inov-8 TERRACLAW 220 – Shoe Review

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The Terraclaw 220 is the stripped down version of the recently reviewed Terraclaw 250 by Niandi Carmont on this website (HERE).

I have been using both the 220 and the 250 for the last 4-months and in all honesty, much of what I have to say applies to both shoes. The biggest and most obvious differences are:

4mm drop in comparison to 8mm drop

220g weight in comparison to 250g weight

Less cushioning in the 220

Different lacing system

If you are new to inov-8 shoes, they always add the weight of the shoe (based on a UK8.5) to the name. In this scenario 220 relates to 220g. I like this, from first glance you get an understanding of where a shoe fits in the big picture. It’s safe to say, the less weight = more minimalist.

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For me, the 220 and the 250 Terraclaw shoes are an extension from the Race Ultra models, the 270 (4mm drop) and 290 (8mm drop). The Race Ultra, as the name implies was designed for longer days running and the shoe had a sole that was good for dry trail and road. A key feature was the wide toe box that would allow the toes to spread out and also allow for swelling. It’s a shoe that had many new features and I must add it proved (and still proves to be) very popular. My initial impressions were good but that is where it stopped for me. I found the Race Ultra in both models lacked feel for the ground, comfort and responsiveness. They just didn’t light my candle.

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So when I received the Terraclaw models I was not over excited to take them out for a run. My preferred shoe drop is usually 8mm so I went out in the Terraclaw 250 (black and blue shoe) first and I was amazed how different this shoe felt. The sloppy feel of the Race Ultra was gone and I found this new shoe more flexible, supple, cushioned, responsive and the feedback with the ground was good. I have gone on to run many miles in the Terraclaw 250 and love them. You can read Niandi’s review HERE and for the most I agree with her thoughts.

However, I do have some other thoughts and they relate to both the 220 and 250 models.

Review

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As mentioned above, the Terraclaw 220 and 250 are almost identical.

The 250 has a cool colour way of black, yellow and blue and the 220 does not! Oh boy do I hate this pale blue and yellow. I have visions of the first Hoka’s and people saying, ‘why are you wearing clown shoes!’ Of course looks mean nothing in regard to performance but I do like my shoes to look good and I have to say, inov-8 usually do a great job of making shoes look ‘sexy!’ Not in this case, not for me anyway.

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That big ‘X’ that goes over the front of the shoe is ‘X-Lock’ – inov-8 say that is a welded overlay to hold the foot in place. I will admit that the ‘X’ adds some structure to the shoe but it does not hold the foot in place!

Why?

Well this shoe and the 250 is all about foot splay. The toe box has been designed to let the toes splay out, move around and yes, even swell if they need to. It works. Both the 220 and 250 versions give me a ‘barefoot’ feel of movement. However, the ‘X’ adds little structure or hold.

This for me is a real plus and a real negative.

1. If you are running on mixed terrain that involved some road, hard trail, a little mud, soft grass and the profile is relatively flat with a few undulations and descents – the 220 and 250 are great shoes.

2. But if you are running anything technical, running up or running down, the movement within the toe box is way too much (for me). You have no control and your foot slides inside offering no reassurance.

The two comments above are comments that relate to the shoes ‘best practice’ running scenarios. So, if you are intending to run in the number 2 scenario, the 220 or 250 is probably NOT the shoe for you unless you have a foot as wide as a Hobbit. Look at a 212 (HERE) or 300 (HERE) instead.

Niandi needs a wider toe box and this where the needs of one varies to the needs of another. To take a step back and understand the needs of the individual, for me, the wide toe box is too much when I need control but for Niandi it works. We both agree though that the outsole is NOT for muddy or slippery terrain.

