the version applied to the Ultra Endurance compliments the shoe perfectly.

Grip in mud is compromised, it always is in a shoe that is designed for trail. That is not a criticism as the shoe is definitely designed to be an all rounder. If you need out-and-out grip and a shoe that will just be used for soft-ground, mud, fells or other messy terrain, you’d be better looking at the TNF Ultra MT or a fell shoe from say inov-8 – the Mudclaw 300 for example is a great off-road shoe.

The heel box holds the foot secure with no slipping. It’s snug and reassuring.

The relatively seamless upper and sewn in tongue really holds the foot secure and has given me no hot spots. It’s a real bonus and it’s great to see that TNF are incorporating this more. For anyone who has used a Salomon S-Lab shoe with ‘endofit,’ a gusseted tongue really is just so much more comfortable. Although the TNF version is different to the Salomon version, similarities can be drawn.

The shoe has a neutral fit as does all the TNF ‘Ultra’ range and so therefore you could add an insert or orthotic if required. Drop is 8mm. Sizing is true to size, I take a UK9.5 in most shoes and my Ultra Endurance is UK9.5. However, due to the wider toe box the shoe does feel different to the Cardiac or MT so you may want to just make sure by trying in-store.

This is not the lightest shoe on the market but I don’t think that is really an issue. It’s not trying to be the lightest. What it does, is offer cushioning, protection and longevity in an attractive package that will last for many days, weeks and months. The colour-way of blue and yellow also looks pretty swish.

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Conclusion

This shoe is a great all-rounder and may well be a perfect ‘one shoe’ purchase for anyone who is looking for something that can do many things well. It excels on dry trails and loose surfaces such as scree, stones, sand etc. Grip from the Vibram sole is good on wet rocks and the shoes transition from trail to road well and the cushioning allows for plenty of happy miles.

The Ultra Endurance can handle mud as part of a mixed terrain trail run but if you wanted an out-and-out shoe for muddy trail, this is not it. It’s a really solid shoe with some serious toe protection, a plus for anyone heading out into mountainous terrain.

I have been working with and running myself in harsh, rocky, desert like terrain in Lanzarote, La Palma and so on and I think the Ultra Endurance would potentially make a great shoe for someone participating in a multi-day race like the Marathon des Sables. The combination of features sits well, the slightly wider toe box, protection, grip and cushioning all combine to make it a great shoe for such an adventure. I will feedback on this after the 2016 Marathon des Sables where I will test the shoe daily.

To draw a comparison, I think those runners who have enjoyed the inov-8 Race Ultra 290 will find the TNF Ultra Endurance very appealing. The plus side being the TNF who has more grip.

The TNF ULTRA ENDURANCE alternative colour-way

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The inov-8 RACE ULTRA 290

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The downsides are minimal for me. It’s a slightly heavier shoe and I have touched on the reasons why above. Longevity in TNF shoes has been an issue in the past so I will hold judgement on this and feedback. Currently after 100+ miles of mixed terrain, the shoes are holding up well with no issues.

The North Face say: With its Vibram® Megagrip outsole, Snake Plate™ forefoot protection and Ultra Protect™ CRADLE™ stability, the Ultra Endurance will keep you tearing up the trail without tearing up your feet. CRADLE™ technology provides extra heel stability on uneven terrain, a gusseted tongue keeps loose trail debris out, while the rigid-yet-flexible ESS Snake Plate™ delivers on lightweight, heavy duty forefoot protection.

▪Welded TPU and suede mid-foot support overlays

▪Molded-TPU toe cap for protection

▪Gusseted tongue for protection from trail debris

▪Ultra Protect™ CRADLE™ heel-stability technology

▪Single-density, compression-molded EVA midsole

▪Vibram® Megagrip outsole for durable sticky traction in all conditions

▪ESS Snake Plate™ forefoot protection

▪Cushioning 9mm front/ 17mm rear

▪8 mm offset

▪Weight per shoe 260g+/- for a UK8

▪Approximate Weight Pair: 510 g

TNF Technologies explained:

Snake Plate™

The patent-pending Snake Plate™ consists of a forefoot plate that winds back and forth between the medial and lateral sides of the foot. Because it is not one solid element, it is not as uncompromisingly rigid from side to side and front to back. The result is a forefoot plate that allows the foot to do what it is physiologically designed to do: flex, bend, and contort to changing terrain. At the same time, the Snake Plate™ delivers rigidity where and when it is still needed. The thickness, composition and size of the Snake Plate™ vary from style to style as appropriate. For example, a thicker, more rigid Snake Plate™ addresses the technical, ever-changing demands of a mountain run. A thinner, more flexible Snake Plate™ reconciles flexibility with a decreased demand for protection while on smoother dirt paths.

