Article by Renee Krusemark and Sam Winebaum
INOV-8 ParkClaw G 280 ($180)
Following on the fast heels of their TerraUltra G 270 (renamed the TrailFly G 270 RTR Review) for many of us our 2020 Trail Shoe of the Year, Inov-8 launches the ParkClaw G 280 called out as a door to trail type shoe. It differs from the G 270 in being a more flexible 8mm drop door to trail shoe with 8mm more heel stack of their new Graphene enhanced G-Fly foam at the heel. The forefoot remains the same at 21mm as in the TrailFly, a zero drop shoe with an older non G-Fly foam, but with a G-Grip graphene enhanced outsole as here.
So now we have both the graphene enhanced rubber of the TrailFly G 270 but also graphene enhanced midsole foam as we saw in the massive, heavier and excellent riding for ultra and hike focused TrailFly G 300 Max (RTR Review).
According to Inov-8, This outsole rubber is 50% stronger, 50% more elastic, 50% harder wearing than regular rubber and that was clearly felt in the prior shoes with the G-Grip outsole.
The new G-Fly midsole foam is said by Inov-8 to “give 25% more energy return. Lab tests show that even when the foam is aged to mimic extensive use, it still delivers more energy return than some unaged foams. Athletes testing the foam said it was still performing well after 1,200km – double industry standard.”
The Boomerang insole with its long lasting, rebounding embedded TPU beads and which is my favorite of all time (if a bit heavy) returns here.
To go with the more door to trail focus, the graphene enhanced outsole features 98 multi directional lugs for trail grip but also to smooth the road ride with big contact surfaces and a front flex groove.
The upper is an open mesh with extensive support overlays and a stout toe bumper, a true trail worthy upper on first inspection. At a 4/5 on Inov-8’s fit scale it is a more performance oriented and lower volume fit than the previous G shoes which were their highest volume at 5/5.
Given the agile performance of the zero drop earlier TrailFly (Terra Ultra), and the ultra cush feel of the TrailFly G 300, I was super curious to see how a more conventional 8mm drop and lighter less stacked option with both a graphene enhanced midsole and outsole performed.
Renee: What a fun shoe! The PARKCLAW G 280 is another great trail shoe from Inov-8. I had high expectations for these shoes considering my overall favorite trail shoe is still the TerraUltra G 270 (renamed the TrailFly G 270). Overall, the PARKCLAW does not disappoint. Runners wanting an 8mm drop version of the G 270 won’t get that with the PARKCLAW, and at $180 (ouch!) the PARKCLAW is not easy on the wallet. Still, depending on running terrain and shoe preference, the PARKCLAW is a seriously great shoe. I wore a women’s size 8. The length runs short. Runners between half sizes should get the longer half size. Some runners might consider a half size up regardless.
Versatile: equally at home on any trail or road: Sam
Combination of graphene infused midsole and outsole is seamless in feel: Sam/Renee
Very vibration impact reducing rear of the shoe: Sam
Agile, flexible forefoot: Sam/Renee
Very secure any trail worthy upper: Sam/Renee
Steep pricing at $180: Sam/Renee
Thinish feeling forefoot at 21mm full front stack with 8mm drop: Sam/Renee
Overbuilt upper for “door to trail” focus, adding weight: Sam/Renee
Low front of toe box but fine at true to size with thin socks: Sam/Renee
Length runs short: Renee
Samples: men’s 9.72 oz / 275g (US8.5) women’s 8.48oz/241g (US8)
Stack height (midsole only): 18mm at rear, 10mm at forefoot
Stack height (including outsole and footbed): 29mm at rear, 21mm at forefoot
Terra Ultra G 270 (Review) was about 21mm heel 21mm forefoot
Traifly Ultra G 300 (Review) 30mm heel /24mm forefoot
Available now. $180
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.
Renee is a former U. S. Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon.
First Impressions and Fit
Sam: I shared Renee's excitement that is for sure when I first heard about, then received, the ParkClaw.
