Saturday, September 02, 2017

2018 Inov-8 Previews & First Run Impressions Review ParkClaw 275 GTX Invisible Fit, RoadClaw 275

Article by Sam Winebaum

Inov-8 a British run shoe brand which was really first, starting in 2003 to design a line of trail "running" shoes from the ground up as not only running shoes but from day one with variable designs of outsoles and midsoles for different terrain types and distances.  I first wrote about Inov-8 in 2007 here after testing several different models. 
Looking back at that article, and after seeing their 2018 line I  clearly see that Inov-8 has stuck true to its mission of designing a wide array of terrain specific models for ice and snow, mud and wet, rock, mountain trail, moderate "park" trail, and road. 
The 2018 RocLite 315 (left) stays true to the 2007 RocLite 315's (right) all terrain endurance mission

Most models are not so specific that they don't cross over categories but each is called out with a sweet spot. I am currently testing the ParkClaw 275 a trail with some road capablities and the RoadClaw 275 a road shoe which can easily tackle easier trails

All Inov-8 shoes regardless of terrain and distance purpose, be they 2007 or 2017 models, share key characteristics:
  • firm, stable midsoles with embedded Meta Shank or Dynamic Fascia Band inserts built into the midsoles. These plates mimic foot bio mechanics with a fingers shape and depending on model are more or less substantial with hard rocky terrain trail shoe shanks such as in the TrailRoc line extending more coverage under the front of the foot for rock protection and lighter terrain versions thinner fingers such as in the RoadClaw
  • very supportive rugged uppers in all shoes, including road shoes, which generally fit on the snug side but over the years getting more front of the foot volume. 
  • within each model, often different upper choices including the new Invisible Fit Gore-Tex, ballistic nylon for super abrasion durability, as well as more conventional mesh. 
  • of course an outsole designed for specific uses and terrain types
  •  a new Sticky Grip outsole compound claiming 50% better forefoot and 20% better heel traction than its predecessor launches in 2018 on some models with others having a Tri-C or Dual C outsole which can include Sticky Grip rubber as one of the 2 or 3 different compounds in the outsole.
  • within each terrain type shoe model frequently with at least two and often more levels of cushioning, basically stack height difference, distinguished by Inov-8's Arrow System marking and by differing weights called out as the number in the model description: RocLite 305 vs. RocLite 315.
2018 Previews
I visited Inov-8's US headquarters in Massachusetts a few miles from the start line of the Boston Marathon and across the railroad tracks from Hopkinton State Park and its many trails.

The shoe wall Jim Howard, General Manager showed us just includes running shoes. A whole other wall had cross fit, weight lifting, and obstacle course shoes. Inov-8 stability, firm outsoles and rugged uppers have made them very popular for these sports.

X-Talon 230
Weight: Approx 8.1 oz./230 g
Midsole Stack: 13 mm heel/7mm forefoot, 6mm drop plus 8mm lugs and sockliner
Category:Speed with a Soft and Muddy focus bridging to Hard and Rocky
$125. Available November 2017
The X-Talon has a ballistic nylon Kevlar upper designed to be super rugged and absorb very little water.

Needless to say the 8mm Sticky Grip lugs should plow through just about anything nasty and slippery with up to 50% better grip than its predecessor according to Inov-8.
Inov-8 presents the X-Talon 230 in this YouTube video for RoadTrailRun

RocLite 315
Weight: Approx.10.6 oz./300 g
Midsole Stack: 16mm heel/8mm forefoot, 8mm drop plus 5mm lugs and sock liner
Category: Endurance on varied terrain
$125 standard upper, $135 Kevlar reinforced X-PROTEC upper, $145 Invisible Fit Gore-Tex AX-PROTEC upper
Available Nov, 2017
Inov-8 RocLite 315 with ballistic nylon upper with Kevlar.
Inov-8 RocLite 315
Inov-8 RocLite 315
Several 2018 Inov-8 models feature Gore-Tex's new Invisible Fit, as shown in the black RocLite below. Instead of a bootie or a lining separate from the upper the waterproof membrane is laminated directly to the upper- in this case X-PROTEC which has Kevlar fibers for durability built in. This lightens the upper and makes it more flexible and we expect also more durable as well.
Inov-8 RocLite 315 GTX
LEFT to RIGHT: Red RocLite 290 , RocLite 305, RocLite 315, RocLite 315 GTX Invisible Fit
Inov-8 presents the RocLite 315 in this YouTube video for RoadTrailRun