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The outsole is an extension of the Race Ultra and I would imagine has come about from all those Race Ultra lovers who wanted more grip. Well they have it now but it has limitations. We must remember here that (for me) inov-8 are trying to create an ‘all-purpose’ shoe that transitions from different surfaces; road to trail? Like I always say, no shoe that compromises will ever do the extremes well. That applies to the 220 and the 250 – they are not as good as a road shoe and they do not offer the grip of an out-and-out fell or soft-ground shoe. BUT if you want a shoe that you can put on everyday and use for mixed terrain, the 220 and 250 are great for that.

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The outsole uses different compounds to provide grip on a multitude of surfaces and the grip is made up of little triangles that provide adequate grip on soft ground but not muddy ground. The spacing of the cleats is supposed to allow debris to release quicker. It made no difference for me; mud is mud and it sucks on to your shoes.

A ‘Dynamic Fascia Band’ has been embedded in the midsole and this provides some propulsion on the ‘lift-off’ phase when running. I would say that I noticed this more on the 220 (4mm drop) shoe but in all honesty, I believe that this comes from me wanting to run better in the 4mm drop shoes. You (or I) need to think more about my run style in a lower drop shoe as the mid to forefoot strike is so much more important. Hence the ‘awareness’ of the DFB working.

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The noticeable difference between the 220 and the 250 is the lacing. The 250 is conventional and the 220 sweeps off to the side. inov-8 call this Ray-Wrap and it’s designed to line with the foot’s first metatarsal. They are not the first shoe company to do this, I seem to remember using a pair of Brooks with a similar system. Ultimately it works. I am not convinced it is any better than normal lacing methods though. I personally like my shoes to hold my foot so in both the 220 and 250 models I use a lacing method like THIS and in the 220 it is a little harder to use because of the offset. The 220 also has less additional support added to the upper around the lacing. The heel box is snug and plush and the shoe fits true to size.

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Both shoes feel like slippers when you slide your foot into them and this is due to the lack of stitching. The shoes have little or no seams to cause any issues. The toe box of the 220 has less protection than the 250 and this only an issue if you are planning running on more rocky terrain or terrain with obstacles when the risk of stubbing a toe increases.

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In Use

Although the 220 and 250 are very similar, are they for different runners? The 250 is a great ‘all rounder’ that will appeal to many runners because of the following features:

8mm drop

Good cushioning

Mixed terrain outsole

Wide toe box

Great for longer runs

The 220 though is a much more streamlined shoe and the 4mm drop and less cushioning will appeal to more efficient runners who cover ground quicker with a forefoot/ mid-foot run style. For example, I can see a runner using the 220 for short training sessions, faster training sessions or racing. They then may well use the 250 for longer training runs or longer races. I don’t think that 250 users would necessarily drop down to the 220.

I have enjoyed the 220 for ‘keeping me on my toes’ on runs of up to 60-75 minutes on road, grass, forest trail and canal path. When I have wanted to run longer I have used the 250.

When running on technical trails with more mud, rocks and longer descents and climbs I have always preferred to use a different shoe. Currently the Mudclaw 300 (HERE) as this seems a natural extension of the 250 with a more aggressive outsole, precision fit but good cushioning.

Ultimately, if you need a shoe that will allow you to run on mixed terrain and you need a wider toe box, the 220 or 250 should be on your list of shoes to look at.

Despite misgivings on the lack of support in the upper, I have found the freedom that both shoes provide very liberating and they do give a ‘natural’ feel similar to running barefoot. The outsole has worn well even with road use and they compare well to other shoes on the market.

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Conclusions

I have always admired inov-8 for thinking of runners when they make shoes. Silly thing to say you may think, but how many other brands provide shoe models with varying drop: 3,6, 9 and 12mm or 4 and 8mm and at the same time have offered standard or precision width fittings in certain models. The arrow system on the rear of the shoe in many ways inspired a whole new generation of runners who wanted to get ‘lower’ with drop and inov-8 facilitated that. So, I’m an inov-8 fan. Over time, they have tweaked models and expanded the range. The Race Ultra and now the Terraclaw are shoes that hove come about with the growth of ultra running and the need (or desire) for a wider toe box. They have answered that demand and in doing so, once again they have provided two options in drop to ensure that nearly everyone is happy. If you are in need of a shoe that can handle a mix of terrain (not all road and not all mud) then a 220 or 250 may well answer your needs.

