Inov-8 released the Mudclaw 265 a few months ago and the specification ticked a lot of boxes for me so I couldn’t wait to try them out. They really are an out-and-out wet conditions shoe and fortunately we haven’t had much of that this summer so I’ve only recently acquired a pair. Here’s my review of the Mudclaw 265 …
Before I go any further, I just want to point out that these shoes are designed for exclusively off-road use and are best saved for really nasty, wet and muddy conditions. They are great for winter fells, bog, and muddy footpaths and are unrivaled in dealing with the horrendous clay that we get here in Leicestershire.
The 265 is designed for racing and for those who have feet and calves that are conditioned to running in minimalist footwear. It is worth noting that Inov-8 also offer the Mudclaw 300 which is a more cushioned alternative with a 6mm drop and a rock plate. The 300’s could be a better option for long distances or for those who do not have previous experience of running in a minimally designed shoe.
I’ve used the Mudclaw 265’s predecessor, the 272, for a number of events including the 2012 OMM and for a full winter of training runs. Whilst the grip that they provide in mud and on wet grass is second to none, I really didn’t’ get on with them for a variety of reasons.
They had a really baggy toe box and a diagonal asymmetrical lacing system (see picture) which just didn’t hold them securely enough to my feet. This meant that when contouring / traversing steep slopes, the shoe continuously rotated around my foot which was very uncomfortable and annoying.
The deeply lugged out-sole and relatively thick mid-sole of the 272 create quite a tall stack height and make them feel a bit clumpy for my taste. The 272 also comes with a 6mm heel to toe drop which seemed to noticeably change my foot strike when compared to all of my other shoes which are 4mm or less.
Inov-8 has made a number of changes which persuaded me to give the Mudlcaw 265 a try.
I purchased the Mudclaws in a UK 9.5 (EU44) which is the size I usually take in Inov-8’s and I found that they fitted me nicely. Even though I have relatively low-volume feet I could immediately feel that the new lacing system is a massive improvement over the 272 and it felt secure straight away.
The mudclaw is built on Inov-8’s performance last which provides a snug fit. I generally like to have plenty of room for my toes to spread out and I felt that the mudclaw provided just enough toe box width for them to feel secure but not constricted. My feet are of average width and I certainly wouldn’t want to wear a narrower shoe than this. I have found that I have to be quite careful not to get the lacing too tight as it can cause lateral foot discomfort. This shoe is designed for steep and challenging terrain where a secure fit is important and a more anatomical design wouldn’t really be suitable so I don’t see the tight fit as a flaw but I would advise those with wide or high-volume feet to try before you buy.
To give this review some context, I should point out that I do all of my running in barefoot-style or minimalist shoes and Mudclaws are pretty much the most substantial thing that I ever have on my feet. If you are coming from a background of ‘conventional’ running shoes then your experience may be somewhat different to mine.
We’ve had some pretty grim weather over the past couple of weeks which means that the local footpaths have started to churn up nicely to create ideal test conditions for the mudclaw 265. Straight away, they felt low, light, flexible and secure. I was quickly able to almost forget that I had them on my feet in a way that I never could with the comparatively clumpy 272. As I have said above, the fit is snug and I had to play around with the lace tension but I never felt as though my toes were being squashed. The security and grip provide particular confidence when descending steep, slippery terrain and whilst they didn’t feel quite as good in deep mud as the 272, the wider spaced lugs seem to be slightly better at shedding it. The inner of the shoe feels soft and cosy and I have had no problems with rubbing, blistering or hot spots as yet.
The mesh that inov-8 have used in the past for their uppers allows water to drain out very easily but is not very durable. I was interested to see if this was still the case with the new upper on the 265. So far it seems good but I haven’t had much opportunity to give them a real soaking yet so I will update this review in the future once I have. There have been no visible problems with durability of the 265 upper thus far and I will also keep you posted on this if any issues arise.
Whilst there is no rock plate and the midsole is quite thin, protection from sharp objects is pretty good and I certainly wouldn’t want any additional cushioning as this would compromise flexibility and ground-feel.
One thing that did surprise me about the Mudclaw 265 was that they are actually much better than I expected on the road. The 272 felt a bit like running in football boots when confronted with tarmac but the slightly flatter lugs on the 265 provide a marked improvement. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend extensive road running in these shoes but it does make things a bit more comfortable when tackling short road sections between footpaths.
To be honest, I’ve found it really tough to find anything I dont’ like about the Mudclaw 265. The New Balance MT110 is pretty much my benchmark for how a trail shoe should feel but they are almost useless in UK winter conditions. I don’t think it’s possible to create a shoe that feels as nimble as the 110 whilst providing sufficient grip for steep mud but the 265 comes pretty darn close…..
This product was purchased by the author
I’ve just come back from a long weekend of running and other adventures in the North West of Scotland. Whilst there, I used the Mudclaws 265’s extensively on a wide range of mountainous and bog conditions and can report the following:
You can check pricing or purchase the Mudclaw 265 by following this link to Amazon
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