It is always a dilemma for trail runners, especially before a race, what shoes are best for the conditions on the course? Checkout running forums and social media prior to the event and you will always see a discussion about this subject!
.Longer races make this decision difficult as you often have a mixture of mud, hard packed trail, slippy rocks and the odd bit of tarmac! So, do I wear my cushioned shoes to protect my feet, or do I wear a shoes that will provide good grip on the rocks and in the mud, but less forgiving on the hardpacked trail?
Up until the end of last year, my go to trail shoes were Scott Kinabalu for the dry days ( a really comfortable shoe, but not so good in the mud) or inov-8 Mudclaw 300 for the muddy and rocky trails. I would be happy to wear the Mudclaws for all my trail races except that a) the lugs on the sole would wear out fairly quickly on hard trail or tarmac and b) the soles of your feet start to hurt like hell after a long distance! This would be a compromise for not sliding around on my backside for a large portion of the race!
Then at the end of last year I discovered the X-Claw 275. They were available in size 13, which some manufacturers don’t seem to do (or they are not readily available) and marketed as been ideal for longer distance races. I went for these as they had a similar sole to the Mudclaw yet were said to be roomier and more cushioned which surely should result in a more comfortable yet grippy long run!
Above – view from the box of the X-Claw
The fit was good straight out of the box. Roomier than the Mudclaw which I find to be quite a snug fit! They were also comfy and a similar feel to my Kinabalu’s. They looked good too. I really like the colour schemes on the most recent models of inov-8 shoes and these were no exception with a black, red and blue colour that is similar design to the Mudclaws.
My initial thoughts after my first outing, a 12 mile trail run, were that they hit the spot. Plenty of grip and plenty of cushioning!
The first major test was going to be the Hardmoors 30 race on New Years Day. A difficult course as far as choice of shoe is concerned as half of the race is on hard packed cinder track (the old Scarborough to Whitby railway line), with the rest on the slippy, and definitely muddy, coastal path. For me there is no decision , the shoe has to be suitable for the mud! Hopefully the cinder track would not wear the lugs too much!
At the halfway point I had covered 6 miles on the cinder track and 6 on the mud and the shoe was feeling great. No signs of blisters, the shoe had remained secure in deeper mud, no time spent on my backside and no signs of discomfort. If I had worn my Mudclaws the soles of my feet would be starting to hurt by now. By the end of the race, another 19 miles had passed and my feet were still in good condition and no slipping in the mud! Definitely a positive experience. Looking at the sole after a good wash and no real signs of any wear after the harder sections of the course!
The next test was going to be in the Lake District. The last weekend in January was going to be spent around Coniston, with the Lakeland 100/50 recce of the last section of the course (from Ambleside to Coniston) on the Saturday night and a run on the Sunday up and around the ‘Old Man of Coniston’ (803 metres high fell in the Lake District). My plan was to compare the X-Claw and Mudclaws back to back so the differences would be more obvious.
On the Saturday evening, the weather was wet and cold. The course was a mixture of good runnable trail, some tarmac stretches, rocky ascents and descents, some boggy sections and some mud. Ideal testing grounds for the X-Claw. Apart from a couple of minor slips on the wet rocks (which shoes are okay on wet slippy rocks?) there were no issues. No discomfort and no falling over in the mud. I wore some Injinji liner socks and an outer layer of Drymax trail socks and the fit of the shoes was ideal. Still no signs of wear on the sole. I also managed to stub my toe a couple of times (a hazard of running in the dark on rocky surfaces!) but the toe box protected my feet from any damage!
On Sunday I headed out in the Mudclaws. The intention was for a shorter run than Saturday so I shouldn’t have much trouble with discomfort. The route again combined all of the elements from Saturday night along with some loose shale thrown in. I could tell the difference in the shoes straight away. The Mudclaws are a tighter fit and feel to be lower to the ground. The heel tab is slightly lower so they almost feel less secure than the X-Claw too. However they performed well, as expected. At high level there was some snow and the conditions became unfavorable to completing my run at high level. However the shoes did all I asked of them, keeping me upright on all surfaces. I have had these Mudclaws for over a year now and used them on all surfaces. There has been some wear on the lugs, especially at the front and rear which may compromise their ability to keep me upright in thicker mud, however I will probably get another 200 miles or so out of them.
The X-Claw will be my go-to shoe now for winter trail running (and maybe summer too!) especially on longer distances. The comfort matches that of other shoes I have tried for long distance events and that combined with the control in sticky / muddy conditions make it an ideal choice for me. The fit is ideal for my large feet and they remain secure. The uppers on the Inov-8 shoes always seem dry and hard after washing, but this has never caused me any issues and do not seem to degrade the performance. I wonder if this is the water repellent coating that inov-8 use?
Looking at the shoes the Mudclaws do seem slightly narrower. However measuring them there is not much difference. On the feet you can tell the difference straight away as the X-Claw have more room around the toe box.
X-Claw on the left. The larger toe-box evident against the Mudclaw 300 on the right!
View from the rear clearly shows the height difference and larger heel tab of the X-Claw (on the left)
The drop of the shoe is 8mm for the X-Claw compared to 6mm for the Mudclaw. As much as I thought it wouldn’t make a big difference you can definitely notice it when comparing the two shoes.
The weight of my Mudclaws (size 13’s ) is 425g compared to 440 g for the X-Claw
The X-claw feature inov-8’s ‘POWERFLOW’ midsole that helps absorb shock and return some energy helping to make your run more comfortable.
The soles have a ‘Dual C ‘compound which means there are differing hardnesses that will aid durability and stability ( I will keep my eye on that over the coming months). There are some subtle differences between the lug patterns too.
The soles of the Mudclaw 300 – showing some signs of wear but not bad after a year on the trails!
The slightly different sole of the X-Claw. Still with an aggressive lug to shed the mud! No signs of wear after 50 plus miles!
View from above. Roomier and newer X-Claws on the left with the one year old and narrower Mudclaw 300 on the left!
Dave Mullaney – Jan 2017