Pros

Wide toe box

4mm drop for the more efficient runner

Fast shoe

Lightweight

Responsive

Cushioned (but not too cushioned)

Great feel

Outsole for mixed terrain

Cons

I’m not convinced on the lacing but then again it caused no issues

Outsole lacks grip on mud, when climbing or descending

Toe box (for me) feels sloppy on technical terrain, when climbing and when descending

Less cushioning than the 250

Upper lacks support when required

Technical Specs

Weight: 220g/ 8oz

Fit: Standard

Footbed: 6mm

Midsole: Compressed EVA

ShankL DFB

Drop: 4mm

Sole: Terraclaw

Outsole: Dual C

What inov-8 say:

inov-8 say:

From single track to steep descents, the TERRACLAW™ performs on the widest range of trails imaginable. Our unique lug design releases debris and grit like no other, delivering optimum grip with every foot strike. At just 220g, the lightest version of the TERRACLAW™ is stripped-back for racing super-fast with a finely tuned balance of performance and protection.

inov-8 TERRACLAW 250 Shoe Review

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Niandi Carmont gets her claws out and test the new inov-8 Terraclaw 250. A shoe that offers a wide toe box, grip, cushioning and an 8mm drop for longer days on mixed terrain.

Please note all photographs in this review are the male colour ways . The ladies version as reviewed is below.

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REVIEW

The Terraclaw is a great dual purpose trail shoe for “earthy” mostly dry trail as well as offering enough grip to be used on trail with moderately grassy/ muddy sections. As I’m not an aficionado of technical slippery and extremely boggy terrain, this is definitely the shoe to fit my foot in more ways than one.

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What definitely makes this trail shoe even more attractive for me is the wide toe box or in inov-8 jargon “standard fit” as opposed to the “precision fit”. The roomy toe box allows my toes to splay comfortably as I’m running irrespective of any swelling in hot weather over long distances. This is an absolute must for me as like with many ultra-runners who have been in the sport for some time, I have an issue with a collapsing right arch and thus a wider right foot.  In my case narrower trail shoes usually lead to chafing in between the toes and ensuing blisters.

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Another interesting key feature of this model which attracted me is inov-8’s innovative patented Dynamic Fascia Band™ (DFB) technology. What this means in layman’s terms is that the anatomical position of the plantar fascia ligament is replicated and the function of the human foot’s ability to utilize the “windlass effect” is duplicated. As body weight moves forward onto the metatarsal heads and the toes begin to extend, tension on the inov-8 fascia band™ increases. When the heel leaves the ground, the inov-8 fascia band™ resists elongation of the medial arch and carries the entire body weight of the runner converting the shoe into a rigid propulsive lever. This helps the athlete to run more efficiently, more economically and thus a tad faster. How cool is that for an injured right-foot heel striker with a collapsing arch like me? I certainly feel I’m dragging my right foot less.

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In addition to this the shoe is very breathable with a soft with a slipper-like feel. In fact this model is almost too comfy for a trail shoe! At 250G it is a relatively light shoe yet lightness is not sacrificed at the expense of cushioning. There is enough cushioning in this trail shoe to run on rock, gravel or stony terrain and inov-8 have got the balance just right and so if like me you still like to feel the ground underfoot you won’t be disappointed. The shoe sticks to inov-8 heritage of getting you low to the ground but the lack of a rockplate will allow more irregular rocks or sharper rocks be felt in the foot. It’s no great issue but one you should be aware of.

