The Terraclaw 220 and 250 are brand new models in Inov-8’s trail running shoe range which will ultimately replace the Trailroc line. I suspect that many people will be sad to see the departure of the Trailroc and I was impressed with them when I tested the 245 model last year but noted that the fit could have been a tad more secure for my taste whilst retaining the ‘anatomical’ shape of the shoe.
The Terraclaw range comes in two variants and as usual with Inov-8, the name signifies the weight of the shoes in a UK size 8. The 250 comes with an 8mm drop, a rand around the toes and the heel, plus slightly more substantial overlays than the 220 which is a stripped-back version of the shoe with a 4mm drop and no rand.
The switch to a 4mm / 8mm choice of drops follows a trend set by the Race Ultra in that it’s a departure from the 0mm-3mm-6mm range that we’ve become familiar with from Inov-8 in recent years. I think this reflects how the market for low-drop shoes has shifted and settled on 4mm as popular a ‘sweet spot’ for many minimally-inclined runners and 8mm to accommodate those who prefer slightly more differential.
The first time I saw images of the Terraclaw 220 earlier this year, there were a number of features which really jumped out at me. The first was the lack of structure in the upper which makes for a wonderfully simple and elegant design but it lead me to wonder how secure the fit could be without more substantial overlays or structure. Second was the ‘Ray-Wrap’ lacing system which is intended to align the laces with the metatarsals. I’ve run in a couple of different shoes with isometric style lacing systems and I didn’t get on with either of them so I was a bit apprehensive about this.
Finally, unlike the 250, the Terraclaw 220 has no real randing around the toe box which I suspect is a weight-saving measure but this is always a cause for concern in an off-road shoe. On the plus side, they feature the same upper material as the most recent version of the Trailroc which I found to be pretty sturdy (certainly in comparison to the 2012 original). It’s also important to point out that the Terraclaw is marketed as a trail shoe and when used for this purpose it should have fewer encounters with rocks, roots and undergrowth than a fell shoe. Never the less, I suspect there are a lot of runners out there who would happily sacrifice an extra few grams for the additional assurance that a rand would provide. I get that they are supposed to be a stripped back but I still don’t understand why a runner who prefers a 4mm drop (the 220) will require less protection than someone who runs in an 8mm drop shoe (the 250).
Achieving a secure fit in a trail shoe with a roomy toe box is tricky. Salomon have produced some excellent examples of this with their Sense range but a lot of the time, ‘anatomically’ shaped shoes feel great on flat surfaces or moderate inclines but a bit sloppy on steeper ground. The key to this in my opinion is in getting the midfoot area dialed in so that it holds the foot nice and snug without requiring a pointy toe box to keep things locked down.
After the first couple of runs in the Terraclaw, it quickly became clear to me that my concerns about the lack of overlays and the isometric lacing system were completely misplaced. This is the best fitting Inov-8 shoe I’ve ever tried by quite a considerable margin. It provides fantastic comfort, security and is basically exactly what I’m looking for in a trail shoe for anything from short distances to marathons and beyond. The Terraclaw holds the feet in place for all but the absolute steepest of terrain which basically means it’ll handle anything that I would define as ‘Trail’ (and not ‘Fell’ where Inov-8’s performance-fit range would be better suited). They really feel like they melt onto my feet and I honestly can’t come up with any constructive criticism in this area.
Sizing for me is also spot-on, i.e. consistent with 95% of Inov-8’s other models but half a size smaller than Salomon.
So, if I wasn’t completely clear above, I’m really happy with the fit of the Terraclaw but what about the rest of the shoe? Well, the outsole lugs are pretty aggressive for a trail shoe and extremely well suited to spring / summer / autumn use in the UK where we often have to tackle a mix of dry and soft terrain. This in contrast to shoes like the Salomon Sense 4 and basically 95% of American trail shoes which quickly falter on anything other than dry ground. I should add the caveat that the ‘Dual-C’ compound isn’t as adhesive as their sticky rubber when faced with wet rock but it’s pretty good and certainly more durable on hard ground.
The thing that I think is going to divide opinion a bit with the Terraclaw is the underfoot protection and cushioning which does not feature a rock plate and is generally pretty minimal. The overall feel that this creates is classic Inov-8 in that they are low to the ground, flexible, tactile and incredibly nimble over technical terrain and fans of the brand will love them for this. Those who are more familiar with meatier shoes might find that their feet take a little bit of a battering over ground that is especially rocky or rooty and they might take a bit of getting used to.
I recently had a week in Wasdale and had the opportunity to put quite a few miles in the shoes around Scafell, Great Gabel et al and encountered an awful lot of rocks on the way. I felt very confident indeed whilst descending in the 220’s but did notice that my feet started to become a little bit tenderised on longer outings and I think I’d reach for something a bit more cushy for runs over 3-4 hours. For this reason, they aren’t going to work for everyone but I think that runners who ‘get’ shoes like this will not be disappointed with the Terraclaw.
For one reason and another it’s taken me a lot longer than usual to post this and a plus side of this is that I’ve put a lot more miles on the Terraclaw than I usually would before writing a review (certainly more than 100) and this has enabled me to give them quite a pasting. The upper is showing minimal signs of wear so far and no indication at all that are going to prematurely develop tears around the flex points or elsewhere. I’d still prefer to see a rand around the front (the semi rigid one from the X-Talon 200 would work beautifully) but I was pleasantly surprised by how well they have stood up so far.
The Terraclaw 220 could almost have been designed specifically to suit my taste for a trail shoes and aside from adding a toe rand, there is nothing at all I would change about them, they really are excellent. That being said whilst I think they are going to be very popular among people who like Inov-8 style shoes, they are quite uncompromising in their execution of the companies’ minimal design ethos and this might limit their mass market appeal. I personally applaud them for sticking to their niche and I hope that they continue to do so for a long time to come.
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