TAYLOR: The past decade has seen both running and outdoor seeking on the rise. Then, the pandemic further exasperated that rise. Runners new and old have broadened their horizons and merged their love of running with exploring nature. Naturally, a boom in trail running followed.
Most runners live within a few miles of a park system or trails. However, the terrain to get from the front door to the trailhead is rarely consistent. Companies discovered that runners were searching for one true do-it-all shoe, and thus the road-to-trail category of shoes was born.
Inov-8 is a company from the Fells of England that’s known for its technical trail shoes that tackle the most extreme conditions. However, the new Parkclaw G280 isn’t necessarily meant for Inov-8’s usual adventures. Instead, it’s meant for ground both smooth and firm, and soft and dirty. To do both well is quite the task.
One of the main ways Inov-8 tries to solve its challenge is with a uniquely configured outsole. 98 four millimeter Graphene Grip cleats coat the durable rubber, giving runners both durable claws to dig into dirt and lots of ground contact for a smooth transition on the pavement. G-Fly foam is the midsole compound that utilizes graphene again for durability and dispersing energy with every footstrike. Finally, a soft mesh upper rounds out the main ingredients to approach this door-to-trail equation. At 11oz. for a US M10.5, is it the right mix? That’s what we’re here to discuss.
TAYLOR: Graphene might be one of Inov-8’s favorite words. It’s the first shoe company to integrate the material for its extreme grit. First, it was in Graphene Grip, which is the outsole compound found on the Parkclaw G280. There’s no doubt about its performance on any surface — wet or dry. It consistently shows up as one of the best (if not the best), and the large surface area of Graphene Grip on this shoe gives plenty of confidence no matter the terrain. Oh, and it’ll last dang near forever.
That same graphene is also found in the midsole. We first experienced the G-Fly midsole in the Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G300. Durability is, of course, a strong component of this too. The midsole and outsole combination should allow for the Parkclaw to trek far beyond a typical trail or road shoe — maybe hundreds of miles further.
The G-Fly midsole material falls into the medium-firm density range. It’s actually an odd feeling underfoot that I kind of like. It’s slightly responsive and cushioned in a different way than most modern shoes. I might describe it as gummy, but I don’t know if that’s the right word. I’m still thinking about how to describe the sensation. The energy feels dampened once the foot hits that ground rather than shooting back up through the midsole, but this type of protection can save some wear and tear on your legs as miles pile up. The Boomerang footbed adds a more noticeable cushion to the mix.
Underfoot, the combination made for a decently smooth ride at easy paces when on the road. It was also helpful on trails where it allows both protection and some ground feel through the moderate stack (29mm to 21mm for an 8mm drop).
Up top, a combination of upper materials made for a comfortable and versatile fit. First, the mesh is very soft and breathable. Second, a highly padded tongue and collar add even more comfort and the ability to really find a dialed fit that worked for both running on roads and trails without sacrificing comfort. The Inov-8 Parkclaw G280 has one of the plushest cockpits that I’ve experienced, and I’m here for it.
The Parkclaw G280 felt willing to take to the pavement for a small amount of miles as needed, but I could almost feel the shoe sigh with relief once the roads turned to trails. If you’re looking at this shoe, you’re probably trying to get to the trails from your front door anyway. Don’t worry — the transition between pavement and dirt was rather seamless every time.Shop Inov-8 Parkclaw G280 – Men Shop Inov-8 Parkclaw G280 – Women
TAYLOR: Unfortunately, we’re going right back to that transition. The Inov-8 Parkclaw G280 is slated as a hybrid shoe. In my mind, it should be able to handle each surface equally proficiently. I wouldn’t say that’s the case here. Overall, it feels like this is a solidly built trail shoe with more comfort measures than the typical Inov-8, and it can handle the roads. It really wants to be on trail though.
If you do go for this shoe, make sure it won’t be your sole road shoe that enjoys the trails here and there. Instead, the Parkclaw G280 is more of a trail shoe that has the ability to take on some pavement. In fact, I’d personally recommend a few other trail shoe options that make the door-to-trail transition smoother — one being the Trailfly G260 (Formerly known as the Terra Ultra G260) in part because of the rockered geometry.
My biggest complaint with the Inov-8 Parkclaw G280 is one as old as the company name. Fit. This has been its age-old nemesis.
Throw on some Metallica before lacing this shoe up. A jam sesh is almost guaranteed. The Parkclaw G280 is both short and slim for me, which hasn’t been an issue in the past four or five pairs of Inov-8s I’ve worn. It literally felt like I was sliding into my old climbing shoes even though it was my typical size. I’d recommend sizing up a full size if you’re ready to buy.
180 smackeroos is a lot for any shoe. If I’m honest, this one would have to last double the miles if it would be worth the buy.Shop Inov-8 Parkclaw G280 – Men Shop Inov-8 Parkclaw G280 – Women
TAYLOR: It’s a good try. That’s where I’m going to leave the Inov-8 Parkclaw G280. Many companies have tried to bridge the road-to-trail gap from the opposite perspective. They’ll take a road shoe model and slap a few burly elements on and call it a hybrid. Inov-8 came to the same problem but started with a stellar trail design and worked the Parkclaw into a feasible hybrid. It feels it too.
The Parkclaw G280 can and will take on some pavement when asked. At the end of the day, it shows a strong preference for the trail. It’s an interesting dilemma because I feel that Inov-8 already has some solid options for the door-to-trail category. I hope that the next iterations of the Parkclaw draw from them.
If you do take your chance on this shoe, be sure to size up to take full advantage of the protection package. With all the graphene-infused elements, this shoe is sure to be a bang for your buck as long as you get the sizing down.
You can pick up the Inov-8 Parkclaw G280 for $180 by using the shop link below.Shop Inov-8 Parkclaw G280 – Men Shop Inov-8 Parkclaw G280 – Women
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