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If you take a peek at the sole of the shoe, you’ll quickly understand why this shoe offers good grip on most terrain.  Inov-8 have developed 5 distinct outsole compounds to deliver maximum grip on a wide variety of terrains and in changeable weather conditions. The Terraclaw outsole is composed of Dual-C, in other words a mix of medium sticky and hard sticky compound.  This particular technology uses rock climbing rubber technology.

In principle the shoe should therefore also offer a reasonable amount of grip on wet rock. However, I was not convinced after having tested it on the initial section of the Garmin Mourne Skyline race course. Running down the wet stone steps was tricky and a shoe like the inov-8 Mudclaw 300 (HERE) would be more suited to that terrain despite the aggressive outsole.  Personally from having tested the shoe on various terrains and in different seasons and weather conditions, I would say it is more suited to dry trail and trail with short road sections. The shoe transitions well from one to the other. It would perform less well on extremely boggy terrain, very steep and slippery grassy climbs/ descents (fells), stony river and waterfall sections.  I also found the cleats wore away quite rapidly with over-use. I’m on my second pair in the space of 3 months as there is noticeable cleat wear where I heel strike and on the forefoot where the foot lifts off. Of course, if you use the shoe on just soft ground or trail, the outsole will last longer! However, I believe that inov-8 are trying to find a shoe here that does all jobs? The rise of ‘city-trail’ a key indicator why this move from inov-8 makes sense. But whenever you make a compromise, you very often end up with something that does nothing well. Certainly, if you want an out-and-out shoe for wet, muddy and slippery trail this is not the shoe for you: look at the 212 (HERE) or 300 (HERE). Equally, if you want a shoe for just road, this is not the shoe for you. But if you want a shoe that enables you to run road, run trail, have comfort and all with a pleasing drop of 8mm this is definitely worth considering.

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The triangular spaced out lug design of the shoe is interesting too.  The purpose of this is to release debris, grit and small stones. However I found that it was not effective in releasing big clumps of muddy grass which got entangled in the lugs.  On the plus side because of the lug design the shoe is easy to rinse off after muddy trail runs.

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The Terraclaw offers good toe and foot protection in spite of its light weight with a full rand and higher stack height. Like other inov-8 models the 2 Meta-flex grooves on the outsole (pinky-red color on the Ladies shoe) at the forefoot and the heel allow for natural foot flexing making for a smoother run.

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It’s a neutral shoe that fits true to size but be warned, the roomier toe box may make the shoe feel a little ‘sloppy.’ If so, try lacing the shoe using this method HERE, it will hold your foot tight but still allow the freedom for your toes.

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Last but not least – the color is great! Nice and sober – black with a hint of pink and blue. Personally I’m not one for garish bright run shoes which quickly look muddy.

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TESTING

I have tested this shoe on several types of terrain and in various weather conditions:

  • A 2-day ultra around the Isle of Wight with a total mileage of 117km in hot weather and on dry trail, road sections, grassy coastal trail and some short technical ascents. My conclusion: this shoe is very versatile – I had no issue moving from trail to road sections. The grip on dusty trail is very good.
  • A one-day 42km trail in Lanzarote running on dust roads, through very rocky lava fields, on beach sections in soft sand, on pebbles, on stones, gravel and up and down slippery dusty mountain sections in hot weather. My conclusion: the shoe offered great grip in dry conditions. I tend to be too careful and overly think technical descents but found that I had more confidence with the Terraclaw.
  • Wet muddy trail training runs in the Midlands in rainy cold weather. My conclusion: If the terrain is not too muddy the Terraclaw offers sufficient grip. However, I felt it lacked grip in extreme boggy conditions.
  • Training runs on the West Highland Way. My conclusion: Good shoe for this type of terrain which is not extremely technical and very runnable.
  • Wet training runs on the fells in the Lakelands. My conclusion: Again I feel the shoe does not offer sufficient grip on really boggy and slippery terrain.
  • Training in the Mourne mountains in Northern Ireland. My conclusion: The shoe was great on forest path and trail sections but lacked grip on wet rocky sections on descents and steep grassy descents. The Mudclaw 300 would probably be more suitable for this kind of terrain.
  • Training runs on forest path near Paris. My conclusion: The shoe is very versatile and transitions comfortably from hard road surfaces to softer forest terrain.