Vibram® Outsole Technologies

The North Face® collaborated with Vibram, long respected for quality and durability, to create various outsoles (Vibram® Humbolt Outsole, Vibram® Mikeno Outsole, Vibram® Walsh Outsole, and Vibram® Rubber Outsole Compound) with superior traction, stability and protection.

Ultra Protect™

A shank plate for torsional rigidity and consistent underfoot feel.

inov-8 ROADCLAW 275 – New road shoe for 2016: First look and photos

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Trail and fell running fans need no introduction to inov-8, for just over 10-years the brand has been very much pioneering the way for the off road market. In recent years the brand has tweaked and launched new models and currently the Mudclaw 300 (Review HERE) , X-Talon 212 (Review HERE) and Terraclaw are my favourite shoes.

I’ve said this before, I always have respected inov-8’s very logical approach in not only providing a shoe design in different drops but also making it very easy, at first glance, to see what drop the shoes are. The arrows on the back clearly signify with 1, 2 or 3 arrows. In simple terms, 1 is low, 2 is medium and 3 is higher; typically 3, 6, 9mm drop.

In the last 18-24 months, the launch firstly of the RACEULTRA (Review HERE) in 4mm (270) and 8mm (290) drops and most recently the TERRACLAW (Review HERE) in 4mm (220) and 8mm (250) drops have certainly revived that ‘middle’ ground for the ions-8 brand.

I have been very much on the middle ground with the RACEULTRA despite it’s incredible popularity. For example, at the 2015 Marathon des Sables, I saw many people using the shoe because it neither had too much or too little tread and most importantly it has a wide toe box. I find the shoe just lacked feel, it lacked responsiveness.

The TERRACLAW followed suit and for me is a far better shoe than the RACEULTRA, it has a more aggressive outsole that is great for off road (when not too muddy) but it equally handles hard trail and rocks well and some road. It’s a responsive shoe, lightweight, comfortable and gives great feel for the ground. If you like a wide toe box too, the shoe has loads of room, even for a Hobbit’s foot… maybe too much room for some. I find the additional room great when it’s flat but less so when going up or downhill. But hey, this is all personal. Ultimately a good shoe.

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So now for 2016, inov-8 are looking to get their claws back into the road market with the ROADCLAW 275.

inov-8 have made road shoes before currently on the website they have the ROAD-X-XETREME 220 and 250. These shoes most definitely appealed to the out-and-out road runner. The imminent launch of the ROADCLAW 275 signifies a departure for the brand in terms of road shoe as it obviously has a very similar look and feel to the RACEULTRA.

For clarification, the colour way is for ladies.

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On first impressions, the shoe looks and feels very much like the RACEULTRA, maybe too similar? However, as you look closely you start to notice the differences.

  • The upper is a more open mesh to allow the foot to breathe.
  • The toe box although still wide narrows a little quicker.
  • Toe protection from the bumper is less.
  • The lacing is wider.
  • Support on the upper both on the left and right side is a little more substantial.
  • Although a neutral shoe it feels as though there is a little support for the arc – just a little?
  • The heel box is a touch wider but still offers a snug fit.
  • The outsole is completely redesigned, as you would expect and uses 2 different compounds, in this shoe, black and pink to offer grip where required.
  • The shoe has ‘META-FLEX’ at the fore of the shoe a DYNAMIC FASCIA BAND both present in the RACEULTRA.
  • Drop is 8mm which for me is perfect.
  • Weight 275g as the name suggests for sample size UK8

It’s early days running in the shoe and currently it’s being tested on road, dry trails and treadmill. Initial feedback is good and certainly if you are a RACE ULTRA fan and need a road shoe, this is one for you.

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We have to say, on first impressions we thought the outsole looked a little aggressive for a road shoe but hey, I guess that is why it’s called ‘ROADCLAW.’. However, when running all feels good, particularly on the current wet and mildly slippery roads and pavements.

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As we get more miles in the shoe, we will come back and provide a detailed report on the pros and cons of this new inov-8 shoe. It’s certainly an interesting step for the brand and it makes one question, what else have they got up their sleeves for 2016?

