Icebug Route Winter Studded Shoe Review

Icebug are specialists at studded shoes, be that for orienteering, trail running or winter running. The ICEBUG ROUTE is considered an entry level shoe with a combination of features designed to appeal to experienced or novice runners. I have been using the Icebug Route in rotation with several winter shoes: VJ Sport Xante, inov-8 Arctic Talon, inov-8 OROC and notably, the Icebug Pytho 5.

Read articles on winter:

Winter Running HERE

Embrace Winter HERE

Fastpacking and Camping in Winter HERE

Clothing Layers HERE

The Icebug Pytho 5 is solid shoe, I wrote, “works exceptionally well as an ‘all-rounder’ and is sold as such, recommended for trail running, forest running, orienteering and winter ice running.” The Pytho uses BUGrip and so does the Route.

BUGrip is the secret weapon of Icebug winter shoes and it this technology that provides grip in the most demanding and slippery conditions. The outsole is made from a special rubber compound, there would be typically 15-19 studs inserted. The Pytho 5 has 17 and the Route a maximum 19. The studs work independently from each other and are not completely fixed. When weight is applied, the studs push in toward the surface of the sole. How far they are pushed in depends on the pressure exerted by the user and the resistance from the ground. Quite simply, the secret of running in studded shoes is ‘trusting’ the outsole to do its job. The more confident you are, the harder you place your foot and the more you believe in the outsole, the better the grip will be.

The Icebug Route has been somewhat of a revelation. And I say this as many of the selling points are not what I would typically look for in a shoe, notably, 12mm drop. I am a neutral runner and typically run in anything from 0 to 8mm drop.

Designed for winter road conditions, I have been using the Route on trails with rocks, tree routes covered in snow and ice, frozen lakes, iced pavements and iced single-track, so in summary, pretty much everything… I have not used them on mountain terrain.

The Route is light, for example, in comparison to the Pytho 5 they are 30g lighter and they feel it. There is a life in the Route that I did not expect and comparison to the Pytho 5, the feel is considerably more preferable.

Listed as a cushioned shoe with a comfortable feel, I can confirm the ride is very plush with great flex, bounce and still with a feel for the ground. The propulsive phase is very good with great flex around the metatarsals. The midsole is Bloom Foam, EVA with ESS stabilizer. I have not been able to find any measurements for front and rear cushioning, but based on other test shoes and experience, I would estimate 8mm front and 20mm rear – this is a guess though!

The upper is not insulated and this is a notable point, the shoes in sub-zero winter runs of snow and ice are noticeably colder than some of the competition. Top tip – I use neoprene socks as standard with temperatures below zero and this makes a huge difference, especially with the Route. Breathable is not a good selling point for a winter shoe. Made from 100% recycled polyester textile, the upper is very durable to winter conditions. Toe box protection is minimal. There are no reinforced panels on the upper and the shoe does not suffer from it.

The toe box is wide and spacious, ideal for a winter shoe allowing the toes to splay and move. You don’t want your toes squeezed in a shoe in cold weather, some space allows for blood flow.

The lacing is simple with 5 eyelets on either side and an optional lock-lacing eyelet at the top. Importantly, the laces really pull and hold the foot providing reassurance on any terrain.

The heel box is comfortable, holds firm, caused no abrasion and importantly, when going uphill, causes no slipping. It’s well-padded and very comfortable.

The insole is Ortholite Hybrid designed to create a cooler, drier environment inside the footwear.

The outsole is the star of the shoe and the 19 dynamic steel studs perform superbly adjusting to the terrain and conditions providing supreme confidence. Notably, when running on road sections lacking snow or ice, the Route is still comfortable and unlike other studded shoes, I don’t feel the studs coming through to the insole. It goes without saying, that running on roads or pavements without ice or snow should be kept to a minimum. It is easy to lose studs and the BUGrip outsole is designed to work effectively with 2 or 3 studs missing. It is possible to replace studs, you just need to contact Icebug for spares. Notably with studded shoes, they work remarkable well on trail providing exceptional grip on tree roots, rocks and other obstacle; they are not just for snow and ice.

Finally, the Route has a good look with a blue fade and yellow patterned overlay including the Icebug logo.

IN USE

True to size, the Route is immediately comfortable when you slide your foot in. There is little to distract in this shoe, quite simply, lace up and off you go.

The width in the toe box is notable but not so wide that you lose feel or precision when running on more technical terrain.

Comfort is immediately noticeable from the cushioning and not at the expense of feel for the ground or flex in the propulsive phase.

Considering the shoe has a 12mm drop, I have to say, the Route did not feel out of place and at all times, on every run, has felt comfortable. This has made me very curious and I still do not have an answer? Maybe the soft snow, ice and the mixture of conditions masks the higher drop? Ultimately, the only consideration is comfort, and the Route is extremely comfortable.

The studs have been superb at providing the required grip as and when required, noticeably, in comparison to some other studded shoes, I like the way the studs adapt to the terrain and pressure from the runner to provide the grip required only when needed. Don’t get me wrong, the studs don’t disappear when there is no snow or ice, they are just not as noticeable.

The upper is surprisingly not ideal for a winter studded shoe. It’s durable, however, it lacks warmth and insulation. So, make sure you use appropriate socks for conditions. I recommend Merino socks as a base layer with a warmer sock over the top. I personally use neoprene socks as I know they work and keep my feet warm. Other options would be Merino socks with a Gore-Tex sock. Top tip – Ideally take appropriate socks when trying for size. It’s not unusual with winter shoes taking a half-size larger to compensate.

CONCLUSION

Before I used the Icebug Route I had wrongly anticipated I would not like the shoe. After all, who uses 12mm drop shoes these days? I was completely wrong. Light, cushioned, great comfort, amazing outsole and room in the toe box all combined together to make the Route one of the best winter shoes I have used. Alongside the VJ Sport Xante, they are now one of my preferred shoes. I even prefer them to arguably, in Icebug terms, the better shoe Pytho 5 which in comparison feels a little over engineered and heavy. I must clarify here, the Pytho 5 is a really great shoe. One thing the Route has taught me, is not to let shoe specs and details get in the way of how a shoe feels and runs. The Icebug Route is a really excellent winter shoe that excels on hard iced trails. The downside of the shoe is the lack of warmth in the upper which can be compensated for with good socks.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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ICEBUG Pytho 5 Winter Running Shoe Review

With the arrival of winter conditions, snow and ice impact on running significantly. For many, running indoors appears to be the only option, however, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Many brands now produce shoes specifically for winter running and specifically for running on ice. ICEBUG have been making specific winter shoes for many years and they are often, the ‘go-to’ shoe when it comes to challenging run conditions.

Read an article on Winter HERE

Read an article Running on Ice HERE

It’s important to clarify that Icebug provide multiple options when it comes to outsoles/ shoes and in many scenarios, the shoes can quite easily double up as orienteering shoes.

  • NewRun BUGrip – Runners on all levels, primarily seeking comfort and traction and longing for smooth runs on icy roads.
  • Oribi BUGrip – Many types of runners, seeking a super-light shoe with steel studs.
  • Rover – Almost everything and anyone. Great for running and speed hiking in harsh weather.
  • Spirit OLX – Orienteers, trail runners, and everyone else who wants to take their trail running to the next level.

And finally:

Pytho BUGrip – Trail runners seeking traction and comfort.

The PYTHO 5

The Pytho 5 is arguably the Icebug shoe that would appeal as an entry level for a trail or mountain runner.

It’s a shoe that works exceptionally well as an ‘all-rounder’ and is sold as such, recommended for trail running, forest running, orienteering and winter ice running.

The outsole has 17 dynamic carbide tip steel studs (BUGrip®) which evenly distributed to provide the most secure and reliable grip on a multitude of surfaces. I can’t clarify enough how this outsole has made a revelation of my local forest runs which include rocks, tree roots and a variety of terrain (with or without snow/ice) and the grip has been exceptional. On rock, it has almost made me desire to use a studded shoe for all runs; no doubt why studded shoes are popular in the orienteering world.

