Monday, August 03, 2015

Review: Inov-8 TerraClaw 250-A Home Run; Race Ultra 290v2-Oh So Close

The Inov-8 Terraclaw 250 and Race Ultra 290v2 are capable multi surface shoes with stable outsole midsole packages and similar overall fits. I have run and hiked them on smooth UT single track, rougher mountain trails, and roads. All models available in women's styles and sizes. For my non US readers the number after the model names corresponds to weight in grams.

The Terraclaw 250 $150 according to Running Warehouse is a 24mm (Heel), 16mm (Forefoot) stack, 8.8oz. I am calling it an all terrain speedster. 
Inov-8 Terraclaw 250

The  Race Ultra 290 v2 has a touch more cushioning  and weight with according to Running Warehouse 26mm (Heel), 17mm (Forefoot) stack and weight of 10.2 oz.  The 290 is well described as an Ultra shoe and at a light weight for the protection provided.
Inov-8 Race Ultra 290v2

I find the 250 to be an outstanding road and smooth trail shoe, likely in the running for my road and hybrid shoe of the year and certainly a candidate for a road marathon or half shoe for me. The 290 is very good in terms of its underfoot feel and responsiveness on rougher trails and even road but... suffers from a somewhat loose heel hold when the trail gets off camber.

The Terraclaw 220 $120 is identical to the 250 except instead of 24mm heel and 8mm drop it has a 20mm heel and 4mm drop. My wife is trying the Terraclaw 220 and coming from Hoka Cliftons finds them quite minimal, taking some getting used to. She loves the colors and is now looking for matching socks.
Inov-8 Terraclaw 220
Inov-8
For those not familiar with Inov-8 they are a UK based company. Going back 9 years or so ago when I started this site I found them to be the first company solely focused on designing trail and mountain running shoes and not as other brands did the re purposing road shoes with beefy outsoles or toning down of low cut "hikers". More minimal than what was available at the time, and with a focus on different outsoles for different terrains, they were and are a true innovator in run shoe design. Well they were... but for a while they drifted into super minimal road and trail shoes and Cross Fit where they remain very popular. I am thrilled they are back in the game with practical high performance offerings. 


Uppers and Fit
Both shoes have a roomy toe box, similar in fit there to the adidas Response Trail Boost or XT Boost for me. 
Inov-8 Race Ultra 290v2



inov-8 Terraclaw 250
They differ, beyond weight, cushioning,and forefoot rock protection in their heel fit.  The more minimal upper of the 250, while not a shoe for the roughest trails has a well secured heel while the beefier 290v2 which is fantastic in the forefoot on all surfaces due to its added 5 fingered Meta-Shank has a somewhat sloppy fitting while still stable heel. Strange,and I think I know why, and will try to explain. While roomy they are both secure, no rotating of the forefoot on rough terrain. The 250 while  minimal and unstructured in construction has an innovative (in my view) X-Lock bands across the top of the foot. The 290 has a long soft toe bumper with higher up another overlay running all the way to the heel. Equally effective. 

Both fit me true to size with thicker trail socks so some might size down half a size.

The 290 suffers from a somewhat looser heel fit than the construction, full decent heel counter would indicate. I think the culprit is the tongue, the lack of a last lace lock hole, also potentially the generous sizing. Soft, quite thin and slippery the tongue tends to slide to the  side making the overall hold in the heel upper loose when on rougher terrain.  The laces are thin and I will next try some more substantial laces to see if that makes a difference. The midfoot and forefoot is well held at all times. 

inov-8 Terraclaw 250

I was surprised at how well the 250 upper held me on rougher terrain given it minimal upper and heel counter. The X-Lock blue bands work incredibly well.  The medial side mid foot overlays are wider than the lateral sides. Also helping support.

Not many will mistake the 250 shoe for a heavy duty super rocky trail shoe but for mixed terrain with a focus on smoother and fast the foot is well held without ever feeling like it is bound up and constrained. Even though the tongue is thin it works just fine I think due to the lace loop being offset to the medial side to pull the upper towards the lateral side, neat.  The 250 has a lace lock last hole. I have not had the need to use it but wish I had it on the 290 where there is none. 

Midsole and Outsole
Inov-8 has always had outstanding midsole outsole construction and the 250 and 290 are no exception.The midsole is injected EVA, nothing really special there but relatively soft so nicely cushioned. inov-8's secret sauce are the incorporated Fascia Band and Meta-Shank as well as the outsoles which when combined provide a smooth stable cushioned ride on all surfaces, including road.

