For years I've heard talk of the elusive "road to trail shoe." With many of my running routes incorporating both trail and road, I've searched in vain for such a shoe.
Finally, I’m sure that I’ve found it. The Inov-8 Parkclaw 240 is truly as comfortable on tarmac as it is on trails.
Since its delivery, I've found myself reaching for it on a regular basis. It may not be the first choice for a muddy yomp across the fields or a fast race along Snowdonia's rockier ridges, but this is an off-road equivalent to an easy everyday shoe that's equally at home on the hard stuff.
- Spacious, breathable upper
- Good outsole grip
- Comfortable, responsive ride
- Short tongue
- Not a long-distance shoe
Many of us with a passion for running both on- and off-road will have a range of shoes for different conditions and terrains. Oftentimes, a run may encompass both road and rock, trail and tarmac.
In such a situation, the choice is usually between a road shoe that can handle light trail or a trail shoe that isn't too bad on the road. In most cases, a compromise is required.
I've gone through Inov-8's site looking at the Terraultra G-270 when I found a pair of Parkclaw 240s on sale. There was only a pair left in the size UK 14, which is larger than what I usually wear. Despite this, it seemed a risk worth taking for a shoe that promises to "transition seamlessly from road running to trail running."
When the shoe arrived, I was genuinely surprised by its lightness, flexibility, and midsole cushioning. It looked and felt, at first glance, like a road shoe onto which someone had stuck a Trailroc outsole.
The Parkclaw 240 is listed at 240 grams (hence the name), with the women’s shoe listed at 201 grams. As expected, my UK 14 (US 15) shoe weighed in heavier at just under 320 grams. This is lighter than most of my road shoes which is fairly impressive given its off-road ability.
While running, the shoe really does feel as light as the scales suggest, especially on the road when compared to other trail and fell shoes.
As mentioned, I've gone up a size to take advantage of the great sale price. It should be noted that while the shoe is listed as a UK 14/US 15, the European sizing is 49, which is the same as many of my usual UK 13 shoes (US 14), leading me to suspect that this may be smaller than usual UK 14.
In addition, the Parkclaw comes in Inov-8's widest fit, classed as a 5 in their 1-5 scale.
I have found that I enjoyed having a little more space than many of my trail shoes. The Inov-8’s Met-Cradle is formed from overlays around the midfoot, running from the midsole to the lace, locking down the foot.
This means that the shoe laces up tight enough to hold the foot well, while the extra room gave me plenty of space in the forefoot for my feet to splay.
A lightweight, breathable knitted Adapterknit mesh is sewn to an EVA strobel board. Stitched to the front is a rubber toe cap. Similar to most Inov-8 shoes, this toe cap is effective in preventing injury from the occasional, yet inevitable times that I’d catch my foot on a rock or stone.
Across the middle of the foot, printed overlays form the Met-Cradle, holding the foot in place. The rear-most sections of this cradle
Across the middle of the foot, printed overlays form the Met-Cradle designed, holding the foot in place. The rear-most sections of this cradle meet a final stitched and rubberized “heel strap." It's intended to keep the heel in place, requiring a minimal heel cup, reducing weight while securely holding the foot.
A cushioned layer provides comfort around the ankle. The tongue is stitched into the upper and prevents debris from entering the shoe.
The laces combine well with the Met-Cradle, creating a secure fit when tied. If anything, they are a little long, though beneficial if using a lace-lock method of tying.
The only issue is the tongue is rather short, which seems to be a consistent theme with the recent Inov-8 models. This means that anyone wishing to use a lace-lock lacing style may struggle.
The higher lace across the top of the foot will often sit right at the top of the tongue and can slip between the tongue and the sock, leading to some discomfort.
The midsole is formed from Inov-8's Powerflow+ foam. It's designed to offer “10% better shock absorption and 15% better energy return than standard midsoles when running road to trail.”