I was immediately struck by the outsole with its 98 lugs underfoot, sharply profiled lugs indicating any surface grip and their larger contact areas pointing to a smooth hard surface and road ride. Clearly the outsole by design is intended for both
Trying them on (and in test) the upper is clearly more trail focused, and high performance trail focused than commonly found door to trail uppers which tends to be more “relaxed” in fit and features.
The fit is precise, low volume over the toes, reasonably roomy at midfoot and incredibly well held all over. I was sent my true to size and with thin socks (Darn Tough Ultralight) they fit perfectly but not as well with thicker socks as I could use more toe overhead room.
Given the support of the upper, and for sure if focus is less technical trail or you prefer heavier socks, I could see sizing up a half.
I wonder why such a precise reinforced with dense if thin engineered mesh with extensive underlays, a quite stout toe toe bumper coverage, heavily cushioned tongue with big grippy laces was spec'd here. Might it add to weight?
This said no regrets as the upper while snug performs magnificently on both road and for sure trail with only the overly wide final area of the lace up a bit stiff over the toes.
Renee: The upper has a good combination of comfort and security. The tongue, heel counter, and heel collar have a fair amount of padding, which gives the upper a daily trainer feel. I had excellent hold around the heel and midfoot without using the extra lacing eyelet. As a trail shoe, I think the PARKCLAW could lose some weight and thin out some of the cushion on the upper. The PARKCLAW is a 4/5 on Inov-8’s width scale, and I think it will fit all foot types aside from the most wide. The toebox, however, runs a bit shallow, narrow, and short. I’m normally between a size 7.5 and 8 (mostly choosing a size 8), and I have no extra room in my women’s size 8 in the PARKCLAW. For comparison, my TU G 270 is a size 8 too.
I think most runners will be fine just wearing thin socks (I wore Injinji “toe socks” for each of my runs), but runners with wide, high volume toe box needs might be out of luck. The toe bumper is more than is needed for a road-to-trail shoe, but I like it for tree root protection and I think runners using these for actual trails (not road) will appreciate the protection.
Sam: No question, a superb trail shoe upper that is a bit overdone for the door to trail focus. Renee has described the upper and fit well.
I would add the following,
The combination of grippy thick laces and thicker well padded tongue is particularly effective. I always double knot but didn’t feel the need to do so here. Everything stayed as snug as I wished during each run. I do note some tongue rotation though. The edges of the tongue are attached to the eyelet area by a thin stretchy gusset material that I think is more about keeping debris out than keeping the tongue in place.
I do think the front of the eye stays where the lacing ends is a bit broad and given the flexibility of the shoe in that area this stiffer overlay is occasionally felt over the top of the foot.
The heel hold is top notch and I like that the heel counter is relatively pliable and is not totally rigid as say the Saucony Xodus Ultra I am now also testing is and which feels blocky and stiff. Here there is some give but not so much to ever feel unstable.
The engineered mesh has nice front and midfoot ventilation holes. It is denser in the areas of the midfoot tying into the lacing and on the inside those areas are backed up by soft sueded underlays. Midfoot hold is total.
Renee: The fancy terminology for the midsole is more than just marketing words, and probably accounts for the hefty price tag. The “Graphene-enhanced G-FLY cushioned foam” feels great underfoot. The landing is light and responsive, making the shoe feel lighter than its actual weight with a propulsion forward from a forefoot landing. Bonus, the shoe has a TPU beaded insole/footbed. Insoles are usually a “whatever” factor, but I’ve noticed a difference in comfort, cushion, and responsiveness in shoes with a TPU insole. The forefoot does feel “thin” underfoot, and depending on the surface, I’m not sure I would wear these shoes for longer runs. More on that in the ride section.
Sam: The G-Fly graphene enhanced midsole, the 29mm heel stack and the not overlay firm graphene enhanced outsole combine for very, very impact-reducing landings and some measured never sloppy rebound.
One can really feel the elastic properties delivered by the graphene as one senses the midsole foam not deforming outwards as much as most while remaining relatively soft (say compared to a Saucony Peregrine, Salomon Sense pro 4 or any Sportiva). It is not quite as soft (and unstable) in feel as for example a NB More Trail or Nike Peagsus Trial 1. In many ways the 8mm drop, flexibility and foam feel remind me of the ASICS Fuji Lite 2 with a somewhat denser, more stable feel from underfoot to upper support.
