inov-8 TRAILROC 280 Shoe Review

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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

The Shoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Use

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

inov-8 website HERE 

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inov-8 MUDCLAW 300 Shoe Review

 

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C’mon, get a grip! If you run in mud, you will no doubt be familiar with inov-8. For years, inov-8 has provided the ‘go-to’ shoes for running when the ground gets wet, slippery, muddy, gnarly and so on!

The Mudclaw 300 is not a new shoe in the massive inov-8 line up. The 2015 incarnation though does have a wicked and eye grabbing colour way and having used many versions on inov-8 (fave the 212 here) I was keen to put the Mudclaw 300 through its paces. Believe it or not, I am (was) a 300 virgin!

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Red, blue and a white logo. Have to say, inov-8 does a great job of getting shoes to jump off the shelf. I love this colour way and yes, it makes me want to wear the shoe. If you have the previous version of the ‘300’ in yellow and black, don’t be fooled into thinking this is the same shoe. It’s not.

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The sole and heel have had a revamp. The previous model really flared up at the rear, the new incarnation (red and blue) sits much closer to the ground, does not flare up and the heel box sits lower so as to cause no problems with the Achilles.

It’s still a 2-arrow shoe, so, 6mm drop.

Drop is a personal thing but I am a firm believer that 6mm/ 8mm drop shoes provide a great middle ground and if you are running longer, a slightly higher drop is kinder on the calf and legs. Of course, this is all down to personal preference. If you don’t know what the drop of the shoes you run in is, it’s worth finding out. Going too low too soon could cause injury.

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The sole has 8mm lugs. If Wolverine™ wore run shoes he would most likely go for the Mudclaw. Yes, they are grippy buggers. The rubber compound is soft and grippy but be warned, the shoe is called Mudclaw for a reason, you want to keep hard ground and abrasive surfaces to a minimum in these shoes as the sole WILL wear down. My test run includes 1-mile of road before and after the trails and I have to say, this shoe feels wonderfully comfortable on the hard stuff despite its ‘off-road’ pedigree. You can actually hear the sole grip. Sounds weird I know, but it’s very clear and you can feel it. At the front of the shoe, just behind where the toes would sit is a clearing in the sole with a META-FLEX™ this allows the shoe to bend without restriction when running. Works great when climbing!

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As the name suggests, the weight of the shoe is 300g. inov-8 always name the shoes based on the weight of a UK8.5 in case you didn’t know. It’s a pretty cool system actually as you can see at a glance, based on weight, if a shoe may or may not be suitable for you.

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The upper is treated with DWR coating and has a ‘Precision’ fit. Let’s be clear here, inov-8 now makes many shoes in a ‘standard’ and ‘precision’ fit. If you have a wide foot, this is good news because you may now well be able to wear a shoe that you were not able to wear in the past. But for me, the Mudclaw and shoes like it are all about control and precision. A shoe for really muddy and technical conditions should hold your foot and allow no movement. You need that controlled feel. Control gives precision and precision means faster running and less mistakes. Of course I am giving a very personal opinion here but I hope you see the logic? What I am saying is, be careful when choosing a shoe. Precision for my relatively wide foot is great when I need it but I wouldn’t want to be running all day with my toes cramped into a shoe. For me, the Mudclaw although precision in fit still had a relatively roomy toe box and this was great on the technical muddy stuff.

The tongue is held in place by elastic to stop it slipping. It’s a great move. However, the Mudclaw  doesn’t fit as tightly or as snug as say the Salomon S-Lab Sense SG (the perfect fitting shoe for me!) but if laced correctly (try this), pulled tight and double knotted your foot should feel super secure; my feet were!

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Getting lacing right is particularly important as the heel box has been tweaked so that it sits lower on the Achilles Tendon to avoid tension and potential injury problems. On my first run I felt as though my heel was slipping and I was unsure if this was a good move. Once re-laced, tightened appropriately, I can confirm that the lower heel is a good idea.

The rand around the lower part of the upper is now stitched and should in principal last longer and be more durable. Toe protection is relatively minimal.

The sides of the shoe are reinforced with a series of zig-zag support (webbing upper support) to hold the foot in place and these extend to the back of the shoe. They do the job, I had no issues with feeling that I had any lack of support.

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Cushioning for me is one of the key factors of this shoe. I have long been a fan of the 212 (here) but when running longer I found it just a little too minimal. Not so with the 300. The EVA foam, 6mm drop and Meta-Shank all work together to make this a great shoe for longer days out. The stack height is 28mm and therefore considered low but obviously not as low as some. It has average stiffness that works exceptionally well on varied terrain. It has no rock plate but does have a performance last and Met-Cradle.

The shoe is as you would expect in an out-and-out off road/ mud shoe fits NEUTRAL.

In Use

My first run in the shoe was mixed. I found my foot moved around a little and I felt insecure with the lower heel. When I got home I looked at the shoe, re-laced it and then the following day went out and ran the same 8-mile loop. It was a completely different experience.

