SCOTT Kinabalu Ultra RC Review

I recently reviewed the new SCOTT Supertrac RC 2 (here) and I was excited. I had been using the original Supertrac as a regular shoe when going to the mountains, particularly when on technical terrain. Although I loved the shoe, there were just a couple of niggle points. Gladly those niggle points were removed in the RC 2 and I went on to say:

“The Supertrac RC 2 is a great shoe and for anyone who loved the original Supertrac RC, I think now they will have an even bigger smile on their face. For those who were tempted by the black and yellow shoes previously but decided that the toe box was too narrow, the cushioning compromised or the feel was a little flat, you should now go back and check these out. It’s rare I compare shoes to other brands and models, however, for those who have read my reviews, they will know that VJ Sport are my ‘go-to’ shoes for the mountains, be that the XTRM or MAXx models. Now, I firmly believe that Scott have a shoe that can compete.” 

Several months on, the RC 2 has only got better and I am now looking to get another pair, I have really given my current pair some abuse. Gladly, I was able to share the workload on the RC 2 with the Kinabalu Ultra RC, also a new shoe.

I received the RC 2 and Kinabalu Ultra RC at the same time and on first impressions, it appeared they were the same shoe but with two major differences. The upper and outsole.

I was wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, there are great similarities between both shoes and it is fair to say, if you like the RC 2 then you will like the Kinabalu Ultra RC and vice versa.

So, what are the differences?

The RC 2 is designed for the mountains with an aggressive outsole using radial traction, a new and extremely durable upper by Schoeller called Coldblack® and a 3XDRY® material. Cushioning is 22.5mm at the rear and 17.5mm at the front providing a drop of 5mm. It’s a great shoe when you need grip and durability in tough terrain. But, if you were out for a long run and trail, the RC 2 would probably be too aggressive…

Step in the Kinabalu Ultra RC.

The RC badge connects the RC 2 and the Kinabalu Ultra RC and confirms a build quality and attention to detail. RC quite simply confirms that this is the ‘best’ that we have to offer.

I have used many Kinabalu shoes by SCOTT (HERE) in the past and I have liked them. If you have tried them, you may agree or disagree? However, whatever your experience of a Kinabalu you have had in the past, please forget it. This new incarnation has nothing to do with the previous incarnations, even the Kinabalu RC 2 (here).

The black and yellow look confirms the ‘new’ shoes pedigree and as stated, on first look, it appears very similar to the RC 2.

The upper is much more breathable on the Kinabalu Ultra RC with an ultra-mesh that allows yellow to show through and the outsole is very different with a less aggressive hybrid traction. Notably, to fulfilling the ‘ultra’ intentions of the shoe, cushioning is 29mm at the rear and 21mm at the front providing a more relaxed 8mm drop.

THE SHOE

Sizing is true to size but like the RC 2 model, I use an EU 44 which should be UK9.5, on the inside of the shoe it says UK9. So, just make sure on fit when purchasing.

Interestingly, there is only 2g difference in weight between the RC 2 and Kinabalu Ultra RC with both shows just under 300g for an EU44.

Foothold is really superb. When you slide your foot in the shoe, there is immediate comfort and hold. This comes from the engineered tongue which is amazingly comfortable, the lacing which can be really pulled tight to hold the foot secure and also the way the lace eyelets are placed. There is also the option to lock-lace or similar with the inclusion of an additional eyelet. The tongue does not have a sock-like fit which surprised me, however, after extended use (400km) I have had no issues at all, on the contrary. The upper, tongue and lacing configuration hold the foot wonderfully tight. Although the Kinabalu Ultra RC is not intended for technical terrain, the shoe handles it surprisingly well, especially when switching and changing direction, a credit to the upper, lacing and foothold.

The heel area is padded, snug and importantly when climbing does not allow for any slipping.

Notably, the toe box is wider allowing a little more toe splay. Toe protection is minimal echoing the shoes intention of non-technical trail.

Cushioning is notable. Kinetic foam, eRide midsole, rock plate and a racing footbed make these shoes wonderful for long runs. SCOTT have always used eRide (rocker) to help with technique and cadence.

The outsole is a classic trail grip that provides enough traction when running a variety of terrain, be that hard pack dirt, gravel or rock. In the middle of the outsole, grip is removed. There is an emphasis here that this is a shoe that tempts you to go faster.

IN USE

I firmly believe that SCOTT have pushed to a new level with the RC 2 and this new incarnation of the Kinabalu.

If I was only to purchase two shoes, the SCOTT’s would be high up on the list. They complement each other perfectly, the RC 2 for hard, tough, technical mountain days and the Kinabalu Ultra RC for less technical and challenging trail days.

Comfort level is high for 1-hour fast runs and day-long adventures. Feel for the ground is great. Cushioning has life and provides great energy return. The upper is breathable, light and durable.

