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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Scott Kinabalu 2018 Review

The classic returns! The Scott Kinabalu was my first ever Scott running shoe and at the time, when I was seen wearing them, I always received the comment, “I didn’t know Scott made run shoes?’

That comment continued for some time, but now, Scott are well and truly established in the running world.

One could say that the introduction of the RC range in late 2016 and early 2017 took the brand to a new level. The distinctive black and yellow really stands out and the Supertrac RC not only looked great but had great reviews – HERE

 

The Scott Kinabalu 2018 edition is an all new shoe and it is fair to say that much of what appeared in the Supertrac RC has been carried over to this new incarnation of the Kinabalu.

It has a lower drop, new upper, new outsole and different look. It may have the Kinabalu name, but the 2018 version is something different altogether!

The Shoe

 Orange is obviously ‘the’ colour for the shoe industry with many brands using varying shades or tones for 2018 shoes. My Kinabalu is two-tone orange and grey (an all-black version is available too.)

Three things stand out immediately – the seamless upper, the cushioning and the outsole. As I said above, this Kinabalu is far removed from the original so drawing comparisons are almost pointless.

It is a cushioned shoe with 29mm at the rear and 21mm at the front. For comparison, the Supertrac RC and Kinabalu RC has 22.5 at the rear and 17.5 at the front.

The RC range have 5mm drop and are out-and-out racing shoes whereas the Kinabalu has 8mm drop. This is a good thing for those who run longer or want a more relaxed shoe. Certainly, with the crossover in looks and design, RC users will find switching and alternating with the 2018 Kinabalu seamless.

 The outsole has the ‘new’ Forward Traction technology, with a multi-layer lug design. It’s designed to grip, as all good outsoles should, on a plethora of different terrain, wet to dry.


eRide is standard on Scott shoes and one of the brands USP’s. It is a rocker outsole which is designed to increase running efficiency particularly if heal striking as it helps roll the foot forward.

Cushioning comes from Aero Foam + which increases comfort, durability and rebound in the propulsive phase.

The upper is seamless with a reinforced toe box, heel box and overlays in the mid foot section leading to the laces. The tongue is gusseted and provides a sock like fit. There are no seams so in theory, the shoe should not rub or cause blisters.

There are no additional eyelets at the top of the lacing section, so, lock lacing is not possible.

 The Kinabalu is marketed as a lightweight shoe but certainly comes in a little heavier than nearly all the shoes I would consider competition at this level. It’s of course marginal, but if you are obsessed about show weight, there are lighter shoes out there! For example, the Kinabalu weighs in at 320g for standard comparable size.

For comparison*:

inov-8 Parkclaw 275g here

Nike Wildhorse 4 300g here

TNF Ultra Endurance 310g here

inov-8 Trail Talon 290g here

* all above shoes are 8mm drop and cushioned shoes.

The Kinabalu is true to size and neutral fit.

First Impressions

For me, the jury is still out on seamless uppers. Or should I say, ‘some’ seamless uppers! I get the logic, understand the benefits but some just feel a little too stiff. I had this with the recent inov-8 X Talon (Here) and I have the same feeling for the Kinabalu. Most definitely, the Kinabalu needs breaking in. When I receive new shoes, I always use them as slippers in my home before running. That way I get a feel for the shoe and I soften them up a little. I also learn if there are potential hot spots and how I should adjust the laces, so the shoe is comfortable on my instep – always an issue for me as I have a high instep.

The Kinabalu was glove like when pulled on, the gusseted tongue giving great comfort and hold on the instep.

The heel box was plush, comfortable and held well.

The toe box is wide, but not super wide. On a scale of 1-5 (5 being wide) I would say the Kinabalu is a 3. When I walked around though the shoe felt stiff. Particularly noticeable when I bent the shoe at the front, just above the toes.

The stiff seamless upper seemed reluctant to bend and the fabric creased as if folding cardboard. I must clarify this got better and better as I wore the shoes but I can only stress that for me, you need to soften the Kinabalu up. Had I run in the shoe out of the box, I am pretty sure I would have had an issue above the toes.

Cushioning felt good – a little on the firm side but I could definitely feel the benefit of the 29/21mm combination.

The outsole stuck to my wooden floor making a nice sticky sound every time I lifted my foot.

In Use

I put 8 hours in the shoes in my home before running. Invaluable in my opinion! As with all my test runs, I do 1-mile of road at the beginning and the end of my runs, the middle section is 6-8 miles of varying terrain that has a little of everything – it’s a great test ground.

The Kinabalu bounces along on the road well with the cushioning providing great protection between my foot and the terrain. However, I didn’t particularly feel connected. The cushioning is definitely on the stiffer side and although this improved over time, the Kinabalu certainly is a stiffer ride. Very similar to the RC in my opinion. 

The outsole lugs are close together and whilst not designed for road running, the Kinabalu can handle the hard stuff with no problems.

On the trails, the Kinabalu felt good transitioning between different terrains. The lugs are not very deep, so, it is most definitely a trail shoe for firmer and drier terrain. When I ran through mud, the lugs failed for 2 reasons – they are too close together and lack length to purchase in the ground. Not a criticism, just a notable point so that you understand what terrain the Kinabalu excels on. On rocks, grip was excellent, even in the wet. Always a good thing!

I am a forefoot striker but have always found the eRide of Scott pleasurable – no difference with this new Kinabalu, it works well. I have already mentioned that the cushioning in my opinion is firmer and I noticed this in the propulsive phase. I was getting a good rebound and return but not as much as in some other trail shoes.

The upper really holds the foot well with reinforced layers in the lacing area providing good hold and security around the instep. Two loops are on the gusseted tongue which the laces pass through, this is a new one on me and they are there to help keep the tongue in place – they work! Scott have used a ‘lace-locker’ in the past, it’s a simple piece of elastic that sits lower on the laces and it allows one to tuck the excess away after being tied. They removed it on the Supertrac RC and it isn’t on the Kinabalu – I really don’t know why? It is such a simple and effective system and adds no weight. I would like to see it back! 

The heel area is very comfy, padded and held everything nice and tight. Even when climbing I had little to no movement at the rear.

The toe box is not narrow and not wide, so, in principal it should suit many runners. The reinforcement is just an overlay, it will add protection, but it is not a solid bumper that can be found on other trail shoes.

