I had the pleasure of testing out Inov-8’s Mudroc 290 trail shoe and I have to say I was very impressed. Remember this is a ‘Natural Running’ focused shoe so it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but with some conditioning and ‘easing’ into a more minimalist approach to running your body will adapt, and you will not regret it. ‘Natural Running’ is basically a movement in the industry to have a shoe that is as little a shoe as possible, the term “less is more” is quite fitting. The shoe focuses on giving the runner the bare minimum they would need from a shoe to perform at an optimum level by letting the natural gait of the runners technique do the rest. In terms of the weight this works incredibly well to keep the weight of the shoe down.

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So what about the shoe then:
The first thing that you will notice is the tread under the shoe, if you thought the Salomon Speedcross 3’s were aggressive the Mudroc 290’s are an animal. I actually thought I heard them roar when I put them (ok not really but you know what I mean). The second thing that I noticed was the lacing of the shoe, it took me a while 9a very short one) to figure it out but the way they have laced the shoe is genius. I am not going to try explain it because I can’t and I will just confuse myself and you but the shoe laces to fit around your foot very securely. I had zero play inside the shoe when the laces were tightened, the laces double back on themselves at the lip of the shoe which ensures that the lacing doesn’t come loose, brilliant. It would be natural to think that a trail specific shoe would have decent grip and you would be right, this shoe has grip and a whole lot of it. The shoe has so much grip I almost felt like I had to pull my leg upwards to dislodge the shoe so I could take another step. The amount of grip is definitely what I enjoy most about the shoe. I was expecting to feel some ‘stud pressure’ from the lugs on the harder terrain but the shoe felt surprisingly flat underneath while running on some cemented sections of the trail, which helps to make them feel very stable. On the loose gravel and rocks they were again very solid and I was able to descend the technical stuff much more confidently than I would normally.

These shoes perform their best in wet and muddy conditions (hence the name, Mudroc..). The fact that they were specially developed using rock climbing rubber technology to optimise grip in wet conditions should be proof enough. The Inov8 Mudroc 290 is one of Inov8’s more ‘modest’ natural running shoes with a 6mm footbed which they say is “a good choice as a racing shoe for intermediate runners and as a training shoe for more advanced runners.” The shoes weigh in at 290g per pair.

Thanks to the focus on ‘Natural Running’ the shoe is very tight fitting and feels incredibly streamlined. There are some shoes that just by putting them on you feel faster, these are one of those pairs.

Let’s get to some of the cons: There aren’t many, the most probable issues that will come in is if you aren’t used to a more ‘Natural Running’ shoe or even trail specific shoe. The sole, as with any decent trail shoe, is quite solid with less flex than your road running shoes, this helps to protect the arch of your foot on the uneven terrain so if you are used to the more flexible road shoes you might get the feeling of ‘shin splints’ coming if you go out too hard too soon with these. In terms of cushioning, there is some but not much making them not the most comfortable trail shoe out there, but we all know no one starts trail running for the comfort. Personally I would have also liked a brighter colour option like you get with the Salomon Speedcross 3’s, I just really enjoy a brightly coloured shoe

So if you are looking for a light, fast, seriously fantasticly gripping ‘Natural Running’ trail shoe then I would highly recommend these, a word of caution though… they really do roar when you put them on!

Suggested Price: R1200


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