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.
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.
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:
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.
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
The 305 with 8mm drop
The 325 with 8mm drop.
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-CLAWinfluences 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.
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!
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.
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.
The words ‘POWERFLOW’ on the rear refer to the cushioning and shock absorption.
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.
The front of the shoe has a toe cap that has been rubberised that will protect with any collisions of debris on the trail.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!’
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.
My recent trip to Nepal for the 2016 Everest Trail Race provided an opportunity for me to try out some new kit items. I do plan to write a full article on the kit I used and provide an overview for those who plan to either run a similar multi-day race or maybe go trekking.
One thing that is key for any multi-day journey, trekking or racing is weight and functionality. You really do have to be brutal with your choices. Luxuries, in general, are a no, no as they just add weight.
Nepal in November provides some real contrasts which can really test kit choices. Days are sunny, warm (at times hot) and shorts and a t-shirt work great. However, as soon as the sun disappears, the temperatures drop dramatically. Depending on what altitude you are at and how exposed you are, those temperatures will continue to drop and exposed locations will drop well below -10.
I am all for layering my clothing and to provide some perspective, here is my kit list for the duration of the Everest Trail Race.
You will see from the above, I was keeping things light and functional. 3.2kg of apparel for 7-days and that included my sleeping bag. In addition to the above apparel and sleeping bag I had an Aarn pack, Aarn front photo pockets, 2 x Canon 5D cameras and 3 lenses: 16-35, 24-70 and 70-200. The camera equipment weighs a great deal. More on that in my next post when I summarise all the above kit.
One piece of kit was a stand out though. The inov-8 AT/C MERINO LSZ top.
Merino wool for me is essential as a base layer when working in cold climates. I make sure I have long leggings, socks, gloves and top all made from Merino.
Warmth when wet
So, when I first looked at the inov-8 product I was really impressed as it offered some key features that I had not seen on other Merino products:
The downside being that as a base layer top, it was a little heavier than the competition. However, the competition didn’t have the ‘extras’ that made the inov-8 attractive. To cut a long story short, I decided to go with the additional weight and put the product through its paces in Nepal.
If I wanted to be truly lightweight and despite the odourless qualities of Merino, potentially a little smelly, I could have gone with just one base layer. I didn’t! I took two tops. I had a simple reasoning and logic for this. I would wear one during the day and the other at night.
Unlike other products that are available, the inov-8 is not a form fitting product. Thank goodness! I hate feeling squeezed into my clothing. The AT/C MERINO LSZ is loose and not baggy and provides a snug and reassuringly comfortable warmth. The real selling points of this product are:
Hood – The hood adds great warmth, fits snuggly and if you zip up the 1/2 zip to the top you are left with a really warm base layer that works exceptionally well in the early morning before the sun rises. At the end of the day after the sun disappears and at night when inside a sleeping bag and you want additional warmth and the options to stop drafts going down your neck.
Hand Mitts – The cuff of the sleeve has a thumb hole as seen on many base layer products and what this provides is almost a half glove with no fingers. However, inov-8 have added an extra layer of fabric and by folding this back and over the fingers, it provides a simple hand mitt. Again this worked exceptionally well for early morning or late evening chills or when sleeping to keep extremities warm.
At the end of the day, the inov-8 AT/C MERINO LSZ is a base layer, there isn’t a great deal to write. However, this product impressed so much I was keen to give the product a nod. The addition of Superfine 18.5 micron Australian Merino wool delivers fantastic next-to-skin feel and fit, the hood and 1/2 zip is a great feature and the hand mitts is the type of simple innovation that I love.
This product is a winner.
As we are entering into the cold, dark, inclement months, an inov-8 AT/C MERINO LSZ would make a great addition to any kit list.
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.
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:
In brief, the shoe is a winner.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The days are getting shorter and bad weather is just around the corner. Wet, wind, snow and ice are all part of the norm if you are going to keep training and racing outdoors through the months of November, December, January, February and if you (we) are lucky, the weather may start to improve with the arrival of March.
Getting outdoors when the days are dark and the weather is inclement can be difficult. But if you have the correct apparel, these days can actually provide some of the most inspiring experiences. Pretty sure you have heard the saying, ‘No such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment!’
Although this article is a review of two key items of apparel to keep you warm and dry while out on the trails or in the mountains. I should clarify first and foremost a couple of good protocols that will make any run in winter better.
Layering is key so that you can regulate temperature.
Start with a base layer that will keep you warm but also wick away sweat. Merino wool is a great fabric.