The forefoot at 21mm total stack, in combination with the drop and especially the flexibility of the shoe does feel a bit thin. I am concluding it is most likely and especially the shoe’s flexibility (and that prominent flex groove below) in combination with low actual midsole stack height of a mere 10mm of foam upfront.
The 4mm lugs as they are not overly firm and the superb Boomerang insole add back some cushion feel but we are quite thin or may be a touch tiring up front in total compared to higher stacked trail shoes.
Renee: 98 lugs! Pretty sure. I didn’t actually count them, but I trust Inov-8. I love the outsole, and thought it felt great on grass, woodland debris, dirt, and gravel. For those looking for a more road-friendly shoe, the outsole might be overkill. For me, it’s great. The 4mm lug depth and Graphene grip perform well running uphill on dirt trails and during speed work on gravel. The traction is okay on mud (as well as any 4mm lug outsole can be). I had a lot of mud cake on the outsole, but the ride/midsole is so smooth that I didn’t feel weighted down.
Sam: I concur. A superb outsole for multiple purposes. I ran paved roads, grass, steep gravel roads, and forest paths with roots and rocks and everywhere the outsole had grip.
On paved road and firm the outsole wasn’t in the way/overly noticed, noisy, or a harsh presence as trail shoes often have on such surfaces. in part I think this “door” part of the outsole’s performance is due to those wide front lug contact areas, the shoe’s flexibility and the more close than usual match of outsole and midsole firmness.
The rock protection (no plate here) is adequate but not great and not as good as the G 270 (shown above right) as we do not have the connected bars of rubber of that shoe and as such the outsole and platform not as tech trails worthy as the upper and midsole foam and rubber itself.
Renee: Again, the “Graphene-enhanced G-FLY foam” plus the BOOMERANG TPU beaded insole feel great underfoot. With an 8mm drop, the push forward is fast. From speed repeats on flat gravel to uphills in dirt, the ride is fun, quick, and comfortable. The forefoot does feel a bit thin for longer runs, more so (I think) because the 8mm drop and lively midsole promote a forefoot landing. I questioned if I would wear the shoes for long runs, but it depends on the terrain. On soft gravel, the forefoot landing was not as tiring, probably because the soft ground prevented the lugs from pushing up into the midsole. In comparison, I’m fine running the TU G 270 past 20 miles (same forefoot stack height), but because the midsole is firmer and the drop is lower, I think I am not hitting my forefoot as hard. The forefoot flex is similar to the TU G 270, but I think the ride feels different because of the drop (8mm versus 0 drop).
The TU G 270 has better ground feel and nimbleness on trail surfaces for that reason. I think the forefoot flex is equally as great in both shoes, just with different rides.
Sam: The ride is a superb blend of what is required for road running and for moderate trail surfaces. I took them on a door to trail run that was 60% pavement and an 8 mile all trail run with some vertical with a mix of smoother forest and steep gravel paths, along with some moderately technical windy single track.
The 8mm drop and big enough 29mm heel stack are key in my view to the G 280’s versatile, any surface performance.
On road things flow smoothly and quietly with plenty of forgiving cushion and some nice rebound. The drop is noticed with an easy forward flow at all paces to a flexible toe off. Except for noticing the “presence” of the 4mm lugs but not any rubber over firmness, and the stout upper, you might think you were running a fine more uptempo road daily trainer,
On trail the shoe is agile and quick if a bit thin and over flexible on the rockier stuff with performance on smoother trails equally as good and dynamic as on road. The flexible forefoot and grip make them a great climber.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Renee: If you have $180 and enjoy fast, upbeat trail shoes, the PARKCLAW might be your new favorite daily trainer. I’m not a fan of road-to-trail shoes necessarily, which is fine here because I think the PARKCLAW, despite its marketing, can be more a (nontechnical) trail than road shoe. The ride feels like 8mm, which is great for mellow terrains or speed work. The drop and forefoot stack height feel thin past 10 miles on harder surfaces, although I would run a 20-mile long run on soft, rolling terrain (perfect for my country roads). Its only real fault is the short length and shallow/narrow toe box. Also, the cost is high, but the quality and technology is there. Personally, I’d love the shoe with a 4-6mm drop adding a bit extra to the forefoot while also adding length.
