Amy Lane (member of Team Giggles at Raid the Hammer last year) had put me in contact with the Inov-8 sponsor folks, and I am so glad that she did! Inov-8 makes a wide range of shoes, specializing in trail and off-trail shoes, and got started in the UK, where they have this awesome-sounding sport called fell running, and you need good grippy shoes for that. They've expanded, and they sponsor a slew of international orienteers, so I am feeling quite honored to be among those elite ranks!
So, lately I've been testing out all sorts of different shoes, some for orienteering, and some for straight-up trail running. I still haven't found anything I like better than the X-Talon212, though the EVEN LIGHTER X-Talon190 is pretty sweet. I'll post some shoe reviews soon; the trouble with eight new pair of shoes is that it takes a long time for me to run enough miles to review all of them! The shoes pictured above are the heavy-duty studded shoes, the Oroc340s, and very importantly, they have CONTOURS on the side! squeee!
Check out those lugs. We're talkin' serious muddin'.
Less aggressive lugs on the 212s, but so perfect in so many ways.
Especially when paired with bright socks!
One of the things I'm really liking about Inov-8's shoes is that they make it real easy to understand what you're buying. First, you choose your category, which is quite simple. On road, off road, or off trail. That determines the general purpose of the shoe. Then you choose your fit - natural, endurance, or precision (with women's fit available for some shoes; basically that just means a narrower heel). The precision fit is the narrowest, and most of the off-trail shoes are in this category, because you don't want your foot sliding around in the shoe on uneven ground. Endurance is the widest fit, so your foot has room to expand over long races. The natural fit is slightly shorter in the toe box, and also a little wider in the toes.
Once you've chosen your fit, there are a variety of sole materials to choose from, ranging from obscenely sticky (that would be the bottom of the X-Talons) to much harder and more appropriate for road running. Each shoe is listed with a little bar chart, rating that shoe in soft, hard, and loose conditions. Their marketing folks are goooood.
Then there's the midsole. Inov-8 follows a pretty minimalist philosophy, which I totally agree with, especially for orienteering shoes, and the way they categorize this is by the weight of the shoe and the amount of drop from heel to toe. Their most supportive shoes have 9mm of heel drop, indicated by 3 arrows carved into the heel of the shoe. Then they've got 6mm drop shoes (2 arrows), 3mm drop (1 arrow), and zero-drop (no arrows). Again, beautifully simple to understand. A zero-drop shoe really feels like being barefoot, so you do have to work up to that one, just a warning. I'm happy in the 1- and 2-arrow models; the 3-arrow shoes feel a little clunky to me.
Finally, there's the weight! This one's simple - the lower the number after the name of the shoe, the lighter the shoe. So, the Oroc340 is heavier than the Roclite275, which is heavier than the Trailroc236, etc. The number unit is grams.