If you’re looking to do more exploratory living, get out more (and faster and longer), and perhaps work on your running form as well, the question of shoes will become a big one.
Having switched over to a more barefoot-like running form with a few different types of Merrell’s “Glove” models, I have become quite a fan of more minimalistic kinds of shoes, albeit with a bit more than the minimal amount of cushioning (at least for longer distances).
One line, two pairs, of shoes that fit that bill very well and which I have had in use now since soon after they came out have been inov-8’s TrailRoc 255 and 245.
They are easily my favorite two pairs of shoes… except when I hate them.
The problem is that their upper has turned out to be highly efficient at wicking moisture not just away from the foot in dry conditions, but also into the shoe and onto the foot when it’s wet outside.
With the 255, I went onto the Hong Kong Trail one summer day, and the wetness in the shoe built up because of the humidity all around to such an extent that it became quite uncomfortable. Later still it took so long to get the shoes dry again, I spent the rest of that summer’s time in China in a completely different, newly-bought, pair of shoes.
On the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, they held up well but showed a similar problem as water that got into the shoes could not, ‘thanks’ to the bumper around the lower part of the shoe (which is meant to protect the toes) drain quite as efficiently as would be good.
Drainage is not such a problem with the more minimalistic 245, but trail runs over grass wet with morning dew start off cold and wet as the upper moves the dew to the foot, at least until one gets warm and sweaty enough for everything to start evaporating.
Given dry/drier conditions, however, these are among my favorite shoes.
They hug the foot nicely while giving the toes room to splay;
they have a nicely minimalist, low- to zero-drop build with just the right amount of cushioning providing a good balance between cushioning and feel for the ground;
their grip on most surfaces has been among the best I’ve had so far;
and they have held up pretty well except for some small quibbles.
(On the 245, one side of the overlay at the toes came unglued pretty soon – on the Alpannonia, as it were;
on the 255, the toe ‘bumper’ in front has started to come off a little and collect small rocks, but that still hasn’t become an issue and has only come about after the third ultramarathon in/with this pair of shoes and several more miles in between).
Especially in the shift between the two models – and there would also have been the truly minimalist/race-flat 235 – it has been great running.
When I want a bit more protection while having some ground feel and not too high a shoe, I take the 255.
When I want to go more minimalistic, feel more of the ground and be more nimble but also (have to) pay more attention to my running form, I take the 245.
Shifting back and forth between these two, even given the ‘moisture issues’ that make me dislike them when conditions are wetter than is good with them, has made for lots of enjoyable running and, with the fore-/mid-foot-running-friendly build, I think it may have even made me a slightly better runner.
Details (from inov-8’s website):
Weight: 255G / 9OZ
Upper: SYNTHETIC, TPU
Weight: 245G / 8.6OZ
Upper: SYNTHETIC, TPU
(TrailRoc 235 info is here)
2015 Preview – From TrailRoc to TerraClaw
Coming in 2015/16 will be the TerraClaw 250 and TerraClaw 220 which essentially build on the TrailRoc – and indeed, replace all but the TrailRoc 255 – to deliver (in my opinion) simplified designs with (according to inov-8) improved performance:
The weight will be similar to the TrailRoc shoes’, the protective bumper will still be there but a little reduced (on the 250 model – or so it looks to me, and that should help with moisture issues) and an “X-LOCK welded overlay” on the upper is designed to keep the foot in place even better, even as the toe box remains wider than on many other (and as on most inov-8) shoes.
The sole design is, again, all about trail running function.
This time, there will be two different compounds used in different areas to give good durability and protection, and a good grip. Grip is further enhanced by “multi-directional cleats” designed to grip the ground at just the angles at which the foot strikes while being spaced far enough apart for any debris to be released well.
Stack and drop heights look to be quite similar to the two TrailRoc models I reviewed above, with the TerraClaw 250 having a drop of 8mm and the more racing flat-like TerraClaw 220 having a drop height of 4 mm.
Again, the numbers of the shoes correspond to their weights in grams: 250 grams on the 250, 220g on the 220.
They look and sound like interesting additions to / replacements of the TrailRoc, even before one can see if they will turn out quite as versatile as inov-8 says that they will be… and the TerraClaw 250 were one of the four products from inov-8 that won awards at the ISPO 2015/16.
Also coming will be a Gore-Tex lined version of the Ultra 290, which is good news for wet running conditions. Personally, though, I must say that I find the Ultra line a bit too much of a standard type of shoe to tempt me all that much (though I wouldn’t mind trying it out, by any means).
The trail running / ultramarathon racing gear is also going strong, with a new shell and a new merino wool baselayer coming out, and with different kinds of race vest/packs that are very much worth a look…