INOV-8 UNVEIL WORLD’S FIRST-EVER GRAPHENE FASTPACKING/ HIKING BOOTS – ROCLITE 345 GTX

Rare that I post a press release from any brand but I actually received these boots a week ago from inov-8 so that I could use them on my Nepal trek – info HERE

I was told, ‘You are going to be the first person to use them, so, please keep it quiet until we do an official release in 2019’

Well, inov-8 have moved things forward and today have released the shoe! So this post is just a heads-up on the new ROCLITE 345 GTX with Graphene.

I will be able to provide a full and in-depth review when I return from Nepal in January.

Press Release:

The world’s first-ever hiking boots to utilise graphene – the strongest material on the planet – have been unveiled by British brand inov-8.

Building on the international success of their pioneering use of graphene in trail running and fitness shoes last summer, the brand is now bringing the revolutionary technology to a market recently starved of innovation.

Just one atom thick and 200 times stronger than steel, wonder-material graphene has been infused into the rubber of inov-8’s new ROCLITE hiking boots, with the outsoles scientifically proven to be 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% harder wearing.

Collaborating with graphene experts at The University of Manchester, inov-8 is the first brand in the world to use the Nobel Prize winning material in sports shoes and now hiking footwear.

Michael Price, inov-8 product and marketing director, said: “Working with the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester, we’ve been able to develop rubber outsoles that deliver the world’s toughest grip.

“The hiking and outdoor footwear market has been stagnant for many years and crying out for innovation. We’ve brought a fresh approach and new ideas, launching lightweight, fast-feel products with graphene that will allow hikers, fast-packers and outdoor adventurers to get more miles out of their boots and grip to all terrains, no matter how gnarly.”

There are two ROCLITE boots with graphene-enhanced rubber grip (G-GRIP) – the ROCLITE 335 and the ROCLITE 345 GTX. The former offers increased warmth on cold days with PrimaLoft insulation in the upper of the shoe, while the latter has waterproof GORE-TEX protection for hiking adventures in wet conditions. The ROCLITE 335 weighs just 335g and the ROCLITE 345 GTX weighs just 345g. Both are available to buy now.

Commenting on the continued collaboration with The University of Manchester, inov-8 CEO Ian Bailey said: “Last summer saw a powerhouse forged in Northern England take the world of sports footwear by storm. That same powerhouse is now going to do likewise in the hiking and outdoors industry.

“We won numerous awards across the world for our revolutionary use of graphene in trail running and fitness shoes, and I’m 100% confident we can do the same in hiking and outdoors.

“Mark my words, graphene is the future, and we’re not stopping at just rubber outsoles. This is a four-year innovation project which will see us incorporate graphene into 50% of our range and give us the potential to halve the weight of shoes without compromising on performance or durability.”

Graphene is produced from graphite, which was first mined in the Lake District fells of Northern England more than 450 years ago. inov-8 too was forged in the same fells, albeit much more recently in 2003. The brand now trades in 68 countries worldwide.

The scientists who first isolated graphene from graphite were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010. Building on their revolutionary work, a team of over 300 staff at The University of Manchester has pioneered projects into graphene-enhanced prototypes, from sports cars and medical devices to aeroplanes and of course now sports and hiking footwear.

Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan, Reader in Nanomaterials at The University of Manchester, said: “Using graphene we have developed outsole rubbers that are scientifically tested to be 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% harder wearing.

“But this is just the start. Graphene is a such a versatile material and its potential really is limitless.”

The new ROCLITE boots with G-GRIP are available to buy from www.inov-8.com/g-grip and will soon be in-store via the brand’s retail partners worldwide.

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Equipment for Fastpacking in Nepal – A Guide

Having just returned from Nepal, I have once again had many questions from runners, hikers and enthusiasts on the equipment I used during the Everest Trail Race.

I would normally say, read ‘this’ post and send a link. However, over 7-years of going to Nepal and the Himalayas, I have constantly tweaked and changed equipment. In 2018 I made some significant changes. So, I have something to write about.

The Everest Trail Race is a 6-day multi-day running race. Runners aim to cover 160km over 6-stages with extremely varied terrain, huge altitude gain and descent and of course, they have altitude to deal with. They must carry all they need for the race. However, a tent is provided which they share, food is provided, and water is rationed and provided at specific checkpoints. The race is the ultimate fast packing exercise as runners obviously try to be as light as possible without compromising warmth and comfort. The race takes place in November, the prime trekking season in Nepal – days are usually sunny and warm and the nights are cold. At certain places on the route, nights can be very cold.

My equipment requirements are not too dissimilar to that of the runners as I to need to move over the trail as fast and light as possible. However, I also need to carry camera equipment. This is significant and adds KG’s instantly.

I have also learnt over the years that I do not like being cold.

In my first Nepal experience I went light (too light) and I was cold. A little extra weight with warmth and comfort is worth it, for me! But here in, this is where the challenge comes and actually, this is part of the fun of fastpacking and in particular, fastpacking in Nepal when the variables can be so great.

This is even more poignant now as I am planning to return to Nepal in a few weeks on a much longer and harder trek than the ETR and when temperatures will be considerably colder, especially at night.

One thing is for sure. You go trekking in Nepal and you will rarely change clothes and a shower/ wash will be a rarity. Accept it! Everyone will be the same so embrace this as part of the challenge. There are ways of dealing with this and I like to think of my clothing as day and night. During the day, I am wearing run clothing, and, in the evening, I am wearing more mountain specific clothing.

I am not the fastest on the trails, but I move considerably faster than nearly all the trekkers. So, I look more like a runner when trekking than a trekker. For example, trekkers will wear boots, trousers, and a shirt. I use run shoes, run tights and a run top.

It is also important to consider individual needs and individual strengths when looking at equipment and weight. For example, a 5ft woman weighing 50kg is going to have a very different set of abilities to a 6ft 85kg man. Keep this in mind!

My equipment list below is specific to me and my needs, but it does provide an excellent start point.

Disclaimer: No equipment or apparel was supplied by RAB, Osprey or Montane. They were all purchased items. The apparel by inov-8 was supplied and the Trail Talon 290 shoes were purchased by myself.

Sherpas and Porters are able to carry huge loads and weight…

PACK

I have used many packs over the years. The runners tend to use the Ultimate Direction Fastpack which is generally a great option. Other variants come from Raidlight, Salomon and so on. Typically, a capacity of 20-30L would be required.

I need to use a larger pack as I carry more, especially with the cameras.

For 2018 I used the OSPREY EXOS 38 which really was excellent. It had great comfort, flexibility and many features that made it a pleasure to use.

My other favourite packs, and to be honest, when I return in December, I will either use the Montane Ultra Tour 40 or 55 depending on my equipment needs? Both these packs are minimalist, light and very comfortable.

WARMTH WHEN SLEEPING

I have already said I like to be warm and layering is absolutely key to regulating temperature. Especially at night.