After 109 miles in the Kinabalu, the shoe is most definitely softening up and starting to hold to my foot and provide a softer more pleasurable run. This is primarily noticeable in the upper – with a little rain, mud and use it has softened up. The cushioning has certainly bedded in too allowing more feel for the ground.

The 8mm drop for me is perfect as it sits in that ideal middle ground of not too high and not too low. The Kinabalu is a great stand-alone trail shoe for any run but I also think that RC users will enjoy the additional cushioning and more relaxed drop for training and/ or longer races. The 2 shoes sit well together. So, if you like the RC, you will like the Kinabalu.

In Conclusion

The Scott Kinabalu is a rock-solid trail running shoe that will appeal to many runners. The combination of cushioning, 8mm drop and good grip makes it an ideal shoe for any trail runner – the only exception coming if one plans to run in a great deal of mud or soft ground.

The upper is pretty much bullet proof and this brings with it some pluses and minuses. The plus is that the upper will last and last. I don’t envisage the upper wearing out or tearing, of course, it is too early to tell so I will feedback on this. But that stiff upper needs loosening up and softening to get the best of the shoe, so, wear the shoes casually and expect your first few runs to feel a little stiff. 

Similarly, the cushioning is a little like the upper. It’s a little stiff to start but over time beds in nicely.

If you don’t like spending money on run shoes, or, if you like your shoes to last once purchased, the Kinabalu may well be a great shoe for you – I can see these going for many months and many miles.

SCOTT RUNNING website HERE

The North Face #TNF Ultra Endurance Shoe Review

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3919A couple of weeks ago I took a look at the TNF Ultra TRII, I said then that TNF are really getting their act together with run shoes. The recent products from the brand have continued to impress and the addition of the ULTRA ENDURANCE adds another quality shoe that offers runners another option to tackle the trails. The current TNF line up is as follows:

ULTRA TRII read my review HERE

ULTRA CARDIAC read my review HERE

ULTRA MT read my review HERE

and the ULTRA ENDURANCE

In a review toward the end of 2015, when I compared many leading shoes against each other (not all shoes I must stress) the Ultra Cardiac very nearly took top honours, it was just pipped by the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac. (Read the review HERE).

If I did that review now, I strongly feel that the battle between the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac and the TNF Ultra Endurance may well be even closer but the Supertrac would still get the nod from me due to the outsole which is extreme and made from a superior wet traction rubber compound that works really well on a multitude of surfaces, overall comfort and flexibility.

To provide some clarification, we need to look at the current TNF line up and see how (in simple terms) the shoes are to be used so that you can decide which shoe is for you:

ULTRA TRII – Is a dry trail, light and fast shoe for a runner who like a more minimalist feel. Cushioning is 8mm/ 16mm and It has an 8mm drop.

ULTRA CARDIAC – Is a cushioned trail/ mountain shoe that feels plush, fits snugly and works well and on dry trail, wet rock and very moderate mud. Cushioning is 12mm/ 20mm and it has an 8mm drop.

ULTRA MT – Has an aggressive outsole and is designed for off-road use in mud, mountains and demanding terrain. Cushioning is 9mm/ 17mm and it has an 8mm drop.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3927

Enter the ULTRA ENDURANCE – 9mm/17mm with 8mm drop.

This new shoe from the TNF brand sits somewhere between the CARDIAC and MT and as you would expect, has an 8mm drop. I like this! But then again I would… I am a real fan of 8mm drop shoes and as I have said many times before, this drop sits in the perfect middle ground that can work for most people. TNF have obviously thought about this and hence the continuity between the ‘ULTRA’ range. It’s also fair to say that as the name suggests, the ‘ULTRA’ shoes are designed for running longer and therefore 8mm will be more forgiving.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3960

Slipping the shoe on, it does feel different to the CARDIAC but more similar to the MT. This primarily due to the gusseted tongue which is secured within the shoe – this holds the foot firmer and in addition reduces the chance of debris getting in the shoe. It’s a winning combination that I love.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3930

The front (toe box) is wider than both the CARDIAC and MT and therefore allows the toes to splay a little more. Protection at the front is excellent with a very reinforced toe box bumper that will definitely protect against all those unplanned collisions with rocks, stones or other debris.

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Heel box is plush, padded and holds the foot secure and has FlashDry technology.

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Key features of many TNF shoes is ‘Snake Plate’ and the ‘Cradle,’ these two elements are present here in the Ultra Endurance and add to the overall benefits of the shoe.

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Snake Plate adds protection to the forefoot of the shoe and protects against rocks/ impact and so on, TNF vary the plates from one shoe to the next depending on what they consider to be necessary. In other shoes this would be called a rock plate.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3932

The cradle is designed to hold the rear of the foot more secure and stable.

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The upper is breathable and most importantly seamless, therefore reducing the chance of rubbing, hot spots or the chance of blisters. The upper is welded TPU with suede overlays.

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The outsole is Vibram Megagrip which is making an appearance on countless shoes in the trail world. I need to clarify here that Vibram don’t only make one Megagrip outsole (see here). They do many variations, so, please check! A classic example is the outsole on say the TNF ULTRA CARDIAC and TNF ULTRA ENDURANCE – they use Megagrip but they each have three different variations of the product. The Ultra Cardiac having a more subtle version, the Ultra Endurance a more aggressive outsole for mixed terrain and to draw comparisons, the Scott Kinabalu Supertrace (has a special Scott outsole) that is basically just aggressive, extreme and made from a superior wet traction rubber compound that works really well on a multitude of surfaces.

For example:

Ultra Cardiac outsole:

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7017

Ultra Endurance outsole:

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3946

Scott Kinabalu Supertrac outsole:

©iancorless.com_ScottSupertrac-5061

Cushioning in the Ultra Endurance is single-density compression folded EVA which does a great job of allowing you to feel the ground but provide enough cushioning for a long day out.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3937

IN USE

The upper is seamless and snug and the gusseted tongue is a real pleasure which holds the foot firm. The toe box feels noticeably more roomy in comparison to say the Cardiac or MT.  The shoe feels relatively light but not super light. You really feel as though you are wearing a shoe that will take a battering. This in many respects is reflected in the shoes name, Ultra Endurance.

