IROCK2 by VJ Sport – Shoe Review

Imagine a scene:

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

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

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

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

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

“And the upper Q?” Our man asks.

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

“When can I use them Q?”

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

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

*****

This review comes in two versions:

Version 1.

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

Version 2.

Read on.

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

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

I took note!

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

Key Features of the IROCK2:

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

6mm drop
Narrow width
Neutral

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

OUT OF THE BOX

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

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

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

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

IN USE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ON THE TRAILS

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

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

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

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

The outsole is gripping everything.

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

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

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

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

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

LONG TERM

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

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

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

SUMMARY

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

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

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

They are correct, what did take me so long?

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

It’s a glowing review, no doubt.

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

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

FINALLY

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

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

Look no further than the IROCK2 by VJ Sport.

OFFER

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

 

 

Adidas Terrex Skychaser Shoe Review

It has been a long time since I did a run in Adidas shoes. When I did a great deal of road running, Adidas was one of my go-to brands but when I headed to the trails and mountains, I defected to other brands such inov-8, Salomon, TNF and so on.

I’d heard lots about the ‘Boost’ technology and was keen to try it. I was a little sceptical about this (what looks like polystyrene balls) Boost technology would withstand the battering that trail brings, but hey, Luis Alberto Hernando has done well with them huh?

The TERREX SKYCHASER is not the lightest shoe on the market, not by a long way at well over 300g for my UK9.5. However, I was pleased that the shoes were ‘true-to-size,’ I the past I had always found Adidas sized small.

The fit is definitely narrow, but not very narrow, in the toe box area and there is plenty of protection with a really great toe bumper for protection – invaluable on rocky terrain. The lacing is  via a narrow cord that is pulled tight from the top and then an adjustable stopper retains the tension – it’s very similar to what one sees on Salomon shoes. The excess cord can be stored under a small elastic loop towards the bottom of the lacing section.

The upper has the classic Adidas ‘three-stripes’ on the sides and these also act as the lace-loops from which one pulls the lacing tight. This holds the foot in place and keeps it secure.

The tongue is attached to the upper (my preferred method) as this not only reduces what debris can enter the shoe but also it allows the foot to be held more secure and it also increases comfort. Iv’e said it before and I will say it again, this is the way it should be for all run shoes in my opinion.

The shoes cushioning comes from ‘Boost’ technology and it’s reassuringly cushioned without being spongy. You can see that the insole has a chunk of orange and blue added, this is Adidas’s ‘Pro Moderator’ technology that adds medial and lateral support with additional stability in the midsole. I run in ‘neutral’ shoes and I was worried that these additions would spoil my experience of the shoes – it didn’t! For sure, it provided me with a different feel on the trail and mountains but what I did like was the reassurance it provided when the going got tough – the shoes felt rock solid.

The upper is breathable but most definitely resilient. The Terrex Skyxchaser could  definitely be a lighter shoe with a different upper, however, Adidas have obviously decided that this shoe is for tough outings – they don’t want the upper falling apart and in testing, I have to say it’s extremely durable and resistant to abrasion. You’ll also notice the upper has a darker orange colour, this is welding which also adds the increased support of the shoe.

As a cyclist and triathlete, I always chose Continental tyres but this is the first shoe I have used with the legendary German rubber as an outsole – I was impressed! Yes, the outsole didn’t disappoint and the compound provided great grip on dry and wet trail and rocks, it was excellent. The grip profile would make the Terrex Skychaser a great ‘all-rounder’ allowing cushioning and comfort on some road, hard-packed trails and should conditions become wet, the Continual runner really does its job. The profile can handle mud but should conditions become very sloppy, the outsole profile and lug depth is not aggressive enough to provide the grip that say an inov-8 Mudclaw would provide – that comes as no surprise and is not a criticism.

IN USE

Heading out on the road for my first run, I was struck by how the shoe felt on unforgiving tarmac. The Terrex Skychaser gave me a plush ride with the Continental outsole doing a great job on the hard stuff.

I had purposely chosen routes that involved a multitude of terrain to test the Terrex Skychaser and with Skyrunning courses to hand, this is where I have used these shoes for the last few months – from steep grass banks, hard and dry single-track, scree slopes, boulders, fire-trail, some snow and ice and river sections with slick rock.

In a nutshell the Terrex Skychaser handled all this extremely well with the highlights of the shoe coming with excellent cushioning without a loss of feel from the ground beneath my feet, excellent and reassured grip from the Continental outsole and a snug plush feel from the sock-like fit.

A 6mm drop worked well, for me, my sweet spot is 8mm as I find this to be preferable when I am on my feet for longer. With 4mm and 8mm now being many peoples choices, 6mm sits well as a compromise.

Like I said, I prefer neutral shoes and although this shoe has plenty of ‘extras’ to control my foot, I never found that I was being over controlled, something that I could in a La Sportiva shoe – read HERE.

Cushioning is good without losing feel, 23.5 at the rear and 17.5 at the front makes them ideally suited for a runner who needs some additional protection or who prefers a plush ride.

The overall fit of the shoe is narrow and when the trails are technical and you need reassurance that is a positive. However, if you need a wider toe-box, this is probably not the shoe for you.