I do not take the warmest and biggest sleeping bag. The reason being I like to have flexibility. Such I have an unusually mild night, I still want to use my sleeping bag and not be too warm. However, if it’s cold – really cold – how do I get warm? Well, I have three options:

  1. Sleeping bag on its own
  2. Merino base top and bottom and sleeping bag
  3. Merino base top and bottom, down pants, down jacket and sleeping bag

I also have down socks that I would wear over merino wool socks. So, as you can see, I regulate temperature in a very controlled way. In addition, the above I can also wear gloves, a hat and a neck roll. Just wearing a hat really helps retain heat.

Layering is key!

Sleeping bag is a RAB INFINITY 500

Merino top is a RAB 120 long sleeve

Merino Bottoms are a RAB 120 pant

PHD down socks

JACKETS

I take two down jackets. One thinner than the other, again offering flexibility. This year I upgraded to a warmer down jacket, the RAB NEUTRINO PROand it was such a great choice! It was so warm, comfy and with a two-way zip it allowed flexibility of movement. It also had a great hood and high collar.

The lighter jacket was a RAB MICROLIGHTwith no hood. This offers excellent warmth in the morning and evening when on the trails. It also is excellent in my sleeping bag on colder nights. It packs small and is lightweight.

RAB SUPERFLUX HOODY is a great mid-layer that works well in the dry or wet and is excellent when the warmth of down is not required.

PANTS

I have used down pants previously but this year I used the RAB PROTON PANTS which are not down filled, a little heavier but more flexible for other uses and they are Primaloft. So, they can get wet and keep warm. Down cannot get wet!

HAT, GLOVES and ACCESSORIES

Hands and feet are so difficult to keep warm and for me, they are the areas I most struggle with. So, I have options:

RAB Merino liner glove

RAB Xenon Mitt (warm and waterproof)

RAB Windblock convertible gloves which allow me to use my camera

RAB Shadow Beanie (for day use)

RAB Beanie (for night use)

RAB neck tubes (usually have 2 or 3)

RAB hut slippers allow me to remove my run shoes and are also much warmer. I go a size bigger than needed so I can wear my down socks in them too.

DAY CLOTHING

My day hike/ run clothing is pretty conventional, and I have long been a fan of inov-8.

It is possible to wear shorts as day temperatures are usually very good, however, I prefer the flexibility of 3/4 tights as they also keep my knees warm.

I use the AT/C Merino Top, and should temperatures get high, I just roll the sleeves up. One great addition is that the sleeves have thumb holes, so, they also provide a great alternative to using gloves.

The AT/C soft-shell Pro Top is brilliant early morning or late afternoon when the warmth of a down jacket is not required. This jacket has been tweaked over the years and has some great features – high collar, good hood, two pockets and thumb loops to help keep hands warm.

Extreme Thermo Skull Hat keeps my head warm and the Extreme Thermo Mitts are excellent – much better than gloves.

Shoes are always a debatable point and very personal. I prefer to use a shoe with cushioning, a wide but not too wide toe box, adequate all-round grip and 8mm drop – the Trail Talon 290 is perfect for me and on the recent ETR were perfect every day!

TIPS

My inov-8 run apparel is for the day. As soon as I finish the day’s run or trek. I immediately get changed into my RAB Merino base layers and put on my overprints, down jacket and put on a hat. This makes sure I don’t sit in damp clothing.

The priority is then to get the day’s clothing dry. A priority if you are not carrying an alternate set of clothing.

EXTRAS

Extras add weight, but I do consider certain items to be essential.

  • SPOT Tracker for me just makes sense and is a great security blanket.
  • Mobile phone – get a Ncell sim when you land in Kathmandu. You can get a 30-day sim with 16gb of data for not much more than £10. Coverage on the trails now is pretty good!
  • POLES – I use Black Diamond Z Poles, they are light, fold and are essential on the relentless climbs and descents.
  • EARPHONES – handy at night when relaxing.
  • EAR PLUGS
  • BLINDFOLD
  • HEAD TORCH and batteries
  • WET WIPES
  • MICRO FIBRE TOWEL
  • BASIC TOILETRIES
  • PEN
  • PASSPORT
  • WATERPROOF COMPRESSION BAG

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

Based on what type of trek you are doing, where you are going and when you are going, the requirements will vary here. For example, I am returning to Nepal in December and I will need light crampons and an ice axe.

The simple thing with any extra is that it adds weight. So, always ask the question, ‘Do you really need it?’

Read about the Everest Trail Race HERE

Read about the 2017 edition of the race HERE

And now, what is next for me….

Well, Nepal captures my imagination like no other place. Last year after the ETR I returned and did the whole race on foot in the same timescale as the race itself. It was a wonderful experience.

So, this December, the plan is to fly into Lukla and then do the high passes with some serious additions visiting Base Camps and peaks:

  • Gokyo RI
  • Everest Base Camp
  • Ama Dablam Base Camp
  • Tabuche Peak
  • Thamserku Base Camp

SCHEDULE DECEMBER:

18th – Depart for LUKLA go straight to Namche

19th – Namche – Tengboche – Namche (acclimatisation)

20th – Namche – Thame – Lumde

21st – Lumde – Renjo La – Gokyo – Gokyo RI – Gokyo

22nd – Gokyo – Dragnag – Cho La – Dzongla

23rd – Dzongla – Lobuche – Gorakshep

24th – Gorakshep – EBC – Gorakshep – Lobuche

25th – Lobuche – Dingboche – Somare

26th – Somare – Ama Dablam Base Camp – Pangboche

27th – Pangboche – Tabuche Peak – Pangboche

28th – Pangboche – Namche – Monjo

29th – Monjo – Thamserku Base Camp – Monjo

30th – Monjo – Lukla

31st – Lukla – KTM

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inov-8 TERRAULTRA G 260 #Graphene – First Impressions

It’s a new phase in the history of inov-8, for over 10-years the UK based brand have pioneered shoe development for running. Now, in 2018, they launch products with Graphene – a new material that is lighter and more long-lasting than previous 

Three models are currently available:

F-Lite 290 G

Mudclaw 260

And the Terraultra G260 which I am currently testing.

The Technology

Graphene – is an enhanced rubber that offers grip and longevity. Previously, a soft rubber has provided grip but you always compromised on the outsole life. Graphene looks to change that! It is 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% harder wearing.

Kevlar – The upper is made of a breathable mesh with Kevlar overlays. Kevlar has been used in bulletproof vests.

The Shoe

Out of the box, it’s noticeable how light this shoe is, the ‘260’ refers to the weight of the shoe (as with all inov-8 shoes) in a standard UK8 size.

I wear a UK9.5 and the G260 is true to size. Shoes by inov-8 are now scaled 1-5 for width, 1 being narrow, 5 being wide. The G260 is a ‘4’ but I would say it may almost drift to a ‘5.’ Importantly, if you need a wide toe box or need a wide toe box, these shoes will appeal.

