The Roclite has long been a workhorse of the Inov-8 range, offering comfort and superb grip over a number of surfaces and technical terrain. This year has seen the Roclite join the Mudclaw and Terra Ultra in offering Inov-8’s revolutionary new graphene enhanced G-Grip.
Jasmin Paris donned a pair of the G-grip 275’s in her Spine Race victory in January of this year. Having entered the 2020 race myself, I was really excited to be able to test out the new Roclite range. As I was a big fan of the the old 243’s, I decided on the Roclite 290 as I prefer a lower heel to toe drop and the 290 boasts a 4mm drop, compared to 8mm on the 275’s.
The new Roclite brought back a great, classic looking shoe, especially in bright red with subtle grey overlays, and are a piece of kit that will get you noticed. Straight out of the box, they are extremely comfortable with a good level of cushioning. The mesh upper is reactive and moulds itself to your foot, feeling like a warm hug. The tongue is elasticated to keep it central and avoid any slippage to one side of the foot during your run. For those us with wide feet and need for a roomy toe box, it was a pleasant surprise that the ‘3’ on Inov-8’s fit scale were perfect even for longer runs. The generous room in this redesigned toe box is closer to the design of the Trailroc than previous Roclite models, and will offer plenty of space for swelling or joint expansion on even the most extreme distances. The outsole features the classic Roclite tread design of 6mm lugs with the new G-Grip graphene enhanced compound, promising to add more durability and traction to an already impressive design.
I’ve now covered just over 150 miles traversing a variety of terrains including a 40 mile run during an ill fated trip to Wales and they have dealt with everything I have thrown at them.
On wet rock there is a little movement (let’s be honest - this applies to all shoes), but through grass, mud and rocky trail I found the well designed tread gripped well and offered excellent traction. Where they really excelled was on steep technical trails; biting into the terrain and giving me the confidence to descend at speed in the knowledge that the traction would not let me down. Looking at the sole after 150 miles I can see the effect the new compound had had on the durability; the dimples on the lugs that usually are starting to wear away after your first run are still sitting proud refusing to be worn away. They have covered some road and hard pack so I would have expected more wear than I have seen, it will be interesting to see how this develops.
The comfort felt out of the box was present for my entire time in the Roclite 290’s; I needed no time to break them in and was able to run hard from the off. The inner is virtually seamless, meaning that I experienced no hot spots or rubbing of any sort. It’s light airy upper with a breathable mesh through the entire shoe means it drains brilliantly and holds next to no water after going through puddles and streams. The ADAPTERWEB lacing system has been modified with narrow gauge nylon cord now being used for both the laces and to connect the laces to the footbed. I was worried about lace slippage when I first saw these, as I felt there may be a risk of the laces coming untied but I am happy to report they held tight and felt secure the whole time. The 290 cradles your foot on the run, holding it firmly and tenderly like a mother with a newborn; it feels snug and safe.
The 290 feels like a more cushioned shoe than it is thanks to the POWERFLOW midsole which claims to offer more shock absorption and energy return than standard midsoles. I can’t speak to the numbers but it does feel great to run in and like you are getting a little forward nudge with each stride. All that being said, this is not the marshmallow cushion of a Hoka, there is a real connection to the terrain with great responsiveness and flexibility allowing for quick adjustments on the fly while the METAPLATE offers a good level of protection from any sharp rocks wanting to jab the sole of your foot.
The 290 is a fast, agile shoe, perfect for going fast and really attacking the trails but is also a great companion for a long day out. With the addition of the G-Grip, Inov-8 have added increased durability to what was already a great shoe. If you are looking for a quick, light and responsive trail shoe that will last you will not go far wrong with the Roclite 290. If you are looking for a little more protection, the 275 has an 8mm drop and some more protection on the upper. Both would be an excellent addition to your trail running quiver!