I’ve had a look around for more information on the Powerflow foam and the “standard midsoles” used for comparison, but I haven’t found much information.
In light of this, I’m going to have to rely on personal feel. This shoe is the only trail shoe I’ve ever worn that feels like a road shoe on tarmac.
The midsole absorbs energy as promised, allowing for a swift transition and an effortless toe-off. I’m getting ahead of myself here though–more of this later.
Contributing to the responsiveness is the Dynamic Fascia Band integrated into the outsole.
With its origin at the heel, the Dynamic Fascia Band extends forward and divides into individual bands in a similar manner to the plantar fascia. It stretches as the heel leaves the ground, propelling the body forward at the beginning of each stride with a "windlass effect."
The midsole provides a heel stack of 20 mm, with 12mm under the toe for an 8mm overall drop.
Turn over the shoe and it’s easy to see where Inov-8 has managed to create a lightweight shoe without compromising grip.
Individual sections of rubber outsole are glued to the molded Powerflow midsole.
Inov-8's Tri-C outsole is comprised of 4 mm lugs with three different types of rubber, maximizing performance in specific areas.
A high-abrasion rubber forms the Terradapter section at the heel, while softer, sticky rubber (black) around the outside gives grip on rough terrain. The hard, sticky rubber (red) below much of the forefoot digs into the softer ground, providing a secure takeoff.
These smaller sections of the outsole combine with the midsole, allowing the sole unit to flex and adapt to uneven, rocky ground. This improves cushioning while maintaining contact with the ground.
As mentioned, I bought this shoe on a whim and primarily due to the low sale price. I expected to use it for occasional, easy trail runs, and on run routes that are equally on- and off-road. What I haven't expected is for the shoe to be so good!
The day after the shoe arrived, I've had a couple of hours to kill in an early evening in Llandudno. So I parked at the bottom of the Great Orme, laced up the shoes and went off to put them through their paces.
I ran up and down steep sections on various combinations of grass, rock, hard trails, and the kind of terrain best suited to the wild mountain goats that make their home on this outcrop.
I was amazed to find that the shoe didn’t just cope but excelled at every test. The outsole provided plenty of grip while the Met-Cradle prevented the foot from moving around even on lateral slopes and in quick turns.
Even though I’m wearing this shoe in a size larger than usual, the foot is always held well, even on uneven terrain. I had the confidence to throw myself down steep descents at a good pace
Through it all, I enjoyed the comfortable ride the midsole delivered. As I took the road back down to the car, I was truly astounded by the feel of the shoe on tarmac; I genuinely never known an off-road shoe to feel as good as a road shoe!
Since then, I have run around 100 km in the Inov-8 Parkclaw 240, including a 15-mile mixed road, forest, beach, grassland, and trail run. Initially, I imagined pulling out the shoe on the rare occasion I’ll be running on both trail and road. I’ve since found the versatility of the shoe has led to me changing several of my running routes.
No longer do I have to run either on- or off-road because I need to choose one shoe or another. In recent weeks, I’ve found myself choosing routes that’ll take me out on the road and back over fields and footpaths, mainly because I know this shoe will be comfortable on either terrain.
At this point, I probably should explain that I won’t be throwing away my other shoes in favor of the Parkclaw. This truly is a versatile shoe, but that doesn’t make it a shoe for all seasons.
For an easy road day, I’ll lace up a Brooks Ghost, while for a slog over muddy fields and hills I’ll dig out the Inov-8 Mudclaw. Various alternatives are clearly suited to different terrains and paces.
In particular, where I’m off-road for more than a couple of hours, then the Terraultra 270G will be on my foot. I did find that on longer runs over ten miles on uneven terrain, the foot tends to tire in the Parkclaw.
The midsole and outsole are very flexible, and so the foot can have to work more on challenging terrain than in most dedicated fell shoes, especially those with a rock plate. Having said that, I’d have no hesitation in wearing this shoe for a few hours or more on lighter trails.
