Inov-8 Shoes over the Years
by Nicky Spinks
One question I'm always being asked is "What's the difference between all the Inov-8 shoes?" and "Which ones do you use for ......?" I must admit there is a massive choice and I do tend to stick to my old favourites; the Mudclaws and the Ultra 290's (now the Trail Talons). However since being an Inov-8 ambassador for two years I have learnt a lot more and have had the opportunity to try most of their shoes so I'm going to try and explain what I've learnt and works for me.
2006- Wearing the MudRocs to Rocking Stones the day before my Cancer Operation
The history behind me and Inov-8 - In 2004 I had been fell running two years and had entered the Saunders Mountain Marathon which was from Coniston that year. This was pre-Inov8 and so the choice of fell shoe was Walsh's, New Balance and Adidas. I had a pair of New Balance but didn't like them nor the Walsh's. I was on the look out for a pair of shoes and when I walked passed a man (Wayne Edy) stood by a small stand of grey shoes on our way to registration I stopped and had a look. Wayne was very keen and I was impressed at the shoes. I asked whether he would still be there on Sunday when we finished and he said he would. He was and I bought my first pair of Mudrocs. I wore them all that year and the following Saunders below Helvellyn; there he was again with a bigger stand this time and I bought another pair of Mudrocs. I really can't count how many pairs of Mudrocs I went through. I know I did my first Bob Graham in 2005 in them in them. They did rub my heel spur but still I loved them and I found a way of heating them up and molding them round the spur!
Then came Mudclaws - somewhere around 2007/8 as I wore them for my Charlie Ramsay round in 2008. First with normal lacing, then with that strange offset lacing. Then came some quality issues and then more heel spur issues. But I stuck with them and now I can get a pair, put them straight on and go out for a long run in them. They don't need breaking in anymore. I usually have three pairs on the go; one for long recces, one for races that don't matter so much and the newest pair for races that do matter and in that case so does having the best grip!!
So for eight years - until 2014 that was it; I only bought Mudclaws. I couldn't make head or tail of all the other shoes Inov-8 were bringing out. At that time Adidas Swoops were being worn in night clubs and I did wonder whether Inov-8 were trying out that market too as they seemed to have a shoe and a colour for every occasion! I didn't have the time nor money to buy expensive shoes only to find out they didn't suit me or my needs. I used to buy cheap trail and road shoes and rotated them often enough in order to give my feet a break from the stresses of long distance fell running. This was fine until I started doing 100 mile races in them. Adidas Kanida's and Montrail Highlanders both wrecked my feet and after 60 miles were very painful to run in. So I went to Accelerate in Sheffield and they recommended the Brooks Cascadia. At £80 this was a lot of money to me but these shoes never let me down. I used them on countless Ultras in the UK including the week long Dragons Belly Then in 2014 I got an entry for the UTMB and was looking for another pair of shoes. I purchased a pair of Inov-8 Ultra 290's in 6.5's (my usual size) but they were too small so I invested in another pair of 7's. Unfortunately I wore the wrong ones out to France and even after a traumatic and expensive courier experience I ended up wearing my old Brooks Cascadia's for the race.
In 2015 I approached Inov-8 to see if they would help fund the film of my Bob Graham record and they accepted. This brought me access to the full range of shoes and a lot more inside knowledge as to what goes into each shoe. Since then I have tried most of the shoes on offer and now have a couple more favourites lined up alongside my Mudclaws. I have however found shoes that don't suit me and that other people love; the X-Talon for example.
So the table below shows what I consider to be the main range, application and difference between the shoes.....