With a 5mm drop, a medium last, a wide toe box and medium cushioning the Pytho 5 is designed for longer distance running. The midsole is foam EVA made with 20% BLOOM®.

While not the lightest shoes available (320g for UK8/ 334g for UK10) the Pytho 5 is a solid shoe built to last for tough terrain and at the same time provide comfort.

The upper, while not Gore-Tex is designed to withstand the elements resisting water and does not absorb water. It is warmer than a conventional upper and of course less breathable. However, it is not insulated. Using Merino socks and running in -10 temperatures in snow/ ice, my feet have remained warm. This is a real plus and a requirement for a winter running shoe! The upper is also extremely resilient using 100% recycled PET polyester called bluesign® with mudguard. The lining of the shoe also uses a similar dyed recycled polyester textile. 

The toe box is substantial and designed to really withstand impact on any terrain.

The heel box is padded, holds secure and is comfortable. The tongue is medium padded, and the lacing has 6 eyelets on either side with the option to lock-lace if required. Hold of the foot and importantly the instep is solid and secure providing security on technical terrain.

The toe box is classed as wide and of course, how wide will depend on you and your personal needs. The intention of the wider toe box is to provide more comfort on longer runs. Also, in winter, some additional room can be important to allow for blood flow.

IN USE

The Pytho 5 is a comfortable shoe that is true to size. One important consideration in any winter shoe is getting the correct size. Many a runner will wear additional or thicker socks in the coldest months, so, keep that in consideration. I usually run in UK9.5/ EU44 and in the Pytho 5 I chose a UK10/ EU45 – I wish I hadn’t. They are actually a little too large and my normal UK9.5/ EU44 would have been perfect, even with thicker socks. I strongly recommend using Merino socks as they retain warmth even when wet. Some runners like to use neoprene socks and others a wool sock with a Gore-Tex or similar product over the top. It comes down to personal choices and understanding what works for you.

The cushioning is noticeable and importantly, if you have not run-in studs before, the feel is always a little unusually initially. It takes one good run to get a ‘feel’ for any studded shoe, especially if you have some road before getting to trail/ snow or ice. Studded shoes are noisy on road.

Once on ice and snow, the shoes come into their own offering a reassured grip that gives confidence. You NEED to trust the shoes and the grip. Again, if you have not run in studded shoes before, you may well approach ice with hesitation… Top tip is do not do this! Any studded shoe requires you to be confident, brave, trust the shoe and plant your foot hard to the ground. Force and pressure are what pushes the outsole into the ice, and this is what gives the grip. Try to run lightly and grip is compromised. The 17 studs are placed to offer grip from the heel to the toe and to accommodate run styles when going up or down. The spread is perfect. You may well find that you alter your run style slightly looking to plant your foot more evenly, the more studs on the ground, the greater the grip!

The upper is very tough and resilient and little inflexible. I certainly found it took a good 6 runs before the upper softened.

Foot hold is really good and assured which for me is essential in any off-road shoe. The toe box is wide but not excessively so and certainly does allow more toe splay but not at the compromise of precision. If I was running very technical terrain, I would prefer a more precision fit, but for general trail running they are perfect.

Importantly, remember the Pytho 5 is not ‘just’ a winter shoe. It excels on muddy, rocky and tree root terrain. You may well be surprised with how much grip this type of shoe gives. So much so that you will consider using a shoe of this style throughout the year as and when the terrain dictates. Orienteers for example use studded shoes all year.

On ice, particularly a frozen lake, the Pytho 5 glides along and they put a smile on your face. Equally, running on icy paths or roads is assured making pedestrians look at you and question how you are doing that…

CONCLUSION

The downside of any studded shoe is that they are more tiring on the body. The Pytho 5 tries to address this with more cushioning and a wider toe box, however, if you go out on hard ice terrain for many hours you will certainly feel it. That is just the way ice running is and not a criticism of the shoe.

Icebug know how to make winter shoes and the Pytho 5 is a great all-rounder that tackles winter exceptionally well. As a plus, they handle trail and notably rocks and tree routes superbly; just as an orienteering shoe should.

Ice running takes a little practice, and the top tip is trusting the shoe and the outsole. Don’t be shy and delicate, run hard and press the studs in the ground, once you do, you will have great grip that will allow you to speed along in a multitude of conditions.

Key Specifications:

  • Weight: 320 grams
  • Drop: 5 mm
  • Last: Medium
  • Studs: Studded
  • Usage: Running, Trail running, Winter running
  • Insole: Ortholite Hybrid, lined with bluesign® 100% recycled and solution dyed PET polyester
  • Lining: Bluesign®, solution dyed
  • Midsole: Lightweight EVA with 20% BLOOM® Foam. TPU stabilizer
  • Terrain: Ice, Snow, Trail
  • Torsion: Stability Flex
  • Outersole: Rubber with BUGrip® 17 carbide tip studs
  • Cushioning: Medium
  • Upper Part: Bluesign® 100% recycled GRS certified PET polyester. Protective TPU mudguard

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

Follow on:

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inov-8 MUDCLAW G260 Review

The name says it all, MUDCLAW, if you are looking for a shoe to handle soft, deep and slippery mud, then look no further. The inov-8 MUDCLAW G260 is for you…

BUT, before we go into what makes the MUDCLAW great, let’s have some perspective. This shoe needs perspective.

I often like to compare choosing a run shoe to cars. Going on a long drive with many hours and miles, you will no doubt want something a little more plush, relaxed and comfortable – a family car. Going off-road with mixed terrain, then maybe a 4×4. If going for spin on a summer’s day, feeling the wind in your air and the need for some speed and feel; maybe a sports car? And if you are going to go as fast as possible, want to stick to the ground and comprise comfort for speed and grip, then a Formula 1 is for you.

The inov-8 MUDCLAW G260 is a Formula 1 of run shoes.

If you are looking for a jack of all trades – the Mudclaw is not for you!

If you are looking for comfort for hours and hours – the Mudclaw is not for you!

If you are looking for insane grip in sloppy mud with an almost barefoot feel for the ground – the Mudclaw is for you!

The Mudclaw is a stripped back Formula 1 shoe for trails, fells and OCR racing. Running in the shoe reminds me of the early inov-8 posters showing a shoe tread on a foot.

inov-8 advert that really echoes the feel of the Mudclaw

The 8mm Graphene lugs are akin to football boots and hark back to what elevated inov-8 to a world-stage many years ago. Grip, grip and more grip. There is currently no other shoe on the market that has soft-ground grip that compares with the Mudclaw G260. One shoe comes close, the iRock3 by VJ Sport, but even the 6mm Butyl of the VJ does not claw and grip like the G260.

The Graphene outsole (renowned sticky rubber infused with Graphene) is now reaching many of the shoes in the inov-8 line-up and the recent success of the Terraultra G270 (here) has really turned heads. The G260 takes that Graphene and adds it to crazy lugs. So, is the grip between the G270 and the G260 comparable? Yes and no. The G270 grips incredibly on dry and wet trail, on rocks (wet or dry) but is compromised in mud as the lugs are only 4mm. With the G260, the grip in mud is incredible but with less overall contact points, the grip on wet rock is not as secure as the G270.

Quite simply, the G260 is for mud and lots of it!

When running off-road, particularly in mud, feel for the ground is important and inov-8 know this, they have therefore reduced the cushioning in the G260 to a mere 4.5mm at the front and 8.5mm at the rear. It’s almost like running barefoot. The principal is, the mud and soft-ground provides the cushioning and any additional cushioning would only compromise feel and responsiveness.

The 4mm drop, 6mm footbed and minimal Meta-Plate is ideal and in-keeping for the Mudclaw’s intentions; low to the ground and increased feel for the ground.

The upper has been reworked and like the Terraultra G270, it has a super-strong materials give high levels of durability and breathability which is proving to be a real plus with considerably less wear and tear over previous inov-8 uppers. The upper is also extremely breathable and this has an added bonus for water drainage.

As the name suggests, the weight is 260g in a UK8, so, they are super-lightweight.