8mm drop for me is perfect, it provides a drop that allows me to run longer and when I can’t keep my form, the extra height allows for some compensation. As I mentioned above, this is obviously something that TNF have really thought about and the whole ‘Ultra’ range of shoes has an 8mm drop. This is also great as it means I can seamlessly move from one who to the other shoe without having a shock. A clear example of this is that I have been doing road runs in the Ultra TRII and I have been out in the really muddy stuff in the MT.

The shoe works well in mud but it’s not an out-and-out shoe for muddy trails, better get the MT if that is what you need. The Ultra Endurance is a great trail/ mountain shoe that works well and transitions from a multitude of surfaces. As I mentioned above, I believe it would give the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac a run for it’s money as a potential best ‘all rounder!’

To emphasise a point, if you were looking to but just one shoe that could handle many terrains and provide you with happy and many days out on the trail, then the Ultra Endurance would be a good place to start. It’s not a great road shoe, but it will gladly provide a cushioned and responsive ride for road sections between trail. It’s not an excellent performer in very muddy conditions but it does provide some grip that will allow you to progress. Where the shoe excels is when all these elements combine, say on a long training run, long hike or a race when you may well be mixing from road to trail, to rocks, to mud, to scree and so on, here the Ultra Endurance works so well.

It’s a shoe that excels of dry trail, rocky trail (wet or dry) and some road. It has actually become a real favourite when travelling when space is limited and I need a ‘one shoe does all’ scenario. Feel for the ground is good and has improved the more I have run. The first few runs felt a little hard and flat but the shoe bedded in nicely. The Vibram® Megragrip sole is as mentioned, almost becoming a standard feature on trail shoes. the version applied to the Ultra Endurance compliments the shoe perfectly.

Grip in mud is compromised, it always is in a shoe that is designed for trail. That is not a criticism as the shoe is definitely designed to be an all rounder. If you need out-and-out grip and a shoe that will just be used for soft-ground, mud, fells or other messy terrain, you’d be better looking at the TNF Ultra MT or a fell shoe from say inov-8 – the Mudclaw 300 for example is a great off-road shoe.

The heel box holds the foot secure with no slipping. It’s snug and reassuring.

The relatively seamless upper and sewn in tongue really holds the foot secure and has given me no hot spots. It’s a real bonus and it’s great to see that TNF are incorporating this more. For anyone who has used a Salomon S-Lab shoe with ‘endofit,’ a gusseted tongue really is just so much more comfortable. Although the TNF version is different to the Salomon version, similarities can be drawn.

The shoe has a neutral fit as does all the TNF ‘Ultra’ range and so therefore you could add an insert or orthotic if required. Drop is 8mm. Sizing is true to size, I take a UK9.5 in most shoes and my Ultra Endurance is UK9.5. However, due to the wider toe box the shoe does feel different to the Cardiac or MT so you may want to just make sure by trying in-store.

This is not the lightest shoe on the market but I don’t think that is really an issue. It’s not trying to be the lightest. What it does, is offer cushioning, protection and longevity in an attractive package that will last for many days, weeks and months. The colour-way of blue and yellow also looks pretty swish.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3952

Conclusion

This shoe is a great all-rounder and may well be a perfect ‘one shoe’ purchase for anyone who is looking for something that can do many things well. It excels on dry trails and loose surfaces such as scree, stones, sand etc. Grip from the Vibram sole is good on wet rocks and the shoes transition from trail to road well and the cushioning allows for plenty of happy miles.

The Ultra Endurance can handle mud as part of a mixed terrain trail run but if you wanted an out-and-out shoe for muddy trail, this is not it. It’s a really solid shoe with some serious toe protection, a plus for anyone heading out into mountainous terrain.

I have been working with and running myself in harsh, rocky, desert like terrain in Lanzarote, La Palma and so on and I think the Ultra Endurance would potentially make a great shoe for someone participating in a multi-day race like the Marathon des Sables. The combination of features sits well, the slightly wider toe box, protection, grip and cushioning all combine to make it a great shoe for such an adventure. I will feedback on this after the 2016 Marathon des Sables where I will test the shoe daily.

To draw a comparison, I think those runners who have enjoyed the inov-8 Race Ultra 290 will find the TNF Ultra Endurance very appealing. The plus side being the TNF who has more grip.

The TNF ULTRA ENDURANCE alternative colour-way

The-North-Face-Ultra-Endurance-Shoes-SS16-Offroad-Running-Shoes-Silver-Grey-Pompeian-SS16-2

The inov-8 RACE ULTRA 290

Inov-8-Race-Ultra-290-Shoes-SS16-Offroad-Running-Shoes-Grey-Red-Black-SS16-5054167431

The downsides are minimal for me. It’s a slightly heavier shoe and I have touched on the reasons why above. Longevity in TNF shoes has been an issue in the past so I will hold judgement on this and feedback. Currently after 100+ miles of mixed terrain, the shoes are holding up well with no issues.

The North Face say: With its Vibram® Megagrip outsole, Snake Plate™ forefoot protection and Ultra Protect™ CRADLE™ stability, the Ultra Endurance will keep you tearing up the trail without tearing up your feet. CRADLE™ technology provides extra heel stability on uneven terrain, a gusseted tongue keeps loose trail debris out, while the rigid-yet-flexible ESS Snake Plate™ delivers on lightweight, heavy duty forefoot protection.

▪Welded TPU and suede mid-foot support overlays

▪Molded-TPU toe cap for protection

▪Gusseted tongue for protection from trail debris

▪Ultra Protect™ CRADLE™ heel-stability technology

▪Single-density, compression-molded EVA midsole

▪Vibram® Megagrip outsole for durable sticky traction in all conditions

▪ESS Snake Plate™ forefoot protection

▪Cushioning 9mm front/ 17mm rear

▪8 mm offset

▪Weight per shoe 260g+/- for a UK8

▪Approximate Weight Pair: 510 g

TNF Technologies explained:

Snake Plate™

The patent-pending Snake Plate™ consists of a forefoot plate that winds back and forth between the medial and lateral sides of the foot. Because it is not one solid element, it is not as uncompromisingly rigid from side to side and front to back. The result is a forefoot plate that allows the foot to do what it is physiologically designed to do: flex, bend, and contort to changing terrain. At the same time, the Snake Plate™ delivers rigidity where and when it is still needed. The thickness, composition and size of the Snake Plate™ vary from style to style as appropriate. For example, a thicker, more rigid Snake Plate™ addresses the technical, ever-changing demands of a mountain run. A thinner, more flexible Snake Plate™ reconciles flexibility with a decreased demand for protection while on smoother dirt paths.

