I have to be honest, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to using inov-8’s new shoe offering, the PARKCLAW 275 (I tested the GTX – Gore Tex). Why? Well, inov-8 have always impressed by producing shoes that are specific to a runner’s need – typically, getting a grip in muddy trail. Over recent years though, many new inov-8 shoes have appeared that have merged that ‘specificity’ and in all honesty, I have always been impressed by what has been on offer.

The PARKCLAW though just didn’t entice me.

I have to say, I was a little silly. It turns out that the PARKCALAW 275 is a great shoe and in all honesty, it’s a shoe that will appeal to so many.

Many runners want a shoe that does more than just one thing. The PARKCLAW is going to be that shoe. Good on the road, good on dry trails, good on rocks, cushioned, wide toe box, 8mm drop and great feel.

Inov-8 have produced a real surprise!


Maybe the ‘PARK’ in the name signifies the ever-growing parkrun community that every weekend assemble all over the world and bang out a 5k amongst friends. Let’s face facts, it’s a huge community and if you can get a slice of that pie, it’s a great thing for any brand. But many of those runners may want to mix things up with a little road-to-trail or easy trail runs. This is where the PARKCLAW can step in!

I need to clarify here that the PARKCLAW is a shoe that works for any runner. I have been using it on my road loops of 5, 8 and 12km and they have been great. Equally, they have been excellent on my local canal tow path and forest trails.

The shoe has an ‘in-between’ outsole that provides grip for trail but not too much grip for road. The lugs at 4mm are semi-aggressive but importantly are close together so road running feels good. META-FLEX at the front allows the shoes to bend near the metatarsals and at the rear is a Dynamic Fascia Band. Three different lug colours are present which show how the different compounds ensure grip on different surfaces.

Drop is 8mm which is now pretty much standard, gone are the days of 12mm drop and higher. 8mm drop is a perfect starting point for most runners and particularly nice if running longer.

Fit is neutral and true to size. I always use a UK9.5 and these are perfect.

Toe box is wide – 5 on inov-8’s fit scale (here) so all you Hobbits should have a huge smile.

Cushioning is 12mm at the front and 20mm at the rear which provides a plush feel and not at the compromise of losing a feel for the ground. The Cushioned ride comes from Powerflow+ which does a great job at protecting but not at the loss of energy return. Combined with META-FLEX the Powerflow+ makes the propulsive phase a pleasure.

The upper is classic inov-8, breathable and lightweight. It has support on either side of the lacing section which pulls in to hold the foot firm once laces are adjusted accordingly. Importantly there are double eyelets at the top, so you can lock-lace should you wish. The heel area is plush as always with inov-8 and there is additional support to hold the foot firm and help with gait. The tongue is padded and gusseted. Toe box is reinforced and protected.


This is a very comfy shoe. Slipper like in feel and it was easy to pull them on and run with no bedding in. I was amazed at how comfortable they are. The Cushioning is unlike any other inov-8 shoe I have used. Maybe similar to a TRAIL TALON.

The key thing for many will be the wide toe box. Hobbits you will love them! I am fortunate that I can use precision shoes and then enjoy and benefit of a wide toe box when I want to be more relaxed and allow my foot to splay. The PARKCLAW is really comfy.

Gusseted tongue is padded and a real winner. Keep saying it, all shoes should have a gusseted tongue just makes sense!

The lacing is standard and it’s possible to adjust and get a great fit and feel. I used the additional eyelet at the top to ‘lock-lace’ but found I didn’t need it, the shoe fitted so well.

Running on the road is a real pleasure with excellent comfort, great feel and great energy return. At no point did I feel I was in a trail shoe. Transition to hard trail was seamless. The PARCLAW is a great all-rounder and one-stop shop for those who need something that can do a little of everything.

The 4mm lugs handled grass, rock and trail both in wet and dry but when the trails became muddy, grip was compromised. The lugs are too close together and not long enough to get the required purchase. This is not a criticism, it’s just a fact! Quite simply, if you are needing a shoe with greater off-road grip, you need another model of inov-8. The PARKCLAW is not intended for this job!


The PARKCLAW  275 is a real surprise. It’s a shoe that you can use day in and day out when you are mixing terrain. A great example would be say living in London and going for a long run when you mix road with sections of trail in Regents Park, Hyde Park and so on. The shoe though equally sits as a road shoe or dry trail shoe. I had no issue using the PARKCLAW 275 for either purpose.

The toe box is wide, and this may well be a real deciding factor for many. I know so many runners who need or prefer a wide fit – look no further.

The PARKCLAW would actually make a great shoe for a race like Marathon des Sables when an out-and-out trail shoe is not required but when cushioning and wide toe box is welcome. It is definitely a contender.

The PARKCLAW 275 will never be great on muddy technical terrain. The outsole is not aggressive enough and the wide ‘5’ fit would make the shoe feel sloppy and lacking precision.