Use 3/4 or full length tights. Some runners like to continue running in shorts through winter. It all comes down to personal preference but keep in mind conditions. For example, snow and ice can burn.
Have gloves, hat and a buff like product and ideally use a specific run sock, again, Merino wool is best.
Depending on conditions, the length of run you are undertaking and how high (altitude) you will go, taking a mid-layer is probably a good idea.
Two options exist:
A ‘down’ filled jacket that will pack small, weigh very little and provide excellent warmth. The main problem with down is that it must not get wet!
A ‘Primaloft’ jacket (or similar) will pack a little larger than down and weigh a little more but the big advantage is that a product with a synthetic filling can get wet and retain warmth. For mountain, trail and fell runners this is a better choice.
With all the above boxes ticked. Any runner who ventures into the fells, mountains and any challenging environment should take a high quality waterproof jacket and over trousers. This is where inov-8 step in with the AT/C Racepant and AT/C Stormshell.
The current trend of moving fast and light has seen runners take less and less to the mountain. Light is great providing you can move fast, the two go hand in hand. I’ve often heard many a runner say, ‘Waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers… pfffff! I don’t need them to race. If I am using them then my race is over!’
And that is exactly the point. Warm layers, waterproof layers are there for when unpredictable conditions hit or when you (the runner) have an unexpected or unplanned incident. A sprained ankle for example can stop you running and result in a slow walk. One thing is guaranteed to happen and that is your core temperature will drop and hypothermia won’t be far away.
With the AT/C Racepant and Stormshell you can still travel light but have the luxury of two excellent products that will keep you dry, warm and protected from the wind.
AT/C RACE PANT
•Colour : BLACK
•Weight : 175g / 6.2oz
•Material : 55% PU / 45% Polyester
•Gender : Unisex
•4-way stretch, super micro soft hand touch.
•Knee length YKK Aquaguard zips with locking zip heads.
•Elasticated front, flat back waist band and hem.
•Packs away into pocket.
The RACE PANT weighs ****g rolls up small and will fit in any pack and pretty much any waist pack. They are simple in design with a thick waist band, an internal pocket with elastic loop so you don’t loose keys, a tapered leg and a lower leg zip on both legs that allows the pants to be added or removed without removing shoes. In regard to size, they are a streamlined and tapered product and therefore should you have a bigger leg, you may want to check on the appropriate size for you. For example, I wear medium in all inov-8 products but I chose large in the Race Pant.
These pants fit so well that they cause no discomfort or odd feeling when running. This is often a problem with any over trouser as the additional layer can feel claustrophobic. I used the Racepant with shorts, 3/4 tights and full length tights underneath. Without doubt, the Race Pant is more comfortable with 3/4 or full length tights underneath as a layer of fabric stops the Race Pant sticking to your leg.
The AT/C Race Pant is breathable and retains warmth very well. Of course, if conditions improve and the ambient temperature rises, it’s advisable to move the Racepant asap otherwise you will get hot quickly.
The AT/C Race Pant is a quality product and is comparable to the TNF Storm Trouser (which is very lightweight) and in my opinion is a considerably better product than the OMM Kamleika Race Pant which I found too hot and a little heavier.
AT/C STORM SHELL RACE JACKET
•Colour : RED
•Weight : 150g / 5.5oz
•Material : 100% Nylon ripstop face, PU Laminate
•Gender : MENS
•Deep centre front YKK Aquaguard 2 way front zip with internal storm flap and locking zip heads.
•Roll-away hood with wired peak and single hand adjustment.
•YKK Aquaguard chest pocket zip with fully taped seams.
•Lycra bound cuffs with integrated thumb hole.
The Stormshell is a pullover product with a two-way zip that stops mid-chest. The hood is fully adjustable, zips high and has a peak to protect from wind and rain. The sleeves are longer in length and include a thumb hole, so, should you need extra hand warmth or protection, you call pull your hand inside the sleeve. At ***g it’s seriously lightweight and it also packs small. It’s a product that really personifies fast and light without a compromise on quality or protection from the elements.
The Race Jacket has become my ‘go to’ waterproof layer when running or working. It’s so light and small there really is no reason NOT to take it! The benefits it brings when the weather changes are huge and although looks shouldn’t come into the equation, it’s a fine looking jacket too!
It’s minimalist in design so you wont find many pockets. A chest pocket is the only addition.