What the Inov-8 Parkclaw does exceptionally well is to effortlessly straddle that boundary between on- and off-road running, bringing comfort and confidence to a range of surfaces.
It’s still early days, and these photos were taken with around 100 km of use on the shoe. Wear is going to be highly dependent on what surfaces the shoe is used on.
A higher proportion of road use is likely to wear out the sole more quickly. The harder rubber under the heel will help here, the tarmac will quickly wear out the softer rubber under the forefoot.
Rocky terrain with an abundance of sharper rocks is more likely to snag the upper, with the potential to cause rips. There will also be some cosmetic wear to the exposed sections of the outsole, as shown on my shoe. This is unlikely to affect long-term performance.
Lots of use on light trails or grassland would see the greatest longevity for this shoe. All in all, however, I’d expect this shoe to keep going beyond the 400-mile marker, though at this stage it would be hard to guess how much further they’ll run for.
If you’ve read this far, then you'll find that I liked this shoe and will probably guess that it’s the best £30 I’ve ever spent on shoes.
The big question is whether I’d spend over £100 on the Parkclaw when it comes to replacing it. The answer is that I would.
Before running in this shoe, I thought that the true road-to-trail shoe was the stuff of myth and legend. Now I’ve found that it exists in the form of the Parkclaw 240.
Living in North Wales as I do, this capability of this shoe across a range of terrain shoe provides greater flexibility in designing running routes. Tarmac and trail, road and rock, gravel and grass can be comfortably accommodated in a single run and just one pair of shoes.
The Parkclaw also answers another tricky question. When packing for a trip away and there’s only room for just one pair of running shoes, which should I take? Pack the Parkclaw and that way you’ll be free to stray off the beaten track whenever you like.
I don’t think that there is a shoe on the market right now as versatile as this shoe
Good to know
- The Inov-8 Parkclaw 240 is a versatile running shoe that can be used on both road and trail surfaces. The shoe features highly-breathable knitted upper. Aside from delivering breathable coverage, it also provides a more natural fit.
- The shoe also features the POWERFLOW midsole which gives 10% more shock absorption and 15% enhanced energy return compared to the regular midsole foam.
- For more versatile traction, the outsole comes with a trail-style cleat pattern for a smoother, reliable running experience.
Inov-8 shoes are graded on a scale of 1-5. Representing the most precise and closest fit is Grade 1, while the most comprehensive fitting toe box is Grade 5. The Parkclaw 240's fit scale is Grade 5.
The Inov-8 Parkclaw 240 is true to size. Like the Newton Gravity 8, the available width for the women’s version is B – Medium while the men’s iteration has the D – Medium option.
Integrated into the shoe is the sticky rubber outsole. The purpose of this is to let the user perform excellently on all types of terrains. When compared to road-specific shoe, a more aggressive, trail-style cleat pattern is used. The design of the cleats is essential in ensuring a smoother feel when tackling different paved surfaces.
In the midsole of the shoe is the POWERFLOW technology. The primary goal of which is to give 10% better shock absorption as well as 15% better energy return. This midsole material allows runners to experience a more efficient and enjoyable ride.
Utilized in the shoe is the highly breathable knitted upper fabric. The primary focus of this material is to deliver the most natural and lightweight fit. Along with the fit is the additional comfort that it provides during the running session.
The fabric used in the upper area is described to be antimicrobial. This material fight of odor and impede bacterial growth. This is vital in maintaining and extending the freshness and dryness of the human foot.
Utilized in making the Inov-8 Parkclaw 240 is the lace-up closure. The primary purpose of this system is for easy on and off.
Additional comfort is encouraged by the moderately padded collar and tongue unit. Runners can confidently start and finish their activities with ease and confidence.
The last of this running shoe utilizes the Standard Fit variant. This is significant in ensuring a snugger heel construction. The Standard Fit variant also focuses on delivering a broader front area for a more secured yet unconstrained in-shoe feel.