inov-8 Mudtalon Speed mud running shoes review: tackling the bog issues

Ideal for filthy fun, the innovative inov-8 Mudtalon Speed works like a claw, gripping the ground and protecting you from spills no matter how mucky the hills

inov-8 Mudtalon Speed in mud
(Image: © Pat Kinsella)

Advnture Verdict

A shoe conceived and constructed specifically to help you run fast across mucky, muddy, slippery hills, fells, trails and vales, the Mudtalon Speed from inov-8 successfully supplies sensational traction and control in the most challenging of conditions. Bristling with fang-like 8mm lugs, the outsole grips the ground like a dog with a bone, but then obediently lets go of the mud instead of carrying it around for the rest of the run. The rest is almost irrelevant, but for the record the shoes have a highly supportive chassis and offer a comfortable ride on all but the hardest of terrain, with the midsole achieving a beautiful balance between supplying some cushioning and protection, while still allowing trail feedback.

Pros

  • +

    Super toothy outsole

  • +

    Grippy on rock as well as in mud

  • +

    Outsole sheds muck very quickly

  • +

    Hardwearing but lightweight upper

  • +

    Rockplate provides underfoot protection

  • +

    Midsole achieves balance between cushioning and trail feel

  • +

    Precision and wide fit options

Cons

  • -

    Don’t drain as quickly as claimed

  • -

    Low level of protection in the upper

  • -

    Basic lace system

  • -

    No recycled materials used

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Meet the reviewer

best fleece jackets: Artilect Halfmoon Bio Pullover
Pat Kinsella

Pat has hiked all over the world, his adventures taking him to Mont Blanc, the roof of Western Europe; the Norwegian Alps; the highest peaks on Australia; and New Zealand’s Great Walks – among others. He’s an experienced tester of hiking footwear and gives each pair a thorough thrashing before reviewing.

inov-8 Mudtalon Speed: first impressions

New for 2024, these inov-8 Mudtalon Speed shoes are designed to do one thing very well: enable you to run as fast as your legs will carry you across very muddy and treacherously skiddy terrain with confidence, by providing failsafe traction with a toothy, grippy outsole that will simply not let you fall down, slip over or give up, no matter what.

Specifications

• List price: $TBC (US) / £130 (UK) / €150 (EU)
• Weight (per shoe): 260g
• Drop: 4mm
• Tread depth: 8mm
• Upper material: Ripstop
• Colors: Black & Yellow
• Compatibility: Perfect for training and racing on muddy trails and filthy fells

The distilled design of these mucky-minded shoes is the result of years of inov-8’s designers and outdoor athletes running and sliding around in the gloopy conditions of northern England’s fells, where the brand’s brains are based. They came up with the Mudroc, the Mudclaw and the X-Talon, and the life experiences of these shoes have been decanted into the creation of the Mudtalon Speed. 

At least that’s the backstory as inov-8 tell it, and at first glance it all seems to stack up. But I’ve been trail-testing the Mudtalon Speeds to see how they actually perform compared to the best mud running and fell-running shoes already on the market. 

Man wearing inov-8 Mudtalon Speed running

Even if they didn’t sport the logo, you’d still be able to tell from the Mudtalon Speed’s design that they come from the inov-8 stable (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

inov-8 Mudtalon Speed: design & materials

For starters, there’s certainly no need to run the Mudtalon Speeds through a paternity test to work out that they share genes with some older members of the inov-8 family – the features are writ large all over them, including the 8mm fangs that cover the outsole. 

This is a lightweight shoe, intended to be fast and nimble in challenging terrain, and the chassis is fairly minimalist, made from an opaque ripstop synthetic material with a PU skeleton to maintain the structure and provide a bit more strength. The laces are flat and fairly basic, but there is, of course, an extra high-placed lace hole for use when you’re likely to be running through deep, sucky bogs (no one wants to lose a fancy new shoe). 

There appears to have been a change in the last used in the inov-8 design lab, and the Mudtalons have a shape that the brand say is more precisely contoured to the human foot. I would have thought people’s feet differ in shape quite a bit, but having said that, I certainly found these shoes to fit very nicely straight out of the box. They held my plates very securely and comfortably in all areas, from the heel across the top of my foot to the toe box. The sizing was spot on, the heel lock worked and my foot did not seem to move around in the shoe at all.

Man wearing inov-8 Mudtalon Speed

The inov-8 Mudtalon Speeds are available in Precision Fit and Wide Fit. I’m wearing Wide (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Impressively, the Mudtalon Speed is available in two versions: you can select between the Precision Fit (with a narrow, tight toe box) and the Wide Fit (which allows your pinkies more room to spread). This choice is good for mutants like me – with my broad hobbit-like hooves and bunions the Wide iteration is ideal – and it also reflects the fact that Mudtalons are intended both for competitive racers looking for every ounce of performance from their gear, and people (like myself) who just enjoy going on recreational runs, training sessions and everyday outings on mucky trails and hillsides.