Notably, the G260 is zero drop. This is a bold move by inov-8 and I will be interested to know if they plan to expand the G260 shoe with 4mm and/ or 8mm drop? Certainly, there has been much demand and request for a zero drop shoe, and although a zero drop version of the G260 makes sense, I am surprised not to see a 4 and 8mm drop versions. This is particularly relevant due to the intended use of the shoe. This is an out-and-out trail shoe designed for long run days. I personally prefer a 8mm drop shoe when running longer… but hey, that is me!

With 9mm of cushioning, the G260 is a comfortable shoe with adequate cushioning for long trail days for runners with good run form.

The upper and the outsole is where we really see the technology. The upper is very impressive and very resilient – it is very strong with breathable mesh and Kevlar overlays. The outsole is the star of the show and is hard wearing and offers excellent grip. This is the Graphene technology! As this is a trail shoe, the outsole has grip (4mm lug) but it is not aggressive, it’s a shoe that is designed for all surfaces in wet or dry but not for mud. If you are running in mud you need a different shoe, for example the Graphene Mudclaw 260.

First Impression

Green. That was my first impression. Yes, theses shoes are GREEN. Ain’t no hiding in these shoes and although they would not be my chosen colour, I can see why inov-8 have chosen this colour for the three new Graphene models – they stand out and are easily noticeable.

I mentioned above that they are light. They are, super light.

Slipping them on I immediately noticed how wide the toe box is, considering these are zero drop shoes, I can certainly see Altra shoe users moving over or at least being curious as to how the G260’s run. For me, the ‘4’ width fitting could even drift to a ‘5’ based inov-8’s width fitting scale – I found them very roomy.

The lacing eyelets are fabric stitched through into the upper and the all important additional eyelets are added to the top should one with to ‘lock lace’ or using a simulated lacing technique. I really disliked the laces. I don’t know what it is about them but they always wanted to loosen off, for me anyway. That is just annoying. It’s a minor problem which easily rectified.

The tongue is sewn into the shoe and gusseted. This is great for keeping out debris and providing a secure and welcome foot hold. I found with the wider toe box that I wanted to pull my laces a little tighter than normal to give me a secure and confident feel.

The upper is made of a green breathable mesh and the structure/ rigidity of the upper is created by Kevlar overlays. Notably, Kevlar is the toe protection and then it spreads out like fingers on the side of the shoe to the laces. Pulse the laces tight and the Kevlar pulls in and provides the hold for the foot. Inov-8 have added gaiter eyelets on the rear of the upper should you like to add the optional extra. A solid green band extends around the rear of the shoe, again adding some structure and stability.

The heel box is plush and like all inov-8 shoes I have tested, is very comfortable, run free and provides a firm and secure hold.

I always try to wear any new shoes for a day at home before going for a run. It helps me decide if there will be any issue points and it also helps bed the shoes in. The G260 was our of the box comfortable – really comfortable! I have to say, I am not a zero drop runner, 3/4mm is usually as low as I go. I actually questioned if the G260 was zero drop, they didn’t feel like it. But when I put an 8mm drop shoe on, I really noticed the difference.

My first run was a standard 12km loop which I use for all shoe tests, the reason being is that it has a little of everything. It starts and ends with 1-mile of road at the beginning and end. It has 4km of canal toe path and then what follows is a mix of trail, rocks, stones, forest path, single-track, climbing and descending.

On the road, the G260 felt really great. So much so, I wouldn’t hesitate doing a road run in them. I was conscious over the early mile to run with good form. My mind was telling me I was in zero drop and therefore my technique needed to be good. However, as in my apartment, the run experience was telling me I was in a low-drop shoe, but not zero.

The canal path section was ticked along and after a very dry and sunny patch of weather, the trails were very hard and the G260 flew along them. On the single-track sections and climbing, the shoes performed solidly. Grip at all times was secure and confident. 

Running a long descent is when I really noticed the wide toe box. I had less control than in a precision shoe, but my toes splayed well. They were too wide for me!

As with many inov shoes, they have Meta-Flex, this allows the shoe the bend at the front and those therefore helps with the propulsive phase and toe-off. I found the G260 very flexible.

By the end of the first run, I had run 12km in 65 minutes and had had no issues. On the contrary, I was really impressed with the G260.

After 140km

I have used the G260 on alternate days since receiving them, the primary reason for this being is that zero drop is not my chosen drop, so, I wanted to make sure I reduced the risk of picking up an injury. However, every time I have gone for a run, I have wanted to use the G260 – yes, I like them that much.

They give a very different feel to my current favourite shoes and ironically they are all 8mm drop.

The longest I have run in the G260 is 2-hours and that for me currently feels far enough. I definitely think about my run technique more when using these; no bad thing! But that is mentally tiring. For those who always run zero drop, I think you are going to find the G260 a revelation.

The outsole and upper are showing no signs of any wear at all but I guess with only 140km covered, it is too early to give judgement on long term life. I will come back to that in a month.

It’s a shoe that feels very much of an all-rounder, one that can handle road and trail. In dry conditions I am really impressed, grip is excellent. I haven’t been able to test in the wet as we have had no rain, so, I will have to come back to you on that one.

The cushioning at 9mm is adequate providing enough comfort but not so much that a feel for the ground is compromised. However, on rocky ground, particularly with small stones, I could feel them! There is no rock-plate so you feel a great deal. I also found the cushioning a little lifeless… Some sparkle is missing? It’s fair to say, that with zero drop, the G260 is aimed at efficient runners, so the cushioning should be ideal.

Upper and fit are excellent, I have had no hot spots and the gusseted tongue is a winner. Heel box is perfect holding the foot secure at all times, be that running downhill, climbing, walking or running. I really disliked the laces so I replaced them. On occasion I have ‘lace locked’ the shoes to provide a more secure and firm hold of the foot.

For me, although I enjoy a wide toe box, I would say these feel a little too wide. I am noticeably pulling the laces in tighter to provide a more secure feel. So, if you like wide or need wide, the G260 should be a great shoe for you.

Summary

Early impressions are really good of the G260 and I am absolutely convinced it is going to appeal to many. I personally would use the shoes daily if it were not for the zero drop, but that is me! I am certainly going to be interested to see if 4mm and or 8mm drop versions become available?

The more aggressive Mudclaw 260 Graphene version has 4mm drop and the classic 8mm studs, so, if mud is your thing, you have an option to the G260.

However, if you want one shoe that can do everything well (not sloppy mud) in a zero drop, the G260 is a shoe for you to consider.

Personally, several issues are worth considering: 

  1. The toe box is wide and maybe too wide for some. 
  2. I found the cushioning a little lifeless? 
  3. At 9mm cushioning this is a shoe for efficient runners.
  4. Zero drop is not for everyone.
  5. So far, the Graphene and Kevlar are doing the job that inov-8 say – good grip and less wear and tear.

