First Mud: Inov-8 MudClaws

Well I went for my first run in my new Inov-8 MudClaws (thanks Mom & Dad!) over the weekend, and I didn’t know what to expect.  I went through Saddle River Park in Bergen County, NJ, with a combination of on-road and off-road running in below-freezing temperatures.  Would the lug soles be squishy and unstable on pavement?  Would the toe box feel too narrow, as I’ve read in some reviews of Inov-8 products?  Would it feel weird to wear shoes after a summer of running exclusively in Vibram FiveFingers?

The answer is no, no, and no – these shoes ROCK in a variety of conditions! 

1.  On road – they are light and surprisingly flexible – almost as light as FiveFingers, and the mesh upper is so ethereal that I felt almost like I was wearing nothing.  The rubber on the soles is really solid but also really light and flexible, which I can’t figure out.  Great design.

2.  Off road – ditto #1, except that it’s like having monster truck tires on your feet.  I looked at my footprints on the frozen ground, and there was a big, wide, shredded circle where the forefoot touched down, and just a tiny little divot near the heel – clearly these things can tear it up even on packed, frozen earth.  I ran some trails that involved leaf cover over pools of ice – no slippage at all.  I purposely tried to run across pure black ice frozen puddles, and I was able to without slipping.  I bounced up on rocks and right over a fallen tree.  I deliberately stepped on some sharp jagged little rocks embedded in the ground that would have put me out of action in FiveFingers, and they were no problem.  It’s like you get the shielding of 1/2 inch of rubber, without the weight or stiffness due to the sole design.  Incredible.  I can’t wait to try them in deep snow.

3.  Toe box – I love it.  I have a “Roman toe” (second toe longer than big toe), and these are the first running shoes in which I didn’t smash up the nail on the second toe.  The toe box is long and narrow, which is great for me, but the area around the toe joint is very wide and very roomy, which is the best of both worlds.

4.  Freezing temperatures – a standard running shoe with heavy “leather” around the lace holes and thick laces becomes like a block of ice as soon as it gets a little wet.  These are made of mesh, the laces are tiny, and the lacing holes are angled so that they do not interfere with the flex at the toe joint at all.  Again, because my feet were able to move and work, they were no uncomfortably cold.  I am probably not using the correct “shoe” terms here, but it’s amazing that no major shoe company thought of angling the laces before this?

All in all, this is destined to become one of my favorite shoes.  I can’t wait to try a Tough Mudder wearing these.  I also think they would be great for doing sprints on a football field or other grass/turf surface – huge traction, tiny weight.  Although they are designed as a specialized shoe, I will likely wear them all winter, for all kinds of applications.  I can’t wait to try other Inov-8 products.  Good show!

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