CONCLUSION:

PROS:

  • I like it – I’m already on my second pair.
  • The patented Dynamic Fascia Band™ technology favors a more economical and thus more efficient run style.
  • The Dual-C grip is sufficient for moderately wet conditions.
  • This model is extremely comfortable.
  • It is lightweight shoe with ample protection and great cushioning.
  • I love the roomy toe box.
  • Great color
  • Very versatile shoe – an all-rounder

CONS:

  • I’m on my second pair. It lacks durability mainly due to lug wear.
  • It doesn’t offer sufficient grip in more extreme conditions

If you’d prefer the same show with a lower drop (4mm) the 220 version is available with a unique lacing style.

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TECHNICAL SPECS

Weight: 250G / 9OZ

Fit: STANDARD

Footbed: 6MM

Midsole: COMPRESSED EVA

Shank: DFB™

Drop: 8MM

Sole: TERRACLAW™

Compound:DUAL-C

Running a mult-day race? Check out our training camp http://d.pr/f/18cqZ

inov-8 website HERE

Inov8 say:

From single track to steep descents, the TERRACLAW™ performs on the widest range of trails imaginable. Our unique lug design releases debris and grit like no other, delivering optimum grip with every foot strike. The higher mileage version of the TERRACLAW™ range, this shoe delivers extra protection and comfort courtesy of a full rand and higher stack height.

inov-8 TERRACLAW 220 and TERRACLAW 250 First Impressions

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inov-8 love bringing out new shoes. Not all of them are perfect. I think we can forgive them for that. It’s good to experiment and you can have shoes in a test scenario as much as you like but it’s only when people start paying for them do you really get the true feedback.

I am lucky, I have been fortunate to test many of inov-8’s new shoes. So receiving the latest invention (a shoe that I actually had a first look at in October 2014 at Limone Extreme) the TERRACLAW I was really interested to see what the brand had done with this shoe and what it offered.

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I have the TERRACLAW 220 and the TERRACLAW 250. This is a first impressions article, so don’t expect any great detail on what they are like to run in, that will come later.

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The TERRACLAW 220 is a UK7 so this shoe will be tested by my partner, Niandi. The TERRACLAW 250 is a UK9.5. For simplicity, the blue shoe is the 220 and the black shoe is the 250. They are ‘Standard Fit’ which offers a wide toe box. This allows the toes to splay when running naturally. It also is perfect if you have a wider foot or maybe when running long and you expect your feet to expand. I am usually a UK9.5 in inov-8 but I would be interested to try a size 9. I can definitely run in the UK9.5 but the shoe allows just  a little too much movement in the toes. So, if you are going to purchase online think about this.

They are light!

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inov-8 always name the shoe based on the weight, so a 220 weighs 220g and a 250 weighs 250g. In our scenario, the 220 in a UK7 weighed 219g/ 7oz and the 250 in a UK9.5 weighed 258g/ 9.1oz. Spot on!

The two shoes on face value look the same until you take a closer look. I will come on to that in a moment. A key factor is the drop, the 220 is 4mm and the 250 is 8mm. So before we go any further, the shoes will have a very different feel when running. In addition, cushioning in the 250 is noticeably different to the 220. It all comes down to personal preferences but one could arguably say that the 220 is an out-and-out faster trail shoe for shorter races and the 250 will be better suited to longer races.

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The outsole on both shoes is the same, so there is no compromise between the 220 and the 250. As you can see from the images, the sole is aggressive but not ‘too’ aggressive. Both these shoes sit somewhere between a RACEULTRA in the 270 (4mm drop) and 290 (8mm drop) versions and  a X-TALON and/ or MUDCLAW.