First and foremost, these shoes grip and really grip. If it’s wet and muddy these are now my go to shoe. I recently ran an uphill and downhill trail in Ireland that was on the Mourne Skyline MTR race route and the trail incorporates many elements – forest path, tree routes, gravel, stone steps, mud, road and it had rained heavily before the run and drizzled whilst running. At no point did I have any question on grip! For a shoe that is designed to keep you secure on muddy trail, I was amazed at the security on wet and slick rock. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. You need that 100% reassurance so that you can relax, the the Mudclaw 300 gave me this.

Although a precision fit shoe, I found the toe box roomier than my inov-8 212. No bad thing and it certainly caused me no issues. The added cushioning was superb when running longer or when getting off soft ground and on to harder trails. Certainly a shoe I would choose when training or racing longer.

6mm drop for me is perfect and the stack height of the shoe made me feel 100% confident; no rolling! Depending on your experience, preferred distance and ability, the Mudclaw 300 is a perfect training shoe that will keep you happy for many a run. I personally would be more than happy racing in it over any distance. For the more experienced, they may well prefer a slightly lighter shoe? The Mudcaw 265 for example is 35g lighter, has the same outsole and 3mm drop.

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Summary

The Mudclaw 300 is a shoe for when you need grip. It’s comfortable, secure, provides excellent traction and if laced correctly will hold your foot firm. It’s not a shoe for running on the road even though it’s remarkably comfortable. Just keep in mind, the more you run on the hard stuff, the quicker the sole will wear out. My daily training run has 1-mile of road out and back and I have been using the Mudclaw 300 on a regular basis. I currently can see minimal wear after 80-miles. The shoe is true to size. I wear a UK9.5 and the inov-8 fit perfectly in the same size.

Specs:

  • Weight: 300G / 10.5OZ
  • Fit: PRECISION
  • Upper: SYNTHETIC, TPU
  • Lining: MESH
  • Footbed: 6MM
  • Midsole: EVA
  • Shank: META-SHANK™ 1
  • Drop: 6MM
  • Sole: MUDCLAW™
  • Compound: STICKY
  • Gender: UNISEX

What inov-8 say:

The legendary all-terrain animal has undergone a makeover for SS15. Now boasting the same flatter heel unit as the mudclaw™ 265, but still maintaining its 6mm drop, the mudclaw™ 300 also has an improved, more flexible upper. A fully gusseted tongue helps keep any debris out. Its hero-status outsole remains as aggressive as ever, guaranteeing the ultimate grip for mountain, obstacle and adventure racers on the muddiest, steepest terrains. Website HERE

inov-8 X-TALON 212 Review

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If Wolverine™ were going to go running on the trails, he would pair up his incredible hands (and blades) with a pair of X-Talon 212’s.

Irrespective of what type of running you do; road, trail, mountain, fell or even treadmill, the X-Talon 212 has that distinctive look that not only sets it apart from the competition but also makes one take a second look and ask the question, “is that a run shoe or a football boot?”

It’s a winning shoe that combines minimal weight, low drop, stability and awesome grip for when conditions are muddy, boggy, slippery or basically just downright awful.

I doubt that inov-8 needs an introduction but let’s have a recap just in case.

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The company is just 11-years old and the creation of South African, Wayne Edy. You can sum up inov-8’s growth in just one quote from Wayne, “I’m not a follower, I never will be. I like to carve a new way. I thrive to innovate.”

inov-8 shoes are all about being at one with the terrain and in the UK they have become the ‘go to’ shoe when you need grip.

inov-8 say, “We believe in natural running. Natural running involves taking running back to its most innate form, letting nothing alter the natural biomechanics of the foot and body. Natural running relies on the strength of the runner’s feet and legs rather than the cushioning or support of a shoe. The foot controls the shoe, not the other way around.”

inov-8 were very much at the forefront of minimalist running and right from the off the offered a very structured and methodical approach to getting ‘lower’ to the ground.

This system was a series of arrows (on the rear of the shoe) that signified the shoes drop in 3mm increments: 3 arrows = 9mm, 2 arrows = 6mm and so on. This arrow system informed runners immediately of what drop a shoe was and importantly allowed runners to make an informed and structured progression to get lower (if required). The shoe naming was also quite innovative. You had the model of shoe, for example: Trailroc, Roclite or X-Talon and then a number afterwards, so, in this scenario X-Talon 212. The ‘212’ refers to the weight of the shoe in grams.

Lightweight, minimal and functional, inov-8 have pioneered running shoes for trail, rock, fell or mountain and in simple terms have endeavoured to keep runners low to the ground (with grip) via a plethora of shoe models providing a selection of drops, cushioning and grip. The recent addition of the Race Ultra 290 (Review HERE) is a prime example of how the company are looking at the growing ultra market and the need for a more cushioned shoe but still with a low drop (6mm) and a flatter outsole for extended hours running.

2015 will see many new additions to the already expansive range. (*see below)

X-TALON 212

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Firstly, big news! The X-Talon is now available in a standard fit in addition to the normal precision fit. This is important news for many a runner who would have loved to use the 212 but found the tight and narrow fit of the precision just too tight for their Hobbit like feet.

As mentioned previously, the 212 may well be one of the flagship shoes in the inov-8 range and you can expect to see the shoe in Trail, Mountain, Fell, Orienteering, Cross Country, Obstacle and Skyrunning races all over the world.

