Inov-8 Roclite 295
Size Tested: Women’s 9.5
Stated Weight: 295 grams per shoe
Blister’s Measured Weight: 289 and 290 grams
Drop: 6 mm
Test Locations: Wind River & Teton Range, WY; Blue Ridge Mountains, NC; White Mountains, NH; Big Hole Mountains, ID
Days Tested: 30+
Inov-8 is a British company that specializes in aggressive trail-runners, light racing flats, and cross-training shoes, and I have been a fan of the company since buying a pair of X-Talon 212’s in 2009. (Inov-8 labels their trail-runners by weight — “212” refers to grams per shoe in the UK size 8.5.) I wore the X-Talon 212 for years, until the cleats had hardened into little nubbins or wore off completely.
The X-Talon 212 is marketed as a racing flat, and while I loved it as my everyday runner, I was looking for a bit more protection for running in the rocky Sierras. So I turned to their “Roclite” series, specifically the Roclite 295.
The Roclite series is Inov-8’s line of all-terrain shoes, with a capped toe and the proprietary “Meta-Shank,” which is a polymer plate underfoot for increased protection and flexibility. And I found that the Roclite 295’s slight increase in sole material over the X-Talon 212 yielded a much more comfortable ride on rocky trails.
Note: the Updated Roclite Lineup
The Roclite line was redesigned and simplified this season, and the Roclite 295 (that I’m reviewing here) gets replaced by the Roclite 290, which has a 4 mm drop, a different tread pattern, and supposedly improved shock absorption and energy return. We’ll be weighing in on the new 290 with comparisons to 295 soon.
Inov-8 makes minimalist shoes, and anyone who has run cross-country in racing flats will recognize the feeling — the Roclites are as light and flexible as slippers. To clarify, they’re not “barefoot” shoes because there is a drop between the heel and forefoot.
The drop on the Roclite is 6 mm, which is on the high end for minimalist shoes: while they still work different muscles than traditional cushioned trainers, they are approachable for runners who are new to the style. I personally experienced calf and foot soreness after my first couple runs in Inov-8s, but now anything more cushioned (like my previous shoe, the Salomon XT Wing 3, with a 10 mm drop) feels grossly overbuilt.
I wear a half size larger than normal in Inov-8 shoes to allow for foot swelling. The heel cup is snug and comfortable, while the toe box is wide enough to allow foot splay, which increases stability. And aside from color, there is no difference in fit or features between the uni-sex and women’s shoe.
The only discomfort I’ve ever felt with the Roclite 295 is some toe bang during steep, technical descending, but nothing residual. I’ve never had a single blister or any heel rub, probably because of how soft and low profile the shoe’s uppers are.
Color (admit it, it matters)
Inov-8 shoes aren’t as loud as some other shoes on the shelves, but they’ve really upped their color game in recent years. The Roclite 295’s are available in eye-popping cyan and yellow, or muted gray with bright orange soles for men, and pink or teal for women.
The Roclite’s laces feel like they should be too slippery to hold a knot, but they’re easy to cinch and don’t loosen. I do have to tuck the long laces into the top loop to keep them from catching on trailside vegetation.
The Roclite provides no weather protection, but the upper is so breathable that I actually prefer it to treated shoes, since the 295s don’t retain water, and they dry very quickly. I run in snow a lot, and while my feet get wet, if I use wool socks they stay warm.
On the Trail
The Roclite 295’s soles are composed of a sticky, soft compound and studded with a grid of substantial rubber cleats. Traction is amazing, even on scree fields, greasy east coast roots, and ice, because of the cleats and because of the pliancy of the sole. The shoes feel extremely responsive and give great trail feedback. The cleats are also soft enough not to feel intrusive in those rare instances when I have to run on roads.
I have a neutral footfall, and runners with overpronation or supination might wish for more arch support or cushioning.
I like to open it up on descents, and the Roclites feel stable and safe even when pounding down rocky singletrack and service roads. The polymer sole plate creates a web of protection under the midsole that cushions the foot strike zones while retaining flexibility.
Inov-8 uses a different rubber compound for the Roclite 295 compared to the X-Talon 212s. I destroyed the soles of the X-Talons quickly, and I have used the Roclites for a year, including a summer of long runs on rocky trails in the Tetons, and the soles show virtually no sign of wear. The shoes’ uppers are similarly durable, and I haven’t seen any of the separation of material that my other running shoes show.
The Roclite inhabits a similar niche as the well-known Salomon Speedcross, but the Speedcross has a more pronounced 10 mm drop and a stiffer sole. The Speedcross Pro, which has an equivalent weight, costs around $50 more. The Speedcross lugs are also made of a harder compound, which I’m guessing decreases the traction, although I only have personal experience with the disappointingly inadequate traction of the Salomon XT Wings 3.
It’s unfair to even compare the Salomon XT Wings 3 with the Roclite 295, since the XT Wings 3 is significantly heavier (approximately 350 grams), has a lot more cushioning, and gets scary on wet rocks and roots. But the two shoes are both touted as technical, all-terrain trail runners.
The Inov-8 X-Talon 212 is much closer in kind to the Roclite 295, but has a more snug, performance-fit toe box and less protection against toe stubs and sharp rocks underfoot, and is marketed as a trail racing flat rather than a trainer. And I personally found the weight savings of the X-Talon 212 to be negligible in use compared to the Roclite 295.
After a full year of running in the Inov-8 Roclite 295 in every condition imaginable, I’d recommend them to anyone who wants an endurance trail shoe that feels like a racing flat. The 295 is relatively minimalist and light without forfeiting comfort; its durable and provides incredible traction on rocks, snow, and even ice.
In short, I’ve found the Inov-8 Roclite 295 to be a great shoe for hard trails, tough terrain, and long days in the mountains.