Fully taped seams guarantee that the jacket remains waterproof. A pull cord around the waist allows you to adjust the fit. The hood has adjustment on the front left and right sides and on the rear of the hood is a pull cord so you can tighten up any excess fabric. The peak has a flexible reinforced section that allows you to bend the peak to your preferred fit. This reinforcement also stops the hood collapsing. The hood can also be rolled up and secured inside the jacket by a fabric loop with velcro fastening. As mentioned, the zip is two-way which will allow you to have the jacket fastened under your chin but with the zip open should you require some ventilation. The zip goes up high, almost to nose height and if you have the hood adjusted correctly, you rally can protect yourself from the elements with just your eyes showing. The chest pocket is big enough for a phone or similar sized product and it also include a drawstring bag (the size of my hand) that the jacket can fold into.
Like the trousers, the jacket fits snugly and you may want to check sizing based on your intended use, particularly if you may want to use an insulating layer between the base layer and the outer layer.
The jacket for me is a real winner. I’d go as far as saying that it’s one of the best products of its type that I have tried and tested. The combination of weight, size and features is incredible. It has so many pluses that it’s difficult to find a negative. The only negative may well come in durability? However, I have nothing to base this question on. For 6-months this jacket has performed exceptionally well.
The AT/C Racepant and Stormshell work together like cheese and pickle, like gin and tonic; they are a match made in heaven. They may not be the cheapest products on the market but with lightweight and waterproof products, you get what you pay for! I have tested many different trouser/ jacket combinations and if you want to move fast and light with maximum protection, this duo is hard (impossible?) to beat. The only time I would exchange the AT/C Racepant and Stormshell for something more substantial, like a Gore-Tex Active product is if I knew that I was going to be spending many hours in a tough, cold and unpredictable environment and moving at a slower pace. The benefits of the AT/C Racepant and Stormshell is they are so light and small, you really have no reason not to take them with you. That’s a real plus! If you are racing in the mountains, nearly all races now require an ever increasing mandatory kit list. I can pretty much guarantee that at the top of that list will be: ‘waterproof jacket and trousers with taped seams’ – inov-8 have provided you with a perfect solution with no comprises; low weight, small size and 100% protection – what more could you want?
More detailed photographs and action photos to follow.
The Race Ultra when first released by inov-8 turned heads. It was certainly a departure for the brand who had built a history and reputation for out-and-out fell running shoes. For the brand to release a shoe that appealed specifically to the ‘ultra’ market was an interesting move.
I have to say, the first incarnation of the shoe was pleasing to look at and although it gained rave reviews, I didn’t like it. It felt sloppy, lacked feel and in all honesty, it was a shoe I didn’t want to use.
The second incarnation was a huge improvement and it has become a regular shoe for me when running long on flat, relatively un-technical and non-muddy trail. It was a shoe that proved hugely popular at races such as Marathon des Sables for example and the combination of two options, 4mm and 8mm drop; the Race Ultra suddenly became a really popular shoe.
I was therefore somewhat surprised when inov-8 told me that the Race Ultra 270 (4mm drop) and 290 (8mm drop) are no longer in the range as of AW16. Really?
I have had many emails from runners in the community expressing a concern about this. Yes, the Race Ultra really has become ‘that’ popular and as such, many are asking, but what shoe an I know going to wear?
Take a breath, take out your credit card and go and order yourself a pair of TRAIL TALON 275 (8mm drop) or TRAIL TALON 250 (4mm drop).
Yes, folks, stop worrying, the new TRAIL TALON is all that the Race Ultra was and so much more.
I could actually stop the review there as I have very little negatives to say about the shoes. Yes, both really are that good. But I know you have a need for more information so here goes.
In brief, the TRAIL TALON offering in either 275 or 250 versions directly relates to the 270 or 290 versions of the RACE ULTRA. So first off, think about if you need or prefer 4mm or 8mm drop shoes (or both). The plus side from the off, is the two new TRAIL TALONS are offering weight savings over the previous models: 15g +/- for the 8mm drop and 20g +/- for the 4mm drop. For reference, inov-8 always refers to the weight of the shoe in the name, so, a TRAIL TALON 250 will weight 250g+/- in a standard UK8.
Both the TRAIL TALON 275 and 250 shoes use the same standard fit last as the RACE ULTRA but they both offer improved grip with deeper cleats and better cleat configuration. It’s a marginal improvement and don’t start to think that the new shoe will now handle more mud – they won’t. The TRAIL TALON is very much a dry trail/ mountain shoe that can handle a little sloppy stuff if required.