Ultimately, I think inov-8 created this shoe as an ‘introduction’ shoe. A way of enticing roadies to trail. In doing so, they have created a stand-alone shoe which I have been using daily, and yes, it’s equally great as a walking shoe.

A jack of all trades is never brilliant at any one thing but the PARKCLAW 275 does a great job at making the mix and transition.

Finally, I tested the GTX version, so, should you wish, you can also keep your feet warm and dry by letting no water in. Of course, GTX doesn’t let water out too, so, if the water comes in over the top of the shoe, your feet will stay wet. Always with considering! However, over the winter months I could feel the benefit of the Gore Tex on cold days.

PARKCLAW 275 on inov-8 HERE


Arc’teryx Beta SL Jacket

Beta SL Jacket

Arc’teryx may not be the cheapest outdoor clothing products on the market but without doubt you get what you pay for. The attention to detail, tailoring and the products they offer are without doubt some of the best I have experienced. The Beta SL Jacket has had a tweak to the design for 2012/2013 and now has a slimmer fit and a storm hood. These tweaks make it an ideal lightweight, packable and waterproof jacket for long distance races that require a mandatory jacket with taped seams and hood.

It is not a run specific product but it is most certainly designed with outdoor pursuits in mind when weight, size and full protection are key.

Beta SL rolled up

Rolled up, the jacket will fold and store in its own hood making transportation easy. Made from GORE-TEX® PacLite® it is designed as the perfect ‘take-along’ emergency storm protection.

GORE-TEX® PacLite® is the lightest waterproof protection from the brand. It is the most packable and has a 2 layer construction that reduces weight but offers maximum protection.

The redesign has made some really specific differences for runners (or hikers). The slimmer fit means that the potential for ‘flapping’ fabric is reduced. This is a really key feature for a runner, nothing more annoying than fabric moving in the wind, slowing you down and adding noise pollution. What I would recommend is that you try this jacket on with clothing you expect to wear when running. No point wearing a shirt and jumper and thinking the ‘small’ is too small only to find that when you have a thin thermal running top underneath the small would have been perfect. For example, I am a 38/40″ chest and I have a small.

Beta SL Front

Beta SL Rear

It has a short length. Another key feature. This means that running is not restricted by a jacket that goes too far past the waist. In addition, it has a drawstring that will allow you to adjust how loose or how tight the waist is.

Waist Drawstring

The jacket is a little lower at the back offering added protection and importantly it is gender specific, so, yes Ladies you have your own specific tailoring.

Zip Storage

Zips have a ‘garage’ to reduce flapping and add security. Seams, pockets and ‘extras’ are kept to a minimum to ensure the jacket remains waterproof. Seams are sealed GORE seam tape with micro seam (1.6mm) to ensure the jacket has minimal bulk. One touch I really like is a smooth piece of fabric added to the inside of the neck to avoid abrasion and rubbing. It’s the small touches like this that makes the difference.

Beta SL cuff

The cuffs close tightly to make sure that you ensure no water enters up the sleeve. They are also wide enough to fasten over a glove if required. The new Storm Hood really is the business. It has a laminated brim and is fully adjustable to ensure that you have a fit that is comfortable for your own personal needs. The front zipper goes up high, so, with the hood pulled tight, and zipper up, you really are fully protected should the weather turn very nasty. Another key feature of the hood is that it has a trim fit but it does have enough room for a beanie or peaked cap if required.

Two hand pockets are on the front of the jacket and they are in a ‘lowered’ position for added comfort. Are pockets needed on a jacket for running? Ultimately my answer would be no. However, they came in handy for me on more than one occasion. If they had not been on the jacket I would have wished for them…

Many of the functions on the jacket such as the pocket zippers, the main zipper and the adjustable cords can all be open, closed and adjusted whilst wearing gloves.

The jacket is available in a male and female fit and is tailored accordingly. Available in 5 colour options and 5 sizes the jacket typically weighs 315g (11oz). See HERE

In Use

The jacket is not the smallest fully waterproof jacket with hood that is available on the market. It is also not the lightest. For out and out racers who are looking to be as minimal as possible then this jacket may very well be far more than they need. But if you are like me and may very well be out on a training run or race route for extended periods in bad weather then this jacket may well be your best friend. It actually could make the difference between finishing and not finishing. I have been out in some seriously cold and nasty weather of the last 3-4 months and the Beta SL has been a pleasure to wear. It just fits! It sounds such a crazy thing to say, but when you put a jacket on that feels as though it was made specifically just for you then that cannot be underestimated. I had no flapping, no ‘extra’ fabric and no unnecessary ‘extras’. The tailored fit allowed all the movement I required and in particular I was impressed with the tailoring under the arm. In bad weather the high neck provided a wonderful wall to hide behind. With the hood up, adjusted and closed in I was protected from the worst that could be thrown at me. I had one particular day with non-stop rain for hours and hours. Not one drop made its way inside the jacket.