Renee’s score: 9.3/10
(-.30 price, -.50 short/narrow/shallow toe box)
Sam: A most versatile shoe, equally at home on roads or trails. The ParkClaw has an energetic, agile and well cushioned ride on all surfaces I have run it on. It does not remind of the firm and often harsh prior Inov-8 door to trail shoes whose names and numbers I can’t recall..
Its strengths are more moderate surface non highly technical trails and road as the forefoot thickness and protection and the shoe’s flexibility can start to feel thin and a bit tiring. While I agree with Renee it for sure leans more trail than road due its outsole and especially upper, it is more than up to the task and fun to also run on road as the outsole and midsole firmnesses are so well matched with the platform and the rebound nicely dynamic yet also stable helped along by the noticed 8mm drop. I can't wait to get them to Park City, UT with its smooth well built, mostly obstacle and rock free single track trails where they should be ideal.
Fit is a bit short and low over the toes but with thin socks the upper has as precise and solid a hold as any recent trail shoe I have tested but is maybe “overbuilt” for its claimed door to trail focus potentially adding some weight..
By combining its graphene midsole/outsole tech with an 8mm drop geometry, Inov-8 offers a distinctly different riding shoe than its more tech trails focused G 270 or its massively cushioned G 300 with which it shares all the “G” tech of midsole and outsole materials. Its versatility, innovative materials, solid yet sub 10 oz construction and fun, fast, well cushioned ride go a long way to overcoming its relatively steep pricing.
Sam’s Score 9.11 /10
Ride: 9.4 Fit: 9.4 Value: 8 Style 9.3 Rock Protection: 8.5
Inov-8 TerraUltra G 270 (now the TrailFly G 270) RTR Review
Renee: The TU/TF G 270 is a slightly lighter shoe at the same size. Despite the same forefoot stack height, the G 270 is the better choice for me for longer runs. The upper is more race-oriented and the shoe caters to trail rather than road-to-trail. Both shoes can be fast and have good spring/flex from the forefoot. The zero drop of the G 270 might be too low for some runners, but the ride of the PARKCLAW’s 8mm drop might be less friendly on trails. I wore a women’s size 8 in both, with much more room and length in the TU/TF G 270.
Sam: If on pure trail and even hiking highly technical trails the G 270 still rules. I managed its zero drop just fine and it makes for a super stable very fast ride, Taken to greater distances on smoother terrain or road, the higher heel more forgiving and dynamic G Fly midsole of the G 280 pulls ahead. I do prefer (on trails) the more secure somewhat lower volume upper and more stout mesh of the G 280. Strange right?
ON Cloudvista RTR Review
Renee: Two very comparable shoes, in my opinion. Both are high quality shoes, although the Cloudvista is priced $40 less. At a 7mm drop, the ride of the Cloudvista is similar, with a flexible, fast forefoot landing. Both shoes have, in my opinion, a thin forefoot landing with the Cloudvista also having a hard, solid ball feel underfoot because of its Speedboard plate. The forefoot landing of the PARKCLAW is comfortable, just not great for long runs to me unless the terrain is soft. I wore a women’s size 8 in both. The length is comparable, although the Cloudvista has a slightly more roomy toebox. As a running shoe, by far, my choice is the PARKCLAW.
Hoka Torrent 2 RTR Review
Renee: For sizing, I wore a 7.5 in the Torrent 2 as compared to a size 8 in the PARKCLAW. Even at half-size shorter, I have more room (not much) in the Torrent 2. The Torrent 2 is the lighter shoe, capable of more nimble and fast paces on trails that are more technical. The midsole and ride of the PARKCLAW is more lively and better for less technical trails.
adidas Terrex Speed Ultra RTR Review
Renee: The Speed Ultra, like the PARKCLAW, has an 8mm drop, although the ride is much different. On flat, easy terrain, the Speed Ultra feels like an 8mm drop, but it rides well (like a lower drop shoe) on more technical terrain. For longer distances, the Speed Ultra is by far the better choice, and overall, a better choice for racing. For daily runs on more mellow terrain, I’d choose the PARKCLAW. The Speed Ultra felt slightly narrow in the midfoot in comparison, but the toebox has more room/height/length than the PARKCLAW. I wore a women’s size 8 in both.
