It’s just possible the UK’s best selling off road running brand is Inov-8. They have been aggresive from the outset with their marketing, at times innovative with that too. As one of the few remaining British running companies they have a very loyal following, yet they have come in for some pretty intense criticism too.
Shoes that appeared to fall apart to quickly caused them to have to battle agaisnt those that thought 1,000 miles for a fell shoe was nothing and lets face it, their own inexperince in what makes a tough off trail, mountain or fell shoe. One that lasts 500 miles should do it. Here they haven’t been alone, even the American and Japennese giants have struggled here with new product launches that just could never cope with British conditions and terrain – footpaths, what do we need those for? Some might say they have prevailed, I believe developed staying true to their beliefs.
Yet, one thing has always been true of Inov-8: Grip. Come on is there anything any better out there? Especially when you look across the whole of the off road range offering from a company. Probably not. This alone during Inov-8’s formative years kept their faithfull followers hooked. Despite the failing uppers of 5-7 years ago, Inov-8 have learnt and progressed. Today we see shoes that are constructed so well they do actually last. Yes, as a running store, we are still seeing complaints from folk with Inov-8 product that really should have been confined to the bin, well, to be honest a long time ago. Just a case of expectations. We want light weight running footwear, and we want it to last, grip and provide plenty of foot protection. We want it all.
So today, we have pretty much proven ranges in the Mudclaw, X-Talon, Roclite, Race Ultra and Trailroc. Then come this summer we see the arrival of the Terraclaw – we will bring you a first review as soon as we can.
Personaly, I love the approach of Inov-8 to their product lines. Yes, there has definitely been the odd less ‘good idea’ that didn’t work for them, road running perhaps being the obvious example. Oh I think they should change a few things. How about their true race shoes all having firmer more responsive midsoles designed to protect whilst offering that all important output of speed? The X-Talon range is just crying out for this to happen and I think the 190 is just one example. Currently it feels like you are running through mud. Yet, in the Race Ultra 270 they have a firmer midsole, creating a much faster feeling shoe, that is so much more responsive. The 270 could well take the brand up another notch and I suspect one that could take on the Salomon Sense Ultra. Now there’s an idea, watch this space for a comparative look at the two shoes… Testing times ahead.
Yet, as much as I complain about wanting that firmer more responsive shoe, you still can’t argue with the grip. Even the Race Ultra range has an amazing grip that cuts into softer surfaces and just bites on solid ground. Then there is the X-Talon’s and Mudclaw’s for aggresion where it is required. You can see why so many of the UK’s best off trail runners choose Inov-8.
It’s also good to see the Brand getting out there and involved with the grass roots of the sport. Supporting national events and local grassroots, including our own Gritstone Series. Then there is the events we arrange through the store and they come along too with their ‘Try On Shoes’. They are always informative, never pushy, understanding that we are thankful for the chance to try something new and make an informed decision. Just look at their involvement with us this May: Wood Run’s and The Lose Hill Challenge, coaching and timed run evenings. It’s all good.
So all in all, it’s great to be working with Inov-8, to host one of their Off Road Running Centres. It has been fun watching them grow and develop as a brand, ups and downs, smiles and frustrations. Today, I think their footwear range is the best it has ever been. Clear defined choice for the terrain you run on. It all comes down to the runner choosing the right shoe for the right fit, the right terrain and conditions. Inov-8 have it pretty much sorted.
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