Tried, Tested and Abused: Inov8 Parkclaw
Inov-8 are highly regarded for producing running shoes for off road use, especially more extreme conditions. They have in the last couple of years made real inroads with their Roadclaw, which as the name suggests was designed with the 'black-top' in mind. The shoe, in the UK, caught the imagination as Nicky Spinks was spotted in a pair on her double running of the Bob Graham Round in the Lake District. So with requests coming in for more of a 'hybrid' shoe the Parkclaw was born.
The Inov-8 Parkclaw is very much a take on the Roadclaw. Same last, cushioning system and fit. The key difference is a more robust upper and outsole designed with forays onto trails in mind. So in theory we should not be expecting too much difference should we?
Side by Side, Inov-8 Roadclaw and Parkclaw
Out of the box there is on first look not a lot of difference. The look of the two shoes side by side is pretty much the same. The upper on the Parkclaw is however is a much tighter knit, therefore more robust and less likely to let grit into the shoe via the fabric. The outsole however is a different ball game as the lugs hit a very reasonable 4mm depth and much more pointy.
Side by side and on the foot, there is also little discernable difference. That said both are desribed at 8mm drop, for some reason though the Parkclaw feels less, perhaps that's just me?
Cushioning is a double layer. Immediately under the foot is a softer more forgiving layer of EVA whilst the core of the midsole is firmer and therefore much more stable. There is some sculpting towards the rear of the arch for a little support, yet it is hardly noticeable, which is in my opinion about how it should be and allows the arch to do what it was designed to do.
On Test...Let's Go Run!
Now i am a Roclite fan and the first immediate difference is the underfoot feel. Yes, there is definitely more here and it it is definitely more forgiving. That top layer of softer EVA is feeling pretty good - maybe an option for future generations of Roclite, especially on dryer trails. OK, there is a loss in groundfeel, perhaps more to do with the depth of the midsole than the softer top layer. For where this shoe is intended to go I do not see this as a bad thing. On road there is not much to tell it apart from the Roadclaw. Feels and runs much the same. On harder, dryer trails like the local canal towpath, again not so much to tell the shoes apart.
Yet as soon as hit more uneven trails that are wet then the grip kicks in. The shoe as you expect with, Inov-8, grip as intended, wet rock and a little slippy mud, the shoe holds its ground. Even more uneven ground the shoe adapts and goes with the flow. Not as nimble as a Roclite, yet the foot feels much more protected from the depth of cushioining, which on occasions can be no bad thing. Yes, when pushed out of its design remit it is on the edge of gripping and this is where I want to pop my Roclites back on - yet what did I really expect?
Over and above this is that there is a definite step up in grip levels when compared to the Roadclaw, more than enough to make it noticeable.
On a longer run you can tell the shoe is well cushioned, coping easily with road to trail. Yet, the thing I did notice is that cushioining really helped tired legs, without any hint of a destabilising affect. Like the Saucony Koa TR, the cushioning is plush, without being detremential. Again, like the Saucony Koa, the surprise is that no one has voiced the thought that these will actually make for very good Ultra Trail Shoes - a definite option for the longer distance runner to consider.
The upper is comfortable, perhaps a better foot shape fit than the Roclite which after all is trying to provide a more precise ride and feel, and is more like the Saucony Koa. Definitely an advantage for harder surfaces and longer distances when feet are more likely to expand. Definitely no rubs and a cracking fit around the heel and into the arch.
The grip and cushioning though is where this shoe stands out from the crowd. I like.
Along with the Koa this is definite shoe to try for road to trail and I genuinely believe one for the ultra runners to seriously consider. They are worth a try especially if you want a more forgiving ride with that renown Inov-8 grip.
Our review of the Saucony Koa TR Trail Shoe can be found over the page...
Friday 1st of September 2017