It wasn’t an all-singing and all-dancing story. I found the heel box just wouldn’t hold my heel in. When climbing, my heel constantly was coming out of the shoe – a real irritant and a recipe for disaster in regard to performance and the increased risk of blisters. In a conventionally laced shoe, I would have re-laced my shoes and I would have almost certainly used a ‘lace-lock’ method (here) at the top of the lacing to secure my foot. You can’t do this with the Adidas as it does not have two eye-holes at the top and… This brings me to my second issue – the ‘speed-lacing!’ I know many love it and when it works it works, however, with the Terrex Skychaser I just couldn’t adjust the lacing so my foot felt comfortable with the correct tension and adjustment in the places that I needed it. I would that I had to tighten the lacing so much to retain my heel in the shoe that after 15-20 minutes my foot was aching on the in-step due the tension and pressure on the foot. I also found that lower down where my foot bends, I had effectively reduced the width of the shoe and therefore I was getting some pain and discomfort around my toes and metatarsals. I took the shoes off, loosened the laces and then put he shoes back on trying to leave the lower loop lose and wide, the middle lace-loops tight but not too tight and then the top two loops tight and secure – I sort of got to to work but it all felt compromised.

CONCLUSION

Loads of positives on this shoe but ultimately for me, it’s not a shoe I would use. I say this with regret as I loved the grip, the durability, the overall comfort but the heel box and the lacing made using the shoe a compromise. Because of the heel box, consider trying a half size smaller – it may do the trick? However, you may well find the shoe is then too narrow in the toe box.

Adidas Terrex Skychaser Shoes

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

SCOTT Supertrac RC First Impressions

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Who doesn’t love a ‘sexy’ run shoe? I suppose it does pose the question, ‘Can a run shoe be sexy?’ For me, the answer is yes! Just as it was when I used to ride racing bikes – my bikes were always sexy, it was compulsory!

So, the new incarnation from SCOTT hit all the boxes, rung all the bells and well and truly gave my eyes a woo hoo when I first clapped eyes on them in May 2016.

I have to be clear here, I was involved and worked with the SCOTT elite athletes in La Palma photographing the new apparel and shoes to be launched later this year and early in 2017.

The SUPERTRAC RC shoe is arguably the racing flagship for the brand that has been known for years for making darn fine excellent bikes. Well, ever since 2012, SCOTT have also been making darn fine run shoes, it’s just taken a while to get the message out. The Kinabalu Supertrac is still one of my favourite shoes. So good was the shoe, it beat many others in my test HERE.

The new SUPERTRAC RC has in all honesty little connection to the beefy 8mm drop trail shoe as listed above, however, it does carry over some of the traits.

Noticeable points are:

  • Seamless upper and overlays
  • Form fitting performance tongue
  • Reinforced toe cap
  • Radilal ‘360’ traction
  • EVA cushioning

The RC looks completely different to the Kinabalu Supertrac and the back/yellow ‘RC’ colour combination reflects the ‘RC’ range from the road bike and mountain bike range. I like that, I like that connection. It very clearly states, ‘This is the best of what we offer!’

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For the Supertrac RC the stats are as follows:

  • 5mm drop
  • Forefoot cushioning height : 17.5mm
  • Heel cushioning height : 22.5mm
  • Cushioning : AeroFoam + (same as Supertrac inline)
  • Weight : 270g in US9 men with insole in (some brands weight them without insoles)
  • Outsole : Outdoor Industry award winning 360° geometry made in wet rubber compound.

The Supertrac RC is not the lightest shoe but it does have plenty of cushioning and protection with 17.5/22.5mm of AeroFoam.

At 5mm drop, the shoe is certainly designed for an efficient mid to forefoot striker in contrast to the 8mm drop Kinabalu Supertrac that most definitely is a more ‘forgiving’ shoe.

Ultimately though, the RC is all about the ‘new’ grip that has been tweaked and tweaked through 2016 with feedback both in training and racing from athletes such as Andy Symonds, Jo Meek, Marco De Gasperi, Ruth Croft and the SCOTT team manager, Martin Gaffuri. The 360° geometry made in wet rubber compound is a real, real winner! The outsole is made for racing and training on trails where rock (wet or dry) is in abundance. The outsole though has less depth to the lug than say the Kinabalu Supertrac and so therefore grip is not as secure in mud.

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Initially I was disappointed that the tongue was not gusseted. A gusseted tongue is becoming normal now on many shoes and for me just makes sense. The RC does though have a form fitting tongue and it does hold the foot nice and firm.

Seamless upper is a winner, in theory it should mean that you have no possibility for blisters or abrasion from any seams. I did have a slight issue with rubbing on one of my toes where the shoe bends in the propulsive face, however, I do think that it is due to the test shoe being slightly too big. I will know more with testing.

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Cushioning for me was a surprise and I have to say I was surprised by the relatively hard feel of the shoe. I had expected a more plush ride but that may well come with more runs. It’s still early days in the test and the is just an initial first impression.

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Heal box is snug and really does hold the foot secure. The toe box is really well protected and therefore ideal for rocky, technical and mountain runs. The lacing is very secure and does compensate for the lack of the gusseted tongue, however, I am really surprised SCOTT didn’t include a ‘lace locker‘ to store excess lace as they do on many of their other shoes. It’s just a little elastic that weighs nothing but is ideal for keeping loose lace ends out of the way… maybe it will be added to the shoes for when they go on sale in 2017?

This is a first impression review and without doubt, I think we are going to see the Supertrac RC appear on many trails and mountains in 2017. Lets face it, you’ll have no problem noticing them…! The combination of grip, good looks, cushioning and seamless upper is going to make the RC a winner. I will come back with a full and detailed review after another month of trail and mountain abuse.

Scott Supertrac RC HERE

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