Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review Inov-8 Roclite 295

My Kinvara’s have finally bit the dust with the upper more less destroyed from misuse. To clarify this is not likely a design flaw but rather because of me opting to use them as my primary trail shoes. I had been holding out as long as possible anxiously awaiting the release of the Saucony Peregrine’s. However, after being informed by every running store in Louisville that they don’t have them or don’t carry them I gave up.

My local Trail Store (http://www.louisvilletrailstore.com) guru had turned me on to the Inov-8 product line over the winter. He had suggested specifically the X-Talon 212’s or the Roclite 285’s. Both would be good replacements for someone who is already a fan of a shoe that combines good support with a minimalist weight/feel. The latter providing a little more beef than the Talon’s but both seemed to fit the basic requirements.

I am not sure if the 295’s are a new entry into the Roclite product line or not for 2011 but it was the first time I had seen them on the shelf. I had gone into the store already set to buy the 285’s but the bright red color was a little much for me and being that I am not a flashy guy I was very excited to see these sitting there next to them.

Not a particularly sexy shoe but function on the trails beats style anytime. The tightly woven black uppers are covered with what Inov-8 calls a Meta Cradle. It is basically a series of bands that attach to the sole of the shoe and lace loops to provide structure and stability. All of the laces on the shoe are tied into this Meta Cradle sans the top two loops. The toe box is covered with a soft rubber to help, I assume, minimize snagging of the mess and also protect the toes from intrusions of foreign objects. Big plus there as my Kinvara’s are littered with holes from sticks and thorns that poked holes through the material.

The Sole of the shoe is a pretty simple pattern of lugs that help aid in climbing and descending. Depending on what type of trails you run this can be a critical component. It appears the lugs at the toe are slightly smaller than those in the mid sole and rear. Would be curious as to the design benefits of this tread but I am assuming it has something to do with providing a climbing teeth in the toe. The mid-sole also has 3 bands that begin on a heel lug and fan out to the front group of lugs. Inov-8’s web site describes this as a Fascia Band to help increase propulsion efficiency and reduce fatigue. I have seen this feature in other shoes I believe so there must be something to it.

I typically wear a 9.5 to 10 but have found that while roomy toe boxes for road shoes is great, for trail running not so much. Climbing up and down steep slopes with room up front means your feet slide forward more than they might on the road creating blisters on the ball of the foot and also the arch. In addition these shoes seemed to run about a half size smaller than what I typically wear anyway so I ended up in a size 9. The shoe provides a lot of room in the width with a nice solid footprint making them feel very stable.

First run, just had a heavy storm roll through in the AM so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to hit one of the local trails that provides a good mix of technical, creek crossings, hills, flats and even a couple of short jaunts on pavement. After parking the car the entry point I chose for the trail includes a climb up a muddy hillside at about a 60 degree angle. The toe lugs did exactly what you would expect and held firm right up to the point where the mud became so thick that nothing short of ice spikes would have held on. Quick grab of a root and a tree or two and up on top.

This section of trail is a short trip over rocks mixed with overgrown trees and thanks to the storm runoff from the hillside above. I’ll be honest, there was very little running going on here as I was mostly just concerned with remaining upright but I will say the shoes did their job.

Next up about a 1 mile trip through a wooded section that has plenty of whoop-de-doo’s mixed with an occasional short climb/descent. Again the shoes held firm and let me run confidently without having to worry so much about footing. One of the unexpected test was climbing fallen trees. I was unsure how sticky the soles of these shoes would be so the first couple of times this came up I treaded lightly. Like the Kinvara’s the sole is made from a softer stickier rubber and like the Kinvara’s they held like glue with zero slippage.

Next was a short trip on pavement. Not much to talk about here, the shoe felt softer than I would have expected. You could certainly feel each lug on the bottoms of your feet but it was not uncomfortable over a short distance although I don’t think I would recommend that for a long distance.

Lastly I made it a point to get these things good and wet and see how they felt. I found a safe place to cross the creek where the water was only about ankle deep. The shoes seemed to shed the water quickly and I honestly forgot to think much more about it as the last segment was very technical including several rock runoff’s and steep climbs/drops. Crossing large sections of rock that were completely covered with running water the shoes again exceeded my expectations providing good grip and solid feel. Quick transitions to climbs and descents in this section of the trail were also handled with ease.

If you are looking to pick up a pair of light weight trail shoes I would highly recommend trying out a pair of these at your local running store. The people at The Trail Store in Louisville have been great to work with and if you are in the area stop by and talk to them.

For more information you can go directly to Inov-8's web site at

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