Like many inov-8 shoes, the rear of the shoe has gaiter attachment points on either side to help keep out or reduce debris entering the shoes.

The fit is ‘1’ on the inov-8 scale and that quite simply means precision – no surprise for a Formula 1 shoe.

IN USE

I keep referring to a Formula 1 car and this is really important when explaining how the shoe feels. To drive a F1, you would have it toed out of the pit lane and then you would drive on the circuit. The Mudclaw is no different, you really want to put this shoe on at the trail head and run immediately off-road and in mud.

It’s hard for me to go directly to trail unless I drive there, so, even for a ‘normal’ run I will have a minimum of 1-mile of road or path. You can really feel that the shoe has little to no cushioning. It’s bearable for short distances but you really do need to keep to a minimum.

When in mud, the shoe is wonderfully at home. It grips when other shoes would not, you have a feel for the ground without compromise and the foot-hold is excellent from the lacing configuration. 

The upper is robust for the conditions and gladly drains water quickly. The overlays add structure and help hold the foot in place.

The Mudclaw is a narrow shoe and particularly narrower at the heal. Back to the Formula 1 scenario; this is a race shoe and as such some comfort is compromised. Think of a Ballerina, they would not walk around in ballet shoes, but when they perform they need a very specific shoe. The Mudclaw is the same.

Sizing leaves me with a question mark. I have been testing inov-8 for years and I am always a UK9.5. The Mudclaw feels a little too long for me in ‘my’ size but having said that, I have used them… Despite the narrow fit, I used a very thin Merino liner sock with a thicker Merino sock over the top to make some compensation. It has worked for me but I would recommend trying normal size and maybe a half-size smaller to be sure.

Back to the upper. The flex point (Meta-Flex with inov-8) in the propulsive phase is always a problem area in many shoes and in the Mudclaw the upper flexes differently, no doubt due to the material used.

At times it can feel as though there is a little too much fabric and this may cause a weakness at the bend point? With over 100km in the shoes, there is no wear showing. I will do a long-term update after 400km.

Heel box is minimal and it holds as one would expect but there is little cushioning comfort. Toe bumper is great and offers excellent protection.

The outsole is the hero of the shoe and the 8mm lugs are quite simply the best I have tried or used in mud. Give or take, there are 40 +/- lugs designed to claw into the ground and provide purchase on what normally would not be possible. This applies for soft-grass too. Despite the same Graphene as the G260, I found the hold on wet rock not quite as assured as the Terraultra G260. I put this down to less contact points. But then again, I need to clarify, this shoe is for mud!

IN SUMMARY

The Mudclaw is a shoe to be considered in addition to other shoes that you already own. It’s not a shoe that you can use for day-to-day running, it’s not even a shoe that you can use for trail runs. This shoe is for mud and mud alone. Yes, it can take a little hard-trail, yes it can take some rocks, wet or dry, and yes, you can run a little road to get to muddy trail but all times, you need to keep this to a minimum. It’s narrow, has a precision fit, offers a great feel for the ground and return gives you speed and grip.

If you want a shoe that does the above but has more comfort and has more flexibility then you need to look at X-Talon 260 which has a wider fit (4,) considerably more cushioning (6/16mm,) 8mm drop and still 8mm lugs.

It’s a shoe for mud…

Specs:

  • Fit 1
  • Drop 4mm
  • Footbed 6mm
  • Lug 8mm
  • 4.5mm front / 8.5mm rear
  • Graphene Grip
  • Meta-Plate Shank
  • RRP £140

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content.

Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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inov-8 TERRAULTRA G270 Review

I first got a hold of the original TERRAULTRA 2-years ago, the G260. It was a groundbreaking shoe for inov-8 not only introducing a zero-drop shoe to the brands line-up but also paving the way for Graphene technology.

A great deal has happened in the past 2-years with Graphene appearing in more and more inov-8 shoes but interestingly no other zero drop shoes have been added to the line-up.

The TERRAULTRA G260 was warmly welcomed, particularly by any trail runner using Altra who now had a zero-drop alternative now available with a brand who really know how to make off-road shoes from a long history in the fells of the UK.

Now, the G260 has been updated and we welcome the TERRAULTRA G270.

On first glance, it could look like the same shoe. That green colour is somewhat distinctive! However, one does not need to look longer to see some immediate significant changes.

The upper, the lacing, the outsole and the cushioning all sort of look the same but they are not.

In the words on inov-8:

  • Graphene outsole has 4mm deep cleats all now armed with dispersion channels and rubber dimples to give better grip on wet and dry trails. Cleats are repositioned in key areas and flex grooves fine-tuned for agile sticky traction that lasts longer.
  • Cushioning is a new POWERFLOW MAX that has been increased by 3mm for a plush ride, improved cushioning and double the durability. A BOOMERANG insole apparently will increase energy return by 20 and 40% respectively over the previous model.
  • The upper has ADAPTERFIT which adjusts to the foot and the use of stronger materials will add to durability and protection.

The Shoe

With a fit scale of 5, this is as wide as you can go in an inov-8 shoe, So, toe splay and room at the front end comes no better.

Cushioning is 12mm front and rear providing a zero drop. Using POWERFLOW MAX.

The footbed is 6mm and the lug depth of the outsole is 4mm made of Graphene grip.

It G270 has the necessary points to attach a trail gaiter.

At 270g (UK8) the new TERRAULTRA is 10g heavier than the previous version.

Sizing is true to size BUT take into consideration the wider toe box, maybe (?) a half-size smaller would be better. I always use EU44/ UK9.5 and these were ideal for me.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The G270 is light and it’s clear to see some of the immediate improvements over the previous version. The lacing is flatter, the tongue is different, the upper is different, the toe box protection is increased, and the shoes have the flagship Graphene outsole that looks very different.

Zero drop is NOT for everyone, so, what makes the G270 great for some also make the G270 potentially unusable for others. This is not a negative comment, it’s just a heads-up to say, that if you have not used zero drop before, don’t be tempted to get the G270 and start racking miles up… You will almost certainly get sore Achilles, calf and potentially get injured. Like barefoot running, zero drop running needs to be learnt and the body needs to adapt. Typically, 6-months would be a good transition period. However, some zero-drop running (initially short periods) is great for improving run form, so, the G270 could be a nice new weapon in your shoe line-up?

If zero drop is your thing, then you will already have a big smile on your face.

Following on from the G260, the G270 has a wide toe box that echoes what brands like Altra have been doing for years. Toe splay is king and the G270 has loads of room for that. I had issues with the G260 in that I always felt I had too much room, the room at the front was made worse by the upper and lacing system not holding my foot how I wanted to compensate for the additional width, space and foot movement.

Slipping the G270 on I was initially worried, the space in the toe box was as much if not a little more than the previous version. However, as soon as I adjusted and tightened the laces, I immediately noticed significant changes. The tongue was a much better fit. The lacing was great improved, and I could really adjust the tension from top to bottom. The ADAPTERFIT pulled in holding my foot. Walking around immediately felt 100% better than the G260. My foot was being held reassuringly.

The upper is far more breathable that the G260.

The cushioning and bounce were notable and the outsole at this stage left me with many questions.

IN USE

The G260 was a little lifeless and felt flat. The G270 immediately felt different with a couple of miles on the road before hitting the trails. So, this was already a great improvement.

With META-FLEX at the front, the propulsive phase felt really good no doubt added to with the insole that inov-8 say increases energy return by 40%. I definitely felt some bounce, but 40% more?

The cushioning was noticeable, particularly over the G260 as was the zero drop. I use zero drop shoes occasionally, but always prefer 4/5mm for faster and more technical running and if going long, 8mm works perfect for me. So, considering the G270 is designed for long-distance running, zero drop would be a challenge for me.

The wide toe box still feels mega wide (too wide for me) BUT the lacing and ADAPTERFIT allowed me to compensate for the room at the front by tightening appropriately. However, I did fine once or twice I over-tightened the laces only having to stop and loosen them a little.