I will feedback more after long-term testing.

You can view the Graphene range and find out more information on the inov-8 website https://www.inov-8.com/us/terraultra-g-260-mens-womens?___store=us

inov 8 X-TALON 210 Shoe Review

The inov 8 X-TALON range for 2018 has had a reworking. Always a tricky subject, especially with such a classic shoe in the inov 8 line-up. But as history shows, this shoe is 10-years old and has had many incarnations.

So, what is different for 2018?

Well, first and foremost, STICKY GRIP. This new outsole compound is inov 8’s new secret weapon for holding a runner on the ground when conditions are challenging, in particular, wet and slippery rocks.

The second key aspect is the reworking of the shoes upper. Now depending which X-TALON you have, the upper will be different. For example, I have just reviewed the X-TALON 230 HERE and the upper on the 230 is a world away from the upper on the 210.

So, here goes!

THE SHOE

Orange! Whoa, yep, you are going to be seen coming in these babies on your first outing. I strongly suggest, going in the garden and rubbing them in the soil before venturing out. I wore sunglasses for the first day of testing. I joke obviously, but the 210 is a bright shoe, one could easily be put off by the colour, but let’s face it, if you are using the shoe in the place it is intended for, they are only bright for one outing!

In comparison to the X-TALON 230 (here) the 210 appears super light and airy – funny as there is only 20g difference between the shoes. The upper is light, very breathable and has the now traditional inov 8 overlays that gives the upper its structure. They are light and fast and gladly they have a gusseted tongue to give a slipper like feel. They feel very different to the 230’s – I would go as far to say that they are not comparable. They are completely two different shoes. So, whereas in the past you may have two pairs of X-Talon’s with different drops and have a similar feel between the two, now that is not the case. So, if you fancy 230’s with more cushioning, 6mm drop and a tough upper, make sure you try them first.

The 210 is 1 arrow, so, 3mm drop. Fit is scaled as 2, so, they are at the narrow end of inov 8’s fit gauge but not as narrow as the 230’s which scale as 1. Have to say, I prefer the fit of the 2.

The outsole, like the 230’s, is STICKY GRIP with classic 8mm lugs – a winning combo!

Cushioning is pretty minimal with 6mm at the front and 9mm at the rear.

This is a shoe that has racing written all over it.

MORE DETAIL

The fit is slipper like and the 2-grade fit is pretty sweet allowing a little room for toe splay but not at the loss of control or precision when running. Of course, fit is all relative and based on an individual’s foot. However, I keep saying this, if you want a shoe for fast and technical running, it can’t be sloppy. It must fit and hold the foot – the 210’s does this perfectly.

The upper is very soft and flexible. The fit and security all comes from the overlays and in particular the 5 that lead to the lace eyelets.

The overlay extends round to the front of the shoe and the outsole extends up to provide a little toe protection. Toe protection is minimal, especially when one compares to the 230’s!

The upper is very breathable and there is method to this! inov 8 are recommending this shoe for the obvious fell, mountain, trail, obstacle course running but with the new addition of swim/run – a fast growing sport! Cleverly, the upper does not absorb or retain water and it has been Designed to actively encourage water (or sweat even) to escape. Obviously, this is key for swim/run but I can also see this being a great feature for any races or courses where one may be in and out of water. For example, the 210 would be a great shoe for the multi-stage race in Costa Rica, The Coastal Challenge – here participants on certain stages are in and out of water all the time. The heal box is snug, comfortable, holds the foot perfectly and caused no issues .

The outsole is a key feature of the 210 just as in the 230. STICKY GRIP is the new secret weapon. Basically, it’s a new compound of outsole that is softer and stickier than previous inov 8 outsoles. In mud, on trails, on fells etc there is little noticeable difference as the 8mm lugs do the job they have all done. What is noticeable is the additional grip on rock, particularly when wet. This is a great USP and maybe even more so for this shoe with a possible swim/run audience. 

IN USE

Unlike the 230, I slipped the 210 on and they immediately felt great – slipper like and definitely no breaking in required. I wore them around my home and soon didn’t notice them.

The 2 fit is as mentioned is narrow/ precision but not super narrow and I really liked the feel – this was helped by the soft upper and the gusseted tongue. The shoes upper combination works really well and once I adjusted the laces to personal feel and preference, I just knew that I was going to be happy in them.

With minimal cushioning and 3mm drop, this is not a shoe for everyone, or maybe I should clarify and say, that for some people, it is a shoe they should use sparingly. It’s a fast and light shoe designed for an efficient runner. The shoe is very flexible and just urges you to push on with the META FLEX on the outsole really helping with the propulsive phase.

Although cushioning is relatively minimal, the EVA FUSION works really well and providing excellent comfort. The shoes are so low to the ground, they are a little like taking a F1 car out for a drive. Hoka One One shoes for example would be a double decker bus.

A mile of road had me clipping along, right on my toes and then I suddenly realized I didn’t have the fitness for the pace the shoes made me want to run. So, racers out there are going to love this feel! On a muddy tow path, the 8mm studs gripped as they have always done and I had 100% confidence, the low-drop adding to that secure feel.

The 210 certainly gets you on your toes. I purposely tried to run slower and heal strike to get a feel of how the shoe would respond – it just felt all wrong. So, I speeded back up and got back on my toes.

On a wet grassy bank, the outsole gripped away and in the really thick mud that followed, I was over my ankles with soft, wet, brown stuff. Here I noticed two things, the 8mm lugs were trying to gain purchase in the harder ground below, at times they did, at times they didn’t – that is the nature of thick mud. One thing is for sure, in most other shoes I would have hit the deck! The second thing I noticed was how the shoes filled with mud but noticeably on the harder trail that followed, the shoes squelched and squelched, and I could see the mud escape from the uppers! I normally miss a small river on my run, yes, to avoid getting my feet wet, but I had to test the swim/ run capability. Apart from the water being bloody freezing, the shoes and uppers worked a treat. I was really impressed to see the water escape as I ran down the follow-on trails.

Wet rocks have been a hit and miss affair with inov 8 in the past but I can confirm, just as I found in the 230’s (here) that the new STICKY GRIP is a huge step forward for the inov 8 outsole. It is definitely getting more purchase and thus providing more security which in turn allows one the confidence to run at speed.

Most of my runs in the 210 have been between 5-12 miles. I haven’t gone past 100 minutes in any one run and in all honesty, for me, I would probably say 2-hours would be the max I would want to run in such a light, minimal and low-drop shoe. But that is me! My preferred drop is 6 or 8mm and most scenarios I prefer a little more cushioning. A light, fast and efficient runner I am sure could run longer in them!