Vibram® Outsole Technologies

The North Face® collaborated with Vibram, long respected for quality and durability, to create various outsoles (Vibram® Humbolt Outsole, Vibram® Mikeno Outsole, Vibram® Walsh Outsole, and Vibram® Rubber Outsole Compound) with superior traction, stability and protection.

Ultra Protect™

A shank plate for torsional rigidity and consistent underfoot feel.

The North Face #TNF Ultra TRII Shoe Review

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I keep saying it but TNF are really getting their act together with run shoes, no doubt the signings of Timmy Olson, Rob Krar and so on are having a huge influence in how the brand not only look at run shoes, but design them. The Ultra TRII is a shoe that has elite (or should I say fast) runners written all over it. It’s a light shoe designed to tackle long runs that can include road and dry trail trail. Ultralight, this durable running shoe has been designed with a glove-like fit and the non aggressive Vibram® soles provides excellent traction.

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The TRII is an update to the award-winning Ultra TR and the shoe has the same exceptional traction and featherlight ripstop construction that has taken influences from track shoes or a racing flat.

The TRII has an 8mm drop which for me is just perfect, I keep saying it but 8mm (for me) is the perfect all round drop and particularly when running longer, the 8mm allows for a little more leeway when technique gets sloppy with fatigue.

 

These shows feel fast before you even run in them. A neutral shoe, they are designed for runners with a good run style. When you slip them on, they feel like slippers and the tongue of the shoe is attached to the upper enhancing that glove like feel. Toe protection is minimal but the shoe has ‘Snake Plate’ and the TNF ‘Cradle’ to offer excellent protection for road or trail.

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The heel ‘Cradle’ in particular is something that TNF have used for sometime and it most certainly helps with foot positioning, support and energy return.

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The shoe has ‘Airmesh’ and is designed to keep the foot cool and thus avoid hot spots, using FlashDry™ fibres in the lining adds to the plush feel. The upper is ripstop fabric from the tent industry and it therefore should be very durable. The shoe has a suede forefoot and the black/ silver upper contrasts nicely against the brightly coloured sole.

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Cushioning is good with 8mm at the front and 16mm at the rear, drop as mentioned is 8mm. The weight is very good at 230g (UK8).

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The sole is Vibram, say no more. It works exceptionally well for its intended use; dry trail, rocky terrain or road.

In Use

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The shoe feels great the first time you slip it on and the upper is seamless and snug. The shoe feels light and fast but yet it still has plenty of cushioning for long runs.

8mm drop for me is perfect, it provides a drop that allows me to run longer and when I can’t keep my form, the extra height allows for some compensation, especially with the 16mm cushioning at the rear.

The shoe is not for muddy runs, not at all. It’s a shoe that excels of dry trail, rocky trail (wet or dry) and road. It has actually become my preferred road shoe and at least once or twice a week I have used this shoe for shorter/ faster road sessions. They feel great and actually encouraged me to run faster. Feel for the ground is great and the Vibram® full-length road-to-trail outsole engineered for optimal traction and balance really does a great job.

On trail, the shoes feel great and for example, I can see this shoe have a great influence from Rob Krar. I can almost certainly see him blazing a trail to another Western States victory in a shoe like the TRII. As mentioned, it’s a dry trail shoe and on the odd occasion when I have encountered mud, the shoe has had little grip. That is not a criticism as the shoe is definitely not designed for anything other than dry, slick or rocky trail.

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The heel box holds the foot secure with no slipping. It’s snug and reassuring. The toe box is generous but not wide, so you would need to try the shoes on if you have a wider foot. Because this shoe is designed for faster running and due to the influences from track spikes, the TRII should have a snug feel as this adds to the security when running on technical trail. It’s all about personal preferences, for me, they are spot on!

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The relatively seamless upper and sewn in tongue really holds the foot secure and has given me no hot spots, the very breathable upper obviously adds to this.

Sizing is true to size. I use a UK9.5 and this shoe fits perfectly.

Conclusion

Using the ripstop technology and minimising cushioning definitely has definitely paid off. The upper is very breathable, the laces are slightly textured and stay fastened; ideal! The Vibram sole has enough grip for the intended purpose.

It’s a great shoe for those who want something light, fast, 8mm drop and will run on road and dry trail. It’s not an all rounder and therefore if you are looking for a ‘one shoe does all’ this is not it. It’s a shoe to add to other shoes and one that you will use every now and gain for specific runs. It would make a great race shoe.

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 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

Tips for the TRAIL – Shoe Choice

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Following on from Marc Laithwaites’ series of articles (HERE) that covered many aspects of our sport (butter in coffee? Posture? Hydration?) we now have series of articles on ‘Tips for the TRAIL’ –  from Marc and Ian.

TRAIL Tips 1: Choose the Shoes

We get a lot of questions about footwear for trail running. There is no single pair of shoes which will be suitable for every race. Fact! You may have to compromise grip for cushioning, or cushioning for grip and your shoe selection will be based various factors such as the following:

  1. The kind of terrain you are running or racing on.
  2. The distance you are racing and the time on feet.
  3. Your running style.
  4. Risks to injury
  5. What drop?
  6. Minimal or maximal?

Here’s our simple guide to selecting shoes:

1. Shoes can generally be split into ‘TRAIL’ or ‘FELL/MOUNTAIN’. Trail shoes tend to have more cushioning and are designed for hard packed trails such as canal towpath and forest track. Fell/Mountain shoes tend to have less cushioning but a more aggressive grip and are more suited to muddy tracks or running ‘off the paths’ on rough terrain. Wearing Fell/Mountain shoes could potentially cause problems on hard packed tracks due to the repeated impact and Trail shoes for example could potentially have insufficient grip and stability for severe ‘off track’ running.