The outsole performed as expected offering grip then required on rocks, tree roots and trail both in the dry and wet conditions. This is not a shoe for mud!

Despite the shoes intentions, they handle technical trail superbly well. This is a credit to the tongue and lacing; it really does hold the foot securely providing a reassuring hold that provides confidence.

The Kinabalu Ultra RC has wider toe box but it is not super wide. Depending on your needs, you’d have to try them on and see if they provide the room you require. In my opinion, they feel very similar to the RC 2 which is great for me, but I wonder with the ‘ultra’ intentions if the toe box could be a little wider?.

CONCLUSIONS

The Kinabalu Ultra RC is a great shoe for any trail run and I include more technical runs too. It is not for mud! Quite simply, in conjunction with the Supertrac RC 2, SCOTT have produced two shoes that cover a plethora of uses. Although the name ‘ultra’ suggests that this shoe is just for long runs, I would most definitely say no. It’s light, responsive and wonderful on 1-hour trail runs; they feel fast. When running longer, the added cushioning, rock plate and 8mm drop provides all-day comfort. I have over 400km in mine, the uppers are in great condition, the outsole is still good and the comfort level is as good, if not better than when I first used them 3-months ago (June 2020)

TRAIL TALON 250 and TRAIL TALON 275 by inov-8 – SHOE REVIEW

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon250-06494

The Race Ultra when first released by inov-8 turned heads. It was certainly a departure for the brand who had built a history and reputation for out-and-out fell running shoes. For the brand to release a shoe that appealed specifically to the ‘ultra’ market was an interesting move.

I have to say, the first incarnation of the shoe was pleasing to look at and although it gained rave reviews, I didn’t like it. It felt sloppy, lacked feel and in all honesty, it was a shoe I didn’t want to use.

The second incarnation was a huge improvement and it has become a regular shoe for me when running long on flat, relatively un-technical and non-muddy trail. It was a shoe that proved hugely popular at races such as Marathon des Sables for example and the combination of two options, 4mm and 8mm drop; the Race Ultra suddenly became a really popular shoe.

I was therefore somewhat surprised when inov-8 told me that the Race Ultra 270 (4mm drop) and 290 (8mm drop) are no longer in the range as of AW16. Really?

I have had many emails from runners in the community expressing a concern about this. Yes, the Race Ultra really has become ‘that’ popular and as such, many are asking, but what shoe an I know going to wear?

Take a breath, take out your credit card and go and order yourself a pair of TRAIL TALON 275 (8mm drop) or TRAIL TALON 250 (4mm drop).

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon275-06476

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon250-06497

Yes, folks, stop worrying, the new TRAIL TALON is all that the Race Ultra was and so much more.

I could actually stop the review there as I have very little negatives to say about the shoes. Yes, both really are that good. But I know you have a need for more information so here goes.

In brief, the TRAIL TALON offering in either 275 or 250 versions directly relates to the 270 or 290 versions of the RACE ULTRA. So first off, think about if you need or prefer 4mm or 8mm drop shoes (or both). The plus side from the off, is the two new TRAIL TALONS are offering weight savings over the previous models: 15g +/- for the 8mm drop and 20g +/- for the 4mm drop. For reference, inov-8 always refers to the weight of the shoe in the name, so, a TRAIL TALON 250 will weight 250g+/- in a standard UK8.

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon250-06499

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon275-06491

Both the TRAIL TALON 275 and 250 shoes use the same standard fit last as the RACE ULTRA but they both offer improved grip with deeper cleats and better cleat configuration. It’s a marginal improvement and don’t start to think that the new shoe will now handle more mud – they won’t. The TRAIL TALON is very much a dry trail/ mountain shoe that can handle a little sloppy stuff if required.

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon250-06504

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon275-06483

Tthe TRAIL TALON has a wide ‘standard fit’ toe boxbut I don’t think it is as wide as the RACE ULTRA?. Don’t get me wrong, it has plenty of room and it allows the toes to move and splay just as in the previous model. When running long your toes have room to move and should you be prone to swelling, they have room to expand. This ‘standard fit’ is something that inov-8 have worked on and by contrast, some shoes in the inov-8 range can be purchased in ‘precision’ fit which offers a tighter and narrower toe box. For me, this can be where some compromise comes in with the TRAIL TALON, when running on long, flat and consistent terrain the shoes excel but if the terrain becomes technical and inconsistent, I find my foot moves a little within the shoe due to the wider fit. This is not a criticism of the shoe, what I am saying is (as I always say) is that it is rare that one shoe can do all things well. For technical running I prefer a precision fit.

