Best Mud-Plugger 2014 Part 2
Alongside the Salomon Fellraisers, which I reviewed earlier this week, the second pair of shoes that have positively revelled in the swamp like conditions of this winter have been Inov-8’s Mudclaw 265’s.
Through the winter of 2012/13 most of my miles have been logged in the 265’s beefier big brothers, the Mudclaw 300’s and, with well over 600 km logged before retirement, they served me brilliantly through the mud, snow and long slogs of winter training.
However, although far from cumbersome, for faster paced training sessions and races, the 2-arrow midsole and 6 mm heel to toe drop was just a bit too detached feeling from the terrain and didn’t quite give me enough flex when running hard. I was therefore, in a slightly sad running shoe geek way, extremely excited at the prospect of the lighter 265’s.
Out of the box, things looked promising. There was none of the weird asymmetric lacing of some of their predecessors and, from a durability perspective; the rand around the toe-box appeared to be similar to the 300’s. With my 300’s not succumbing to the splitting around this area that has plagued previous Mudclaws, seeing this on the 265’s was reassuring.
The laces did feel a little insubstantial but, if the rest of the shoe holds out for a decent amount of mileage, I don’t see having to replace them as a problem.
Onto my scales and the UK 10.5’s I had, weighed in almost bang on the 300 g mark. The fit felt perfect and comparable to the 300’s.
With a hard autumn and winter of running and well over 400 km of Dark Peak bog trotting logged, I’ve been very impressed. They’re noticeably more responsive than the 300’s, offered better trail feedback, flex more when up on your toes climbing and, being lower slung, inspire far more confidence on technical terrain, especially when contouring.
Unsurprisingly, with the sticky compound sole, grip was superb and I’m yet to find a stud pattern and rubber compound that can touch it in the mud. They only really struggle a bit on wet wooden stiles and, on tarmac, can feel a little squirmy.
They’ve stood up to the abuse too with the uppers showing no visible signs of splitting or cracking and not a hint of any rubbing through on the inners either. The outsoles have definitely worn and, especially on the toes and mid foots, I’ve worn the studs down to barely noticeable nubbins.
However, they have seen regular road action on the way to the trails and I’d personally trade a bit of durability for the outstanding grip that the soft performance rubber compound offers. My worries about the laces were totally unfounded and they’re still going strong.
For typical Dark Peak trails and battling the Kinder hags and groughs, I reckon they’re probably the ideal shoe for both racing and training. I’ve also put them through their paces in the Lakes and North Wales, where they also shone. I’d strongly recommend them for off-road purists but, if you tend to include road or hard-pack regularly on your routes, you might want to opt for something a bit less aggressive.
Final overall verdict – Salomon Fellraiser vs Inov-8 Mudclaw
For my home trails, open access upland exploring and filthy mud-plugging, I’d opt for the Inov-8’s every-time but, for their all-round versatility and comfort, the Salomons are right up there. If I was only allowed one pair for the rest of my running life, it’d have to be the Salomons but, as this nightmare scenario isn’t reality, for pure mud wallowing performance, my winter running shoes of 2014 are the Inov-8 Mudclaw 265s.