inov-8 MUDCLAW G260 Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN USE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN SUMMARY

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

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

It’s a shoe for mud…

Specs:

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

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VJ Sport IROCK 3 Shoe Review

Robust, solid, great looking, aggressive outsole, Fitlock, good lacing, toe protection, red and black and the iRock 3 follows on from the iRock 2 with another winning shoe.

Quite simply, VJ Sport make the best outsole for trail and mountain running of any shoes I have used. They are what I compare all other shoes to, and still, several years on from testing the original iRock, no shoes have come close to giving the grip of a VJ.

The IRock was followed with the XTRM (review HERE) and then the MAXx (review HERE). Quite simply, when you line the iRock, XTRM and MAXx you have three shoes that cover all the needs from soft, sloppy and muddy trails to the harder, longer, more rocky trails of a longer trail and ultra-race. Be it fell running, skyrunning or ultra-trail, VJ have with the iRock, XTRM and the MAXx the perfect shoes for each terrain.

IROCK3

The IROCK 3 is a precision fit shoe with a narrow toe box. They are designed to hold and compress the foot so that there is no movement when running. Think of them as ballet shoes. You squeeze your feet in, benefit from the precision and hold when running and when done, you take your foot out and let it relax again. Of course, for some, they IROCK will just be too narrow. VJ list the fit as a 2. For comparison, the XTRM is a 2 maybe 3? and the MAXx a 4.

 14mm cushioning at the rear and 8mm at the front gives a 6mm drop.

The outsole (Superior Contact -kumipohja) is the hero of the shoe with 6mm lugs of super grippy butyl that works like a dream in wet or dry conditions.

Weighing 240g (UK8) the shoes are like Formula 1 cars for the trails and as such, they are not a shoe for everyday outings.

The upper is bullet proof with a mixture of DuPont Kevlar and Nylon and the other notable element of the VJ shoe, be that IROCK, XTRM or MAXx is the Fitlock which holds the foot like no other shoe. In addition there are overlays stitched on to add additional support.

Toe box is reinforced with a solid bumper. The heel area is minimally padded but fits like a glove and holds the foot secure.

Lacing is very secure, and the tongue is reinforced and made of a very durable and flexible material.

Solid build, aggressive outsole and great looks. This is a shoe for shorter outings, racing or training, when grip is paramount, especially in soft-ground and snow. It’s a favourite for orienteers, skyrunning and OCR.

IN USE

So, what is different from the IROCK 2?

Improved toe protection, lighter Fitlock system and improved laces. 

The IROCK3 is not a jack of all trades, this shoe has a specific purpose. 

I wrote about the IROCK 2 – “The easiest way to explain this is by looking at say, Formula 1. You wouldn’t go to Monaco Grand Prix and race in an 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.” 

That stands true today and why VJ made the XTRM and MAXx to offer more comfort and less aggressive grip.

Road is not a friend of the IROCK, or should I say, the outsole. Too much road between trails will wear that soft rubber down quickly, so, it is best avoided as much as possible.

Needless to say, VJ’s hashtag of #bestgripontheplanet is not a lie. VJ really do offer the best grip and the IROCK is flawless in soft ground, on rocky trails and in the mountains. It makes no difference if wet or dry, they just grip like no other shoe. In mud, particularly soft mud, they dig in like football boots offering the best grip I have encountered.

Fit is precision. Once laced up and tightened. You feel the Fitlock hold the middle of the foot, add support to the arch and when switching direction on the trail, there are no question marks or doubts. The IROCK holds the foot rock solid.

At the front, the toe box is precision, but it is not super, super tight. I can happily run in the IROCK for multiple hours in comfort.

Feel for the ground is excellent and of course, the cushioning is relatively minimal keeping that all important contact with the surface so that one can respond to the terrain. Worth noting, this shoe is designed for soft ground, so, much of the cushioning can actually come from the ground that you are running on too.

In many respects, I am surprised the IROCK is 6mm drop. It works for me and I am happy, however, for a shoe designed to be fast and low, I am surprised it is not 4mm?

The fit is neutral and true to size. I am a EU44 and the IROCK is perfect in that size.

On the trail I feel the Fitlock and heel box working together holding the foot, be that in soft mud or running up rocks. The grip is superb.

Slabs of wet rock even covered in water do not make me question if the IROCK will be secure. I just run as normal and let the outsole do the work.

The combination of durability, fit, cushioning, precision and unmatched grip confirms what I said in 2017 about the IROCK 2, they are the best fell/ mountain and short distance skyrunning shoes out there!

Mud, rock, fell in wet or dry conditions, the IROCK 3 is the most complete mountain shoe I have used over shorter distances.

SUMMARY

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

VJ are now seen at OCR races, Skyrunning, fell races and with the addition of the MAXx, we are even seeing them at ultra-trail.

If grip, foothold, precision and light weight are priorities for soft, muddy and wet ground, the IROCK 3 is for you!

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

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VJ XTRM Shoe Review – VJ Sport

Last year I finally got my hands on a pair of VJ Sport IRock 2 (HERE). I was blown away by pretty much everything about the shoes. The upper, the way they held one’s foot, the durability of the materials used, and the outsole was just incredible – the most amazing grip. The only reservation that I had, was how long I could run in these shoes… They are pretty minimal and although cushioned, the cushioning for me would probably only take me to 3-4 hours of running.