The midsole is cushioned with Powerflow Pro Foam, designed to strike a balance between absorbing some of the impact of repeated footfall while still permitting an element of trail feedback. This is complimented by the Boomerang footbed, which helps put some bounce in your step. There’s also a Meta-Plate rockplate in the mid-shoe mix, to prevent puncture wounds if you accidentally stomp on something sharp submerged in the mud. There is a toe-cap, but it’s pretty small, so stubbing injuries are definitely a danger to be aware of. 

inov-8 Mudtalon Speed inner sole

The inov-8 Mudtalon Speed’s midsole is cushioned with Powerflow Pro Foam and complimented by a Boomerang footbed, which helps put some bounce in your step (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Of course, as with all mud-running shoes, most of the attention from both the brand and the users is on the composition and design of the all-important outsole, which needs to be capable of keeping you the right way up even in the most heinous conditions. Like some of its parent models, the new Mudtalon has very aggressive 8mm lugs, intended to provide traction on the gloopiest of terrain.

Importantly, though, inov-8 have made these fangs with ‘Stickygrip’ rubber to give them some biting power and clingability on rocks, as well as stopping you from slipping on your arse every few meters when you’re running across hillsides boobytrapped with sections of ankle-deep mud.

inov-8 Mudtalon Speed: on the trails

I’ve been running around the increasingly sludgy trails and slippery hillsides of drizzly Devon in the Mudtalon Speeds for the last few weeks, since the shoe was soft launched, putting them to the test in conditions close to those they have been tailor-made to deal with. (We don’t get ‘real’ fells down here, but there is certainly no shortage of mud and plenty of lumpy landscape.)

inov-8 Mudtalon Speed

If you run on surfaces like this in inov-8 Mudtalon Speeds you’re going to feel the lugs (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

…but preferably, not on the hard stuff

Like virtually any dedicated mud-running shoe, the Mudclaws are quite uncomfortable to wear when running across hard-packed or sealed surfaces over any distance. The pronounced studs can be felt through the midsole, and it’s reminiscent of running across a carpark in football boots – which is all absolutely fine, as they’re not designed for use in such boring environments, quite the opposite, and so this is to be expected and it’s not a criticism. It’s just something to be aware of if you tend to scamper across some sections of pavement or concrete en route to your local trails, hills or fells, as I do – grass verges and nature strips are your friends here, just ignore the disapproving looks from neighbors. 

Man wearing inov-8 Mudtalon Speed

The cushioning is a balance of comfort and trail feel (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Trail feel

The fact that you can feel the lugs through the midsole on hard surfaces is testament to the fact that inov-8 have achieved their aim of not completely dampening the tactile trail feel you get in the Mudtalons. But this isn’t at the expense of cushioning – the Powerflow Pro Foam midsole does its job just fine, providing the perfect amount of suspension required in a shoe designed primarily for running on soft squishy surfaces, but still allowing feedback from the underfoot environment to percolate through.

inov-8 Mudtalon Speed sole

I was impressed with how little mud stuck to the lugs (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Stability on mud and trails

For tackling technical trails covered in roots and rocks, the 4mm heel-to-toe drop is excellent. The low center of gravity provides almost barefoot levels of confidence and stability, and this is complemented by the very secure hold achieved by the snug-fitting upper and heel lock, and, of course, the exceptionally grippy outsole.

Although the tread on these shoes is ultra aggressive, I’ve been really impressed with how little mud sticks to the bottom of the Mudtalons. I expected the grip and traction to be good – and it really is, I haven’t taken a single tumble or gone for a slide on my backside once since I started wearing them – but I really thought I’d be bringing half the hillside home with me, and this hasn’t happened at all. The lugs are so well spaced that the mud sheds straight off as you run, which actually makes more of a positive difference to your pace than any of the fancypants materials used or design elements employed in a running shoe (wet mud is very heavy to carry around – it will tire you out and slow you down extremely quickly).

Another impressive feature of these shoes is the degree of non-slip performance the ‘Stickygrip’ rubber used in the outsole offers on exposed rocks and roots.

inov-8 Mudtalon Speed

You can’t quite see it in this photo (lucky you) but my toes were visible through the upper (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Durability

There is always a compromise, of course, and the fact that the outsoles are not made with inov-8’s signature superhero-esque graphene compound, means they won’t last as long. But, given the Mudclaw Speeds are not designed or intended for regular use on hard, high-impact surfaces, they should have a decent life-expectancy.

I got a bit of a shock when I first put the Mudclaw Speeds on and realized I could see my socks right through the ultrathin translucent upper. Skinny and see-through it might be, but the chassis is made primarily with a ripstop material, and inov-8 claim these shoes are as tough as old boots. Only time will tell us if this is really true, but so far (with about 100 filthy clicks on the clock) they’re fine – as you would very much expect them to be. (I will update this review with any significant wear and tear issues.)

inov-8 Mudtalon Speed

There’s not much of a toe cap to speak of (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Some minor drawbacks

You don’t tend to notice over-heating issues too much when running through deep mud during the depths of January in England, but as far as I can tell these shoes do allow my feet to breath perfectly adequately. However, I’m not sure the Mudtalon Speeds are quite as quick-draining as they look, or as inov-8 claim they are. On a recent run I was still experiencing noticeable squelch several kilometers after a stream crossing. 

Also, I think the toe cap could be more substantial, and there’s no noticeable rand to protect the sides of your feet (both compromises made to keep weight down, I suspect). Lastly (on the whingeing and whining front), while perfectly adequate for most outings, the lacing system is a tad basic and like any traditional setup, laces can come undone amid the muck. Having the additional lace hole just below the ankle is, of course, essential for any mud-running shoe worth its salt (it enables a much tighter closure and secure fit than almost any quick-lace boa-system can offer, and is a safer solution, less prone to failure), but perhaps a lace pocket might be an improvement. 

Pat Kinsella

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and instagram here.