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You can read more and find out about inov-8 HERE

INOV-8 ROADCLAW 275
New for 2016, the ROADCLAW brings together all inov-8 has learned in the mountains to deliver an ultra-smooth ride with the company’s iconic grip in a road shoe. No matter how rugged the road, the ROADCLAW is the master of its terrain.
ULTRA SMOOTH RIDE: Run effortlessly over any road conditions with inov-8’s unique POWERFLOW midsole technology. POWERFLOW delivers 10 per cent better shock absorption and 15 per cent better energy return than standard midsoles.
MAXIMUM POWER TRANSFER: inov-8’s iconic grip has now been optimised for road running. This means every ounce of energy generated by the body is transferred to the road through the outsole. With inov-8’s three-rubber TRI-C compound delivering industry-leading traction throughout the gait cycle.
ULTIMATE SECURITY: Feel 100 per cent sure footed on any road with grip and stability delivered through an inversion of our claw cleat lug design.
Suggested retail price: £110 (110 UK pounds)

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

inov-8 – Race Ultra™ 290 – Shoe Review

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inov-8 release their first ever ultra running shoe and we were lucky enough to get hold of a test pair 3-months ago, albeit in a UK8. That ruled myself out of any run testing but Niandi Carmont stepped up to the mark and gave the new Race Ultra™ 290’s a beating in the build up to Comrades. Here are her thoughts.

The Race Ultra™ 290’s is a first for UK shoe manufacturer, inov-8 but definitely not the last based on my testing of them. I picked up these shoes in the middle of March, so, I have had them for exactly 3-months; a perfect test period for any shoe!

In preparation for the 2014 Comrades I was reluctant to do all my training on road. Funny really, I used to be a ‘roadie.’ However, like so many others, after finding trail I have been reluctant to go back to the hard stuff… Road running was going to require a lot of motivation so I decided to alternate between trail and road just to get the miles in and to keep my motivation going. The Race Ultra™ 290’s proved to be the perfect shoe when mixing things up.

Usually it takes me a while to get used to new shoe models never mind new brands. I was a little anxious this time as this was my first experience of inov-8 footwear. I was pleasantly surprised – I required no adaptation or transition. The shoe has a slipper-like feel and is a perfect compromise in terms of cushioning and weight (290g/UK8). The gusseted tongue is padded, holds the foot firm and the thin laces pull tight, stay tight and provide reassuring security to my foot irrespective of the conditions. The toe box is wide, spacious and certainly has room for swelling feet should the need arise from multiple hours of running. Toe protection comes from a reinforced area that actually extends all the way around the shoe.

Prone to foot injuries I need cushioning but usually find it hard to get a trail shoe that is able to offer:

  • Cushioning.
  • Lightweight.
  • Good grip.

The Race Ultra™ 290 ticks all these boxes. Yes I know you can get lighter shoes. Yes I know you can get more cushioning and yes I know I can get a shoe with more grip. The secret of the Race Ultra™ 290 is that it has averaged all these elements and comes up with a great all round package. So much so, that I would say if you were looking for one shoe to do all things, you wouldn’t go wrong with a pair of these!

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Injected with EVA, the footbed is 6mm with 10mm at the front and 18mm at the rear offering a heel to toe drop of 8mm. Inov-8 as a brand have pioneered the transition to a lower drop shoes for 11-years and the Race Ultra™ 290 may well provide ultra-runners seeking to transition say from 12/13mm drop shoes towards a more minimalist drop a perfect opportunity. Equally, if you run in 6/4/3 or zero drop shoes, the 8mm may well provide you with a more ‘relaxed’ day on the trails. After all, this is the purpose of the Race Ultra™ 290. It’s all about making hours on trail and/ or road more pleasurable and less tiresome but this depends on your own run style and preferences. For me 8mm sits very well for longer runs. The flatter outsole ensures a stable ride without the loss of proprioception and as the hour’s pass and fatigue sets in, the 8mm drop and added cushioning are welcome.

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Transitioning from road to trail is not an issue as obviously this shoe has been designed specifically for this purpose. It’s without doubt an all round shoe that excels on hard pack trail events that may include road and rocky sections. Tested on dry sun baked French trail that incorporated a mixture of hard clay, stones and rocks the Ultra 290 excelled, in softer / grassy sections the ‘Tri Endurance’ compound provided confidence. Should the trail become very boggy and/or muddy, grip is compromised. This is to be expected in a shoe that is trying to be all things in one package. However, if these sections are short and provide a very small percentage of your run (say 10-20%) this is a compromise worth making for the comfort and security the shoe will provide for the remainder of your run.

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On UK trail it proved to be a good all-weather shoe offering good grip for a multitude of conditions. Door-to-Trail is a term that is being used quite considerably at the moment and I do feel that the Race Ultra™ 290 fits well in this bracket.

A nice little non-negligible feature for the runner with smelly feet is the patented X-STATIC® foot bed, ensuring that the bacteria feeding on sweat will be kept at bay! I’ve had these shoes for a while, they have been through mud, wet and grass and I guarantee they are completely odourless!