The transition from road to gravel trail was seamless and comfortable. The TERRAULTRA is an out and out ultra-shoe designed for trails that are more groomed, say Western States in the USA or UTMB in Europe. So hard packed single-track felt really good in the G270, equally rocky and stoney ground felt good.

Running up hill surprised me. The META-FLEX allowed for great flexibility and propulsion, but it was the outsole that really gripped. A massive improvement over the G260.

I have to say, I have not always been a fan with the addition of Graphene. At times, I felt it compromised the sticky outsoles and made them less grippy, albeit providing longer life. But on many occasions, for me particularly, grip is king and if it is compromised, I am not happy.

Here, in the G270 there was noticeable difference, and this was coming from just 4mm lugs.

The test of course would really come when I threw in some mud and wet rock.

Gladly, mud (loads of it) rocks, tree routes, climbs, descents, wooden planks, forests and yes, a little fire trail all make up my daily and local runs. So, throwing the G270 in the thick of things was easy to do. And yes, I was being unfair as I actively searched out and aimed for steep rocks with water on them and I aimed for every puddle and sloppy mud I could.

I was impressed.

At times, I would think to myself, almost wanting the G270 outsole to fail;

‘This will get them… wait for the slip!’

But the slip never came, especially on dry and wet rock. On a 3-hour run, as the minutes clicked by, I started to relax more and more and eventually stopped worrying and asking;

‘Will the G270 grip here?’

They did, at all times provide me with the grip I required.

Surprisingly, in really sloppy mud, I did not slip or move as I had expected. Partially due to the fact that I did apply the brakes a little and respect the conditions.

Technical trail is where the G270 shows some flaws. The wider toe box lacks precision, allows one’s toes to move and therefore I felt that there was just ‘too much’ shoe to navigate between rocks, roots, stones and a plethora of other obstacles. But of course, I am being unfair! The G270 is designed for less technical trails, long hours and all-day comfort – that they do really well!

The shoes are responsive and do work well when running fast. However, the wide toe box, zero drop and cushioning do make them feel a little like a saloon car… Plenty of room, comfy seats, and can get the miles done. But I craved a more performance car at times with more precision, tighter handling and a little more fire and daring, especially when coming of road, fire trails or single-track.

The cushioning was plush and considering it is only 12mm, it felt like more. Especially noticeable extra comfort over the 9mm G260 which also was a little hard and lifeless. One thing to note, I found on tree routes and some stones, I could feel them in the bottom of my foot, so protection from obstacles is minimal. The toe box though has a good bumper and that worked really well.

The heel box was noticeably secure on the flat and going uphill, I had little to no slippage.

SUMMARY

Damian Hall just ran 260-miles on the Pennine Way in the G270 and set a new FKT, so, that gives some indication of the intended use of this shoe. Having said that, the Pennine Way is not all single-track and wonderful cruising trail, so, the shoe can handle the rough stuff too.

I was impressed by how versatile the 4mm Graphene outsole worked. There has been some significant improvement over the G260 and in the Graphene outsole in general.

The upper, lacing and tongue now really hold the foot and that for me is essential, especially with such a wide toe box. The toe box is one of the key selling points of this shoe. It allows toe splay, plenty of room and flexibility for a foot to swell wider with accumulated miles.

The cushioning increased from 9mm (G260) to 12mm for the G270 is noticeable. More importantly, the G270 now has life, the G260 felt a little dead.

CONCLUSION

The G270 is a marked improvement over the G260, so, if you liked the previous model you are going to love the latest incarnation.

Zero drop and a wide toe box will be exactly what some people are looking for and they will have a big smile on their face. For me, and this of course is very personal, I can’t run in zero for hours and hours and I feel that the toe box is a little roomier than it needs to be.

So, imagine a Trail Talon 290 made like a TERRAULTRA G270 – slightly narrower toe box (4 fit) 8mm drop; 11mm and 19mm cushioning and this Graphene outsole – that would be a winning shoe IMO. (inov-8 take note)

The G270 is a winning shoe and all packaged perfectly for ultra-distance runner who needs grip, cushioning and comfort for the long-haul out on the trails. It would even make a great road shoe if required.

For multi-day adventures, such as Marathon des Sables, just like the Trail Talon, the G270 would be really excellent.

Get the TERRAULTRA G270 at inov-8 HERE

If technical trail and mud is your thing, this is not the best shoe for that, however, it can handle it remarkably well, so, if you only wanted one trail shoe (with zero drop) to do all, the G270 would be ideal. By contrast, if you wanted a one-stop trail shoe with 8mm drop, I recommend the Trail Talon 290.

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inov-8 TRAILROC 280 Shoe Review

Fans of inov-8 shoes may well be a little surprised by the new incarnation of the Trailroc 280.

It’s a bold shoe and dare I say, on first look, one may even mistake it for a Hoka One One shoe. The blue and yellow and color fade has that classic Hoka look and the cushioning really stands out.

I had to make sure that I definitely had an inov-8 shoe in my hand.

Die-hard inov-8 fans may well immediately dislike the new Trailroc – it’s a departure for the brand. But one should not be too hasty. 

For those who like minimal, low drop, and aggressive outsoles, inov-8 still have a plethora of shoes to choose from. So, the new Trailroc 280 should be embraced as something new to try.

First Impressions

I like the look, bold color fade work well. The cushioning is the stand out and is built up and reinforced section around the rear. Heel box is well padded and has firm hold of the foot. The tongue is attached to the inside of the show with elastic on either side, I am a fan! The tongue is really padded, very plush. The upper is very breathable and there are reinforced overlays on the outside (left and right) to provide some structure to the upper and hold the foot.

Lacing is pretty standard and there are additional eyelets should you wish to lock-lace or similar. Toe box has reinforcement for protection, but I expected this to be more substantial for a shoe designed for rocky terrain. The toe box is on the narrow side so if you are a fan of the Trail Talon (here), for example, you may not like the Trailroc? Sizing is touch and go. I always use a UK9.5 in inov-8 and the Trailroc is definitely a little smaller than my other inov’s. It is marginal and I have had no problem using them… worth noting that they may feel smaller as the toe box is a little narrower, however, I always go for a thumb nail of space, and in these I am at ¾!

Outsole is the new Graphene and the grip is classic trail grip – not too aggressive. Graphene is slowly making its way to most inov shoes now and apparently it increases longevity by some 50% without a comprise on the grip characteristics.

The Shoe

Sliding the shoes on for the first time, several factors stood out.

  • I could feel the cushioning immediately.
  • The padded tongue is really plush.
  • The toe box felt on the narrow side.

Lacing the shoes up, the hold on my foot felt ‘so so!’ I have to say, and this comment comes now after weeks and weeks of using the Trailroc, I feel the upper lacks some rigidity to hold the foot. I have been using inov for years and something in the upper here is lacking for me. It’s particularly noticeable when the terrain is not flat, for example, when running off camber or when on rocks – my foot is moving inside the shoe! This is not because of lacing. I tried many lace configurations and I just couldn’t get the firm hold I like to make me feel reassured. It left me perplexed.

The toe box is on the narrower side. I need to clarify here that I love the Trail Talon and Parkclaw (here) but easily transition to ‘precision’ fit shoes, for example a Mudclaw (here). When running on muddy and technical terrain, I like my feet to be held firm and have confidence in the shoe. When running trail and longer miles I am happy for my toes to splay, providing the lacing holds my foot. The Trailroc left me feeling 50/50. There is nothing particularly unpleasant, but equally there was nothing sparkling going on.

I guess the main feature of the shoe is the added cushioning and that really is noticeable. It has a real bounce to it and comfort levels are high. So, those who are looking for a more cushioned trail shoe, this version of the Trailroc 280 will appeal. It’s a shoe that transitions from road to trail easily and that is a real plus for many.

The outsole does its job and works well. These are not shoes for muddy terrain. They are classic trail / rock shoes and the outsole works well on the latter both in the wet and the dry.