Nearly all my runs have 1 mile of road at the start and end. With 108 miles in the 210 I can see the impact of the road sections, but it is not worrying. In all honesty, the 210 should only be used off-road and if I could, that is what I would do. The reality for most of us though is that a little road will always appear in our runs, so it is good to get a feel of the durability of the new STICKY GRIP. It’s still too early to say what that life is.

With extensive experience in Skyrunning races, I see the 210 being a perfect match for VK’s and SKY races (typically 20-30km) – in particular, the STICKY GRIP outsole would be most welcome on the technical, rocky and often wet ridges that can be encountered say in the Dolomites or the Alps.

CONCLUSION

The 210 is a winning shoe for efficient runners who want to be low to the ground feeling the terrain as though running barefoot without the discomfort. The combination of the light upper, precision fit and new sticky outsole makes them really stand out as a shoe distance racing shoe for fell, mountain and OC races. The upper certainly works really well at expelling water, so, if swim/run is your thing, they will be worth a look.

At 3mm drop and minimal cushioning, the 210 is definitely not for everyone. Certainly, I could not run in a shoe like this every day, but I think it’s fair to say that inov 8 don’t intent that to be the case. By way of clarity, the 210’s are a 2-seater car that sits in the garage, only to be used every now and again, whereas normally every day you drive around, say in a Ford Focus. Maybe the X-Talon 230’s are the Ford Focus and the X-Talon 210 is the Porsche 911?

inov 8 X-TALON 230 Shoe Review

The inov 8 X-TALON 230 may well be the most interesting shoe the UK based brand has released in many year’s. That is not to say that they have had dull shoes for the last 24-months, on the contrary, however, the X-TALON 230 feels like the next step!

The X-TALON is well established in the inov-8 line-up, as inov 8 say, it’s the ‘original!’ So, what is difference?

Well, two things stand out!

The upper

The outsole

Inov 8 may not me like me mentioning the VJ Sport IRock 2 but last year, that shoe stepped up the mark and blew my socks off in terms of upper, outsole, comfort and grip.

The X-TALON 230 is now a rival.

The upper is unlike any other shoe in the inov 8 range – it is bullet proof! This will be music to the ears of many inov 8 users who have wanted a shoe that is more durable to the rigours of fell, mountain, trail, obstacle racing and orienteering. At first glance, the shoe looks heavy and then you pick it up and suddenly you realise it is not!

 The toe area is well protected with a good solid bumper but it’s the upper material and the overlays that stand out. There is a great deal of protection going on here. It has the Met-Cradle as seen on other inov shoes, this version is beefier.

The heal box is classic inov 8 providing a snug and secure hold. The upper is non-water absorbing which combined with the fitted gusset tongue should mean dry socks providing you don’t go ankle deep in mud or water.

A reinforced area goes all the way around the shoe and above this, reinforced sections lead to the lace loops which again, add more security and hold to the shoe.

At the rear, the shoes have the inov 8 gaiter loop and the All-Terrain Gaiter can be added to add to the overall protection and comfort of the shoe.

 It is a precision fit shoe classed as scale 1* – this means the narrowest shoe that inov 8 do. For example, a 5 is wide (2E fit). So, if you are a Hobbit, this is not for you! To clarify though, when one is running on challenging, muddy and technical trail, a shoe should be close fitting with a precision feel. I don’t consider myself to be a ‘1’ fit but the control a tight-fitting shoe is worth it. For me, the comports would come with how long I could run in such a precision shoe before having any discomfort, for others this is not a problem. I certainly had no issue with the X-Talon 230 for 4 hours on the trails. Drop is ‘2 arrow’ which is 6mm and the cushioning is 7mm at the front and 13mm at the rear. So, for many, this is not a shoe for ultras – again though, this is so dependent on experience and conditioning.

There is certainly enough cushioning for many hours. Comfort comes from POWERFLOW+ which has better shock absorption and energy return.

The STICKY GRIP is arguably the second big talking point on the shoe. The classic 8mm lug has been retained and as we all know, the X-Talon grip has long excelled in the mud or on fells. However, grip has been compromised in the past on wet rock…

Now inov 8 have a compound that sticks and grabs rock like a good climbing shoe. It’s a huge improvement and one that increases confidence dramatically. It’s a winner over the old outsole.

The usual Meta Flex is present at the front which allows the foot to bend easily, aiding the propulsive phase of the run. A Fascia Band and Meta Plate add protection from rocks and harder objects – something that inov 8 users have been asking for some time. 

IN USE 

Slipping the 230 on it felt different. I have to say, I have been using inov 8 shoes for years and in any model, I am a UK9.5, in the 230 I questioned if I had the correct size? They somehow felt too long?

I held them against the new X-Talon 210 (review *HERE *to follow) and they may be just a ‘little’ larger – nothing to worry about. I walked around in them looking for them to settle.

The shoe has a gusseted tongue so holding the foot is really secure and the heal box has the usual comfort and feel I would expect. But something was niggling me?

I left the shoes on all day and as the time past and the more I flexed and moved my foot, the better the 230 started to feel. I concluded it was all down to the new upper being considerably more durable and less flexible than other models I have used before. So, keep this in mind. I have never had to break an inov 8 shoe in before, but I did with the 230. 

I wore the shoes for a good 8 hours before going for a run – an 8-mile loop that includes a little of everything. A 1-mile road start, canal towpath and then open fields, fell, and rocky sections before returning back to the road for a finishing 1.5 mile of the hard stuff.

Grip was noticeable on the road with the 230 making that classic sucking noise as I lifted each foot – reassuring! Think it’s fair to say, you want to avoid roads and tarmac in these shoes if you can, they are for off-road and while they handle the hard stuff well, that new STICKY GRIP will soon start to wear away.

Off road they had classic X-TALON feel with the 8mm lugs gripping just as my favourite X-Talon 212’s had done in the past. The noticeable difference came from the additional protection – I was feeling less stones digging into my foot and when I went on wet rocks, the grip continued to hold. The STICKY GRIP is a big improvement.

The upper will be a winner in the long-term but does feel different and I have to say, makes the shoe feel more inflexible. Less slipper like. But it will mean that the upper will last for considerably longer. The question will be, can the STICKY GRIP last as long as the upper? It’s too early to say.

Providing you don’t get mud or water coming over the top of the shoe, your feet will remain dry. The new upper along with the gusseted tongue certainly keeps everything out. To be honest, I only think this becomes really important on long runs when you may be worried about looking after your feet. For runs of 1-2 hours I am more than happy if my feet get wet. I did notice my feet got hotter than normal when running in Lanzarote, so, I would say the upper is less breathable.

I now have 164 miles in the 230’s and I would say that they are now feeling really great. They definitely need breaking in and getting wet, covered in mud multiple times to ‘soften’ up. The support, hold and security is excellent. You feel really safe in the 230’s especially on wet rock, a place I felt compromised before, say in the 212. 