Sam: 0.8 oz lighter but also somewhat lower stack, the Speed Ultra clearly leans more technical trail and racing han the G 280 does. It can handle roads quite well given its Boost heel area but not as smoothly as G 280 can. It’s upper is almost equally as secure yet lighter. If trails run fast are the main focus for your purchase, I would pick the Speed Ultra. If for more all around varied terrain uses ParkClaw
Saucony Peregrine 12 RTR Review
Renee: For technical trails and racing, the Peregrine 12 wins. For training on a diverse terrain (gravel, road, nontechnical trails), the PARKCLAW is more comfortable and friendly. I wore a women’s size 8 in both. The Peregrine 12 is slightly (unnoticeable) lighter in weight. The sizing is comparable, but the PARKCLAW runs short/narrow/shallow in the toebox.
Sam: About 0.5 oz and $50 lighter, the 4mm drop Peregrine has 1mm more forefoot cushion and 2.5 mm less heel cushion. It includes an effective woven rock plate which the G 280 does not have. It’s upper is yet more comfortable (lighter in fit and feel) and equally as supportive. It shines on technical trails with its “road ride” considerably firmer than G 280 and not much fun. For versatility on all kinds of non super technical terrain and road clearly the G 280 is superior. For the tech, clearly the Peregrine. As with many comparisons here the Peregrine is considerably less expensive.
Skechers Razor Trail RTR Review
Renee: Both shoes cater to road-to-trail terrain and less technical trails. The Razor Trail is much lighter and has a smooth ride and lower drop. For trail running, the PARKCLAW outsole is far better. I have more comfort in the Razor Trail for longer runs, but as a trainer, the PARKCLAW is more diverse. I wore a women’s size 8 in both (again, the PARKCLAW runs short/narrow in comparison).
ASICS Fuji Lite 2 RTR Review
Renee: The Fuji Lite 2 is a surprisingly well priced ($120), versatile trail shoe capable of being both a trainer and a race shoe. The forefoot of the Fuji Lite 2 is soft, but that’s not an issue for running nontechnical terrain. The toebox is much more voluminous in the Fuji as compared to short/narrow/shallow PARKCLAW. For the price, the Fuji Lite 2 is an overall winner. The security and hold of the PARKCLAW’s upper is far better and the midsole is more dynamic.
Sam: Both great door to trail options. 100% agree with Renee on this comparison. If you lean more towards trail and favor a full blown very supportive trail shoe upper and trail shoe agility and stability go ParkClaw. If you lean more towards roads, need more upper room and 3mm more forefoot cushion go with the 0.4 oz lighter somewhat quicker feeling Fuji Lite 2.
Brooks Divide 3 RTR Review
Renee: Want to save $80? The Divide 3 is a $100 budget shoe that works as a daily trainer capable of speed and long runs for the runner who likes a no-nonsense ride. That said, the PARKCLAW is by far the more quality shoe, with a gripper outsole, more secure upper, and faster midsole. The toebox fits are polar opposites: the forefoot of the Divide 3 was too big for me while the PARKCLAW runs short/narrow/shallow.
Nike Terra Kiger 8 RTR Review
Renee: Both midsoles are a good combo of fast and comfortable, with the slight edge to the PARKCLAW. The outsole of PARKCLAW works better for my woodland trails, gravel roads, and muddy conditions (I can’t compare to wet rock surfaces, sorry!). Without the rock plate, the PARKCLAW is the better choice for road-to-trail running and non-technical trails. For sizing, I wore a men’s 6.5/women’s 8 in the Kiger 8, which runs slightly long. The PARKCLAW runs at least a half size shorter.
The ParkClaw G 280 is available now at Inov-8 HERE and at our partners below
Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'
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