In Use

The cushioning of the Trailroc 280 is the selling factor along with the Graphene outsole. It is all packaged together in a great looking shoe. On road, the cushioning is apparent providing a plush feel and a definite bounce, so, for those who are looking for more comfort on longer runs will be happy. On trail, the cushioning is apparent, however, I did have less feel for the ground and ‘height’ from the ground was more noticeable in comparison to other inov-8 shoes.

When the trail became more challenging, as mentioned above, this is when I had issues. I just never felt my foot was held secure… It almost feels as the shoes are too big, but they are not! I really over tightened my laces and that did add to a more secure feel, but the level of tightness was not sustainable for longer runs – it just added to much pressure.

The outsole works on trail and rock well providing adequate grip when needed when conditions are wet or dry. It’s not an aggressive outsole, so, in mud you will slip and slide around.

There is a Meta-Flex in the outsole and so the propulsive phase feels dynamic but less dynamic than some other inov-8 shoes.

Drop is 2 arrows, so, 8mm. Makes sense for a shoe like this, I really feel this shoe is designed for an ultra-trail runner going longer distances. Cushioning is 20mm rear and 12mm at the front.

inov-8 very often make shoes for a very specific purpose and with this Trailroc 280 I feel that it is a shoe trying to do many things and as such does no one thing brilliantly, but if you are looking for an ‘all-purpose’ shoe that transitions from to road to trail, this may be for you!

Conclusion

The Trailroc 280 is not a bad shoe. Equally it is not a great shoe. This is the first time in a while I have not glowed about an inov-8 shoe. I have tried and tried to like this shoe and don’t get me wrong, if I had no other shoe to wear, I’d be happy in the 280. However, I have lots of options on footwear and the 280 has nothing that stands out that makes me want to grab it and go run. It’s cushioned, has 8mm drop, has a great outsole but has some failings for me.

Foothold and toe box are the two factors that leave a question mark. The toe box I can live with, it causes me no problems, it is just not ideal. The foothold though really is an issue and I hate the feel of my foot not being secure.

inov-8 website HERE 

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inov-8 PARKCLAW 275 GTX REVIEW

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!

THE SHOE

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.

IN USE

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!

SUMMARY

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

 

IROCK2 by VJ Sport – Shoe Review

Imagine a scene:

A man enters an elevator, he pulls the cage metal door across and as it clicks into place, his right hand reaches for the buttons to his left. ‘Lower Basement’ is pressed.

As the lift moves, music starts in the background; a lone guitar.

dundedun dun dun dun dundedun dun dun dun dundedun dun dun dun dundedun dun dun dun deDON Do do do
Badap ba daa ba da daa ba daa da deda daa Badap ba daa ba da daa ba daa da deda daa

The lift stops, the gate is pulled open and the man walks into a grey room illuminated by dappled spotlights. Ahead, a man in a white jacket, is crooked over a table with his back turned.

“Argh, 007 you are here, finally! Now listen up. This is the new IROCK2 by VJ Sport. It has Fitlock that ensures a sure and precise fit around the arch and instep of the foot for secure constant changes of direction. The outsole is made of Butyl rubber with an aggressive pattern, it will grip anything in the wet and dry!”

“And the upper Q?” Our man asks.

“007, let me do the talking… The upper is made of Kevlar, it’s stronger than steel, lightweight and extremely durable. Toe box and the heel box is plush, secure and protects from the toughest terrain. Cushioning is provided by KvamO and Duotech. These shoes are designed for fast, light and agile mountain running on any terrain – any questions?”

“When can I use them Q?”

“Have you not been listening Bond? You can use them on the gnarliest, muddiest, wettest, driest, most technical terrain imaginable and they will give you the advantage over the competition… Now go run!”

If James Bond was a mountain runner, he’d be using the IROCK2 by VJ Sport

*****

This review comes in two versions:

Version 1.

The IROCK2 by VJ Sport is the best mountain running shoe for any terrain with superior grip in the wet and dry on the rockiest, gnarliest, muddiest terrain imaginable in a moderately cushioned, 6mm drop, lightweight neutral shoe. It’s the best shoe ever – go buy it!

Version 2.

Read on.

VJ was found in 1981 and has been the secret weapon of Orienteers for many, many years. Ask anyone in the know, affiliated with a brand or not, out of choice, if they could, they would use IROCK when the need for grip on wet and dry surfaces is essential.

I was first introduced to the brand several years ago whilst working on the Tromso SkyRace. I saw the ‘locals’ using them and when out on the trails, mountains that had a mix of rocks, snow and ice, I continually noticed they had more grip than myself. This was confirmed when Jon Albon won Tromso race using IROCK ahead of the ‘almost’ unbeatable Luis Alberto Hernando.

I took note!

The shoe range can be viewed HERE and over the year’s VJ Sport have added and tweaked the line of shoes to 12 models, varying from a very specific Orienteering shoe with metal spikes (midstud) to a kid’s shoe!

Key Features of the IROCK2:

FITLOCK ensures that the fit is snug and holds the foot in place, essential when running on technical and challenging trails when a change of direction happens in a fraction of second. You don’t want a sloppy shoe. FITLOCK supports the arch of the foot and protects from the terrain.
SUPERIOR CONTACT OUTSOLE is made from sticky butyl rubber with an aggressive grip. It has superior grip in wet and dry conditions and lugs are aggressive to gain traction in mud. They are also spaced out to help release mud from the sole so that you don’t get clogged up and lose traction.
Schoeller® – Keprotec® KEVLAR upper is bullet proof and stronger than steel. It is pretty much tear resistant with comfort. The chances of the uppers failing is almost non-existent. The upper also has reinforced sections, the toe box and heel cup protect the foot from the most demanding terrain and to keep the foot secure.
KvamO offers cushioning, torsion support and a shaped insole.
DUOTECH is used on the inner side of the shoe, contrasting against the KvamO. The Duotech is higher density foam which makes for a more durable shoe.

6mm drop
Narrow width
Neutral

IROCK2 was Jon Albon’s shoe of choice for the 2017 season – He is a multiple OCR World Champion and two-time Skyrunner World Series Champion for the Extreme classification.

OUT OF THE BOX

Red and black, always works for shoe colours and I feel and I am instantly attracted to the IROCK2. However, they don’t look like run shoes… almost a cross between a football boot and a shoe for MTB. They look heavy!

I lift one up. They are not heavy… It almost comes as a surprise. Immediate first impression is how robust the shoe looks. The heel box is reinforced, the Fitlock looks aggressive and secure, the Kevlar material looks like it is interwoven with strands of steel and the toe box reinforced with a bumper. Turning the shoe over, soft black butyl rubber covers the outsole and a mass of aggressive studs immediately confirm that the IROCK2 means business as far as grip is concerned.

Lacing is very secure and the tongue is reinforced and made of a very durable flexible but hard material. I am surprised to find that the IROCK2 does not have a gusseted tongue or sock liner fit. I feel disappointed! It’s no secret if you read my shoe reviews that this is by far my favourite method of shoe fit. The toe box looks really narrow – I expected narrow as this is a precision shoe, however, they look narrower than expected.

All-in-all, I am impressed. Great looks, solid build, aggressive outsole but I have concerns on the toe box and lack of sock liner/ gusseted tongue.

IN USE

It’s important to remember here that the IROCK2 is not a jack of all trades, it’s not a trail shoe, it’s not hybrid shoe, it’s not a shoe for the road – it is an out-and-out specific fell/ mountain running shoe and as such, you should and must keep this in mind if considering if the shoe is for you!

The easiest way to explain this is by looking at say, Formula 1. You wouldn’t go to Monaco Grand Prix and race in a MPV car, a saloon car or a bus, you’d have a very specific vehicle, low to the ground with incredible speed and awesome agility with incredible grip. The IROCK2 is the Formula 1 for fell and mountain running.

I loosen the laces and slide my foot in. I am immediately surprised that the toe box is deceptively more spacious than anticipated. Almost Tardis like. Don’t get me wrong here, they are not spacious that would allow ones toes to splay. The fit is secure but not overly narrow, however, if you have Hobbit like feet, the IROCK2 is not going to be for you! It is normal in fell/ mountain running shoes that a ‘precision’ fit is required as this provides security and precision when running, exactly what you need when on demanding and challenging terrain.