Tthe TRAIL TALON has a wide ‘standard fit’ toe boxbut I don’t think it is as wide as the RACE ULTRA?. Don’t get me wrong, it has plenty of room and it allows the toes to move and splay just as in the previous model. When running long your toes have room to move and should you be prone to swelling, they have room to expand. This ‘standard fit’ is something that inov-8 have worked on and by contrast, some shoes in the inov-8 range can be purchased in ‘precision’ fit which offers a tighter and narrower toe box. For me, this can be where some compromise comes in with the TRAIL TALON, when running on long, flat and consistent terrain the shoes excel but if the terrain becomes technical and inconsistent, I find my foot moves a little within the shoe due to the wider fit. This is not a criticism of the shoe, what I am saying is (as I always say) is that it is rare that one shoe can do all things well. For technical running I prefer a precision fit.
A notable difference is the new POWERFLOW midsole for a more cushioned ride. Both the 250 and 275 feel more cushioned. In particular, the 275 feels super cushioned, almost a little ‘too’ cushioned at times and I think this is where the most notable difference will come for RACE ULTRA fans. You will either prefer the additional cushioning or not. On my first runs in the 275 I noticed the cushioning over the RACE ULTRA. To confirm my thoughts, I went back out for a run in the RACE ULTRA and yes, the new shoe has more cushioning and it feels that way too. This only adds to the thoughts of inov-8 that the TRAIL TALON is a long distance shoe. Of course it’s all relative, the 4mm drop 250 has less cushioning than the 8mm drop 275. For many of you this will not be an issue as you will either run in 4mm or 8mm drop shoes. This is not the case for me, I often and regularly switch between 4mm and 8mm drop shoes. If I am running for 30mins, 60mins or even 2-3 hours I can happily run in 4mm drop and still retain good form. However, if I am going out for a long session or a day in the mountains, I will always go 8mm drop. The higher drop allows more leeway and flexibility and I must add that the TRAIL TALON is a superb shoe to walk in. This is really important for those who are running long or doing multi-day races. Often, shoes are tested just running with no consideration of how the shoe transitions to a change of gait when walking. For me, the TRAIL TALON 275 is one of the best run shoes I have used when walking, the transition is seamless and comfortable no doubt attributable to the ADAPTERFIT met-cradle for better mid-foot comfort.
I am always wary of buzz words like ‘Powerflow’ and ‘Adapterfit’ as in real terms they can mean nothing. Breaking the words down, the TRAIL TALON has more cushioning and better mid-foot comfort.
When running, the feel of the shoe and the comfort level is high. In the 275 I had less ‘feel’ for the ground due to the additional cushioning but this proved a real bonus for longer sessions and when the ground became more irregular. The 250 version with lower drop and less cushioning in comparison to the 8mm drop version felt really sweet on all runs.
Both shoes, 4mm or 8mm drop definitely provided more feel, better cushioning and more ‘return’ when running than the RACE ULTRA.
Like the 290 and 270 RACE ULTRA’s the TRAIL TALON will also incorporate the unique on-the-shoe gaiter attachment so that should you require a Gaiter you can purchase the item separately and attach/ de-attach with ease.
Two huge improvements for me come with the lacing system on the 275 and a gusseted tongue on both the 250 and 275. I have been saying this for ages, but a gusseted tongue just makes sense. I don’t know why it isn’t standard on all run shoes. It helps hold the foot in place, it stops the tongue moving and sliding to the left or right as you run and maybe most importantly it adds an additional protection to stop debris entering the shoe.
The lacing on the TRAIL TALON is added ‘on to’ the shoe by what effectively is a folded plastic layer. This works so well as it allows the shoes to be laced tightly or loosely as required but it also allows the font to swell within the shoe. In the past, I have had issues with inov-8 lacing and I have had to use a ‘lock lacing’ technique to feel secure in the shoe. Not know, this lacing method works.
Toe protection on the shoe is good but not ridiculous. Keeping in mind the intended use of the shoe, it’s fit for purpose. The heel box is snug, cushioned, holds the foot well and caused no rubbing on long sessions, even when walking.
Grip is compromised on any muddy trails but then again, the TRAIL TALON is not intended for this type of terrain. The 4mm deep studs work great on all dry trail, rocks and yes road. When wet, the grip is also good. Ultimately, the TRAIL TALON would be a great ‘all-rounder’ for most runs. If you are heading to the fells, a muddy trail run, or mountains with mixed/wet trail then choose a different shoe.
