I’ll put my hands up & say that before this, I’d never worn inov-8 so I was trying out a new shoe and a new brand.
Sometimes you pull on something new & know immediately it’s not for you. Thankfully that didn’t happen here. Despite the huge difference in stack height & heel to toe drop to the shoes I usually wear, the inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 felt like they were made for my feet & were immediately comfortable.
- Graphene-enhanced rubber for the world’s toughest grip
- 4mm lugs designed to grip on trail and ride smooth on road
- Graphene-enhanced G-FLY foam for more bounce & cushioning
- 8mm drop boosts comfort over long distances
- Boomerang footbed gives 40% more bounce than standard ones
- Knitted mesh upper for comfort and breathability
- RRP £160
What Inov-8 Says
“Featuring Graphene – the world’s strongest material – in the rubber outsole and foam midsole, the PARKCLAW G 280 road-to-trail running shoe delivers outstanding performance and enhanced durability, with zero compromises.”
The G-GRIP rubber outsole boasts 98 cleats per shoe – all 4mm in length – that serves up both a claw-like trail grip and a smooth on-road ride. Above that, the G-FLY foam midsole – combined with a raised 8mm drop – propels 25% more energy return for a fast-feel stride enhanced with cushioning and comfort.
In both cases, the Graphene imparts its unbeatable strength to ensure the rubber and foam retain their incredible powers for longer.A light, breathable, yet durably engineered, mesh upper further enhances the all-round comfort, while the super-springy BOOMERANG footbed delivers yet more bounce and cushioning.”
For their first outing, I wore them on a Wednesday night club run around Croydon’s Lloyd Park & Addington Hills.
Starting with the grip. To match the door-to-trail focus, the graphene-enhanced outsole features 98 multi-directional lugs for trail grip (I didn’t count them, I am taking inov-8’s word for it…!) alongside larger contact surfaces for a smoother road ride.
The route I ran was a mixture of grassland, woodland trails, a small section of loose gravel & far too much tarmac for my liking (but a good test for the shoe). It’s such a versatile shoe that the graphene-enhanced rubber dealt superbly with almost every surface I threw at it. The 4mm lugs are deep enough to give excellent grip on the woodland paths & grassy trails & small enough to be barely noticeable on the tarmac. With plenty of forgiving cushioning, the shoe moved smoothly & seamlessly from trail to road.
Compared to how it performed on woodland trails & roads, I felt the shoe struggled slightly with traction on loose gravel paths. Just a minor grievance that was possibly accentuated by how well they did on every other surface.
My next run in them saw me take to my favoured North Downs Way. Similar terrain to the Croydon trails; dry, hard-packed mud, woodland paths with exposed roots to jump, long grassy hills to climb & descend & fields of crops to traverse. I pushed the shoe hard, throwing myself up & down hills with reckless abandonment – how would they cope at pace?
The answer is superbly.
When I am pounding up & down hills with 25% gradients, I want to be 100% confident that my shoe will support me. With an 8mm drop, the flexible forefoot makes them a great climber whilst the push forward is fast. I already knew that the grip was solid the test here was cushioning & bounce.
I like cushioned shoes. The new Graphene-enhanced G-FLY cushioned foam is said by inov-8 to “give 25% more energy return.” And importantly it feels great underfoot. The landing as I was flying down hills was light & responsive. The flexible forefront gave the shoe great agility whilst the super-springy Boomerang footbed delivered incredible bounce & cushioning.
The shoes weigh in at 280g which is about half the weight of my usual trail shoe & incredibly light for the amount of cushioning squeezed into the Parkclaw. I loved how light, almost invisible, the inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 felt on my feet. Such was the responsiveness, at times it almost felt as if I wasn’t wearing shoes at all.
This is also a great marker of the fit & make of the shoe.
The knitted mesh upper makes the shoe incredibly comfortable. Almost like slippers. It moulds snuggly around the top of the foot providing a good combination of comfort & security whilst still allowing the feet to breathe. The knitted mesh is malleable & so moves & flexes with your foot. I’ve worn some running shoes that are so rigid it feels as if your foot is imprisoned. The inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 are not like that at all. When I first pulled them on, it almost felt as if they had been made especially for my feet. I wore an 8.5. I usually wear a size 8 in road shoes & so sized up by half a size.
A rubber-enhanced toe bumper gives the toes added protection from accidental kicking of rocks & roots (a frequent occurrence for me) whilst maintaining overall comfort. Although the bumper was rigid on the outside, I barely felt it on the inside of the shoe.
Due to slight hypermobility in my joints, I always use the extra lacing eyelet to give more stability to my ankles. This gave excellent support & hold around my heels. The laces themselves are made of that slightly thicker, textured material that grips as you tie them making them less likely to come undone mid-run. I also liked the panel running down the centre of the tongue that held the laces & tongue in place.
These features all helped my ankles feel secure which for someone who frequently roles them due to hypermobility is an important consideration. Aided by a fair amount of padding on the tongue & around the heel, once on my feet, these shoes were not going anywhere!
I’ve already mentioned the huge difference in stack height & heel to toe drop to the shoes & being closer to the ground did take some getting used to. Being sensible, I gradually increased the distance running with them.
As the distance increased, I noticed the feel of the ground under my feet more than I am used to & for me, the forefoot felt a bit thin on longer runs. I would have possibly liked an extra mm or two between my foot & the ground. It may be that I get used to this over time but it does, for now, make me think that these shoes are slightly more suited to shorter distances.
At £160 RRP, this is not a cheap running shoe. According to inov-8, the outsole rubber is 50% stronger, 50% more elastic & 50% harder wearing than regular rubber & if this is reflected in durability, then they may well prove to be excellent value for money. Sometimes it’s worth paying the price for what is an important piece of kit to get right.
Overall, I think this is a great all-around hybrid shoe that will happily take you from door to trail during the drier spring & summer months. I would be interested to see how they performed in winter or wet conditions & perhaps on a rockier trail (maybe even wet rock). For the dry, hard-packed trails of the southeast, they are an ideal shorter-distance summer door-to-trail shoe.
- Lightness – I loved how light, almost invisible, the inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 felt on my feet
- Responsiveness – The shoes responded really quickly to the changes in terrain.
- Thinness – the forefoot felt a bit thin on longer runs. I almost wanted an extra mm or two between my foot & the ground.
- Gravel – I felt the shoe struggled slightly with traction on loose gravel paths.
Ratings out of 10
Design 9/10 – I’m ignoring the yellow colour (a bit bright for me!). Aesthetically these shoes look good & they attracted a lot of positive attention & comment when I wore them on a club run.
Features 9/10 – Jam-packed with features; from graphene-enhanced rubber for the world’s toughest grip, to the G-Fly foam for more cushion & the Boomerrang footbed for more bounce. The stand-out feature for me was simply how comfortable these shoes are.
Value 7/10 – Whilst crammed with features, they are not cheap shoes & the £160 price tag will simply be too high for many. Having only worn them for a few months I don’t know yet if they have the durability that I would expect from this price point. If they do, the score may well increase over time.
Performance 8/10 – In the few months that I have been wearing these shoes they have performed superbly on almost every surface I threw at them, (except for gravel). providing plenty of cushioning on-road and adequate grip on the trail. Inov-8 says that the shoe delivers outstanding performance & I can’t argue with that!
About the writer: Ally is a photographer & entrepreneur based in Croydon, South London with a love of all things photography, coffee, gin, books, running & the great outdoors. Follow her here:
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