Inov-8's Parkclaw 275, Roclite 290 and F-LITE 290 models made the trek with Brett from the warm & rocky Phoenix, AZ trails to the streets of Syracuse, NY for a marathon, followed by dozens of miles in Paris and London before heading to the Secret Nuclear Bunker outside of Essex for the 2018 OCR World Championships. How'd they perform?
First things first, I used to have an overwhelming bias against Inov-8 for a whole bunch of years – and it's absolutely not the shoe manufacturer's fault. Way back in 2011, I was a brand ambassador for a small shoe company along with my eventual co-author of 7 Weeks to A Triathlon, pro triathlete Lewis Elliot. He and I were at The Running Event in Austin, TX happily hob-knobbing with Karno and Macca and I walked into the Inov-8 booth to check out the ridiculously huge number of models they were displaying all over the booth – from radical exoskeletons made of squishy polymer to gnarly trail runners – I was immediately impressed. Being a shoe geek I grabbed different models off the rack and studied them from all angles, even snapping a few pics to send to another of my co-authors Jason Warner (7 Weeks to 10 Pounds of Muscle, etc.) to check out. I'd never worn a pair of Inov-8 kicks before, but Jase was already a fan. Apparently, me taking pictures pissed off the booth “manager” and he marched over, demanding “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Before nearly physically removing me from the Inov-8 booth, the whole while shouting something entirely nonsensical, like I was stealing design ideas… at a shoe convention surrounded by dozens of other shoe manufacturers. Since this “Inov-8” guy was quite possibly one of the biggest douchebags I'd ever dealt with in the shoe industry embarrassing the shit out of me in front of friends, co-workers, and a triathlon legend (Chris McCormick was nearly front & center for the debacle) I vowed on the spot I'd never – ever – wear a pair of Inov-8 shoes. For over 7 years I maintained this stupid level of obstinance and never even cracked a single Inov-8 box until they became the official sponsor of the OCR World Championships… and sent me three completely different pairs of shoes to try.
Have Shoes Will Travel
My Inov-8 care package arrived on Tuesday with just enough time to take the Roclite 290's on a quick 5k trail run around my neighborhood before packing 'em in my suitcase along with the Parkclaw 275 to head out the next day to the east coast and eventually Europe. Out of the box they required a little adjustment of the laces to open up the toebox and felt light & comfortable with some sticky grip, and I chose the F-LITE 290's to wear for travel, putting on Empire State Marathon (when RD'ing, I end up trekking an ultramarathon over 2 days), and then walking around Paris & London. Since I'd never even walked a single mile in these shoes, I was taking a pretty big risk – did I mention the 3 new Inov-8's were the only shoes I packed for 12 days on the road?
F-LITE G 290 – Workouts & Athletic/Casual Kicks
While I totally underutilized these “CrossFit” shoes by just wearing them for walking & jogging, they are comfortable and total overkill for everyday shoes. At 10.2 OZ, they are plenty light and flexible, and the graphene-enhanced rubber provides great grip on all surfaces. The 4mm drop is great for Olympic lifts and box-type workouts where you want to keep your center of gravity as low as possible, and I found the low-drop perfectly comfortable for everyday wear. If you're not used to low-drop shoes, they can feel a little flat, luckily the flexibility keeps them from feeling like a solid platform base shoe. Even after about 100 miles of walking, jogging, and even sprinting to make a connecting flight or two, they are my go-to for a workout shoe as well as an attractive athletic/casual shoe to wear with jeans.
Here's What They Say:
The world’s toughest shoe for the world’s toughest workouts. Revolutionary graphene-enhanced rubber delivers the world’s toughest grip in the gym, while new midsole technologies and upper materials raise the bar in terms of training-shoe comfort and durability. Weighing just 290g, the multi-directional flexibility built into the shoe allows you to adapt and react, no matter how varied the workout.
Here's What I Say:
These are a really well-built shoe, I love the bolster around the heel cup, the materials, and design. I find them to be snug-fitting, comfortable and attractive for everyday wear and more than capable for interval workouts at the gym or even for pickup hoops. I bet these would be great for skateboarding, but I'm pretty horrible at it! I have a relatively average foot
Roclite 290 – Grip, Form, & Function
The first shoes I broke out when I got to London for the OCRWC were the Roclite 290's, and I found the width to be pretty comparable to the F-LITE 290, yet the toebox felt a little bit narrower as it came to more of a pronounced tip at the toes. With a slightly heavier Mudgear sock, they hug my foot pretty well throughout the toebox. While I'd normally like a little more room, they weren't uncomfortable and seemed to loosen up a bit as I ran around the course setting up on Thursday before the 3-day event. The conditions were soft and a tad muddy and they performed well with no slipping. After just a couple hours I forgot all about the new shoes on my feet, and 2 days of 10+ hours each in, I found them to be as comfortable as they were capable. While I didn't race at the OCRWC, I logged nearly 10 miles/day on grass, dirt, & mud.
Here's What They Say:
Run with confidence with our lightest, most flexible men's trail running shoe. The ROCLITE 290 is designed for running quickly over multi terrains. Delivering a responsive ride and high levels of durability, it's perfect for moving fast over everything from mountain rock to muddy grass, hard-packed trails and roads.
Here's What I Say:
The Roclite 290 have plenty of lugs for traction over any terrain. While I did not try them in deep mud, they performed well climbing wet & muddy obstacles and all around the course. These shoes are sleek, snug, light and I'd consider these a hard training/race shoe versus an everyday hybrid “trail” running shoe… luckily, I'm about the share the ParkClaw 275 next which totally nails that category (foreshadowing!)
Parkclaw 275 – Hybrid Training Over Any Conditions
The final shoes I pulled out of my bag for Sunday at OCRWC were my favorites yet (ever?), the Parkclaw 275. Super-light & flexible, the roomy toebox and airy upper coupled with soft foam insole makes for a hybrid shoe for road or trail running, and comfortable enough for weary feet to wrap up a long intercontinental adventure. Back home in Phoenix, the Parkclaw 275 are my go-to for off-road running on any conditions while still being stylish enough to wear every day. The fit & style means these shoes are on the top shelf of my closet and are already seeing a lot of wear – a consistently high amount more wear than others I've heaped praise on in the past!
What They Say:
Run with confidence on paths and trails with our new men's trail running shoe. The PARKCLAW 275 is the perfect shoe for runners wanting to run on paths and trails, or those looking to make a transition from road running to trail running. It performs superbly on all terrain and features an aggressive outsole for increased grip. The men's PARKCLAW 275 is available in grey and orange as well as green and black this season.
What I Say:
Forget what I say, Runner's World just raved about these in this review: The Inov-8 Parkclaw 275 Is a Road-Trail Hybrid up for Anything and I completely agree. The Parkclaw 275 is an all-around great shoe that's a perfect blend of lightness, comfort, cushiness, traction, and breathability in one package – pretty much everything an OCR athlete would want for training or racing!