Get to know the differences between your X-Talons, Mudclaws, Orocs and Roclites
When you’re living in Boulder, Colorado, US, winters can be a bit unpredictable. We’ll get long stretches of dry, cold weather, followed by big snowstorms or super-warm, Spring-like days. This makes for a wide variety of running conditions, ranging from hard-packed trails to bulletproof ice, mud, slush and deep snow. Sometimes all of these are combined in a single run. Adding to this, I often mix in off-trail running, scrambling and some light climbing, so choosing the adequate footwear or traction can sometimes be challenging. This blog post offers a short review of the running shoes I use over the winter and a few additional traction devices I opt for when conditions require it.
This is a new running shoe this year, but I like it so much that it’s already a part of my regular rotation. inov-8 designed this model with OCR in mind, but its application far exceeds just racing obstacle courses. I use this shoe on warm or wet and muddy days; so more during the shoulder season. The shoe drains exceptionally well and holds nearly no water thanks to a breathable mesh toe box. The standard fit gives ample room for my toes to spread, while the mid-foot and heel remain snug for a secure, precise lock on my foot. The shoe excels on technical terrain and the sticky rubber is equally solid scrambling on rock or running in the mud. The tried-and-true X-Talon outsole provides fantastic grip and adds a little cushion to the ride. I’m not surprised that these were the running shoes Gediminas Grinius ran in to win the recent 125k Transgrancanaria race.
The 212 shares similar attributes with the 200 in terms of grip on technical terrain, but it has a more durable upper. This has been a staple shoe for me since I started running in the mountains. The slightly heftier upper compared to the 200 doesn’t add much in terms of weight, but delivers great durability when running off-trail or on scree. It also makes the shoe feel a bit warmer, so it’s great when temperatures drop but when the running is still in demanding, mixed conditions. This model is available in both inov-8’s standard (wider) and precision fit. In winter I opt for the former in a half-size bigger to accommodate thicker socks and allow for better circulation.
The Mudclaw 300 has a really durable upper but a more burly outsole compared to the X-Talon, meaning it offers even better traction in mud. The lugs have a bit more surface area than X-Talon models, which, once worn down a little, make for a very versatile scrambling shoe. The traction is also very effective in packed snow making this a great shoe to use on the approach to more technical terrain. The beefier lugs slightly decrease the smoothness of the ride on hard-packed trails, but the tank-like qualities of the build make it my go-to for scrambling as well as tackling technical terrain in bad conditions.
For mixed conditions that involve a lot of ice nothing works better than the Oroc shoes. They are basically like the X-Talon 212 running shoes, with the addition of tungsten metal spikes. I use them for running on icy trails. The spikes enhance the durability of the rubber, which has less direct contact with the ground so I’ll use the same shoes for many seasons in a row. I’ve also raced over long distances, through ice and snow, in the Oroc shoes.
Roclite 282 GTX
The Roclite tread is less aggressive than the X-Talon, Mudclaw and Oroc, which makes it smoother on hard-packed terrain that requires additional traction on steeper snowy terrain or ice. The Gore-Tex membrane provides waterproof protection and helps keep my feet warm. The boot version is my go-to shoe for long, cold, winter days in the mountains.
I use these if it’s going to be particularly cold and I’ll be on consistent snow and ice. In warmer temperatures I prefer to stick with the Orocs, so I can avoid having to carry separate traction devices. The larger metal surface area gives great purchase on packed snow and ice.
Kahtoola KTS steel hiking crampons
The KTS hiking crampons are useful for steeper terrain or in softer snow when Orocs or microspikes don’t provide enough traction. They help keep my feet warm in the coldest of conditions. On non-technical but icy terrain, with added snowdrifts, additional centimetres of steel spikes really help for confident footing.
Northern Lites Race Snowshoes
Finally, if the snow is too deep to run or hike effectively, I use a pair of snowshoes. These are very simple, but well built and durable. The small surface area of the racquet is of little detriment to float even with a heavier pack, making the snowshoes very versatile. I have used them with all the shoes mentioned in this blog, depending on the weather and my objectives.
By choosing the right tool for the job, with this range of shoes and with the different options for traction devices, I can run/hike with ease all winter long in a wide range of weather conditions and on all types of terrain.