OCR World Champion and Skyrunner World Series Champion, Jonathan Albon, agreed. In some of the longer races, Trofeo Kima for example where the terrain is hard, rocky, muddy, has snow, maybe the odd glacier thrown in and when the male winning time is over 6-hours, although the IRock 2 was perfect on grip, the cushioning made a really long run like this tiring for the feet.

With Jon’s feedback, VJ Sport went back to the drawing board, took all the best elements of the IRock 2 and created a new shoe:

VJ XTRM.

The king is dead, long live the king!

Let me just say in simple terms everything that was brilliant in the IRock 2 has been transferred to the new VJ XTRM and what VJ Sport have done, in my opinion, they have created the most perfect mountain running shoe for when the trails are demanding, rocky and throwing all sorts of variables at the runner.

So, what is new in the VJ XTRM.

  • Two new cushioning units have been added to the front and rear.
  • A full-length RockPlate.
  • A medium last.
  • A little extra room in the toe box.
  • New Fitlock.

As I mentioned, much of the IRock 2 crosses over. For example, the outsole is the amazing Butyl Rubber which for me offers the best grip I have encountered on any mountain shoe. The outsole studs are 6mm which offers a good compromise between grip on muddy/ wet trails and excellent grip on smooth and easy single-track.

At 250g for a standard UK8, the shoe is light and 4mm drop sits in a comfortable middle ground for the zero drop fanatics and those who like a more comfortable and relaxed 8mm drop.

Kevlar and Polyester make the upper and the IRock 2 has been the most durable shoe I have ever used, so, I don’t anticipate the VJ XTRM to be any different. There is also Fiberclass stability control.

THE SHOE

Slipping one’s foot into the VJ XTRM one immediately feels the snug and precision fit. However, the slightly wider toe box is noticeable. Don’t get me wrong here, this is not a wide and spacious toe box, so, if that is what you personally need, this may well be not the shoe for you. Please remember though that this is a specific mountain/ skyrunning shoe that will be used on technical mountainous terrain, so, a shoe for this type of running should be precision.

Pulling the laces tight, the FITLOCK takes hold and provides the most secure and comfortable hold of my foot. It is the best I have tried, no question. The laces are excellent, they pull tight and stay tight.

The upper is a mix of materials and is extremely durable. Although it is too early to comment on longevity of the VJ XTRM upper, the materials and comparisons with the IRock 2 are very close. My IRock 2 have been through everything and are still going strong. The heel box has minimal padding but holds the foot secure and is extremely comfortable. The toe box is well protected and ideal for mountain terrain.

The colours of the upper are a little bright. They wouldn’t be my choice, I certainly loved the red & black combo of the IRock 2, but colours are just colours and after a good muddy run, the colours soon become muted.

Like the IRock 2, the VJ XTRM looks heavy, pick them up and you realise they are not, they are super-light!

The bottom of the shoe is what helps VJ Sport stand out amongst the competition and why they have such a following. The Butyl Rubber they use is the best outsole I have ever tested and on rock terrain, dry or wet, they are the most reassuring footwear ever! The 6mm studs are the same as on the IRock 2 and this is significant, the IRock 2 provided the best grip ever, so, to see this transferred over to the XTRM is superb.

IN USE

The IRock 2 last-year was the best mountain shoe I have ever used. This has now been replaced by the VJ XTRM and for me, moving forward, I would always purchase the VJ XTRM and not the IRock 2. For me, VJ Sport may well have killed the IRock 2 because the VJ XTRM is so good.

 sport

WHY?

To all intents and purposes, the IRock 2 and VJ XTRM are very similar shoes. One difference is 6mm drop for the IRock 2 and 4mm drop for the VJ XTRM, this may be a decision maker for some? However, the new additions to the VJ XTRM just make it a much more versatile shoe without compromising what made the IRock 2 great, no, superb!

  1. The added cushioning doesn’t compromise feel for the ground, control, stability for faster shorter mountain running but what it does allow is more cushioning and comfort for longer runs.
  2. The RockPlate is a no brainier, it is added protection and added comfort for little to no additional weight.
  3. The new Fitlock holds the foot as well, if not better than the Fitlock on the IRock 2.
  4. The toe box has been widened to allow for a little more room and toe splay when running longer but not at the compromise of precision and feel.
  5. The upper is as the IRock 2 with Kevlar and outstanding durability.
  6. The outsole is the same, 6mm studs in the amazing Butyl Rubber.

The additions make the VJ XTRM the perfect all-round mountain shoe be that for short or long outings. Whereas, the IRock 2 was a shoe that I personally would not want to be out in for much longer than 4-hours.

SUMMARY

This is the best mountain running shoe I have ever used. For skyrunning, it is THE perfect shoe and for me, all other shoes that I test for that intended use will be compared to the VJ XTRM. Jonathan Albon’s influence can be felt in this shoe and I am sure his feedback with VJ Sport has been paramount in retaining all that was brilliant in the IRock 2 and then tweaking it to add what Jonathan and many other runners wanted; more cushioning, a RockPlate and a slightly wider toe box.

I personally am unable to find any negatives.

Obviously, the Butyl Rubber outsole works so well because it is soft and grippy, so, if you start running on roads and pavements, be aware, the outsole won’t last.

But the VJ XTRM is a formula 1 shoe and not a Ford Escort or similar. Maybe the VJ XTRM should make an appearance for those special runs or races?

However, if you are like me, I think the shoes are so awesome that if I am going to run anything technical, wet or dry, I want these shoes on my feet.

VJ SPORT website

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