RocLite 320 GTX and 325 GTX Mid Heights 
Mid height Invisible Fit Gore Tex boot top on a RocLite trail run platform. It's a great winter run and fastpacking option. 
RocLite 320 GTX and 325 GTX Mid Heights 
TrailRoc 285
Weight: 10 oz./285 g
Stack Height: 16mm heel/8mm forefoot, 8mm drop plus 4mm lugs and sock liner
Category: Hard Rocky terrain
Price: $150
Available now at Running Warehouse: men here women here
Inov-8 TrailRoc 285
This clearly premium construction shoe with a beautiful rugged upper, a substantial toe bumper and is designed for hard rocky terrain. It is likely to be secure stable and agile but not particularly cushy!
Inov-8 TrailRoc 285
It features a substantial Meta-Shank rock protection and 4mm lugs arrayed in a Tri-C triple density configuration: hard rubber at the heel. sticky black rubber through the center, and somewhat firmer than the black rubber sticky green rubber along the lateral and medial sides. Yet despite all this protection it checks in at a very respectable 10 oz.
Inov-8 TrailRoc 285
The TrailRoc is also available in a lower stack profile TrailRoc 270 ($140) version at 9.4 oz., the black and red model to the right.
Inov-8 TrailRoc

Inov-8 was kind enough to send me home with the RockClaw 275 v2 and ParkClaw 275 GTX which I have begun testing

ParkClaw 275 ($130), Park Claw 275 GTX ($150)
Weight: 9.7 oz/ 275 g standard mesh upper per Running Warehouse. 
My sample US 8.5 GTX Invisible Fit Gore-Tex version weighs 10.5 oz./ 298 g
Stack Height: Heel 20mm/Forefoot 12mm, 8 mm drop plus 4 mm outsole and sock liner
Inov-8 ParkClaw 275 GTX
The ParkClaw is essentially targeted as a more trail focused version of the RoadClaw. 
The upper on my pair is Gore-Tex Invisible Fit with the membrane laminated directly to the upper instead of being a separate bootie as has been traditional Gore-Tex run shoe construction. As a result the upper is more pliable and comfortable. I ran them on a warmer dry day (70-80 F) and while my feet were a touch warmer than expected I might not have even noticed unless I knew they were waterproof. Breathability was excellent with my socks no more damp than if I had run a normal trail shoe.

The midsole is Inov-8 new PowerFlow+ foam which is said to have 10% better shock absorption and 25% better energy return than its previous PowerFlow midsole foam. While I felt good shock absorption on my first run, on the road I did not feel much energy return as I think the midsole is quite firm for road work but they were very decently responsive, particularly in forefoot, The RoadClaw 275 (impressions below) shares the PowerFoam in what appears to be a slightly softer form which I could easily see see in the ParkClaw. 

The ParkClaw is stiffer than the RoadClaw and while called out as being able to handle roads as well I see it as more suitable for paths and trails. This said it was decently responsive, particularly at the forefoot, if on the firm side, on the road.
Inov-8 ParkClaw 275 GTX
While in a similar overall arrangement to the RoadClaw 275 with similar Tri-C rubber the lugs on the ParkClaw 275 are obviously more aggressive in shape and slightly higher at 4mm.

My first 6 mile trail run in the ParkClaw was on moderate single track trails with a mile of pavement in the mix. They were to much shoe for the terrain which in places is moderately technical with lots of turns, roots and rocks with short steep hills.  The ride was protective and cushioned but lacked as much terrain feel or agility as I would like. My next run there I will try the RoadClaw (see below) which I suspect will be plenty protective and more agile. 