|Name||Fit||Drop||Use||My size||My Review||Link|
|Firm "Must Have's"|
|Mudclaw 300||Precision||6mm||Fell / mud / grass / rock||6.5||I've always loved them. Great for grip - uphill, downhill and flat.||Mudclaw-300|
|X-Claw||Standard||8mm||Long fell days / races||6.5||Great for long reccies or races with stony tracks. Very comfortable, good stone protection round the ankles and underneath - "Mudclaws with comfort"||X-Claw-275|
|TrailTalon 275||Standard||8mm||Ultra running / racing||7||Used on E'Chappee Belle 2015 and UTMB 2016. Good solid shoes that gives you confidence that they will last the distance. Good enough grip for a wet UTMB||TrailTalon 275|
|RoadClaw 275||Standard||8mm||Road running||7||Used on the road but also on Ningbo Marathon in China and 4 legs of the Double Bob Graham. Very comfortable with enough grip for dry trails.||Roadclaw-275|
|New Out - currently testing|
|Roclite||Standard - although a narrower fit than normal Standard.||305 - 8mm
290 - 4mm
|Trail running||7||I've run a lot in these since Christmas and they could become my new Ultra shoe. I'm very impressed. They feel light but solid enough to last. The grip is very good and copes with mud well. Great for frozen bogs. I prefer the 305's - See full review below.||Roclite-305|
|Roclite boot||Standard||325 - 8mm||Trail / hill walking||7||Took these to Australia and did short hikes in them. Grippy on rock and feet very comfortable and warm. Lovely ankle protection and light.||Roclite-325|
|Not worn / liked|
|X-Talon||Precision||212 - 6mm
225 - 4mm,
|Fell / mud / grass / rock||6.5||I've never got on with X-Talon's. The fit
doesn't feel right, they don't come up around my ankle enough. I have
learnt that the difference in fit is due to the Midsole and shank construction; something I would
never have looked into myself.
But a lot of fell runners rave about them so maybe I'm the odd one out!
|Standard||200 - 3mm|
New Roclite Range - Pre and Post Testing
Left to Right - Ladies Roclite boots, Roclite 290's and Roclite 305
Lee Proctor sent me the new Roclite range to test just before Christmas (in a size 7). So I took them to Australia ... and as they filled the suitcase they were my only shoes so that meant I was always wearing them when not in flip flops!
Roclite Boots - I travelled in the boots and they were comfy and very light. They also surprisingly didn't boil my feet during the flight or when we arrived. I used them for the short hikes we did and were impressed at the grip on the rock. They were also so light that they didn't feel clumpy like a walking boot can and the uppers were flexible enough that they allowed my feet/ankles good movement. Since then I have kept them for "best" and so as you can see they are still relatively clean!
Roclite 290's - these feel incredibly light; which although is great always makes me a little wary of them. I do wonder where is the weight cut; it's obviously in heel drop as they have 4mm not 8mm but has it also been cut from the comfort and durability? So I wore these shoes for short faster runs - I did a Park Run in Melbourne and they were so light I felt I wasn't wearing shoes. I like them but would keep them for short fast races and runs especially as my obvious preferred heel drop is something higher like 6mm or 8mm.
Roclite 305's - so I concentrated on these. After an initial short run to get the fit right I wore them on a 10 mile run up and down the Monta Rosa in the Grampian National Park. The run started on a good path through forest and then onto open mountainside with rocks and a sandy path; no mud in sight!! It was 18C and dry. The run took me 2.30 hours and the shoes were just perfect. I was very pleased with them.
Since then I have worn them for many long runs including a 22 mile Trigger race run when the ground was frozen. I wore them because there is a good section of hard packed tracks out of Marsden to Wessenden and a lot of stone flags. I wasn't racing so didn't expect to need the grip too much and as it was frozen I wanted cushioning underneath. They were lovely to run in all day (8 hours); comfortable, stable, grippy and warm.
I also wear them for my speed training on a local golf course. The trouble with doing speed work on the golf course is that to get there I have to run two miles of very muddy footpaths and tracks, plus my recovery time is spent running back down the middle of the golf course on short slippery grass - so I used to wear Mudclaws. But then running fast on hard packed track up the golf course was unpleasant as I could feel the little stones through the sole and also with studs I was unstable and didn't feel I was getting enough contact between the shoe and the track. The Roclite 305's have proved to be the perfect shoe for this. They have enough tread to grip on the mud, stony paths and woodside tracks to get me there; then they provide a light comfortable shoe for speedwork up the golf course, then good grip on the short grass so I can relax and recover on the downhill sections. And that's why they are covered in mud!
I'm considering using these for the Ultra Tour Monta Rosa in September so will see how they perform on some longer warmer runs and races over this coming summer.