Finally, RACE ULTRA fans are going to be really happy with the TRAIL TALON. I have found it difficult to really find any negatives. The only negative (and it’s not really a negative) is that some of you may find the new incarnation a little ‘too’ cushioned. Sizing is true to size and relates directly to the Race Ultra.
As per usual, inov-8 have created two ‘visually’ appealing shoes with great colours and styling.
Drop is personal and for me, 8mm drop is the sweet spot in run shoes and is my ‘go to’ drop for any run. If you prefer a lower drop, then you will be happy with the 250 and 4mm version. If you can afford two pairs of shoes, I really recommend the 250 for shorter and/ or faster runs.
This TRAIL TALON is a winner and is now one of three shoes that I choose on a daily basis, the other two shoes for comparison are The North Face Ultra Endurance and the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac.
Specs from inov-8
The patented Dynamic Fascia Band™ (DFB) mimics the ‘Windlass Effect’ delivering a kick of energy with each step, helping the athlete to move faster and more efficiently
Our standard fit offers a close-fitting heel that locks the shoe in position, while a wider toe box allows the toes to splay when running naturally or lifting weights. Standard fit suits those with wider feet and athletes using the product for long sessions.
It’s been a while since we have posted a shoe review and we have good reason, we have been testing and trying out shoes on the trails and mountains. Coming up over the next few weeks we will be posting reviews of new shoes in the inov-8 line up and I am pleased to say, there are some real quality products to look at!
TRAIL TALON 275 (click on images to view larger)
Perfect for long miles on hard-packed trails, the TRAIL TALON 275 delivers the perfect fit and unrivalled comfort with next generation ADAPTERFIT technology. A two-piece Powerflow midsole delivers optimum levels of shock absorption and energy return. Standard fit and 8mm drop.
The ultimate shoe for running long distances over extreme terrain. Delivers outstanding claw cleat grip, comfort and protection while retaining lightweight flexibility. Ideal for high mileage training in the mountains and fells. Standard fit and 8mm drop.
Designed for running fast over extreme terrain, the newest addition to the legendary X-TALON range offers increased durability and improved grip in a perfect lightweight, agile package. Ideal for fell and mountain racing. Precision fit and 4mm drop.
TRAIL TALON 250
The lighter version in the series, the TRAILTALON 250 has been designed for speed and delivering the best grip possible on hard-packed trails. A two-piece Powerflow midsole delivers optimum levels of shock absorption and energy return. Standard fit and 4mm drop.
All shoes available in men’s and ladies sizes
Detailed reviews of the following shoes will follow in the coming weeks
This is Episode 110 of Talk Ultra. This weeks show is a Marathon des Sables special with a load of great content from the Bivouac by Niandi Carmont and then a series of post race interviews with Sondre Amdahl, Elisabet Barnes and Elinor Evans. If that wasn’t enough, we have an interview with Jasmin Paris who has just blasted the Bob Graham Round ladies record to a new level.
It’s a different show this week as we concentrate on Marathon des Sables
Marathon Des Sables
It was a win again for Rachid El Morabity and Russian, Natalia Sedykh dominated the ladies race, times were 21:01:21 and 24:25:46 for the 257km. Full results are HERE
Niandi talk from the Bivouac
00:25:32 INTERVIEW from the Bivouac
A selection of interviews of everyday runners doing extra ordinary things
We discussed this race extensively in a couple of podcasts last year, we spoke with Nikki Kimball and Jeff Browning. Jeff won the race and Nikki decided to withdraw from the race as she felt is was too dangerous. Alarm bells were rung. Unfortunately we have had news of a death at the 2016 edition. We have to be clear here that information is still a little sparse but Ellie Greenwood and Kerrie Bruxvoort have both commented on social media at the races apparent disregard for safety. We will have more information on this as and when possible.
A statement on Facebook from Ultra Fijord said:
The second edition of Ultra Fiord has been a very hard experience, marked by an exceptionally hostile climate and dramatic landscape that formed the backdrop of the race route, that was changed and shortened two days leading to the race to accommodate the impending bad weather. While some runners experienced and embraced the forces of nature, others were beyond their comfort zone. What impacted all of us the most was the loss of 100-mile runner, Arturo Héctor Martínez Rueda. Mr Martínez, 57-year-old from Mexico, had unfortunately passed on at an approximate 65km mark that is about 750m above sea level. Although the likely cause of his death was hypothermia, a confirmation can only be made in the following few days. The unfavourable weather has persisted in this mountain area since Friday, so the rescue team, awaits a favourable weather window to execute the evacuation. The race organiser takes responsibility and apologise for the poor communications to the outside world with regards to this tragic incident, simply because it is a step we could not execute without the confirmation of the status and private communications with Arturo’s family. In this difficult time, the organising team sincerely expresses its condolences to the family and friends of Arturo and ask followers for your cooperation to send peace and respect to them too.