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon250-06501

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon275-06479

A notable difference is the new POWERFLOW midsole for a more cushioned ride. Both the 250 and 275 feel more cushioned. In particular, the 275 feels super cushioned, almost a little ‘too’ cushioned at times and I think this is where the most notable difference will come for RACE ULTRA fans. You will either prefer the additional cushioning or not. On my first runs in the 275 I noticed the cushioning over the RACE ULTRA. To confirm my thoughts, I went back out for a run in the RACE ULTRA and yes, the new shoe has more cushioning and it feels that way too. This only adds to the thoughts of inov-8 that the TRAIL TALON is a long distance shoe. Of course it’s all relative, the 4mm drop 250 has less cushioning than the 8mm drop 275. For many of you this will not be an issue as you will either run in 4mm or 8mm drop shoes. This is not the case for me, I often and regularly switch between 4mm and 8mm drop shoes. If I am running for 30mins, 60mins or even 2-3 hours I can happily run in 4mm drop and still retain good form. However, if I am going out for a long session or a day in the mountains, I will always go 8mm drop. The higher drop allows more leeway and flexibility and I must add that the TRAIL TALON is a superb shoe to walk in. This is really important for those who are running long or doing multi-day races. Often, shoes are tested just running with no consideration of how the shoe transitions to a change of gait when walking. For me, the TRAIL TALON 275 is one of the best run shoes I have used when walking, the transition is seamless and comfortable no doubt attributable to the ADAPTERFIT met-cradle for better mid-foot comfort.

I am always wary of buzz words like ‘Powerflow’ and ‘Adapterfit’ as in real terms they can mean nothing. Breaking the words down, the TRAIL TALON has more cushioning and better mid-foot comfort.

When running, the feel of the shoe and the comfort level is high. In the 275 I had less ‘feel’ for the ground due to the additional cushioning but this proved a real bonus for longer sessions and when the ground became more irregular. The 250 version with lower drop and less cushioning in comparison to the 8mm drop version felt really sweet on all runs.

Both shoes, 4mm or 8mm drop definitely provided more feel, better cushioning and more ‘return’ when running than the RACE ULTRA.

Like the 290 and 270 RACE ULTRA’s the TRAIL TALON will also incorporate the unique on-the-shoe gaiter attachment so that should you require a Gaiter you can purchase the item separately and attach/ de-attach with ease.

RACEULTRAGAITER

Two huge improvements for me come with the lacing system on the 275 and a gusseted tongue on both the 250 and 275. I have been saying this for ages, but a gusseted tongue just makes sense. I don’t know why it isn’t standard on all run shoes. It helps hold the foot in place, it stops the tongue moving and sliding to the left or right as you run and maybe most importantly it adds an additional protection to stop debris entering the shoe.

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon275-06486

The lacing on the TRAIL TALON is added ‘on to’ the shoe by what effectively is a folded plastic layer. This works so well as it allows the shoes to be laced tightly or loosely as required but it also allows the font to swell within the shoe. In the past, I have had issues with inov-8 lacing and I have had to use a ‘lock lacing’ technique to feel secure in the shoe. Not know, this lacing method works.

Toe protection on the shoe is good but not ridiculous. Keeping in mind the intended use of the shoe, it’s fit for purpose. The heel box is snug, cushioned, holds the foot well and caused no rubbing on long sessions, even when walking.

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon250-06499

Grip is compromised on any muddy trails but then again, the TRAIL TALON is not intended for this type of terrain. The 4mm deep studs work great on all dry trail, rocks and yes road. When wet, the grip is also good. Ultimately, the TRAIL TALON would be a great ‘all-rounder’ for most runs. If you are heading to the fells, a muddy trail run, or mountains with mixed/wet trail then choose a different shoe.

Finally, RACE ULTRA fans are going to be really happy with the TRAIL TALON. I have found it difficult to really find any negatives. The only negative (and it’s not really a negative) is that some of you may find the new incarnation a little ‘too’ cushioned. Sizing is true to size and relates directly to the Race Ultra.

As per usual, inov-8 have created two ‘visually’ appealing shoes with great colours and styling.

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon250-06497

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon275-06476

Drop is personal and for me, 8mm drop is the sweet spot in run shoes and is my ‘go to’ drop for any run. If you prefer a lower drop, then you will be happy with the 250 and 4mm version. If you can afford two pairs of shoes, I really recommend the 250 for shorter and/ or faster runs.

This TRAIL TALON is a winner and is now one of three shoes that I choose on a daily basis, the other two shoes for comparison are The North Face Ultra Endurance and the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac.

Specs from inov-8

DFB

The patented Dynamic Fascia Band™ (DFB) mimics the ‘Windlass Effect’ delivering a kick of energy with each step, helping the athlete to move faster and more efficiently

STANDARD FIT 

Our standard fit offers a close-fitting heel that locks the shoe in position, while a wider toe box allows the toes to splay when running naturally or lifting weights. Standard fit suits those with wider feet and athletes using the product for long sessions.

ARROW 

Arrows refer to drop, 1 arrow = 4mm, 2 arrow – 8mm