The shoe also has the option to take custom Race Ultra™ Gaiters (available separately). They clip onto inov-8’s unique on-the-shoe attachment system. This is very cool. The shoe has attachment points built in and thus allows the gaiter to be added or removed as required with minimum fuss. I don’t use gaiters very often, however, having tried these I think I will use them more. They stopped mud and stones entering the shoe from the top and to be honest, once on, I didn’t even know I was using them. I can see this feature being added to more shoes in the inov-8 range. Should you wish to use the gaiter with other shoes, a fastener is supplied to make this possible.

A feature I would have liked is a more trail-friendly lacing system that offers a place to secure or store excess lace when the shoes are tied. It’s a minor quibble and may very well have been an omission as this would be redundant if the gaiter was worn.

In conclusion, inov-8’s new Race Ultra™ 290 shoe will be a hit. I am sure of it. If you are already an inov-8 user this may well be your new ‘go to’ shoe for your daily runs when an ‘all rounder’ is just what you need. If you are new to ultra running and only want one shoe, this will be perfect place to start. I really can’t find any negatives about this shoe other than the obvious…. If it’s really muddy you won’t have enough grip but that isn’t a criticism of the shoe, it’s more about having the wrong shoe for the job.

Check out inov-8 HERE

Shoe will be available from July 2014

 

Niandi Carmont

Niandi Carmont – Niandi is South African born, a former resident of Paris, she now lives in the UK. A runner for over 20-years; Niandi has completed Comrades Marathon 13-times, Washie 100 2-times and has finished well over 100 marathons and ultras  all over the world. Currently residing in the UK, Niandi splits her work life between the UK and France.

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INOV-8 LAUNCH FIRST-EVER ULTRA SHOE – ULTRA 290

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inov-8 is set to deliver the ultimate in comfort and grip for off-road ultra distance athletes with the launch of the ISPO award-winning Race Ultra 290 shoe.

SHOE REVIEW HERE

New for this summer and weighing in at just 290g, inov-8’s first-ever ultra shoe oozes innovation and meets the needs of this rapidly growing tribe of committed athletes seeking to push boundaries over epic distances.

On trails or mountains, this highly-durable, lightweight shoe delivers industry-leading grip through its Tri-C endurance outsole, which boasts three different rubber compounds.

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Designed for optimal cushioning and comfort, the shoe also delivers sensory feedback from the trail, while protecting the foot from the repetitive impact felt when running ultra distances. A flatter outsole ensures a stable ride when athlete fatigue sets in.

inov-8’s Race Ultra 290 – named a winner in the performance footwear category at ISPO 2014, the world’s leading international sports business trade show – also has a unique on-the-shoe gaiter attachment system and an X–STATIC footbed to keep both debris and odors at bay.

Wayne Edy, founder of inov-8, said: “Off-road ultra runners who compete in grueling races, some of which can last days, weeks, need the most comfortable, durable shoes with outstanding grip – and that is what we have delivered.”

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“Key to this was the engineering of a Tri-C endurance outsole. Softer, sticky rubber on the edges brings greater traction, while high abrasion rubber at the heel improves durability and allows for heel striking when fatigued. The sticky rubber cleats bring outstanding mid-foot grip.”

“The shoe upper has been designed to ensure minimum friction and maximum comfort. This is achieved through a 360 degree rand, gusseted tounge, integrated gaiter clips and an X–STATIC footbed.”

Working closely with top international ultra runners, inov-8 was able to understand the needs of these committed athletes.

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As a result, inov-8 developed the Race Ultra 290 on a generous-fitting last, so that as the foot swells during long off-road distance races it affords the athlete greater comfort.

To encourage efficient running for as long as possible over huge distances, the Race Ultra 290 has been designed with an 8mm drop (heel to toe differential) and inov-8’s renowned multi-finger polymer Meta Shank. The shank aligns with each individual metatarsal to allow the foot to move more naturally, while retaining underfoot protection and flexibility.

This shoe follows quickly on the heels of inov-8’s first products in the Race Ultra range, which were launched in 2014. One of those, the Race Ultra Vest, was named an ISPO 2014 gold award winner as best in the performance equipment category.

And it’s not only shoes and packs in the Race Ultra range, inov-8 also has new apparel, socks and accessories such as arm sleeves and calf guards.

The Race Ultra 290 comes four colour options, two for men and two for women.

The Race Ultra 290 will be available in the UK in July.

*We have had a pair of shoes on test for several months and review will follow very shortly.

inov-8 HERE

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