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I think it’s therefore safe to assume that the TERRACLAW 220 and 250 are designed at trail runners who require a shoe with comfort, cushioning and more importantly, grip. The RACEULTRA provides this already but with no grip and the X-TALON and MUDCLAW are out-and-out fell shoes or soft ground shoes. So, if the TERRACLAW performs I am pretty sure it’s going to be a popular shoe in the inov-8 line up.

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The grip on the outsole is really spaced out which will allow grip (similar to a football boot) but in theory will stop the sole clogging up with debris. Several buzzwords appear on the outsole:

  • META-FLEX
  • DYNAMIC FASCIA BAND
  • DUAL C
  • TERRADAPTER

Oh yes, just like many other shoe manufacturers, inov-8 have come up with a whole new wording system to describe some key features.

Meta-Flex allows the foot to bend across the metatarsals, an important feature in any shoe but especially useful for off road running, Many shoes that provide grip can be too inflexible. The Meta-Flex on the 220 and 250 does really add to the feel of the shoe based on just a couple of runs.

Dynamic Fascia Band is in the midsole and is designed to help maintain stride efficiency. The jury is out on this at the moment. It certainly doesn’t seem to harm or damage the feel of the shoe, but equally I am not sure at this stage I feel the benefit?

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Dual C represents the two compounds in the sole. Black and Yellow on the 220 and Black and Blue on the 250. The black area is made of a more durable material and increases protection, the coloured area is softer and stickier for increased grip. If you get a hold of the shoe and press the different compounds you can really feel the difference. I do wonder though if the coloured section is wide enough, only time will tell?

On speaking with inov-8, they say that Dual C compounds negate the need for a rock plate. I am not convinced, soon as you got on hard terrain you feel the ground beneath you. That’s a great thing, I love to feel the ground. But the odd sharp stone or pebble does make it’s presence felt.

The upper is where the two shoes differ quite considerably. Most notably, the lacing!

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The 250’s lace conventionally and the 220’s lace using inov-8’s new RAY-WRAP system which is designed to align with the first metatarsal. In principal this is designed to make a more secure, close and comfortable fit. I have witnessed this before in a pair of Brooks shoes and I enjoyed the comfort and reassurance it offered. However, this does feel quite unusual at first. Niandi has expressed similar concerns with the 220. But lets be clear, it’s too early to tell and and make a judgement on this. The tongue in both shoes is padded well and offers great comfort. The laces are thin but pull tight providing a secure foot hold and if tied in a double not they do not slip.

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The heel area on both shoes is roomy, plush and holds the foot firm. No issues here from just a couple of runs.

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The upper on both the 220 and the 250 is light and breathable and both shoes utilise inov-8’s new X-LOCK welded overlay Yes folks, can you see that big yellow X on the 220 and the big blue X on the 250? That is X-Lock!

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X-Lock is designed to hold the foot firm within the shoe. It differs greatly between the 250 and the 220. Just look above. The pattern is completely different. We will feedback on this more with more use. You will also notice in the above image how the 250 (left) has considerably more toe protection than the 220. The 220 has a yellow reinforced soft band, to be honest it offers no protection against rocks. Whereas the 250 has a tougher fabric and just a fraction more protection against rock impact.

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Let’s be clear, this is a first impressions look at the TERRACLAW and our verdict is impressed! As I have stated on many occasions recently, 8mm drop is for sure a sweet spot in the trail running shoe market and nov-8’s addition of a trail shoe with cushioning and grip is welcome.

For faster and more minimalist runners, they too will have a smile on their faces knowing that they have also been looked after with a 4mm drop.

Time to hit the trails and we will feed back on how these shoes perform, what the comfort is like and importantly do all these new features -‘X’ this, ‘RAY WRAP’ that and ‘DYNAMIC FACIA’ this really work?

The 220 in Images:

The 250 in Images:

220 v 250

The TERRACLAW shoes will be available in September 2015. Check out inov-8 HERE