Sat in front of me are two pairs of running shoes that are looking very different to how they did a month ago. To say that I’ve put them through their paces would be an understatement. I’ve sent these Inov-8s to hell and back!
My intention has been to take two pairs of highly rated mud running shoes to their limit to see whether they can stand up to the rigors of obstacle course races. Unfortunately, when we subject our shoes to muck, rocks and water on a regular basis, our shoes have a far shorter lifespan than our tarmac-pounding cousins. I can’t tell you how many pairs of shoes I’ve ripped apart over the last couple of years!
There are many things that are important to me in a trail shoe:
Fit true to size - there’s nothing more annoying than ordering your size online then realising that they come up a size too small.
Performs well in all terrain - it needs to be able to grip in mud, handle hard-pack, drain water, feel stable on uneven ground, etc.
Last well - I’m not made of money and don’t want to have to order a new pair of shoes every other month.
So my test subjects today are Inov-8’s Roclite 295 and I will also be testing the Inov-8 X-Talon 190 in the next article. Although these two are quite different shoes, they share Inov-8’s mix of minimalist and rugged charm. They’re lightweight and flexible with very little height different (or “drop”) between the heel and the toe of the shoe. If you’re used to the more traditional running shoe shape, these will require a shift in running style, where you land more on your forefoot than your heel. I’m not going to go too much into the pros and cons of minimalist running, but take heed, you should work your way into these kinds of shoes gently and seek advice on how to limit the risk of injury.
Introducing the Inov-8 Roclite 295:
On first glance of the Roclite 295s they look like fairly rugged and tough, but at 295g, they’re lighter than they appear. As well as having a more substantial upper, there is slightly more going on underfoot, with a 6mm footbed and 6mm drop.
True fit to size
Tick! I’m a standard UK12 and can’t talk for all sizes, but these guys fit like a glove. With a nice wide toe box, they definitely felt a little more light and airy than average running shoe.
Performance on all terrain
By the looks of the Roclites I wasn’t quite sure how natural they would feel to run in. In a way they looked a little more like walking boots than running shoes. As I set out along the road though, I was pleasantly surprised. Pavements are by no means the ideal testing ground for trail shoes but they certainly felt nimble enough and they started to feel pretty awesome as soon as I moved on to graveled footpaths.
They adjusted well to the fields and hills and, even though they have a little more padding than some Inov-8s, my feet still felt very connected to the ground, far more so than your average trail shoes. That helped a lot with the stability over uneven and rocky terrain and, although I could feel a few of the sharper rocks, my feet always felt well protected.
As I headed into shallow slippery mud, they were completely unphased and dug in well with minimal slipping. With a looser fit around the toes and thin laces, I plowed into knee-deep sticky mud with trepidation; would they stay on my feet? After squelching through for a few footsteps, I was pleased to see that they stayed securely in place.
With a slick upper, the outsides of the shoes shed the thick mud swiftly, but after getting them wet, I did find that a fair amount of dirt built up on the inside of the shoe. I definitely think that these would benefit from a good pair of gators.
With great performance in all conditions, these excel as an all-round training shoe.
After a month of intermittent testing, it’s hard to say how well these will last, but the early indications are good. The uppers are tougher and stronger than your standard mesh material and there seem to be no serious signs of wear so far. My guess is that these are as tough as old boots.
So, in summary, I think they could be your perfect everyday training shoe, being able to hack anything that you throw at them. They may not shine as brightly as some of Inov-8s higher-performance models, but I think they’ll stand the test of time.
Carry on reading part 2 of our Inov-8 test here, where we test the perfect race-day shoe: Inov-8 X-Talon 190.