Runners seeking a nimble beast of a shoe with substantial grip over soft, slippery terrain will want to take a look at Inov-8's Mudclaw 265.
Given Inov-8's apparent ubiquity on the mud/obstacle/spartan race scene, I'd be negligent if I didn't point out that this shoe seems to be ideal for such activities. Is it the best mud run shoe out there? I have no idea. I've yet to participate in a muddy, Spartan-inspired obstacle run. But, check out this Mudstacle review of the Mudclaw 265 for another runner's perspective on these shoes.
Essentially, if there is running and sloppy, wet dirt; the Mudclaw is your friend.
Anyway, thanks to the copious amounts of rain we're receiving this season, I've had numerous opportunities to test the Mudclaw's mettle on a few of my favorite trails. And, personally, I've really enjoyed this mud-mashing shoe. So, allow me to elaborate on what you read via the link in the previous paragraph.
I admit that I was surprised by my enthusiasm for the Mudclaw 265, because, when I first put the shoes on, they felt fairly bulky compared to, oh, say, the Bare-Grip 200s; which are still my favorite.
But, really, all you need to glean from that observation is that 265 grams feels heavier than 200 grams. (It's true) 'Cause, that statement was entirely based on personal preference.
Relatively speaking, the Mudclaw 265 is still on the lightweight side of the contemporary trail shoe spectrum — barely. At 9.3 ounces [for a US men's size 9], the shoe is remarkably cushy and protective while allowing for unencumbered, flexible footwork over the most hazardous trails.
Inov-8's trademark Meta-Flex groove in the forefoot is as conducive to flexibility as ever. And, the soft, albeit unobtrusive EVA midsole protects your sole from pointy things without sacrificing too much proprioception. Unlike the 265's beefier brother, the Mudclaw 300, this low-profile trail shoe omits the extra protective Meta-Shank under the midfoot. But, its ample lugs provide enough cushion to make the ground sensations similar to that of the Trailroc 245.
Obviously, the Muclaw 265 is a more specialized shoe than any of the Trailrocs. It's made for soft and loose stuff while the Trailrocs are made for a little soft and loose plus a lot of hard and uneven. Different shoes, different trails.
If you're looking for something that's more of an everyday trail shoe, then this may not be what you want. But, if you want a shoe to carry you over soft terrain—even loose, super-rocky terrain with dangerously wet roots—the Mudclaw will work wonderfully and be comfy for tons of miles.
What makes it comfy? Well, it's upper just feels more plush and concerned about your foot's well being (pretending a shoe could be concerned about something). It's not overly padded and plasticy. But, it's got some enhanced protection there, especially around the heel cuff.
Speaking of the protective upper, that overlay around the toe box leading all the way to the midfoot certainly makes you feel impervious to scuffs and scrapes. And, the upper material is not the usual Inov-8 open mesh that those of us who started with previous years' shoes enjoyed so much. It's ripstop fabric with a softer interior lining against your foot.
The ripstop fabric is undoubtedly sturdier than the usual mesh. However, it isn't as flexible at first. And, it can be too stiff or plastic-like in certain applications. Not this one though. The ripstop fabric works well in conjunction with all the other design features of the Mudclaw 265.
I was suspicious of how effective the drainage would be, because the ripstop stuff is fairly complex and less conducive to water flow. So, I stepped in a stream and soaked my foot. Surprisingly, the Mudclaw managed to pump out the water almost as well as my Trailroc 235s. So, that's good—probably a lot better than the results of getting water trapped in a shoe with Gore-Tex lining.
(Personally, I prefer the softer mesh upper on so many other Inov-8 shoes. I recognize that outer fabric durability is a concern. But, the flexibility and fit of the original mesh is so nice!)
If Inov-8's "precision fit" (aka performance fit) is comfortable around your feet, then you'll find the Mudclaw 265 to be an ideal shoe for the activities that have popped into your mind thus far. (I mean, it's clear, right? This shoe is for muddy or slippery, off-road running)
Precision fit means that the Mudclaw is narrower than the Trailroc. So, that might be useful information for you. The narrower toe box keeps your toes more secure and stable during descents.
I ordered the Mudclaws a half size larger than my Trailrocs. And, there is plenty of room in the toe box for my foot. Of course, this half size increase makes the shoes just a bit longer than my smaller sized Trailrocs. But, the extra length at the tip of the shoe hasn't proven to be problematic for me. I have the same length difference in my Bare-Grips, too.
If you're used to other precision fit shoes from Inov-8's product line, it's worth noting that this version seems to be just a tad bigger than previous iterations of the last. Honestly, I think I could wear these comfortably half a size smaller, especially since I like to remove the insole.
Anyway, try these on in two different sizes if you can.
Should you find that you have any excuse to try a shoe like the Mudclaw 265, do it! The extremely grippy claws underfoot make stomping and sloshing through sloppy conditions so much fun.
Runners who are used to heavier shoes than these will be delighted by the lighter weight and happy sense of protection all around their feet.
If you're a runner who gravitates toward significantly lighter shoes, then the Mudclaw 265 will feel somewhat more substantial on your feet. They'll be your long-distance, protection-oriented trail shoes.
And, no matter what kind of shoes you're used to, the Mudclaws will be your stompy-good-time shoes. They're like that first pair of snow boots you received as a kid, when you ran outside and stomped on everything and felt invincible. The difference, though, is that the Mudclaws fit better, grip better, and help you run better. So, if you were that kid again, you'd basically feel like you were wearing super hero shoes instead of snow boots. And, you'd be on the hunt for mud monsters.