CONCLUSION

 The X-Talon 230 as I said at the start, is a new venture for inov 8. They are bullet proof shoes that should last-and-last providing the STICKY GRIP has long life? Certainly, based on my use up to know, the upper will keep going long after the outer sole gives out… But I don’t know when that is yet? With 6mm drop, a little more cushioning and the durable upper, I see the 230’s being the perfect long-distance race shoe or training shoe. As the name suggests, at 230g (for a standard size) they are light shoes but they don’t necessarily feel light and I think that is quite simply down to the durability of the new upper. So, for shorter sessions the new X-Talon 210 may well be a better option. I have a review to follow on these so please be patient.

The X-Talon 230 is narrow but after say 6-8 runs I didn’t think about this anymore. My foot never felt stifled by the shoe so that is a good thing.

The new added protection and STICKY GRIP is most certainly a winner – extra grip is always good, especially on wet rock.

FINALLY

I need to come back with a follow-on review of the 230’s as they reach their last days of use. Currently I feel I have unanswered questions that can only truly be answered with the passing of time.

 The X-Talon 230 on inov 8 website HERE 

*inov 8 shoe grading:

We have graded the fit of all our shoes from 1 to 5 to make it easy for you to find the perfect fitting shoe. All our shoes are designed with Met-Cradle technology to lock down the mid-foot for a stable hold. Where they differ is in the toe box. Grade 1 represents our closest, most precise fit. At the other end of the scale, Grade 5 has the widest fitting toe box.

We have meticulously studied the foot and its function during the gait cycle and also the interaction between the foot and the terrain. We have used this knowledge to develop our fitting scale. For technical footwear a good fit is essential to enhance your performance.

The lower the number on our scale, the narrower the fit, which ensures minimal internal movement of the foot when running fast on technical terrain. Shoes with the higher numbers on our scale will suit athletes with a wider foot and those wanting that extra comfort in the toe box. This wider toe box allows the toes to splay for increased stability when lifting heavy weights. It’s also perfect for longer runs and races when toes begin to swell.

As a rough guide, Grade 1 represents an industry B fit, while Grade 5 equates to a 2E fit in the forefoot.

 

Royal Ultra SkyMarathon® Gran Paradiso Race Summary and Images – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

With a course profile that looks like a shark’s dental record and with 10-peaks to ascend and descend over a 55km course, the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series went EXTREME For the first time in 2017! 4287m of vertical gain awaited the runners in the stunning location of Ceresole Reale, Italy, a stunning mountain location towered over by the stunning 4000m peak of Gran Paradiso.

Starting at 0630, a stunning day of blue skies welcomed the runners, the early morning chill soon swept away with the arrival of the sun.

Andre Jonsson who last weekend placed 4th at High Trail Vanoise was showing incredible powers of recovery leading Zaid Ait Malek, Pere Aurell,  Bhim Gurung, Benat Marmisolle, The five ran together over the first high-peak in the National Park and the second peak coming at around 12km with 2-hours 15-minutes elapsed on the clock. They were separated by seconds matching each other’s moves.

By contrast, Zegama-Aizkorri and Livigno SkyMararhon champion Maite Maiora, was showing all the ladies a clean pair of heals. She took a grasp of the race very early on and despite being chased by Katie Schide, Ekaterina Mityaev and Natalia Tomasiak amongst other.

With 4-hours elapsed, the summit of Colle della Porta at 3002m saw a surge from Pere Aurell as he ran fast through the snow fields that followed the tough climb to the summit – Andre Jonsson, Bhim Gurung and Beat Marmisolle all followed with less than a minute separating them. Following and hoping to bridge the gap was Dimitry Mityaev, Zaid Ait Malek and Hector Haines.

Maite Maiora arrived in the same location, her lead was now extended beyond 30-minutes to Katie Schide and Ekaterina Mityaev following over 10-minutes back.

The race was now on in the men’s race, the quartet watching each other and at times changing lead like in a cycling peloton however Andre Jonsson was still pushing but the elastic wouldn’t snap. Passing Colle del Nivole they had a short decent and then climbed to Colle Della Rocca Bianche at 2670m. Again, less than a couple of minutes separated the four front runners but the long descent took its toll and with the final climb to Colle del Nel at 2551m to come, the pressure was on.

Andre Jonsson and Bhim Gurung took the lead but Jonsson started to feel the pressure and although Gurung complained of feeling tired, he unleashed his incredible descending ability on the final 1000m to drop to the line to open a huge gap and take victory just like he did earlier in the year in China at Yading Skyrace. Jonsson earned an incredible 2nd place 10-minutes back, 6:51:37 to Gurung’s 6:41:24. Pere Aurell fought cramps to finish 3rd and Benat Marmisolle held off a charging Cristofer Clemente to finish 4th.

Maite Maiora crossed the line in 8:05:28 having dominated the ladies’ race. It was a stunning victory and confirms her as one of the best female Skyrunners in the world. Katie Schide finished 2nd and Ekaterina Mityaev finished 3rd, 8:37:02 and 8:48:23 respectively.

The 55km course wound through the Gran Paradiso National Park in the royal hunting grounds, hence the ‘Royal’ title, runners will compete with ibex and chamois. Starting at a lake at an altitude of 2000m, participants traversed five passes – the magnificent Gran Paradiso mountain provided a stunning backdrop towering over the race at 4061m. Moraines, rocks, streams and snowfields provide an ultimate extreme challenge.

Next race in the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series is the Dolomites SkyRace that will celebrate its 20th edition – a pure Sky Classic!

all images ©iancorless.com

A full image gallery will be uploaded to iancorless.photoshelter.com HERE

INOV-8 Shoe Review X-TALON 225

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN USE

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUMMARY

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

  • Low drop
  • Light
  • Minimal
  • Deep lugs

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

SPECS

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

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inov-8 ROCLITE 305 Review

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One month ago, the new ROCLITE arrived at my home, not just one pair but 3 pairs – the 290, 305 and 325. I wrote a first impressions article HERE and it would make sense to have a read of that before reading on.

In summary, the 290 is 4mm drop, the 305 8mm drop and the 325 is 8mm drop but a running boot. The running boot is for a specific audience I believe and although it’s a product I love using, I am going to save any talk on the 325 for my review that will come out in the New Year. Having said that, much of what I write in this review of the 305 directly transfers to the 325 – they are to all intents and purposes the same!

I run in shoes of varying drop all the time, however, lower drop shoes like the 290 (4mm) are usually reserved for shorter runs be they fast or slow. Once I run beyond an hour, an 8mm drop shoe works perfectly for me and without doubt it is my ‘drop’ of choice.

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Therefore, when the ROCLITE’s arrived late November and I had a trip planned to La Palma (the home of Transvulcania) it was an easy decision to pick up the 305 with the intention of well and truly giving them a battering on this tough, challenging, rocky and gnarly terrain.