Elisabet Barnes post MDS
Sondre Amdahl post MDS
Elinor Evans post MDS
Jasmin Parishas just elevated the ladies Bob Graham Round record to a new level coming very close to Billy Bland’s benchmark 1982 record
“The simple act of running, placing one foot in-front of the other as a method of transport takes us back to our roots, our basic instincts. In search of a place to sleep, to hunt for food; it is about being in the wild, surviving and fulfilling a primal need.”
The 2015 edition of the race was an incredible, mind-blowing journey but in 2016, the race goes one step further and becomes ‘Transfrontier.’ The race will now pass over the Orange River and in to Namibia.
Elisabet Barnes 2016 The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica (2nd place lady).
Known as one of the most scenic and unique trail running stage race events on the South African trail running calendar the Richtersveld Wildrun™ takes a new direction and in doing so become a cross-border trail running event; a worlds first! Extending to a linear 200km race, the five day crossing from South Africa to Namibia goes through the heart of the stunning /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have unlocked a truly unique opportunity to experience both sides of such a unique and powerful place – and to finish a long day at a natural hot springs in the middle of the wilderness is unbelievable!”said Owen Middleton,” MD of Wildrunner, the events company behind the Wildrun™ events.
Tobias Mews, The Dragon’s Back Race 2015.
Including the Vyf Susters, Hellskloof Pass, Armmanshoek, the Tswayisberge, Springbokvlakte and the iconic Tatasberg boulders, the new route will maintain the best of the first three days of the original edition but on day 4, the route will veer of its original course and cross the Orange River at De Hoop into Namibia. Yes, the race will go into the untouched southern section of the Fish River Canyon made famous by Ryan Sandes.
It’s no easy addition to the race, runners will need to cover 50km into a wilderness that is completely inaccessible by vehicle. Rich in wildlife, runners will have a once in a lifetime experience with a possibility of seeing Hartmann’s mountain zebra, kudu, gemsbok, springbok, Namibian wild horses and giraffe. It’s the race of a lifetime!
Tobia Mews is no stranger to incredible races, his recent book release called ’50 Race To Run Before You Die’ looks like it will need a new chapter, 51 Races…
“I am so looking forward to this race. For me it’s the epitome of adventure running wrapped up in one of the most stunning places on earth. And it’s partly Ian Corless‘s fault for producing such amazing photos from last year.”– Tobias Mews
After a long, tough day in Namibia, runners will spend the evening in a canyon at a natural hot spring, before taking on the final day of roughly 25km to finish at the /Ai-/Ais Hot Springs Resort and wrap up a powerful and truly unique experience.
Roland Vorwerk, marketing manager of Boundless Southern Africa, one of the driving forces behind the success of the event, said they are very happy to support this new cross-border trail running event.
“This new route contains even more highlights than the original Richtersveld Wildrun™, and promises to give participants a challenging but spectacular trail running experience.”
If you need inspiration, check out the film from 2015 below.
Day 1 in Lanzarote for the 2016 multi-day training camp. It’s all about scouting courses, checking out terrain and looking for some specific routes that will put our 26 clients through their paces that will help simulate classic multi-day races like Marathon des Sables, Atacama, The Coastal Challenge and more…
MDS 2015 champion, Elisabet Barnes is here and just recently she has secured a three year sponsorship deal with Raidlight. Lanzarote is not only an opportunity to test new Raidlight apparel and packs but also to train and pass on Elisabet’s experience to those who may well be undertaking a multi-day race for the first time.
Our other coaches, Niandi Carmont and Marie-Paule Pierson will also be passing on their own wisdom from their own multi-day experiences. Niandi in particular has been racing ultras for approximately 20-years, anything from 50k, 100k, 100-miles and of course multi-day races such as Marathon des Sables and The Coastal Challenge,
Our clients arrive tomorrow, Thursday. It will be a settle in day with an easy run late afternoon and then all the action starts on Friday with a coastal run that includes mixed terrain, soft sand, some scrambling and of course great weather and great views.
Thanks to OMM, inov-8, Scott Running, Raidlight, Berghaus and PHD of the support on this camp.