2. Stability (how likely are you to twist your ankle) is better in Fell/Mountain shoes as they are lower to the ground (less cushioning), thereby improving balance, control and feel. However, Trail shoes don’t always need the same level of stability and control as a fell shoe  as hard pack tracks and trails provide a more even and predictable surface than rocky, ‘off track’ routes.

3. Minimalist or ‘barefoot’ shoes have been popular in recent years, due largely to the book ‘Born to Run’. There is a current shift by shoe manufacturers away from the minimalist trend, towards over-cushioning. Minimalist shoes were popular as a means of encouraging runners to land on their forefoot, rather than their heel. But think carefully before going to an ‘over’ cushioned shoe or a minimalist shoe! This article may add perspective HERE.

4. You don’t need to buy ‘minimalist’ shoes to encourage forefoot running. Forefoot running may well be natural for you but a shoes ‘drop’ will encourage and promote a running style. The drop is the difference between the thickness of the heel and the thickness of the forefoot. For example, if the heel cushioning is 12mm thick and the forefoot 8mm  thick, the drop is 4mm. The lower the drop and the more likely you are to run on the forefoot. The higher the drop, the more likely you are to heel strike. It’s not the amount of cushioning (minimal or maximal) which dictates forefoot or heel strike, it’s the difference between heel and forefoot. But be careful, don’t fall in to the trap of thinking low drop is best just because you see so many elite runners using this type of shoe. If in doubt, go for a 8mm drop shoe which sits nicely in the middle ground.

5. The current trend for over-cushioned shoes can include the ‘rocker system’. This encourages heel striking and a smooth roll onto the forefoot, rather than a harsh braking normally associated with heel striking.

6. Road shoes (and some trail/ mountain shoes) tend to fall into 2 distinct categories: Neutral V Support. People who pronate (roll in) excessively wear support and those who don’t wear neutral. Trail and Fell shoes tend not to come in both options, almost all are neutral and there are very few support options (but some do exist, the Salomon Seedcross a good example). If you are running over uneven terrain, your ankle position is rarely neutral, it’s only when you are repeatedly running on hard/flat surfaces (road or treadmill) that you can control your foot by choosing support or neutral shoes.

So when you head off to the store to purchase a pair of run shoes for off road, ask yourself some key questions.

  1. What terrain will I be running on?
  2. Do I require good cushioning or less cushioning?
  3. What drop do I want (zero, 2, 4, 6, 8, 12 are standard) ?
  4. Do I require a ‘precision’ fit in the toe box which provides more control or do I require a roomy toe box?
  5. How far am I going to be running in these shoes?
  6. Do I require any stability and support?

Remember, no one shoe will do all things well. That is why so many different shoes exist on the market. However, we don’t all have an unlimited budget. So in many scenarios, we often look for a one shoe fix. Some shoes are out there that do fit that ‘one shoe does all scenario,’ you just have to remember that usually when the trail gets very wet, very muddy or very technical, this is when the biggest compromise is made.

You only need to look at the recent ‘City Trail’ shoes or ‘Door to Trail’ shoes that are available and it doesn’t take long to realise that manufacturers also want to help you with that magic one shoe does all.

This website has many shoe reviews and here is a few of our most recent favourites:

  1. Salomon S-Lab 4 SG HERE
  2. Salomon S-Lab 4 HERE
  3. Salomon Sense Mantra 3 HERE
  4. The North Face HERE
  5. Scott Supertrac HERE
  6. Scott Trail Rocket HERE
  7. Montrail HERE
  8. inov-8 212 HERE
  9. inov-8 Terraclaw HERE
  10. inov-8 Baregrip 200 HERE

The North Face Ultra Cardiac Trail Running Shoe Review

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In recent years, The North Face have continually been improving their run shoes. Foe me, the Ultra Guide was a stand out shoe and it was a shoe that friends and readers of this website also enjoyed. The upper held the foot well the shoe was cushioned but not too cushioned, it had an 8mm drop and it was ideal for those longer days on the trail and the grip worked well on dry trail, rocks and and muddy (not too muddy) trail/ rocks. It was a winner!

When I heard about the Ultra MT shoe for 2015 I was excited. I thought this shoe would be a step up from the Ultra Guide and the new incarnation would be even better. I have to say, when I first got the Ultra MT I was impressed. Vibram sole, tough durable upper, great toe protection, good grip and so on…. the running experience for me though did not live up to the look of the shoe or my expectations. I did several runs in them looking for that glimmer of hope but for me they just didn’t do it. Sorry TNF but I just didn’t like them. They lacked life, responsiveness and they made my runs feel flat.

I was disappointed! The Ultra Guide would no longer be made and I thought the Ultra MT was the replacement! But then I got hold of the Ultra Cardiac.

All is forgiven TNF!

The Ultra Cardiac is the shoe I was hoping for. It has taken all that was good in the Ultra Guide, tweaked and fine tuned it and what we now have is a rock solid trail running shoe with good cushioning, a grippy Vibram sole and a plush feel when running.

The Shoe

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First off, this is a good looking shoe. Okay let me clarify, this is a good looking show in my opinion! Looks are personal but the Ultra Cardiac ticks all the boxes for me. Although on paper, Quill Blue and Acid Yellow may not sound appealing. Visually it works especially with the addition of a good dose of black. You can’t go wrong with black.

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True to size, I have a UK 9 and it fits exceptionally well, holds the foot firm, hugs the heel well with no rubbing, slipping or movement and the toe box is roomy but not ‘too’ roomy. At 301g/ 10.6oz for a UK 9 (UK 8 is 272g) the shoe is certainly comparable to the competition. Cushioning is plush with 20mm at the rear and 12mm at the front. This provides an 8mm drop (difference between front and back) that is definitely becoming the ‘norm’ in the trail running world. It used to be difficult to find a 6mm or 8mm drop shoe, now you have loads to choose from and 11mm/12mm drop shoes are becoming harder to find. In principal that is a good thing but lets be clear here, although we may be (to coin a phrase) ‘Born to Run’ not everyone should be running in low drop and minimalist shoes.