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The ROCLITE range of shoes, for me, are designed for mountain running in wet or dry conditions when the trail can be very varied or unpredictable. Although the shoe can handle a little mud, it’s not a shoe for those conditions and without doubt, if you plan to run on grass, mud, fell or similar, I think inov-8 make far better shoes for that, try the X-Talon for example.

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I have used many, many shoes and I have tried and tested countless inov-8 shoes and despite the ROCLITE being around for appx 10-years, it’s not a shoe that I have used a great deal. So, I hold my hands up, this review is based on ‘this’ shoe and I can offer no comparisons to previous incarnations.

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As with many inov-8 shoes, the looks and colours are very pleasing. You can’t go wrong with red and black and out of the box they were saying to me, ‘wear me!’

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Looking over the shoe, a couple of things stood out. The tongue is part of the upper and not a tongue sewn into the upper. Anyone who reads my shoe reviews knows that I LOVE gusseted tongues so I was eager to slide these shoes on. I was not disappointed. I would go as far to say that the 305 is THE most snug and comfortable shoe I have worn – that is saying something! They are the most slipper like run shoes I have worn, so much so, that I could imagine removing the laces and walking around the house in them. Adding to the package is a completely seamless inner, even the ‘insole’ is part of the shoe (you can’t remove it) making it snug, snug, snug!

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Going for a run in them instantly felt comfortable. I mentioned in my ‘first impressions’ that I thought the shoes in the ROCLITE range sized a 1/2 size too small. Now I am not sure? Sorry for being indecisive but I have run in them for 1-month and I have been very happy, I must stress though that I used a thinner sock than normal. What is noticeable, say over the TRAIL TALON (here) and X-CLAW (here) is that the ROCLITE is narrower in the toe box. I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘precision’ fit shoe but it is certainly less spacious than the Talon or Claw.

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The other notable point is that the front of the shoe (toe box) is just material with no additional overlays or support other than a reinforced bumper to protect toes against unwanted collisions. This had pros and cons. The pros were simple – a comfortable shoe that allowed my foot to flex, bend and adapt to the terrain. The cons were on technical descents, I found that at times I wanted just a little ‘more’ to hold my foot. It was a minor point and caused me no problems. What I did do to compensate was make sure I had the laces adjusted and tightened correctly.

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The trails in La Palma are harsh, really harsh. It’s jagged, volcanic, gravel, sand and abrasive rock that is irregular and punishing. It ruins shoes. In recent years, I have been out here and I have had shoes last for just the holiday. I must stress that this is not a criticism of the shoes but an indication of how harsh the terrain is.

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One’s foot is moved constantly to the left, right and it is twisted back and forth, noticeably the huge red ‘X’ on the rear of the ROCLITE offered some great stability and I didn’t roll my ankle once – unusual for me.

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The out-sole did work well on all the dry terrain, be that gravel, soft black lava sand, jagged irregular rocks or solidified volcanic lava. A run through a river bed that offered all manner of possibilities to slip and fall through a technical boulder session were brushed at one side with ease with the ROCLITE. Once you have confidence in a shoe, you can push harder and faster and the 305’s gave me that.

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Importantly though, on this terrain, protection is as important as grip and the META-SHANK and rock-plate combined with additional cushioning gave me a really solid and comfortable day out. The longest outing here has been 8-hours and my feet felt great. Rocks and rough terrain didn’t penetrate through the sole leaving me and my feet feeling jaded. Powerflow in the heel provided some real comfort and reassurance, particularly when walking… it’s tough out in La Palma and walking is a big part of any outing. Daily I always did anything from 400 to 2000+m of climbing and the META-FLEX at the front of the shoe allowed my foot to bend without hindrance.

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The lacing is unique as you pull in on web loops. It really does work! It works so well that you can pull the laces too tight. I struggled with the lacing at first, at times I tied the laces too right and other times I tied them too loosely. I eventually found a balance after 3-4 runs and once I got it dialed in, I found I had no need to adjust or adapt my laces once running. I am pleased to say that extra eyelets are provided at the top of the shoe should you need to ‘lock-lace’ or similar. The heel box was plush and caused no issues.

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In Conclusion

inov-8 have thrown a curve ball in at the end of 2016 and may well have provided me with one of my favourite shoes of the year. Yes, the ROCLITE 305 is that good. I have battered them on the trails out here with approximately 50-hours of running and they are showing signs of wear but they have survived really well and are good for many more hours. I can’t say the ROCLITE is my all out favourite shoe as it has a specific use. By contrast, to explain what I mean, the inov-8 X-CLAW for example can handle grass, mud and sloppy stuff and it would still be able to perform on rocky and mountainous trails like here in La Palma. Is the X-CLAW a better shoe? No! However, it may very well be a better all-rounder? If you are running on trail, be that a canal tow path or a rocky mountain trail in the Alps, the ROCLITE will take some beating and without doubt it’s going to be a shoe of choice for me in 2017. The fit, the snug upper, the seamless build and the gusseted tongue just make the 305 one of the best shoes I have run in. Add to that package 8mm drop, cushioning, a great outsole and other key inov-8 features such as the ‘X’ Lock, Adapterweb, Meta-Flex and Meta-Shank and this shoe is one to consider.

There are some downsides. The upper may lack some support in the toe area when running on technical terrain allowing the foot to move a little too much. The toe bumper is adequate and does offer protection but maybe it could be a little beefier? It’s a minor niggle. Finally, although the ROCLITE 305 is not a precision fit shoe, it is narrower than the Trail Talon or the X-Claw and therefore it may not work for some people? However, I would counter that by saying that on mountain and technical trails, too much movement in the toe box leads to insecurity and a lack of precision and confidence.

Ultimately, the ROCLITE 305 is a winner.

inov-8 website and shoe details and prices HERE

inov-8 – The New #ROCLITE Trail Shoes 290, 305 and 325 First Impressions

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I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked about the ROCLITE by inov-8. Every time I do a shoe review, I always get at least one email from someone asking, ‘Any news on Roclite’s from inov-8?’

Well for all those that have asked, you are now blessed with three new ROCLITE models:

The 290 with 4mm drop

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The 305 with 8mm drop

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The 325 with 8mm drop.

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It’s a ROCLITE party!

The ROCLITE has been around for 10-years and was, is a firm favourite for the hardcore inov-8 fans, so, the inclusion of three new models for 2017 is certainly going to make many people happy. The ROCLITE was first launched in 2006 and has had many variations and adaptations over the years.

In recent years, inov-8 have certainly started to look at their shoes in a different way and I can certainly see RACE ULTRA, TRAIL TALON and X-CLAW influences coming into the new line-up of ROCLITE.

For most people reading a review like this, they will be drawn to the 290 or 305 as they are conventional run shoes. The 325 is a boot and therefore will appeal to a very different client, or should I say, a very different use.

