I had run in a couple of different pairs before, and they both gave me the same problem. After 5 miles of running I’d get blisters on my heels, so I just assumed that Inov8s were the wrong shape for my feet. However many of the guys in my running club swear by them and I’d always looked jealously on as they sure footedly breezed past me on the muddy sections of trail, so I was pleased to be offered a pair of the new Mudclaw G260s to review and hoped that the intervening ten years of running long distances had toughened up my feet.
Inov8 are making a lot of noise about their series of shoes with ‘Graphene Grip’ and these particular ones are aimed at muddy mountain runs and obstacle course races, and are designed to perform at their best over soft wet ground. They weigh in at 260g and come with gaiters that neatly attach to the shoes to keep debris out.
What the manufacturers say:
The world's toughest shoe for the world's toughest muddy mountain runs and obstacle course races. Revolutionary graphene-enhanced rubber and fearsome 8mm studs deliver the world's toughest grip over soft and wet ground. New super-strong upper materials give high levels of durability and breathability to a shoe weighing just 260g. Kevlar® aramid fiber has been added to the tongue. The MUDCLAW G 260 - Designed to make light work of all tough mud. Comes with an integrated gaiter to help keep debris out of the shoes.
- Fit Scale 1
- Drop 4mm
- Footbed 6mm
- Lug Depth 8mm
- Midsole Exteroflow
- Midsole Stack 8.5mm/4.5mm
- Shank Meta-Plate
- Sole Compound Graphene Grip
- Weight 260g/9.17oz
Inov8 Mudclaw G260 On test
These arrived mid-week, and the first things to catch my eye were that they were light weight, had big studs and they were very very green. I had every intention of waiting until the weekend before trying them out. However, having a clean, unused pair of running shoes by my back door for more than 24 hours was unacceptable to me, so rather than the road run around town that was originally planned, I donned a head torch and headed out into the muddy woods to find out what this “graphene grip” was all about.
I set out to do a simple loop on trails that I knew well, but found myself enjoying the single track sections so much, I kept looping back and exploring the various trails made by the local mountain bikers. I’m not the best descender, but the confidence I got from the grip these shoes provided, gave me the urge to really stride out regardless of the wet roots and mud, without fear of slipping and landing flat on my face. After 6 miles, my feet were comfortable and I was feeling confident, so I was looking forward to a longer outing in the daylight of the weekend.
I started out by heading off to my local trig point. I always use this as a good tester for any new trail shoes as it encompasses sections of forest track, muddy fields, tarmac and single track. These shoes were good on all surfaces. I noticed the lack of cushioning on the road and on the more compact forest track, but I was blown away with the grip on the fun stuff and after 8 miles, as I belted down the steep grassy slope back towards town, I decided again to elongate my run.
Heading back out of town, I did start to feel a hot-spot on my heel and a few miles later, a blister. It seemed the most my feet could cope with wearing Inov8 shoes was 10 miles. I haven’t had a blister in years and my feet seem to cope fine with most shoes over pretty large distances, so I was thinking it was a real shame. Having seen the number of people wearing them in Ultra races, it seems to be more of a ‘me problem’ than a fault with the shoes, so after a couple of days of running on the road, I had a fiddle with the laces and tried again.
As the days were getting longer the chance to get out and trail run in the daylight after work was becoming more and more appealing. With my local trails still covered in the winter layer of mud, I made sure I went out for plenty of short runs in the Mudclaw’s, to try and wear them in. Over these miles, I was becoming more and more impressed with the grip these were giving me on every run and they were starting to feel pretty comfortable, so I figured I’d found myself a cracking new pair of cross country shoes if nothing else.
My local league races in Herefordshire are all about 6 miles of technical, hilly terrain with a ton of mud. They’re not really suitable for full on cross country spikes, so shoes like these are ideal and with the last race of the season being just before this review was due, it was the obvious way to give them a proper outing and try them out at full pelt (or my version of it).
They were great. My footing was secure, so I wasn’t wasting any energy on the climbs, and I had so much more confidence than I was used to on the descents. These shoes really rewarded the lean forward and be brave approach to descending that I needed to maintain if I wanted to stay ahead of people, after putting in all the hard work on the climbs. They felt light and fast and proper racy, even if my legs didn’t! What’s more after a couple of miles warming up, a 7-mile race and another mile or so warming down, my feet remained comfortable and no sore spots at all.
Inov8 are making a big deal about the grip that these offer, and they’ve every right to, as it’s exceptional. The gaiters work well and attach securely and very neatly to the shoes, they feel light and secure on my feet and felt great to run in.
If you’re looking for downsides, there’s not much cushioning, (but who needs cushioning in mud) and if you have knobbly heels like mine they may take a little wearing in if you want to comfortably rack up the big miles.
What stands out though, is that nothing else I have run in has given me the confidence to really go for it on descents like these do. I don’t know how much of this is to do with graphene and how much is the tread design but whatever the balance is, it works and it’s what makes these shoes a joy to run in.