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For me, 6mm and 8mm drop shoes really do provide a sweet spot for running and particularly when running long. They allow you a more natural feel (mid to forefoot) but also allow you a more relaxed foot strike (mid to heel) and comfort when you get tired. As mentioned, there is nor shortage of shoes with 6/8mm drop so although it’s not possible to compare like-for-like you may want to consider the following:

  • Salomon Sense Mantra 3 (HERE) 15mm/ 9mm has less cushioning, 6mm drop, very wide toe box, plush ride and all the wonderfrul ‘Sense’ attributes. A favourite of mine.
  • inov-8 Race Ultra 290 (HERE) 10mm/ 18mm has been a disappointment. Initially I liked the feel of it but over prolonged running I found the shoe sloppy, it lacked feel and responsiveness and it didn’t hold my heel. I know many out in run land who love the Race Ultra in the 290 and 270 versions (I don’t like the 270 either) so it may just be me.
  • Kinabalu Supertrac (HERE) 21mm/ 29mm is a really beefy cushioned shoe with serious grip. To be honest, it’s the odd one out here as the Ultra Cardia, Mantra 3 and Race Ultra all have similar outsoles whereas the Supertrac is all about grip!

Believe me, these are not the only shoes available at 6/8mm drop, but the above will give you a start point.

I have real confidence in recommending the Ultra Cardiac to anyone. It really is a great shoe that is well suited to everyday runs, dry trail races and even some road. This is not a muddy trail shoe, it can handle some wet stuff and even a little mud in places but the Vibram outsole is all about gripping dry trail, rocks and yes, wet rocks.

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The upper is breathable and uses Ultra Airmesh and FlashDry™ to keep you cool and dry. It works! I found on repeated runs in warm weather that my feet didn’t over heat or expand. A sure sign that the upper is doing the job it is meant too.

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The tongue is loose and well padded. After using attached tongues in other shoes and the Salomon Endofit I am always a little wary now when I see a tongue not attached to the shoe at the sides. To me it just makes sense! Rest assured. The Ultra Guide tongue was comfortable and had little side movement.

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The heel box is well padded, curved and holds everything in place with no rubbing. It gets a big thumbs up.

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Toe box has some protection with the outsole extending up the front of the shoe and then you have a reinforced area of blue and black. It’s minimal protection!

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On the side of the shoe you can see the reinforcement to hold the foot in place and this does a great job without adding any restriction. The most notable areas are the yellow sections on the sole.

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At the front you have EVA to give that plush feel on the trail and at the rear the ‘Cradle’ is designed to keep ones heel in place. I find it hard to be objective on the Cradle. Certainly my foot was held secure in the shoe and I had a very precise and controlled feel with the ground. However, I do strike mid to forefoot and therefore the Cradle may have to do less work for me?

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The sole is made by Vibram so it’s fair to say that it works! The sole has no cut away so effectively it is one flat piece which gives a great reassurance on the trail. What I like about this shoe is its ability to switch from road to trail easily. It isn’t a road-to-trail shoe but it does a great job. The outsole is not aggressive but it does have lugs and it works on dry trail with loose debris such as rocks, stones, shale, pebbles and so on exceptionally well.

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On rocks, the Vibram grips and provides reassurance even in the wet. When the trail gets muddy you are going to loose grip and this is where my comparisons with the old Ultra Guide leaves me just a tad disappointed. The new ULTRA MT has a sole that was similar to the old Ultra Guide. Don’t get me wrong, this new Ultra Cardiac is a great dry trail shoe and it’s a shoe I will use a great deal. But for me, TNF can you please but the Ultra MT outsole on the Cardiac upper and then you will have two great trail shoes for mixed conditions.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7044

Summary

TNF have repeatedly had a mixed reputation when it came to running shoes. The Ultra Guide changed that and many hailed that shoe as a real step forward. The Ultra Trail shoe was also well received and it’s a shoe I still use for dry fast trail. The Ultra MT was a step back (in my opinion) and I was seriously concerned after several outings in them. However, the Ultra Cardiac has changed all that. The ‘Cardiac’ (I still question that name!) is a great shoe and one that I would gladly purchase and run in regularly. The cushioning is plush and I would say that if you need some added comfort on longer runs or races, this shoe would be well worth considering. As the name suggests, it would make a great ultra shoe.

Pros:

Cushioning is excellent

Vibram sole

8mm drop

Padded heel box and Tongue

Cons:

Toe box protection is minimal

Tongue not attached to the sides

The North Face say:

Featuring a breathable FlashDry™ upper and Vibram® outsole, this lightweight-yet-protective performance trail runner delivers an exceptionally smooth ride over the toughest of terrain. With its traction and balance enhancing full-length Vibram® outsole and fast-drying and cool Ultra Airmesh upper, this trail running shoe screams speed and comfort with maximum support. Read the full product feature list below.

FEATURES

  • Ultra Airmesh and FlashDry™ keep you cool and dry
  • Zonal protection in the heel and toe
  • Pebax® heel CRADLE™ for proper heel positioning and support
  • Luxurious cushioning in the collar lining and tongue for a comfortable fit
  • 20 mm heel /12 mm forefoot
  • EVA underfoot
  • Vibram® full-length outsole engineered for optimal traction and balance
  • 8 mm offset
  • Approximate Weight: 548 g (pair) *based on Men’s 8

Salomon S-LAB Sense 3 SG (Soft Ground) Review

©iancorless.com_SalomonS3SG-8144

I test a great deal of shoes and these days rarely do I get a shoe that I really don’t like. All the brands learn from each other and I guess ‘borrow’ ideas to help develop their own shoes and so therefore the playing field starts to even out. In the old days I would test a ‘neutral’ shoe, decide if I liked it, look at the grip or lack of and then review it. However, we are spoilt for choice these days… 12mm drop, 8mm drop, 6mm drop, 4mm drop, 0 drop and then road grip, road-to-trail, trail, dry trail, wet trail, soft ground, fell and so on. Jeez it can be exhausting and that is from a reviewing point of view. I’m pleased to say, that as a reviewer I get provided all my shoes and so if I don’t like a pair, it’s no big deal. However, had I spent a £100+ on a pair I’d feel a little perturbed to find out that I didn’t like them. So, I take reviewing shoes seriously! After all, what I write may well influence you to spend your hard earned bucks. I always try to remain impartial, inevitably though some personal thoughts and preferences will come in and when they do, I usually try to be very clear when making those points. I wrote an article a while ago and it may be wise to read it (HERE) before reading on.

