Inov-8 Roclite 315 and 318 GTX Trail Shoes – Product Review – by Daren Marceau

Posted: February 1, 2010 in Stuff

Inov-8 Roclite 315 and 318 GTX Trail Shoes

by Daren Marceau

Inov-8 Roclite 318 GTX

Over the last two years I have gradually moved from a typical heel-strike running form to a mid-foot strike.  I have also stopped wearing traditional ‘jacked-up heel’ running shoes, and have transitioned to shoes with less support, less cushioning, and less of a raised heel.  As I have gradually transitioned into ‘less is more’ shoes my feet simply feel better even with 80 mile weeks training for ultramarathons.

In my search for ‘less is more’ running shoes I found Inov-8.  Inov-8, a British company inov-8 is relatively new to the running shoe scene especially here in the U.S.  Their focus is on correct running form (mid-foot strike as opposed to heel-strike), and building shoes to protect the runner’s foot while not controlling the runner’s foot.

Inov-8 makes several tread styles (Roclite, Flyroc, etc.) and several sole materials (sticky, endurance), and several last types (speed, endurance) [a last is the foot mold from which the shoe is made]. Inov-8 provides a very helpful consumer shoe selection online tool that helps us decide which model best fits our running needs.

In an effort to introduce their shoes to U.S. runners who are used to overly-cushioned shoes Inov-8 made the Roclite 315.  [the 315 means 315 grams].  The 315 has the ‘Roclite’ tread which is like a knobby mountain bike tire, and an ‘endurance’ sole material which should provide a balance between traction and longer life.  Also, the shoe has a slightly roomier ‘endurance last’ for those really long runs where our feet will swell and for when we may want thicker socks.  Last, the uppers on the 315 are incredibly well vented, light, and look cool.

I run lots of rocky, rooty, steep, and nasty trails so I could not wait to try out my new Roclite 315’s.  Inov-8 ships their shoes with the laces in the ‘loop lock’ configuration and this is a huge help on steep descents.  The loop lock lacing helps hold the runner’s heel in place so their feet do not slide forward and smash toenails.

As I took my first steps in the Roclite 315’s I immediately felt like I was wearing a pair of very comfortable moccasins with a serious treadunder them.  The uppers and soles conform well to the runner’s foot; much more so than a typical running shoe.  This feeling continued as I took them for a few weeks of test runs in every imaginable trail condition.

The 315’s were considerably lighter than the Asics 2140 Trail shoes I had been wearing (360 grams), and I could really feel it.  The lack of a raised heel in the 315’s made mid-foot running possible, and I loved this!  The first few steps on sharp rocks felt odd with no rock plates in the shoe (many manufacturers install a plastic plate to protect the runner from rocks) and with less cushioning than I was used to having.

But, never once did my feet hurt.  I felt the trail and learned how to land to adapt to the terrain.  It was kind of like letting some air out of a mountain bike tire to allow the tread to better conform around rocks and roots for better traction.  Not enough to get a flat tire, but just enough to get better traction: the old trail shoes ran 45 psi of air in their tires, and the Roclite’s had 32 psi.  It was a huge difference!

One key feature I need in trail shoes is a sturdy ‘toe guard’.  This year alone I have broken my big toe twice kicking rocks late in the run when I am tired, and lifting my feet is a sloppy exercise at best.  I’ve yet to find any traditional (Nike, Asics, etc.) running shoe manufacturers who make a really robust toe guard.  The Roclite 315 toe guard is substantial, does the job (yes, I kicked a few rocks on purpose and by accident with the 315’s!) without being like an armor plate (i.e. the Montrail Hardrock).

The only issue I had with the 315’s was their lack of wet traction.  To get a sole material that would have a longer life the Inov-8 designers had to make is less grippy (hard/non-grippy soles last a long time, and soft/grippy rubber has a shorter life).  So, I also test-drove a pairof Roclite 318’s.  The 318’s are identical to the 315’s except for having a sticky sole material and a Gore-Tex lining.  Holy cow – the 318’s are really grippy on the wet and nasty rocks and roots!  Plus they are excellent for rain, puddles, and shallow stream crossings.

I’ve usually shied away from Gore-Tex shoes as they can be yucky in our hot and humid Southeast summers.  But, for cold to cool temps and wet slippery trails I think the 318’s will be part of my shoe collection for quite some time.

Two items of note about Inov-8 shoes: many of their models are not male or female specific.  The shoes are built on a ‘sex-neutral’ last.  This may mean a slightly wider heel then women are used to having.  But, with the heel locked into place with the lacing system, this does not seem to be a problem. Some of their shoes do come in a female-specific last, but many models are unisex. And, the second item of note is that both the 315 and 318’s were about a half-size too small for me.  I always wear metric 48’s, and needed 49’s.  Online reviews I read from
other users also had this same comment.

Overall I love the Inov-8 shoes.  On two occasions I’ve had long conversations with their customer service 800-number staff in Massachusetts, and they are knowledgeable, nice, and really know their product line.  The Roclite 315 and 318 GTX feel great, run with confidence on technical trails, and support my transition into a ‘less is more’ approach to running shoes.  And, they keep my toes happy with protection from rocks!

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