Pros: It’s a proper ‘full on’ storm/ bad weather option and as such it is most certainly a jacket that you would want for long days out in bad weather or if venturing into the mountains. The fit as with all Arc’teryx products is spot on and the hood and high neck are real bonuses if required. I had no water penetrate the jacket and believe me, I was out in some horrendous weather. The addition of two pockets was useful.

Cons: This is not a run specific product so you will probably want to view this jacket and try it on for your own personal comfort level. This is not a jacket for the odd shower and as such it does pack a little larger and it does have a little more weight than other ‘streamlined’ products on the market.

Technical Features

  •                   Waterproof
  •                   Snow-shedding
  •                   Windproof
  •                   Breathable
  •                   Lightweight
  •                   Compressible and packable


  •                   Fully seam-sealed for waterproofness
  •                   Durable Water Repellenthelps bead water from fabric surface
  •                   Laminated high-strength hanger loop
  •                   Tiny GORE® seam tape (13 mm)
  •                   Micro-seam allowance (1.6 mm) reduces bulk and weight
  •                   GORE-TEX® two-layer construction


  •                   One-hand adjustable drawcords


  •                   Anatomical shaping for fit and comfort
  •                   Gender specific patterning
  •                   Articulated patterning for unrestricted mobility
  •                   No-lift gusseted underarms

Hood Configuration

  •                   Laminated brim
  •                   Glove-friendly hood adjusters
  •                   Adjustable hood drawcords
  •                   Trim-fitting Storm Hood™

Collar Configuration

  •                         Laminated chin guard


Arcteryx website HERE

The North Face – AK Stormy Trail

A5YKJK33As the main sponsor of the TNFUTMB, The North Face fully understand the needs of every runner when embarking on the epic alpine journey. Irrespective of distance, the mountains can be a cruel and hard place.

Look at the history of the race. For several years the TNFUTMB has been hampered by bad weather. Just last year, 2012, the race was shortened at the last minute and ‘mandatory’ kit was increased to 4 layers to ensure the safety of every runner.

Two pieces of mandatory kit are a fully waterproof jacket with hood and taped seams but also over trousers. Now many runners, particularly the elite runners think… “I will never wear over trousers”. The 2012 edition of the TNFUTMB confirmed to many that mandatory kit, (although sometimes one may think it is over the top) is absolutely necessary,

To this end, The North Face have created two items that tick all the boxes. The AK STORMY TRAIL JACKET and AK STORMY TRAIL PANTS. Available in Black & Yellow



Key Features

It’s simple really…. a tailored fit to reduces excess material and flapping. A reduction in ‘extras’ as these only add opportunities for onward problems or areas were leaks may appear. Lightweight and small pack size.


The AK STORMY range do all the above and then some. Of course that doesn’t come cheap. At £160 for the jacket and £110 for the pants this is an investment. But you get what you pay for and I certainly wouldn’t want to compromise when I am several thousand feet up in the rain and snow.


AK JACKET – The North Face® Men’s AK Stormy Trail Jacket is a waterproof, breathable, hooded running jacket for maximum protection in the foulest weather. Featuring The North Face® FlashDry™ technology, microporous particles improve and accelerate the removal of excess moisture from the skin, allowing drier and more comfortable performance for longer, in a range of weather conditions. Used and recommended for endurance races such as The Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc, the jacket is constructed with a reflective brimmed, stay-put hood, an adjustable hood cinch and a reflective drop-tail hem for increased coverage and weatherproofing. Easily stowed in a backpack and with a glued zip chest pocket for secure storage, follow the athletes in The North Face® Men’s AK Stormy Trail Jacket.


  • Reflective brimmed hood with stay
  • Adjustable hood cinch
  • Glued chest pocket
  • Reflective drop-tail hem
  • Stowable

available S,M,L,XL

AK PANTS – The North Face® Men’s AK Stormy Trail Pant is a waterproof, windproof, breathable running trouser for maximum protection in the foulest weather. Featuring The North Face® FlashDry™ technology, microporous particles improve and accelerate the removal of excess moisture from the skin, allowing drier and more comfortable performance for longer, in a range of weather conditions. Used and recommended for endurance races such as The Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc, these performance fit pants are constructed with an elasticized waist with adjustable drawcord and articulated knees for increased mobility. Easily stowed in a backpack and with reflective logos for increased security on night and low level visibility runs, follow the athletes in The North Face® Men’s AK Stormy Trail Pant.


  • Elasticated waist with adjustable drawcord
  • Performance fit
  • Articulated knees, Ankle zips
  • Reflective logos
  • Packable

available S,M,L,XL

A full test of the AK range will follow soon. Initial impressions are superb. Fit is excellent. The attention to detail really is spot on and both garments are a real joy to wear but ultimately, they are a pleasure to run in… that is what counts!