©iancorless.com_SalomonS3SG-8111So, Salomon Sense 3 Ultra SG (soft ground) do I like them? Yes, I love them!

I picked up this particular pair of shoes in the middle of 2014 and I have run on road (not too much) trail, hard trail, soft trail, rocks, snow, ice, mud, bog, fell and downright disgusting ploughed farm fields of mud and they have performed in most scenarios remarkably well.

I know Kilian wears Sense (not the ultra) as does many of the Salomon racing team and yes, it’s easy to be convinced that the shoes are great because they wear them. But genuinely, for me, the Sense Ultra really is the dog’s bolx. 

©iancorless.com_SalomonS3SG-8133

Why?

As with all the Sense shoes, Salomon use a fitting system within the shoe called ‘*Endofit’ It’s a sock-liner that holds the foot in place providing THE most comfortable fitting shoe on the market. (My opinion, obviously.) So, if you haven’t tried a Sense shoe on before, don’t order online, as you may well need to play around with sizing to find your ideal fit. Get the correct fit and the shoes are a dream to wear. Many say that the toe box is too narrow but I actually haven’t found that. Yes, they may be narrower than some shoes on that market but not as narrow as others, so again, try this out for you.

*Endoft – an internal fit sleeve designed to hug the foot in exactly the right places and improve feedback and foot wrapping.

©iancorless.com_SalomonS3SG-8140

Once your foot enters the shoe it’s like a custom made glove. You really notice it when you move to a shoe without Endofit. This is something I do a great deal when testing so that I understand the pros and cons of respective shoes. The SG has Salomon’s unique lacing system and the ‘garage’ to stow any excess lace when tied. I have yet to find a person who doesn’t love this lacing system.

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The ‘Ultra’ version of the Sense has more cushioning than the normal ‘Sense’ and therefore it is designed for longer running. However, I think for most people, the Ultra version offers the ideal cushioning irrespective of racing distance. Of course I give a fair amount of personal preference here, so please keep this in mind if you really like the ‘feel’ of the ground as the normal ‘Sense’ may well be for you?

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The ‘SG’ part of the Sense 3 Ultra SG refers to ‘soft ground’ and it basically takes the Salomon Speedcross, strips it down into a racing shoe that is lighter, provides more feel of the ground and ultimately makes it a faster shoe. I don’t agree 100% here, so, you will have to read on…

The shoes pros and cons

Lets start with the ‘SG’ part, as ultimately this is the ‘USP’ of the Sense 3 Ultra SG. It’s an aggressive sole shoe that as one would expect provides grip on multiple types of terrain. For me, the shoe excels on any trail that is dry with a loose surface. Mud is also easily dealt with if not too sloppy. BUT if you get on really muddy trails and very wet slippery grass/ fell the SG does not perform as well as other shoes. So yes, this is a criticism. However, I very much see the Sense 3 Ultra SG as a ‘go-to’ trail shoe when I need something that works well on a multitude of surfaces in one run. If I wanted a shoe for an out and out muddy fell run then I would choose the inov-8 X-Talon 212 (or similar.)

©iancorless.com_SalomonS3SG-8108

The ‘Contagrip’ sole compound is relatively hard wearing and non-marking. I have used my test pair for 6-months and they show significant wear but I have been hard on them. I have not used them purely on soft ground. For example, my daily trail run always includes 2-3 miles of road/ tarmac and that really can impact on any shoe over time but the SG has handled that well. On dry trail and rock the SG are great but when rocks, tarmac or road get wet, grip can be compromised. On VK (vertical kilometre) courses they have been excellent, for example the Chamonix VK that twists and turns on dry and rocky trail. However, on a grass VK such as the Dolomites, grip was compromised.

©iancorless.com_SalomonS3SG-8116Endofit is awesome and for me provides the most reassuring, secure and comfortable fitting shoe on the market. The toe box may be a little narrow for many runners but I had no issues and I usually prefer more room.

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Toe protection is good from a reinforced toe box. The rear of the shoe is snug, comfortable and if you have the correct size shoe, you have no slipping or movement. Lacing is legendary and the lace garage is perfect.

4mm drop does mean you need to be an efficient runner with a mid to forefoot strike, so, if you are hitting the ground with your heal first, this is not the shoe for you. Feel for the ground is excellent and cushioning is great for such a light and responsive shoe. The ‘Profeel Film’ provides protection from sharp and/ or irregular objects so hours in the SG are not a problem. The shoes are neutral with no support, so if you like a little arch support (Salomon Speedcross) or you are prone to Plantar Fasciitis the SG is probably not for you. 

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Conclusion

The Salomon Sense 3 Ultra SG is a great shoe. It’s not perfect though. If I were looking for an out and out soft ground shoe then ironically the ‘SG’ would not be it. But if I wanted a shoe for daily training or racing that handled a multitude of different surfaces then the SG would always be my shoe of choice (and is.) When I travel, and I travel a great deal, the Sense 3 Ultra SG is always in my bag.

So is this shoe for you? Well, only you can answer that question. But if you are looking for a shoe that can:

  • Handle a multitude of mixed terrain.
  • Has low drop.
  • Supreme foot hold.
  • Good cushioning.
  • Excellent lacing,

Then the ‘SG’ should be a shoe you consider.

If you want a shoe for running ‘just’ on soft ground, then no, ironically the SG is not the best shoe for you.

You will already know this but any product in the Salomon S-LAB range is not cheap. But I do really feel that in the Sense Ultra you get what you pay for, a high-end shoe that if it were a car, it would be a Ferrari.

Finally, no one shoe will ever do all things well. Want to run road? Get a road shoe. Want to run road and trail? Get a ‘City Trail’ shoe. Want to run on the fells in thick mud? Get a fell running shoe. Want a shoe that manages to mix all of the above (admittedly, not too much road) then the Sense 3 SG (or the new Sense 4) is going to be a tough shoe to beat.

In March 2015 the new incarnation of the Sense SG will be released, the Sense 4. Here is a sneak preview:

The Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 Ultra SG 

Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 SG

Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 SG

The Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 Ultra SG is new for 2015 and will be available in the UK from March (tbc.)