The 250 and 290 incorporate inov-8 Fasica Band technology: "Inov-8's patented fascia band™ technology replicates the anatomical position of the plantar fascia ligament, and duplicates the function of the human foot's ability to utilize the "windlass effect". I am not sure I am seeing it. "Mimic(ing) the 'Windlass Effect' delivering a kick of energy with each step, helping the athlete to run faster and more efficiently. The fascia band™ is positioned on the outsole."
This said I have always felt Inov-8 underfoot forward tracking has been outstanding and these shoes are no exception.
Inov-8 Fascia Band Technology

The 290 includes Inov-8's Meta-Shank the 250 does not. The Meta-Shank is clearly felt on rougher terrain. The rock protection is outstanding, yet no feeling of a stiff firm rock plate. Meta-Shank is part of the secret sauce which makes the 290 feel as good underfoot on the road as rough trails. Do I miss the Meta-Shank in the 250? A bit when trails get rough as rocks are more noticeable but with it included weight would be increased and smoother terrain speed impacted. 
inov-8 Meta Shank
Outsole

The outsole on both these shoes are absolute gems. 
inov-8 Race Ultra 290v2

Multiple densities of rubber are used on the 290 from the hard blue heel plug to the somewhat softer black and yellow, the yellow outbound of the Meta-Shank conforming to terrain variations very nicely. The lugs are fairly low I am guessing 3mm so just about right for all terrain except the deepest mud. 
inov-8 Terraclaw 250 Outsole

The 250 appears to have the same density of outsole rubber throughout. The lugs are 4mm.  The outsole wraps up the sides at the mid foot providing some stability without being in any way an overly motion controlled shoe. I really like a touch of stability midfoot and it reminded me of the adidas Energy Boost and Adios as well as the Montrail Fluid Flex ST in that respect. 

Ride, Comparisons,  Recommendations
Both the 250 and 290 have a smooth stable ride on all terrains including roads. They are more than adequately cushioned yet stable, with the exception of the heel hold issue of the 290 on rougher terrain.

Strange as it seems I compare the TerraClaw 250 most closely to... 2 road shoes and 3 trail shoes 

On the road I might compare to 
  • the adidas Adios Boost, also 8.8 oz and Nike Lunar Tempo far lighter at 6.8oz but for sure not a trail shoe! The ride of the 250 is somewhat more cushioned in the forefoot than the Adios Boost and a touch firmer in the heel. The forefoot fit is roomy and open as with the Lunar Tempo but with more toe box height. The Lunar Tempo is softer overall in ride and I would never take them on trail but in many ways the fit is similar. 
On the trail one could compare the Terraclaw 250 to:
  • Salomon S-Lab X Series, a road trail hybrid. The 250 weighs an ounce more but has a far more comfortable upper, less front rock protection, deeper lugs and a more cushioned ride, particularly in the forefoot. 
  • Montrail Fluid Flex ST, about half an ounce heavier has a burlier more supportive upper, great mid foot midsole support, a  substantial and somewhat noticeable rock plate as it covers the width of the forefoot, and is somewhat firmer and less pleasant on the road, so more a trail focused shoe.
  • addias XT Boost, a firmer particularly in the heel, ounce heavier well lugged trail runner with a decently roomy minimal upper with some fore foot Boost. Mighty fine on the road but firm.
The Race Ultra 290 can be compared to:
  • the Hoka Speedgoat as they both share an outstanding all terrain outsole and great cushioning. The Speedgoat is "bouncier" with a higher softer midsole over a relatively firm outsole. I tend to prefer the smoother transition between outsole and midsole firmness of the 290 as well as its roomier well held upper, except of course for that loose heel on the 290 and overly thin tongue and somewhat minimal mid foot hold of the Speedgoat
Recommendations
The inov-8 Terraclaw 250 is a versatile lightweight road trail hybrid, focused towards smoother terrain and road.  I would not hesitate to run a road half or full marathon in them for their adequate cushioning and supportive and roomy upper. A home run!  More agile runners may find it a great all around fast trail shoe being aware it does not have a traditional rock plate and the minimal upper may see wear on rockier terrain. 
The inov-8 Race Ultra 290v2 is well named for its great midsole and outsole package suitable for any terrain. On rougher terrain its loose heel hold, likely due to the tongue construction, is a flaw in what is otherwise a great shoe. 


To see our reviews of the Nike Lunar Tempo, adidas Adios Boost, adidas Response Trail Boost, Montrail Fluid Flex ST, and Hoka SpeedGoat please click over to the summary page here for links to these and may other reviews.

The Terraclaw and Race Ultra 290 were provided free of charge. The opinions herein are entirely my own.