RoadClaw 275 v2
Weight: 10.2oz/289 g Men's size 9 per Running Warehouse .My size 8.5 weighs 10 oz.
Stack Height: Heel 20mm/Forefoot 12mm, 8 mm drop plus 3 mm outsole and sock liner
Category: Road with some smooth paths/trails
$120.  Available now at : men here women here
Inov-8 RoadClaw 275 
The RoadClaw 275 v2 is Inov-8's core road trainer. I tested v1 and found it lumpy and quite harsh underfoot with considerably more stitching than the new v2 version. The v2 eliminates toe bumper stitching and has larger holes in its its distinctive upper. The toe bumper and mid foot overlays are thin pliable, and the same color as the upper for a smooth clean look and effective foot hold.
Inov-8 RoadClaw 275 
The shoe is more flexible as a result while still retaining a trail worthy foot hold in a road shoe.  The fit is true to size, snug and substantial without being uncomfortable. Those preferring more unstructured uppers may find the fit a bit constricting but not me. Those who prefer a snug fit and whose runs take them from roads to some trails will be very pleased with the upper. 
Inov-8 RoadClaw 275 
The RoadClaw features Inov-8 new EHC "External Heel Counter" design with the heel counter below the 2 black bands of an otherwise soft without any plastic heel cup heel counter. The whole heel can, with some light pressure be squeezed but smoothly with no hard areas as the EHC bands on each side are pliable and not a harder plastic as seen in other such external heel counters. 
When combined with the relatively short and narrow foot entry collar, all Inov-8 are a bit of struggle to get into, the heel hold is impeccable with zero slip and comfortable, the best and most secure implementation of an external heel counter I have seen to date. 
Inov-8 RoadClaw 275 
Most significantly, and shared with the ParkClaw275, Inov-8 has upgraded its PowerFlow insole to PowerFlow+ which is said to have 10% better shock absorption and 25% better energy return than its previous PowerFlow midsole foam. The difference between the v1 and v2 on the run is noticeable as while still a firmer ride for sure, the combination of PowerFlow+ and the excellent full coverage outsole make the shoe quite responsive. 
Inov-8 RoadClaw 275 
The outsole features Inov-8 Tri-C system with 3 densities of rubber: firm high wear black heel and toe, medium firmness gray rubber at mid foot, and softer blue forefoot rubber. It has a long fairly easy flex. 

After several runs I see the RoadClaw as offering a firmer, stable yet well cushioned and flexible option for those seeking high durability, some inherent stability without stability features such as posts  and the flexibility to run both roads and many paths. It would be an ideal shoe for smoother Utah single track and jeep roads. Based on my personal preferences I would like to see the PowerFlow+ midsole be a touch softer, with the PowerFoam + in the RoadClaw swapped into the  firm ParkClaw. 

The Inov-8 shoes were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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Σπύρος said...

I miss the Roclite 370. The most breathable summer hiking boot.

Unknown said...

I recently bought the Trailroc 270's, and while they are great for softer, more buffed out trails, I found them too stiff and not very shock absorbing on fast hard surface descents in the Montana mountains - painful feet and blisters by the end.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Lukas,
What a wonderful epic journey!I would certainly look at ParkClaw first, The breathability is very good for Gore-Tex as it is the new "Invisible" which part of the upper fabric. not a bootie The grip is between very aggressive and for smoother terrain. I will say the fit is snug, and supportive. Another option to look at but not waterproof is the Salomon Pro Max. Another the Altra Lone Peak Neoshell, low or mid.
Sam, Editor.

Sam Winebaum said...

I would think stable cushion might take a bit of priority over ultimate grip given you are on your feet all day for many days, I took the Park Claw on an incredibly rocky, very deep, very wet and slippery hike mostly all slippery boulders and roots in wet forest and they did very very well. This said a Roc Lite mid would be a good option for the extra ankle support day in day out. The Altra is waterproof Polartec Neoshell. I have an older version in low and it is fantastic. Another to consider the new LaSportiva Uragano. Waterproof, higher top via a stretch non water proof gaiter so not a mid. A very sturdy light shoe. We will have a review of it up tomorrow along with its low top sibling the Tempesta.
Sam, Editor

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Lukas,
Haven't run in the Roc yet but it has a very similar outsole. It might be firmer. Have run in the low Altra Lone Peak 3 and grip is excellent. On the other hand in low version I find heel collar low and not that secure but no issues running. Mid should solve this issue. Keep in mind it is zero drop heel to to toe whereas most we have discussed are 8mm drop. Take a look at our just posted LaSportiva Uragano and Tempesta GTX. The Uragano with its mid height burly gaiter and Gore Tex is a good option if on the warm side and thin on front of toe box cushion
Sam, Editor

Sam Winebaum said...

Zero drop means heel of shoe and toe are at the same height. Generally most run shoes are between 4-10mm higher at heel. Altra as they are zero drop generally have very good forefoot cushion. Note however there is some adaption for some to having no heel lift. Less hiking than running I have found. Look at my reviews for each shoe as they list heel and forefoot height but...sometimes as in Uragano beyond the point where forefoot is measured they can taper thinner.

DCeremuga said...

I was given the Park Claw 275 for road walking. I wore the sole under the balls of the feet completely out in 2 weeks. YES, 2 weeks. Inov-8 swapped my 2 pairs out for the Road Claw 275 which I wore out in about 2 months and 350 miles. Much better.

The Park Claw cannot handle pavement. The sole is too soft and those small nubs wear right out.