  • The sole has deeper lugs and the sole compound has been adjusted.
  • The already brilliant Endofit has been tweaked to avoid less debris entering the shoe.
  • Additional room in the toe box.
  • Additional mid-foot support.
  • A new upper will provide a better fit using Sensifit and additional width has been added to the toe box.
  • Fit will apparently be even better than the Sense 3.

Specifications for the new Sense 4

WEIGHT 264 g  (SIZE UK 8.5)

 

UPPER

Quick drying breathable mesh

Propriotection™

Sensifit™

Quicklace™

Racing last

Lace pocket

EndoFit™

 

SOLE CONSTRUCTION 

Mud & Snow non-marking Contagrip®

OS Tendon

Dynamic TRACTION

 

CHASSIS

Profeel Film

 

MIDSOLE

Dual density EVA

Moulded EVA

 

SOCKLINER

Die cut EVA

 

MID SOLE HEIGHT

13mm/9mm – 4mm drop

Check out Salomon S-LAB HERE

Salomon Logo

 

Scott T2 Kinabalu Review – Ladies Shoe

Scott T2 Kinabalu Ladies ©scottrunning

Scott T2 Kinabalu Ladies ©scottrunning

Review by Niandi Carmont

When Scott asked me to test the Women’s T2 Kinabalu, I was very excited to try out a brand of shoe that is not as well known to UK and French trail runners… ‘Scott make bikes don’t they?’ was a typical comment!

Love at first sight… Like most female trail runners, I like a run shoe to look good and admittedly on the outside it’s a sexy shoe – bright green, sporty and light-weight.

But what about the technical and practical specs which are equally important? Well, after having tested the shoe on 200km of intense rocky mountainous terrain in France over one week, I can definitely confirm it is:

•      Durable

•      Comfortable

•      Lightweight

•      Energy efficient

•      Stable

The above qualities were exactly what I was looking for and all my expectations were met.

Durability, stability and eRide™ Technology

Scott eRide

Usually after intense weeks on hard trail terrain like that, my trail shoes “have done their time” but I was surprised to find that the soles were hardly worn.  I have an atypical and asymmetrical running gait, which means I heel strike heavily on one foot and the wear shows after only a few runs on my trail shoes. Not the Scotts though. But then the Scott shoe is built using the patented and scientifically-researched SCOTT’s eRide™ Technology – that unique rocker shape creating a very stable midstance which heel strikers like me strive for. Initially it took a few runs to get used to but I quickly felt the benefit of the rocking motion provided by the shoe and it meant I was heel-striking less and running more efficiently.

Scott T2 Kinabalu Sole

The shoe has an 11mm drop; in this current climate of ‘low drop is best’ it may mean the T2 will be snubbed by many! Don’t be too hasty. In use, this shoe feels like a much lower drop shoe, primarily due to the eRide™ (rocker). It keeps you on your forefoot with good technique. They are a pleasure to run in.

After the week on rock French trail my soles had hardly worn.  My podiatrist who is an avid cyclist took one look at them and said “this is true Scott quality, great grip, rolling resistance, durability and ride quality”.

photo 4

Shortly after that I departed on a 10-day multi-stage event to Northern India, Rajasthan and as I had luggage restrictions, was faced with the dilemma of taking only one pair of run shoes.  I knew I would be doing a mix of trail, desert, tarmac and dirt road. No hesitation, my multi-purpose, train-adaptable Scotts were in my luggage. Although a winter shoe, they were perfect on all types of terrain. I had no issues transitioning from the Thar Desert to the tarmac road leading to the Taj Mahal. Conditions were hot and humid and as much as the shoes kept my feet dry and warm on muddy, wet British towpath and boggy fells, the breathable mesh upper equally kept my feet cool in Rajasthan. And although I didn’t use gaiters as the desert/dune stages were not too long, I had very little sand in my shoes.

Lightweight

Scott Aerofoam

The shoe features an Aerofoam midsole for reduced weight and it’s definitely lightweight at 265g (UK8) a bonus for me, especially over long ultra-distances or long training sessions. More importantly – it is lightweight but not at the expense of durability or stability. After several runs the midsole ‘bedded’ in and started to mould to my foot providing additional comfort. The sock liner is perforated and the midsole has ‘drainage’ ports to allow water to escape; great for water crossings or wet weather running.

Comfort and adaptability to varied terrain.

Comfort with a capital “C”. This is an important criterion for me whatever the shoe ….but even more so if I’m going to be running long distances on arduous, rocky terrain. Not a blister or hot spot and no chafing. I ran in mud, on dry dusty rocks, shingle, slippery descents – the shoe adapted to all the changes in terrain and weather.  Not surprising as the shoe features wet traction rubber and a water-drainage system. The grip in muddy terrain is great and much appreciated by runners like me who prefer a drier terrain. I felt as in control tackling muddy, British bog as I did on dusty and slippery rocky mountainous French trail or even running down shingly, stony descents.

I also liked the bungee lacing system (elastic on the front of the shoe to stow laces) – extra security for a runner like myself who doesn’t want to be tripping over loose laces on a tricky, technical descent.

photo 2

All in all, this is definitely a great winter shoe with great protection and traction at minimal weight.

Female-specific

Needless to say Scott thinks about us ladies too, not only as far as the colour is concerned but also the female-specific fit. By the way, I opted for the bright green colour but the shoe comes in a trendy girly pink too!

Scott T2 Kinabalu Pink

Conclusion

Love them! And I get noticed to:

“Are you wearing Scotts? Didn’t know they made trail shoes!” I get asked.

“Well you bet! And pretty damn good ones at that!” I quickly reply.

Specs

  • Weight 260g for UK8
  • Drop 11mm
  • eRideComposite push-through plate
  • AeroFoamWet traction rubber
  • Lace bungy
  • Upper: Mesh/Synthetic Overlays
  • Lower: EVA/rubber

Scott T2 Kinabalu Men’s Review HERE

About the reviewer – Niandi Carmont

Niandi

Niandi is South African born, a former resident of Paris, she now lives in the UK. A runner for over 20-years; Niandi has completed Comrades Marathon 13-times, Washie 100 2-times and has finished well over 100 marathons and ultras  all over the world. Currently residing in the UK, Niandi splits her work life between the UK and France.