Kit review: Inov-8 Mudclaw 272s
There has been a bad case of “off-road trainer envy” in my house this week. And when the G-Force and I headed out to the hills, the envy only got worse. You see, I had been sent a pair of the new Inov-8 Mudclaw 272 off-road trainers to test. While some people who know me might question the need for another pair of off-road trainers, given the large collection already piling up on shoe racks in my home, in my opinion you can never have enough Inov-8 trainers!
Indeed, I believe that there is an Inov-8 trainer for every occasion – and since I do a wide variety of running it follows that I need a wide variety of trainers.
What’s so great about Inov-8 Mudclaw 272s?
These trainers are made for tough off-road running situations; situations where it’s steep, muddy and rocky. The 272s appear to be a lighter up-grade of the Mudclaw 333s. I already own the Mudclaw 333s (of course!) so when the G-Force and I hit the hills this weekend we were able to test both shoes. (We have the same size feet!).
The Inov-8 Mudclaw 272s weight 272g (compared to the 333s, which weigh 333g). The shoes are designed to cope with steep, mixed terrain when ascending, descending and contouring, and are for running on wet grass and in mud. The soles have lots of aggressive-looking studs.
The design looks pretty flashy, a a little like a pair of five-a-side football boots! The laces are set off-centre and, presumably to reduce weight, the laces are much thinner than normal. I love the knobbly style of laces, which mean that when they are tied they are far less likely to come undone. (The 333s have smooth laces, which I find often come loose when running.) I do wonder if these laces and loop holes will withstand the test of time and running. I’ll find out in due course.
However, the design of the off-centre laces is great. When running last weekend in a pair of Mudroc 290s (these are a few years old, I have to admit), I was frustrated by the inside underneath of the laces section, which rubbed on my upper foot. The off-centre lace set up means that when you bend your feet, which you do to extreme when running up steep hills, there is nothing but smooth material resting against your upper foot. I really like this new design.
How do the Inov-8s fit?
I have always loved the fit of the Inov-8s. I have long, narrow and fairly flat feet with skinny ankles. I have usually found the Inov-8s to be superbly well fitting. On the other hand, the G-Force has never got on well with Inov-8s and prefers the Sportiva for fit. Sadly, he doesn’t like the Sportiva for grip. He finds the Inov-8s slip off on his heel, however tightly he ties them.
But when he popped his foot into the new Inov-8 Mudclaw 272s, he immediately loved the fit. The designers must have done something new. I would agree with the G-Force because when, half-way up the hill, we swapped shoes I also found that the 333s slipped off the back of my heel. I am not sure how people with very wide feet would cope with the average Inov-8 but I’m sure someone will tell me here!
How do the Inov-8 Mudclaw 272s perform?
We ran for a few miles on a hard-packed muddy and stony track and then straight up a steep hill (Dumgoyne), down the hill and back along the track. Total of around 11.5km and including a mixture of terrains. Although I had never worn the 272s before I suffered not a single rub or irritation. I loved the fit and feel of the shoe! Have I already said that?!
The shoes were best suited to the grassy and muddy sections. Going up hill on grass, mud and rocks they felt utterly brilliant. They made me sure-footed and confident and I didn’t feel a single slip. In fact, it felt as though my feet where sticking to the ground. The same happened on the downhill. I am not the most confident downhill runner but after a few minutes of running in the 272s I felt myself relax and I flowed downhill, sure that my feet wouldn’t slip.
I also like the feel of the ground close to my feet in the Inov-8s. It’s almost like barefoot running but with studs to keep your feet in place. It does take a bit of getting used to but I prefer to “feel” what is below my feet on tricky off-road terrain.
When the G-Force had a go of the 272s he immediately announced he was going to buy himself a pair. He said: “Until now I’ve not been impressed with Inov-8 because of the fit. I love the soles but not the fit. But having tried the 272s I’m converted.”
Where the 272s weren’t so comfy was on the harder packed trails. They aren’t meant for running on harder surfaces for longer distances and so I’d reserve these shoes for running on softer, muddier terrain. They will be ideal for running Munros and for hill races.
I see a wee problem with the Inov-8s
The only problem with Inov-8s is that they are designed for very specific terrains. So often I run on a mix of terrains and I sometimes wonder if I should stash an alternative pair of trainers in my rucksack. I would have been happier in, say, Terraflys for the harder trails and then the Mudclaw 272s for the hill section. Of course, this is a great marketing ploy because it means that one runner “needs” several pairs of Inov-8s to suit all occasions. Then again, having a trainer that so specifically does the right job in the right situation is a fabulous feat of design.
The “off-road trainer envy” will only end when the G-Force buys himself a pair of Inov-8 Mudclaw 272s!