As I pull the laces tight, I am immediately surprised how well the tongue fits to my foot and the lack of a sock liner or gusseted tongue soon becomes no issue. The Fitlock steps in and I have to say that this is one of THE secret weapons of the shoe. You immediately feel the support and security this system brings as I tighten and adjust the laces.

The reinforced heel box adds to this security and once laced up and adjusted I soon realize that the IROCK2 has incredible fit and security – and I haven’t even run in them yet!

As I walk around my apartment, the wooden floor provides a solid surface, I feel the grip of the Butyl outsole take hold and with each lift of my foot, the shoes make a sound a little like when separating two strips of Velcro. These shoes seriously grip.

Orienteering, fell and outright mountain shoes rarely have a great deal of cushioning as the need to be low and feel the ground is essential. The IROCK2 has cushioning and it is noticeable without compromising feel, importantly there is also a rock plate for protection. Therefore, this shoe certainly provides an option for longer races, be that in distance or time. How long or how far depends on the runner, but I would certainly consider this shoe for 6-8 hour mountain jaunts. You also must remember that if running on soft and muddy ground, much of the cushioning actually comes from the ground beneath ones feet. Rocky and hard trails are a different story.

ON THE TRAILS

I always start my test runs with a section of road and the IROCK2 keeps me honest wanting to land fore to mid foot. I can hear and feel the grip on the road and I am surprised at the level of comfort and cushioning for such an aggressive shoe. I set my mind at ease knowing that the IROCK2 can handle road sections should they crop up in a race or training. Note though, the outsole won’t thank you for this and one can expect it to wear quicker if you throw too much tarmac at them.

6mm drop works well and although 8mm is normally preferable (for me) it is appropriate that a shoe of this nature has a lower drop keeping you connected to the ground. The fit is neutral but Fitlock really does provide support (in a good way) to ones arch. Fit is true to size.

Back on the tail, a 3-mile section of single track flies by as the shoes happily eat up the miles switching between hard and dry sections and soft, wet, muddy sections don’t compromise the grip.

Off track and the IROCK2 start to feel seriously at home. I am now on open fell that is rutted. I am constantly changing direction and this is when I feel the Fitlock and heel box working together. For me, it’s the best feel and most secure of any mountain running shoe I have used. No question!

The outsole is gripping everything.

On a vertical wall of grass and mud, I am on my toes and the shoes just dig in and keep me going forward with no wasted energy through slipping.

I hit an extremely muddy section. It’s like a brown river. Constant rain has made it into a brown lake and as I run through it, the height passes my ankle. Once again, I feel the shoes pushing through the soft upper layers to find traction below. Grip is found and I am able to move on with more security than any other shoe used. The closest comparison coming with an inov-8 Mudclaw.

It’s on rocks, wet or dry, that the IROCK2 becomes outstanding. I have had mountain shoes in the past that have handled the mud only to find that rock, and in particular, wet rock grip is compromised. The IROCK2 stand out as the best in its class with unmatched grip and control.

The run continues on and as the terrain constantly changes I am finding that the IROCK2’s are handling everything but it is the overall package of the shoe that is impressing me and no one stand out feature.

It is the combination of durability, fit, cushioning, precision and unmatched grip that is making me realize that the IROCK2 is the best fell/ mountain shoe I have used.

LONG TERM

Mud, rock, fell in wet or dry conditions, the IROCK2 is the best I have used. I have now put just under 200-miles on them on a whole multitude of scenarios and without doubt, this shoe stands out. It’s the overall package as mentioned above that make them so special and in comparison to other brands, the Kevlar uppers show no sign of use.

It’s easy to get carried away when writing about a shoe like this but so often I have had a mountain shoe that does one thing really well only to find that it is compromised in another use. Not so with the IROCK2.

It is the most complete mountain shoe I have used for its specific use.

SUMMARY

VJ Sport was created in 1981 and although I first became aware of these shoes in 2014, I have to say that I really have a feel of ‘FOMO!’ – Fear Of Missing Out.

Orienteers and obstacle racers will be reading this review and saying – ‘Yep, yep and yep!’

They will be asking the question, ‘What took you so long?’

They are correct, what did take me so long?

VJ Sport have been making secret weapons for the orienteering world for so many years but now the secret is out!

I have already heard many a Skyrunner talking about the original IROCK and now the IROCK2 moves things up a notch and quite simply:

This is the best fell/ mountain running shoe I have ever used.

CONCLUSION

It’s a glowing review, no doubt.

There are so many PROS to the shoe that I feel I must try and reign myself in and find some CONS, so, here goes:

I have been trying to get a pair of IROCK’s for sometime, it took me 18-months to finally get a pair. They are not easy to come across! However, see at the bottom of this review as we have an offer.
The IROCK2 is a fine tuned piece of kit designed to excel with a very specific use. This is not an everyday shoe (unless you are always on fells/ mountains) that you use on road and smooth trail.
In reference to point 2, you will need other run shoes for those ‘normal’ runs when the IROCK’s are not required.
The IROCK2 has cushioning but it is NOT a ‘cushioned’ shoe and it shouldn’t be. Some cushioning is good but anymore and this shoe would lose the feel and control that makes it so great.
The fit is precision, again, as it should be for a shoe with such specific use. Worth keeping in mind for the Hobbits out there!

FINALLY

Skyrunning? Fell running? Mountain running? Running in the wet, mud, on dry rocks and wet rocks?

Need a 6mm drop, neutral and moderately cushioned shoe?

Look no further than the IROCK2 by VJ Sport.

OFFER

*Please note, I have no affiliation or working relationship with the following, this is purely an offer to help those who may be interested in the IROCK2 to purchase a pair.

 

 

inov-8 X-CLAW 275 Shoe Review

©iancorless.com_inov8_XClaw275-06454

The inov-8 Mudclaw 300 has long been a favorite shoe of mine when I need a shoe with grip and secure feel. It’s a ‘go-to’ shoe for a couple of hours on muddy trails. (Review Here). However, the precision fit (which I love) and less cushioning has often left me wanting a shoe with a little more cushioning, a more relaxed drop and maybe a little more room in the toes for my feet to splay. Step in (pun intended) the X-CLAW 275.

In the past 12-months, inov-8 as a brand has looked at its shoe range and started to streamline the shoes on offer. For some, that may well be a bad thing, for me, it’s a positive! I seem to remember a couple of years back that the brand had over 90 shoes on offer.

The company that pioneered the arrow system to define drop, has stuck with its heritage and now 1 arrow (4mm drop) and 2 arrow (8mm drop) are the norm. The purists may well complain but 4mm and 8mm drop are for sure the most popular.

©iancorless.com_inov8_XClaw275-06457

For me, I switch between the two drops constantly, happily running shorter and faster sessions in the lower 4mm drop but when I go longer, I prefer the relaxed and more forgiving drop of 8mm. The X-CLAW 275 has been a long time coming, but now it has arrived, I have a big smile on my face:

8mm drop

Standard fit

Cushioning

Grip

In brief, the shoe is a winner.

©iancorless.com_inov8_XClaw275-06454

The X-CLAW 275 has the usual distinctive inov-8 styling and colours, I keep saying it but the brand always (nearly always) make good looking shoes with great colours. The lacing is standard and secure, the heel box is plush, holds firm and is comfortable. The tongue is secured into the upper on the left and right sides (thank goodness) and holds the foot firm, secure and in comfort. The toe box has standard fit and therefore there is more room for toes to splay and move around a little. The toe box also has great protection with some good rubber on the front of the shoe to protect against rock impact. The shoe is cushioned for longer runs and has protection from underfoot obstacles but without loosing a feel for the ground. Lastly, the grip is as one would expect, claw like.