The 212 is an out and out off road shoe and as the name suggests, the grip is Talon like.

The Shoe 

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I used the standard fit in my normal shoe size UK9.5 so it would be fair to say that the 212 is true to size. However, even though this shoe is standard fit it still fits super close in the toe box, you almost certainly would want to try this shoe on before purchasing. Please remember that the 212 are an out-and-out off road and soft ground shoe, so it is important that your foot has minimal movement within the shoe. This is why the shoe was originally designed in precision fit only. A close fitting shoe is ideal when climbing, descending or contouring when on soft or uneven ground. The lacing system allows you to pull the shoe tight to your foot and cradle it offering more support. Spend a little time tweaking the lacing and you will be rewarded with a wonderful close and natural contact to the ground.

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First off, the shoe is super flexible. You can bend it anyway, fold it in half and the shoe does not resist. The shoe upper is tough and quite thick and I have heard criticism saying the upper is too thick! Of course this all comes down to personal preference but if you are bombing up and down wet and muddy terrain everyday, you need an upper that can withstand that sort of abuse… I have had my 212’s for 6-months (probably 3-runs a week) and I have well and truly abused them without failure. That’s a plus in my book.

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The shoe has Meta-Flex™ and Meta-Cradle ™, which provide a flex groove and upper webbing support at the metatarsal heads. In all honesty I am not fully sure what that means but if that means good flex and support then I agree.

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The sole of the 212 looks like a football boot with a series of spaced out rubber nodules that are made of soft ‘sticky’ compound rubber as one would see on some climbing shoes. What makes this shoe work so well off road is the fact that the grip is spaced out and this therefore stops soft ground filling and clogging up the grip of the shoe. The soft rubber works really well on rocks, gravel and other dry surfaces and should the rocks become wet, grip is still highly impressive allowing you to run with confidence. One downside of the soft rubber is that if you go on the road it will wear down. This is not a criticism of the shoe. It’s basically just a heads up to warn against excessive road use. I should point out that my everyday run requires at least a couple of miles on road or pavement to get to the trail and yes, my sole has started to show wear and tear but that is after 6-months of regular use.

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Cushioning is minimal and the drop (2 arrows) is 6mm; this provides a great contact for the trail beneath your feet. Ironically, the shoe feels very comfortable on hard trail and even road. I would say it feels surprisingly cushioned despite its minimal looks. inov-8 do not use a rock plate to protect your foot against small and/ or sharp objects and therefore you can sometimes feel these objects when running.

Th front of the shoe has a rubber bumper but toe protection is minimal. The rear of the shoe holds the foot well and if you have the right size shoe and the laces adjusted correctly, you have have little or no movement when running.

IN USE

Pros

The 212 are all about gaining grip on soft and boggy ground. If you use the shoe in these conditions you will be over the moon by the grip, feel and security offered. The upper is durable and the lacing perfect. The addition of a standard fit in addition to the long established precision fit now ensures that you can have comfort despite your shoe size or width. The combination of these elements makes the 212 my ‘go to’ shoe for anything that resembles fell running or soft ground running (including snow.) I have used the shoe for 6-months, accumulated 100’s of hilly miles and the shoes have performed perfectly. They have also been my preferred shoes when running Vertical Kilometres™ particularly when the terrain has been grassy and steep. The low drop allows great feel for the terrain below and although relatively minimalist from a cushioning perspective, they do offer great comfort for runs of 2 to 3-hours. This comfort is extended if the ground remains soft and boggy.

Cons

It’s a very specific shoe for a very specific use and therefore this would be an ‘addition’ to your shoe collection. It’s almost unfair to say this is a con but for some, they want a wonder shoe that does ‘all things,’ the 212 is NOT that shoe.

The lack of a rock plate does mean that you can feel small and sharp objects occasionally.

The shoe is very flexible with minimal cushioning and therefore one would need to be attentive to how long one runs in them. Of course this is very personal to the user… one person may find 60-mins enough, another 3-hours. Certainly, the more you use them, the more time you will be able to spend in them.

Specs

  • Weight 212g
  • Upper Synthetic, TPU
  • Lining Mesh
  • Drop 6mm (2 arrows)
  • Sole X-Talon (Sticky)
  • Midsole Injected eva
  • Fit Precision and now Standard

Conclusion

The X-Talon 212 really is a top quality shoe with a very specific use. If you are looking for a shoe to do several types of running (road and trail), the 212 is not for you. However, if you are looking for grip on off road terrain then you would be hard pressed to find a shoe that does the job better than the 212. The addition of a standard fit to the long established precision fit should mean that if you have tried the 212 in the past and found them too narrow, they may very well fit you now! Both models are unisex.

Note

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If you prefer a more minimalist shoe with lower drop, inov-8 make the X-Talon 190, which has 3mm drop, a stripped back upper and the same talon like grip.

*New for 2015

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inov-8 are strengthening the  X_TALON off-road running shoe range (212 & 190) with the addition of the new X-TALON 200. Available in early 2015, the shoe looks set to be a huge hit with off-trail runners and obstacle racers.