Running Warehouse EU and USA have the Inov-8 250 TrailClaw and 290 Race Ultra available. Purchases help support Road Trail Run.
USA Men here  Women here            EU Men here  Women here

My Tech Wearables Column in Competitor Magazine, First Thoughts on the Apple Watch

Competitor Magazine a leading running magazine recently asked me to pen a monthly page on tech wearables for fitness. No shortage of interesting fitness gadgets these days... So I have been running with up to 4 gizmos on my wrist here in Park City and will post my first  article when it publishes in the next few weeks. 
Of course one tech wearable everyone is talking about is the Apple Watch. In many ways the functionality is still weak awaiting decently featured apps with Watch 2.0 software which will allow developers (Strava, RunKeeper, iSmoothrun, etc..) to actually access the watch functions beyond not much more than mere display of phone apps on your wrists.  This said I have been delighted with the Watch. The hardware is beautiful, the interface and touch screen and crown are intuitively designed. The heart rate function is rock solid, the phone based activity monitoring app is beautifully executed, if not exactly for the hardcore. The battery life is adequate. I get a day including a decent run and believe a big part of battery life is a function of the first, somewhat inefficient apps. 
The Watch does not have GPS so I am testing the accuracy of the tuning of the pedometer by the phone's GPS, the way Apple claims the pedometer is tuned, to see how accurate I can get it for phone less running. Yesterday the Watch without phone GPS, just the accelerometer pedometer after a solid dozen runs with the phone and watch synching,  showed me running 3.3% further than Garmin VivoActive GPS did. Not too bad, but not there yet for race purposes. As I did not take my phone, I missed the chance to take a picture of Shalane Flanagan and 5 other Nike gals flying down the same  super sunny and beautiful Park City bike path during our run!
I am amazed by the ability to make and answer phone calls on your wrist with phone nearby, even did this while in the shower!  My callers tell me the mic is excellent and the speaker more than adequate if you drive with the windows up! Quickly answering a text message with canned "OK", thumbs up, or Siri without getting the phone out is a welcome step forward as is glancing at other incoming notifications. Strangely you can't yet reply to emails with Siri. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

First Runs Review: adidas Response Trail Boost. Finalist for my Road Trail Hybrid of the Year. Compared to Other 2015 adidas Boost Trail Shoes

adidas Response Trail Boost
I  have a 2015 finalist for my road trail hybrid of the year. A big surprise, the adidas Response Trail Boost... Even with the big 5-6mm Continental Rubber lugs they are excellent on the road with a stable firm Boosted heel, super flexible, snappy and stable up front. Actually one of the better road shoes for me of 2015, despite their weight and trail purpose.  Yet...this shoe is likely targeted as a "soft ground" shoe given the big lugs which adidas calls a Mud King outsole.  Strange what happens...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Review Skechers GORun Ultra Road-Max Cushion with a Innovative Well Ventilated, Supportive Knit Upper

The Skechers GORun Ultra Road is a special shoe for special conditions: hot or wet weather and long miles on the road. According to Running Warehouse it weighs 10.4oz (295 grams) for a US size 9 M with a 32mm heel/ 27mm forefoot stack, a very respectable weight for such cushioning. Also available for women.  Unlike some previous Skechers the insole does not add 4mm of drop. Very fairly priced at $115 it is available now.  It fits me true to size, if a bit big.
Skechers GORun Ultra Road
Development Process
I was lucky to be involved in the wear testing for this shoe, testing multiple versions. From the basis of their very popular GoRun Ultra, a very flexible, light and well cushioned shoe with only midsole and no outsole Skechers saw and I did too, that many were running this fine shoe on the road and wearing them down fast (Our review of the GoRun Ultra 1 here) .
So a a road version was conceived but with a twist that the shoe would have as a focus very long hot weather races such as 135 mile Badwater and the 246km Spartathlon in Greece.
Through the process, I saw two constants: use of an innovative all knit, very breathable single layer upper and adding GOimpluse Sensor wear pads. What changed along the way was tweaking of the threads used in the knit upper, generally a bit softer, adjustments to the Goimpluse Sensors and their firmness, moving flex areas, and especially making the production version more cushioned with more stack height than the initial prototypes I tried.  More on this later but below a picture of the first prototype I ran and the production version.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Summer Run "Cooling" Tech: Adidas Climachill, Now 2nd Generation is Even More Chill

This is an update of a 2014 post. Effective in 2014 ClimaChill fabrics now are made of a lighter knit making them even more effective and are my go to tops for summer heat for the 2nd year in a row.

I tend to sweat a lot and have often struggled in the heat. Over the years I have tried several technologies that claim to "cool". Here adidas Climachill is in my view a true innovation, maybe on par with the Boost run shoe midsoles I like so much. The way I understand it there are two ways to cool or provide a sense of cooling: accelerating evaporation from the body and fabric or conducting heat away from the body.


First a bit of science on how it may be possible to cool or provide a sensation of cooling
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