©iancorless.com_inov8_XClaw275-06465

The X-CLAW has been put through its paces on a multitude of terrain and in all scenarios it has been a winner. Several recent outings in the Mourne Mountains in Ireland really did provide an all-in-one mixed terrain circuit allowing for: road, stone steps, loose rock, gravel, scree, bog, water crossings, fell, fire trail and all with a mix of wet and dry weather. The X-CLAW just performed never causing me to question of grip would be compromised at any time. I had wondered if the standard fit would leave me feeling less secure and precise on technical trail – no so! I was able to compensate by pulling my laces a little tighter and the addition of the gusseted tongue held my foot secure and firm giving me 100% confidence. On a 3.5hr run, we finished off with a 5km stretch of stony fire trail that zig-zagged 600m downhill. It was the type of terrain in the past where I would have been wishing for a shoe with a little more comfort and protection… not so with the X-CLAW.

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The cushioning was superb allowing me to run with protection while still feeling the ground beneath. The outsole handled the mixed terrain so well and I am always amazed how shoes with so much grip can feel so good on the road. Obviously, the Dual-C compound used will have less life if too much road is run on, but that is not the point, the combination of elements that are packaged in the X-CLAW 275 make it a real winner. Finally, despite running through wet ground, mud and small water crossings my foot actually only got wet in the final couple of miles of my run when I placed my foot in a puddle that was ankle deep, prior to that the water repellant upper had done a great job keeping my feet dry.

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As the UK heads into winter, the trails will become muddier, the rocks wetter and I am convinced that the X-CLAW 275 is going to be one of my ‘go-to’ shoes – It delivers outstanding grip, comfort and protection while still remaining lightweight, flexible with great energy return from the Powerflow midsole technology that really does keep you on your toes with better shock protection. The toe bumper and full rand are also great additions that make the shoe really feel as though it’s up for some hard and challenging terrain.

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The shoe fit as ‘true,’ I regularly use a size 9.5 and my X-TALON is a 9.5. However, if you are used to a tighter toe box (precision) you may well feel that the standard fit of this shoe makes it feel a little larger? My advice would be to lace up the shoe correctly and tighten the laces so your foot feels secure. Remember, the toe box is designed to allow for some movement and splay.

In summary, the X-CLAW is an excellent shoe for those who need a little more comfort, a relaxed drop and a roomier toe box. The shoes perform exceptionally well on all terrain (even road) and if you are out for longer days on the hills, mountains or fells, the 8mm drop and cushioning will make your legs and feet happier.

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Finally, for all you precision fit, less-cushioning and lower drop fans (4mm) don’t worry… the X-TALON is available in a 225 version. Review to follow.

What inov-8 say:

For all extreme terrain running, including off-trail conditions encountered on mountains and fells.

Phenomenal grip: New X-CLAW outsole features DUAL-C compound (a mix of medium and hard sticky rubbers) for improved durability and stability. Refined claw cleat stud configuration ensures quick release of mud and debris.

Increased comfort on long runs: Unique POWERFLOW midsole technology delivers 10% better shock absorption and 15% better energy return than standard midsoles. Wider to box allows toes to splay.

Enjoy more protection: Super-durable, yet lightweight, upper material, full rand, toe bumper and internal gusset offer protection on descents and from debris. Water repelled by durable water resistant coating.

Does it all: Equally adaptable to training or faster running. Cutaways on the outsole increase flexibility and reduce weight. Dynamic Fascia Band delivers kick of energy with every stride.

  • Colour: BLACK/BLUE/RED
  • Weight: 275g / 9.7oz
  • Fit: Standard Fit
  • Gender: MENS
  • Footbed: 6mm
  • Midsole: POWER FLOW
  • Drop: 8mm

inov-8 TERRACLAW 250 Shoe Review

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Niandi Carmont gets her claws out and test the new inov-8 Terraclaw 250. A shoe that offers a wide toe box, grip, cushioning and an 8mm drop for longer days on mixed terrain.

Please note all photographs in this review are the male colour ways . The ladies version as reviewed is below.

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REVIEW

The Terraclaw is a great dual purpose trail shoe for “earthy” mostly dry trail as well as offering enough grip to be used on trail with moderately grassy/ muddy sections. As I’m not an aficionado of technical slippery and extremely boggy terrain, this is definitely the shoe to fit my foot in more ways than one.

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What definitely makes this trail shoe even more attractive for me is the wide toe box or in inov-8 jargon “standard fit” as opposed to the “precision fit”. The roomy toe box allows my toes to splay comfortably as I’m running irrespective of any swelling in hot weather over long distances. This is an absolute must for me as like with many ultra-runners who have been in the sport for some time, I have an issue with a collapsing right arch and thus a wider right foot.  In my case narrower trail shoes usually lead to chafing in between the toes and ensuing blisters.

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Another interesting key feature of this model which attracted me is inov-8’s innovative patented Dynamic Fascia Band™ (DFB) technology. What this means in layman’s terms is that the anatomical position of the plantar fascia ligament is replicated and the function of the human foot’s ability to utilize the “windlass effect” is duplicated. As body weight moves forward onto the metatarsal heads and the toes begin to extend, tension on the inov-8 fascia band™ increases. When the heel leaves the ground, the inov-8 fascia band™ resists elongation of the medial arch and carries the entire body weight of the runner converting the shoe into a rigid propulsive lever. This helps the athlete to run more efficiently, more economically and thus a tad faster. How cool is that for an injured right-foot heel striker with a collapsing arch like me? I certainly feel I’m dragging my right foot less.

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In addition to this the shoe is very breathable with a soft with a slipper-like feel. In fact this model is almost too comfy for a trail shoe! At 250G it is a relatively light shoe yet lightness is not sacrificed at the expense of cushioning. There is enough cushioning in this trail shoe to run on rock, gravel or stony terrain and inov-8 have got the balance just right and so if like me you still like to feel the ground underfoot you won’t be disappointed. The shoe sticks to inov-8 heritage of getting you low to the ground but the lack of a rockplate will allow more irregular rocks or sharper rocks be felt in the foot. It’s no great issue but one you should be aware of.

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If you take a peek at the sole of the shoe, you’ll quickly understand why this shoe offers good grip on most terrain.  Inov-8 have developed 5 distinct outsole compounds to deliver maximum grip on a wide variety of terrains and in changeable weather conditions. The Terraclaw outsole is composed of Dual-C, in other words a mix of medium sticky and hard sticky compound.  This particular technology uses rock climbing rubber technology.

In principle the shoe should therefore also offer a reasonable amount of grip on wet rock. However, I was not convinced after having tested it on the initial section of the Garmin Mourne Skyline race course. Running down the wet stone steps was tricky and a shoe like the inov-8 Mudclaw 300 (HERE) would be more suited to that terrain despite the aggressive outsole.  Personally from having tested the shoe on various terrains and in different seasons and weather conditions, I would say it is more suited to dry trail and trail with short road sections. The shoe transitions well from one to the other. It would perform less well on extremely boggy terrain, very steep and slippery grassy climbs/ descents (fells), stony river and waterfall sections.  I also found the cleats wore away quite rapidly with over-use. I’m on my second pair in the space of 3 months as there is noticeable cleat wear where I heel strike and on the forefoot where the foot lifts off. Of course, if you use the shoe on just soft ground or trail, the outsole will last longer! However, I believe that inov-8 are trying to find a shoe here that does all jobs? The rise of ‘city-trail’ a key indicator why this move from inov-8 makes sense. But whenever you make a compromise, you very often end up with something that does nothing well. Certainly, if you want an out-and-out shoe for wet, muddy and slippery trail this is not the shoe for you: look at the 212 (HERE) or 300 (HERE). Equally, if you want a shoe for just road, this is not the shoe for you. But if you want a shoe that enables you to run road, run trail, have comfort and all with a pleasing drop of 8mm this is definitely worth considering.

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The triangular spaced out lug design of the shoe is interesting too.  The purpose of this is to release debris, grit and small stones. However I found that it was not effective in releasing big clumps of muddy grass which got entangled in the lugs.  On the plus side because of the lug design the shoe is easy to rinse off after muddy trail runs.

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The Terraclaw offers good toe and foot protection in spite of its light weight with a full rand and higher stack height. Like other inov-8 models the 2 Meta-flex grooves on the outsole (pinky-red color on the Ladies shoe) at the forefoot and the heel allow for natural foot flexing making for a smoother run.

