A Love Letter to the Inov-8 TerraClaw 220 Trail Runners
In my strive towards minimalism, I wanted to get rid of most of my shoes. But replacing all those different types of shoes with only one pair that fulfilled all my requirements was difficult. Luckily, I discovered the Inov-8 TerraClaw 220 trail runners.
I was already comfortable hiking in trail runners thanks to the Ultralight movement, so getting rid of hiking boots was easy. What was more tricky was to find a pair of trail runners that had a very low drop to enable forefoot running. Secondly, I wanted shoes that were very light & made of breathable materials so that they could drain water well. These features would be useful in jogging & trail running. Lastly, I wanted shoes that looked good as everyday street wear in combination with jeans + t-shirt and did not have the ridiculous "neon-green on shiny silver" look of so many running shoes.
On my journey, I went through pairs of Asics, Newtons, Merrells and others. My first Asics were made for heel running, but lasted well enough. They were not very light and both water draining & looks were mediocre.
Next, I went for Newtons because they were very light & made for forefoot running. Also, they looked good. But they were unusable as trail runners or on proper hiking tours because of their street-focused sole, which melted away like butter under a hot knife when confronted with rubble & boulders.
Because of the bad experience when using street running shoes on trails & hikes, I went for proper trail runners by Merrell next. They had a very good sole & looked good. But they were heavier than I liked and the durability of their upper mesh was extremely poor so that I went through two pairs within a matter of a few months. Their drop - the lowest drop I could find in all of Merrell's trail runner offerings - was still significant so that forefoot running was difficult.
After this ride between the different ends of the spectrum, I turned my research mode on & read through dozens of trail runner reviews and hundreds of costumer comments. At its end, there was a short list of three different shoes that might fit the bill, each with small trade-offs in one category or another.
Luckily, the price for the Inov-8 TerraClaw 220 was lowered while I was pondering which to try, so my decision was made. And I'm happy with the way things turned: the TerraClaw 220 are lighter than the Newtons, weighing only 220g per shoe. They have a negligible drop of only 4mm, which makes forefoot running easy. Their sole gives great grip on most surfaces.
Their upper mesh is very durable: I've run with them through fields of thorn bushes and boulders & rubble and there's not a single thread ripped yet. The mesh is also highly breathable and drains water very well: I've forded streams in them, combined with Merino toe socks, and only a short while of running in them after being completely submerged, these shoes feel great again. And lastly, the TerraClaw 220 in navy blue look snazzy and can be worn every day as part of my uniform without looking out of place.
All in all, I'm giving the Inov-8 TerraClaw an 8/10 rating: they fulfill all my requirements and empower me in all my various activities while traveling with only a single pair of shoes. They don't get a 10/10 rating for two reasons: 1. the sole wears off slightly faster than I'd like - you get three months of everyday use out of them, including trail running + jogging - and 2. the toe box is barely wide enough.
If Inov-8 would increase durability of the sole by ~15% and offer a wide fit for the toe box, the TerraClaw 220 would be the ultimate ultralight trail runners. Even without these optimizations, I love my TerraClaw 220 and I'm grateful that they carry me to so many beautiful places on this world: my first pair ran on the streets of San Francisco & Moscow as well as the intense trails of Madeira island. Now my 2nd pair stands ready & I'm glad to be able to trust in them again.