The 290 is 4mm drop and the 305 8mm drop. I had expected to be able to say that the characteristics of both shoes are the same, the only difference coming in drop/ cushioning. However, that is not the case!

The ROCLITE 305 and 325 initial review

Lets start with the 305 8mm drop shoe first as this for me is a great all around shoe and will appeal to many users. The characteristics of the 305 actually transfer directly to the 325 boot and the comments below are relevant for both.

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The 305 is a slightly heavier shoe with a little more cushioning than the 290 (if you didn’t know, the number in inov-8 shoe names refers to weight in like-for-like sizes, usually a UK8.5). It has an integrated gusseted tongue that is actually sewn into the shoe and therefore almost makes the shoe feel slipper like. The same applies for the 325 boot. This is a real winner in terms of holding the foot secure, firm and importantly it’s going to keep debris out!

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On the rear of the shoe on the outside is a huge ‘X’ in plastic that is sewn onto the upper – this adds support and theory will provide a more secure foot placement and reduce the ability to roll an ankle.

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The lacing is firm and secure and pulls in on web loops called ADAPTERWEB. In conjunction with the sewn in tongue if really does provide a secure and firm fit and hold of the foot.

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The words ‘POWERFLOW’ on the rear refer to the cushioning and shock absorption.

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The ROCLITE has a META-SHANK and rock plate which is a great addition for keeping the rugged, sharp and gnarly stuff from penetrating through the sole and providing discomfort or bruising while running.

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The front of the shoe has a toe cap that has been rubberised that will protect with any collisions of debris on the trail.

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The outsole is made from three different sticky rubber densities and has a 6mm lug that is designed to excel on trail that is rocky and technical in either the wet or dry. The outsole will handle some mud but other inov-8 shoes would do a better job of handling the wet, sloppy and slippery stuff. However, as is often the case these days, we are looking for a one stop shop when it comes to a running shoe and the ROCLITE may well set in the place nicely?

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In the first 1/3 of the outsole is META-FLEX – this allows the shoe to bend in just the right place allowing for an excellent propulsive phase when running. Sounds like jargon but it does work!

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Slipping the shoe on feels really smooth and although this is not a seamless upper, it feels like it. It’s one of the most comfy shoes I have used in a long time. However, the shoe does maybe feel a little small? I use UK9.5 in all my shoes, without exception and I always use UK9.5 in inov-8. All three of the ROCLITES (less so with the 290) but certainly the 305 and 325 make ne think I may require a 1/2 size larger. This may well be from the sewn in tongue and plush fit? I need to head out on the trails a little more to provide a definitive answer on this. Please remember this is a first impression article.

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The toe box has room but certainly feels more of a ‘precision’ fit than say the TRAIL TALON or X-CLAW. Again, as mentioned above I may need a 1/2 size larger and that would certainly impact on how the toe box feels. However, the ROCLITE range certainly feels as though hey re designed to provide a detailed, responsive and controlled ride on the trail with a mire secure and precious hold so that fast moving on more technical trail has precision.

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The heel box is plush, secure and holds the foot firm. In the 325 boot I have noticed a little additional pressure/ tension on my right achilles with the way the back of the boot drops down and is cut away. I will feed back on this more with additional testing. Again, I also refer back to the point that the 305 and 325 may well be a 1/2 size too small and this would impact greatly on this fell/ comfort.

Initial Summary

I think the 305 is going to please so many runners who have been looking for a shoe that can handle a multitude of terrain in a plush, secure and comfortable shoe. This shoe is slipper like! Initial thoughts is that the ROCLITE is sizing a 1/2 size too small, so, if purchasing online keep this in mind. The toe box is not as wide as the Trail Talon or X-Claw so if you need or prefer a shoe that allows the toes to splay, you may want to try the ROCLITE on to see if they will work for you. The 325 boot is certainly a great addition for me and will suit those people who want to spend big days on the trail say fast packing or hiking but don’t want the weight or lack of feel from a heavy walking boot. The 325 feels just like the 305 shoe and even has an 8mm drop, the only difference comes with support around the ankle. I will feedback on this article after full testing for the 305 and 325.

The ROCLITE 290 initial review

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The 290 has 4mm drop and less cushioning than the 305 and therefore will suit a more efficient runner who runs with a mid to forefoot strike. It would also work hand-in-hand with the 305 as a shoe for faster or shorter session. I for example will quite happily run in the 290 for up to 90-minutes and if I know I will run longer I will use the 305. This is all down to personal taste and how much or how little you want to feel the ground.

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I had expected the 290 to have all the same characteristics as the 305 but no, it has a conventional tongue – why? I don’t get this… I am completely biased with gusseted and sewn in tongues as it just makes sense. I have tested countless shoes and one thing is guaranteed, a gusseted tongue offers better feel, more comfort, a secure hold of the foot and in addition debris is kept out. So why would inov-8 add such a great feature to the 305 and the 325 boot and not to the 290? Having said all this, the 290 is comfortable and the padded tongue causes no issues but they are not as plush as the 305!

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The upper, the lacing and the toe box carries over all the characteristics from the 8mm drop 305 and 325. The only difference coming with the ‘X-LOCK’ support at the rear of the shoe. In the 305 and 325 it’s a definite ‘X’ for the 290 it’s erm… well, it’s erm… a line! Apparently it’s ‘Y-LOCK. Because the 290 is 4mm drop and with less cushioning, the runner who uses this shoe will be more efficient and therefore the need for the ‘X’ is not required but the ‘Y’ still adds some support.

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The outsole is the same as the 305 and 325 just different colours and is made of three different compounds all with a 6mm lug and yes the META-FLEX is present to allow an excellent propulsive phase and a META-SHANK rock plate is present.

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In Summary

The 290 has many of the characteristics of the 305 and 325 and quite simply is a shoe that is lighter, more flexible and less cushioned for faster/ shorter runs for an efficient runner. The outsole is the same, the upper is almost the same but incorporates the ‘Y’ Lock instead of the ‘X’ lock and all these elements make sense to me. If you look at the inov-8 shoe range, these characteristics are reflected across the board. However, I am at a loss as to why the 290 does not have the gusseted tongue sewn in? Don’t get me wrong, the 290 is still comfortable but give me the 305 any day… I am a little biased too as 8mm drop will always be my ‘go-to!’

FINAL CONCLUSION

The three ROCLITES are going to appeal to many, many people as a great all round shoe for trail running and I can see many owners having two pairs. For the runners it may well be a pair of 290’s for fast training and short racing and the 305 for long days out either racing or training. By contrast (I fit into this scenario) the 305 and 325 make a great double. The 305 for long runs or races and the 325 for days out walking, hiking and/ or fast-packing. All the shoes are neutral and be careful on sizing, you may well need a 1/2 size larger?

A full in-depth review will follow after each shoe has been tested for over at least 100-miles.

inov-8 X-CLAW 275 Shoe Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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