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It’s a neutral shoe that fits true to size but be warned, the roomier toe box may make the shoe feel a little ‘sloppy.’ If so, try lacing the shoe using this method HERE, it will hold your foot tight but still allow the freedom for your toes.

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Last but not least – the color is great! Nice and sober – black with a hint of pink and blue. Personally I’m not one for garish bright run shoes which quickly look muddy.

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TESTING

I have tested this shoe on several types of terrain and in various weather conditions:

  • A 2-day ultra around the Isle of Wight with a total mileage of 117km in hot weather and on dry trail, road sections, grassy coastal trail and some short technical ascents. My conclusion: this shoe is very versatile – I had no issue moving from trail to road sections. The grip on dusty trail is very good.
  • A one-day 42km trail in Lanzarote running on dust roads, through very rocky lava fields, on beach sections in soft sand, on pebbles, on stones, gravel and up and down slippery dusty mountain sections in hot weather. My conclusion: the shoe offered great grip in dry conditions. I tend to be too careful and overly think technical descents but found that I had more confidence with the Terraclaw.
  • Wet muddy trail training runs in the Midlands in rainy cold weather. My conclusion: If the terrain is not too muddy the Terraclaw offers sufficient grip. However, I felt it lacked grip in extreme boggy conditions.
  • Training runs on the West Highland Way. My conclusion: Good shoe for this type of terrain which is not extremely technical and very runnable.
  • Wet training runs on the fells in the Lakelands. My conclusion: Again I feel the shoe does not offer sufficient grip on really boggy and slippery terrain.
  • Training in the Mourne mountains in Northern Ireland. My conclusion: The shoe was great on forest path and trail sections but lacked grip on wet rocky sections on descents and steep grassy descents. The Mudclaw 300 would probably be more suitable for this kind of terrain.
  • Training runs on forest path near Paris. My conclusion: The shoe is very versatile and transitions comfortably from hard road surfaces to softer forest terrain.

CONCLUSION:

PROS:

  • I like it – I’m already on my second pair.
  • The patented Dynamic Fascia Band™ technology favors a more economical and thus more efficient run style.
  • The Dual-C grip is sufficient for moderately wet conditions.
  • This model is extremely comfortable.
  • It is lightweight shoe with ample protection and great cushioning.
  • I love the roomy toe box.
  • Great color
  • Very versatile shoe – an all-rounder

CONS:

  • I’m on my second pair. It lacks durability mainly due to lug wear.
  • It doesn’t offer sufficient grip in more extreme conditions

If you’d prefer the same show with a lower drop (4mm) the 220 version is available with a unique lacing style.

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TECHNICAL SPECS

Weight: 250G / 9OZ

Fit: STANDARD

Footbed: 6MM

Midsole: COMPRESSED EVA

Shank: DFB™

Drop: 8MM

Sole: TERRACLAW™

Compound:DUAL-C

Running a mult-day race? Check out our training camp http://d.pr/f/18cqZ

inov-8 website HERE

Inov8 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. The higher mileage version of the TERRACLAW™ range, this shoe delivers extra protection and comfort courtesy of a full rand and higher stack height.

Tips for the TRAIL – Shoe Choice

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Following on from Marc Laithwaites’ series of articles (HERE) that covered many aspects of our sport (butter in coffee? Posture? Hydration?) we now have series of articles on ‘Tips for the TRAIL’ –  from Marc and Ian.

TRAIL Tips 1: Choose the Shoes

We get a lot of questions about footwear for trail running. There is no single pair of shoes which will be suitable for every race. Fact! You may have to compromise grip for cushioning, or cushioning for grip and your shoe selection will be based various factors such as the following:

  1. The kind of terrain you are running or racing on.
  2. The distance you are racing and the time on feet.
  3. Your running style.
  4. Risks to injury
  5. What drop?
  6. Minimal or maximal?

Here’s our simple guide to selecting shoes:

1. Shoes can generally be split into ‘TRAIL’ or ‘FELL/MOUNTAIN’. Trail shoes tend to have more cushioning and are designed for hard packed trails such as canal towpath and forest track. Fell/Mountain shoes tend to have less cushioning but a more aggressive grip and are more suited to muddy tracks or running ‘off the paths’ on rough terrain. Wearing Fell/Mountain shoes could potentially cause problems on hard packed tracks due to the repeated impact and Trail shoes for example could potentially have insufficient grip and stability for severe ‘off track’ running.

2. Stability (how likely are you to twist your ankle) is better in Fell/Mountain shoes as they are lower to the ground (less cushioning), thereby improving balance, control and feel. However, Trail shoes don’t always need the same level of stability and control as a fell shoe  as hard pack tracks and trails provide a more even and predictable surface than rocky, ‘off track’ routes.

3. Minimalist or ‘barefoot’ shoes have been popular in recent years, due largely to the book ‘Born to Run’. There is a current shift by shoe manufacturers away from the minimalist trend, towards over-cushioning. Minimalist shoes were popular as a means of encouraging runners to land on their forefoot, rather than their heel. But think carefully before going to an ‘over’ cushioned shoe or a minimalist shoe! This article may add perspective HERE.

4. You don’t need to buy ‘minimalist’ shoes to encourage forefoot running. Forefoot running may well be natural for you but a shoes ‘drop’ will encourage and promote a running style. The drop is the difference between the thickness of the heel and the thickness of the forefoot. For example, if the heel cushioning is 12mm thick and the forefoot 8mm  thick, the drop is 4mm. The lower the drop and the more likely you are to run on the forefoot. The higher the drop, the more likely you are to heel strike. It’s not the amount of cushioning (minimal or maximal) which dictates forefoot or heel strike, it’s the difference between heel and forefoot. But be careful, don’t fall in to the trap of thinking low drop is best just because you see so many elite runners using this type of shoe. If in doubt, go for a 8mm drop shoe which sits nicely in the middle ground.

5. The current trend for over-cushioned shoes can include the ‘rocker system’. This encourages heel striking and a smooth roll onto the forefoot, rather than a harsh braking normally associated with heel striking.

6. Road shoes (and some trail/ mountain shoes) tend to fall into 2 distinct categories: Neutral V Support. People who pronate (roll in) excessively wear support and those who don’t wear neutral. Trail and Fell shoes tend not to come in both options, almost all are neutral and there are very few support options (but some do exist, the Salomon Seedcross a good example). If you are running over uneven terrain, your ankle position is rarely neutral, it’s only when you are repeatedly running on hard/flat surfaces (road or treadmill) that you can control your foot by choosing support or neutral shoes.

So when you head off to the store to purchase a pair of run shoes for off road, ask yourself some key questions.

  1. What terrain will I be running on?
  2. Do I require good cushioning or less cushioning?
  3. What drop do I want (zero, 2, 4, 6, 8, 12 are standard) ?
  4. Do I require a ‘precision’ fit in the toe box which provides more control or do I require a roomy toe box?
  5. How far am I going to be running in these shoes?
  6. Do I require any stability and support?

Remember, no one shoe will do all things well. That is why so many different shoes exist on the market. However, we don’t all have an unlimited budget. So in many scenarios, we often look for a one shoe fix. Some shoes are out there that do fit that ‘one shoe does all scenario,’ you just have to remember that usually when the trail gets very wet, very muddy or very technical, this is when the biggest compromise is made.

You only need to look at the recent ‘City Trail’ shoes or ‘Door to Trail’ shoes that are available and it doesn’t take long to realise that manufacturers also want to help you with that magic one shoe does all.

This website has many shoe reviews and here is a few of our most recent favourites:

  1. Salomon S-Lab 4 SG HERE
  2. Salomon S-Lab 4 HERE
  3. Salomon Sense Mantra 3 HERE
  4. The North Face HERE
  5. Scott Supertrac HERE
  6. Scott Trail Rocket HERE
  7. Montrail HERE
  8. inov-8 212 HERE
  9. inov-8 Terraclaw HERE
  10. inov-8 Baregrip 200 HERE