I have been testing a new product from inov-8, the Parkclaw G 280 running shoe. The shoe is designed for use on both trails and tarmac.
Features of the inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 running shoes:
- Weight: Average 280g per shoe. My female UK8.5 is 275g
- Drop: 8mm
- Width (on inov-8 1-5 scale, with 5 being the widest): 4
- Lug depth: 4mm
- Stack height (midsole only): 18mm at rear, 10mm at forefoot
- Stack height (including outsole and footbed): 29mm at rear, 21mm at forefoot
- Patent-pending technologies: G-GRIP, G-FLY
- Price (RRP): £160
- Buy: inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 female and inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 male. (Note: I receive a small commission for sales through this site.)
There are Parkclaw 260s without graphene and Parkclaw 275 GTX, with Gore-Tex as alternatives, too.
3 claims from inov-8:
- 98 graphene rubber cleats per shoe to “deliver the world’s toughest hybrid grip”.
- Graphene foam propels 25% more energy return for longer-lasting wild speed.
- A perfectly cushioned midsole and breathable upper enhance all-round comfort.
The inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 outsole:
- Graphene-enhanced rubber offers durability and grip. inov-8 states the outsole is scientifically proven to be “50% stronger, 50% more elastic, 50% harder wearing”.
- The 98 multi-directional 4mm deep lugs on each shoe have been shaped and positioned to improve both propulsion at the front and braking at the rear.
- Increased flex points through the outsole, both vertically and horizontally, to give greater adaptability and a feel of nimbleness underfoot.
The inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 outsole midsole and footbed:
- Graphene-enhanced G-FLY cushioned foam that is more resistant to wear.
- The foam gives “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 1200km, which is double industry standard.
- BOOMERANG footbed features hundreds of expanded TPU beads that compress and spring back for 40% more energy return – and greater cushioning – than standard footbeds. The footbed is said to retain its 6mm thickness and optimum performance for longer, and wicks away moisture.
- 8mm drop (heel to toe differential) is aimed at runners transitioning from traditional road running shoes to trail shoes.
The inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 upper:
- A more open, yet durable, mesh around the forefoot and midfoot for greater breathability.
- Heel counter to deliver a locked-in, supportive feel.
- Strong, flexible toe bumper to protect front of feet from rocks and trail debris.
- With a slightly wider toe box and a plush, gusseted tongue, for comfort.
- External heel loops make it easier and quicker to put shoes on.
My thoughts: inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 running shoes
The Parkclaw G 280 shoes have a neater fit than many other inov-8 running shoes that I have worn in recent years. In fact, when I put my foot inside (making use of the finger loop at the back of the shoes), I was delighted by the narrower fit.
I have become used to wearing unisex inov-8 running shoes and usually this means they are too wide for my narrow UK8.5 female foot.
However, when inov-8 first started producing trail running shoes, the width fit was perfect for my narrow foot. It seems to me that the brand has gone back a decade to when inov-8 made shoes with a perfect width (for me!).
But this is my foot and your foot might well be wider. Inov-8 states the forefoot width is 4/5 (where 5 is the widest) but I’d say, in comparison to other models, they are more of a 3/5.
Annoying, the UK8.5 isn’t quite long enough. It fits neatly but I like a bit of room at the front for my toes and usually inov-8 provides this in the UK8.5 fit. I would say the shoe is a bit short.
The heel fit is supportive and the insole feel well cushioned. It’s not as cushioned as a road shoe but also not as natural feel as a trail shoe. It’s somewhere in the middle and this is what inov-8 is aiming for. I really like that the shoe offers a good balance of cushioning, yet still allows you to feel the trail under your feet.
The tongue is quite plush and the right length so the shoes fit nicely all around the ankle.
I was pleased to see that the laces have a knobbly design, which usually means they will stay tied even if you don’t double knot them. Sadly, this isn’t the case. The laces came undone within a few minutes of starting my run, so I had to double knot them as I would with other smoother laces.
There are a lot of details and features in this running shoe and some big claims. inov-8 has been using graphene in their trails shoes for years. Graphene is a very light and very strong product and inov-8 believe this offers good durability and grip for trail runners.
I agree that the graphene soles are generally pretty grippy and the new lugs design on the Parkclaws only add to this. To be exact, inov-8 has added 98 individual cleats, each 4mm depth, to each shoe. I counted them and there are 98 of 4mm depth.
There are another few lugs at the front of the toe end, which are not 4mm but maybe 2mm each.
The layout of these lugs looks similar to a mountain bike tyre that has lugs where you will need more grip when cornering etc, so there are lugs that are larger, smaller, further apart or closer together to suit where you need grip.
I found the grip good on forest paths and trails, including rock, mud and grassy hills.
Scottish mud can be thick and sticky and it does tend to get stuck in between some of the lugs, although this hasn’t affected the grip of the soles as far as I can tell.
The shoes are meant to offer runners the versatility of road running, too. This is a good idea because many people combine trails and road when running and it isn’t easy to find a running shoe that does both surfaces well.
I usually wear Hoka One One Torrent IIs, which have a lot more sole thickness and cushioning than even these new inov-8s but if comparing the Parkclaws to other trail shoes by the same brand, I’d say these are a lot more cushioned and comfortable on tarmac.
I felt as though I had good bounce – but without it being energy zapping – on the tarmac. I could also feel the trails when running off-road and the thickness of soles didn’t cause me any concern. In fact, I think inov-8 have designed a good balance for comfortable and practical running on tarmac and trails.
Wet tree roots are still a slippery place to put a foot when running and there are no running shoes that I have found that stop the unnerving feeling that you are going to lose your grip underfoot. However, the Parkclaws are as good as other inov-8 graphene shoes and better than many other running shoes on wet tree roots.
The heel-to-toe drop is 8mm rather than the 6mm that I am more familiar with in an inov-8 trail shoe. The reasoning is that the shoe will be suitable for runners who are moving from road shoes to trail shoes.
Road running shoes usually have a greater heel-to-toe drop (10mm in many cases) compared to a more natural and flatter feel of the trail shoe with a 4mm or 6mm heel-to-toe drop.
Therefore, I can see why inov-8 has chosen to include an 8mm drop for people who are looking to move from road shoes and to trail running shoes. I found the drop comfortable for running on both trails and roads.
The weight of each shoe at 280g is excellent. My shoes actually weighs a little less at 275g.
The uppers seem durable enough although I haven’t tested them for long enough to know they will stand the test of time and running.
In recent years, many people criticise inov-8 for uppers that wear out too quickly. While the soles are made of highly durable graphene, the uppers fail too soon.
I can’t say if these uppers are any different but they do appear to be made of good quality fabric. They have toe bumper to protect the front of feet – and the upper part of the shoe – from rocks and trail debris. There is a protecting layer at the rear of the shoe, too.
It would be good to see an all-round rand on the shoes. I run on trails where there is a lot of low lying vegetation, such a heather and gorse, and I think this will end up causing wear on the uppers. However, if you are mostly on park-style trails the level of protection is probably fine.
The price of £160 is high in my opinion but so many running shoes seem to be increasingly expensive.
Overall, I like the inov-8 Parkclaw 8 280 running shoes. They fit a gap in the market for good quality road-to-trail running shoes. There are plenty of nice design features and they are made by a brand that it trusted for running shoe technology. The shoes are comfortable, light and grippy.
The price is high and only time will tell if the shoes are durable enough to justify buying another pair when they do wear out.