Inov-8 Roclite 312 GTX Review

Inov-8When I opened the shoebox and took out the Inov-8 Roclite 312 GTX, my son (age three) shouted “Daddy, put on your Spiderman shoes and let’s play”! Make no mistake, these shoes would not be out of place on Peter Parker’s alter ego, and you may catch a bit of flak from your aesthete friends. But if you live in a cold, snowy, wet place, it just may all be worth it.

I have to admit, looking at the website before I unboxed the shoe, I was worried that this would be one of those “running” shoes so laden with gewgaws and unnecessary thingamabobs that it would be stiff, heavy, complicated, and blister-causing. That couldn’t have been farther from the truth. These mothers are sleek. The outer surface is smooth and seems almost slippery; maybe that translates into a few fewer ounces of mud clinging to your feet at the end of a run. I do know that the shoes are literally clean after a slushy 45-minutes on dirt roads today. More generally, all the extras don’t really feel, well, extra, if that makes any sense. This is a shoe that feels well-designed. Thoughtful. Simple.

Inov-8 Roclite 312 GTXMore important, on the foot these shoes feel firm and nimble. Despite the pronounced, deeply-lugged tread, they felt pretty low-profile. The heel cup is narrow (fortunately, so’s my heel) and even the sole of the shoe is noticeably narrower than many American offerings. I like this, but you may not. I’ve always felt that the American shoes with the huge wide soles were just trying to help me out to much in the stay-on-my-feet derby. This shoe leaves you to your own devices a bit more, and I like that. Also, it’s worth noting that these run small. They’re the only shoe in which I’ve had to go up to a US 9.5. (I’ve always been a 9, with occasional downward forays to 8.5)

The toebox is another distinguishing characteristic. Unlike most shoes I’ve worn, the front of the shoe is nearly vertical: the toebox has plenty of space vertically for crowded toesies. Thus, although the shoe looks narrow (I was worried about this on first inspection, as I don’t have a lotta toenails unscathed at this point), there is actually ample space up there for warm socks, hammer toes, Morton’s toes, whatever you got.

But the best thing about the Roclite 312 for me (and anyone else familiar with the term “mud season”) is the traction. Or should I say TRRRRACTION? Seriously. I’ve never felt quite so confident on mushy, slushy ground as I do in the 312. This is, no doubt, due to the deep, widely-spaced lugs. Mud and slush don’t get caught in the large gaps between lugs, like they sometimes do in my other trail shoes (the Asics 2130TR being the biggest offender). I haven’t tested these in pure mud yet, but it’s hard to imagine anything short of cement filling up these gaps and staying there. They are (pardon my British) ruddy brilliant on the snowmobile trails I frequent here in central Vermont, too.

Inov-8 Roclite 312 GTX sole tractionThe Roclite 312’s forefoot sole
(click to enlarge)

But Inov-8 giveth and Inov-8 taketh away: my only gripe with the shoes (truly, my only gripe) is that I sometimes felt like I could sense each individual lug hitting the ground. The effect is particularly pronounced on pavement or solid-frozen ground; on mud or slush that knobby-tire sensation was just plain wonderful.

The 312s also raise a question, which I can’t answer yet (maybe you, the readers, can): whether the net effect of GORE-TEX® in a running shoe is wetter or drier feet. Most of my runs in the 312 have taken place in fairly moderate temperatures (about 0C/32F or so) and my feet get a bit more sweaty than they do in my other shoes. And, given that these shoes aren’t all that high, it seems like water can still sneak in through the top. And once it’s in the shoe, it can’t get out (right?). Does all that add up to wetter feet in dry conditions (due to sweat) and wetter feet in wet conditions (due to water sloshing around inside the admirably waterproof GTX booty)? Any Pacific Northwest trail mavens out there with any insight?

Anyway, my bottom line is that this shoe scores pretty high on the “fun to wear in rugged conditions” meter. The traction is tops, the fit is snug but forgiving, the cushioning is ample without being pillowy. Even my toenails like them. And, if you have a toddler, the Inov-8 Roclite 312 GTX (if you can get a pair before they change the colors) just might turn you into a superhero.

Bring on mud season!

Additional Information
Bryon Powell here. Thought I’d add a few technical notes and numbers to Gavin’s excellent review.

First off, per Inov-8’s autumn/winter 2009 catalog, the Roclite 312 is Inov-8’s lightest men’s running shoe with a waterproof membrane. (The forthcoming women’s Roclite 275 GTX appears be the 312’s pretty twin sister.) Unsurprisingly, the Roclite 312 GTX lists at 312 grams (10.9 oz) per shoe for a US men’s size 9. That said, iRunFar’s test pair, a US’s men’s 9.5, weighed in at a significantly heavier 343 grams per shoe. Perhaps we got a randomly heavy pair, our scale was really feeling gravity’s pull that day, or we just forgot to take out the paper stuffing, but there’s no way that a half size up should add over an ounce to the weight of a shoe. Regardless of what our scale says, the shoe wasn’t “heavy” by any stretch.

Second, all you guys out there who want spidy powers, you’d better pick up your Roclite 312’s in the next few months. Inov-8 has come to the conclusion (whether right or wrong) that some folks are intimidated by the coloration of these fire engines for your feet. Word is that the next iteration of the Roclite 312 will be a tamer navy and yellow combination. The women’s Roclite 275 GTX that we saw were a pleasant silver with lime accents.

Call for Comments

  • Have you used the Roclite 312? If so, what did you think?
  • How did it do at keeping your feet dry in wet conditions?>
  • How was the traction in mud?
  • How did the shoe feel on roads?

[Disclaimer: Purchases made through the Amazon links in this article help support iRunFar.]

There are 11 comments

  1. martine

    solution is simple, use a drymax sock and if you feet get wet, it gets dry fast.i run on the inov8 shoes and went to deep water without a problem with the drymax socks!

  2. dogrunner

    Thanks for the review.I don't have the 312 GTx, but I've been running in the 318 GTX for a couple of years – I'm on my 2nd pr, these have over 600 miles on them, I obviously like them – they work as advertised. I wear them during mud season (spring thaw) and also for snowshoe running.They are by far the lightest waterproof running shoe I've ever worn and the key thing to me is that they feel closest to a regular shoe of any wp shoe I've worn – i.e., not excessively stiff. My regular shoes, for the record, are the Inov8 roclite 295 and roclite 315.Bottom line – they work as advertised.Do my feet get wet – not really. If I'm running in deep mud or snow I wear stretchy gaitors (minigaitors is the company) that keep a lot of crud etc out. Without those, I'm sure water would get trapped inside. The big advantage for me to goretex shoes is keeping feet dry during cold temps. Not necessary so much in summer, but essential in fall-spring in my neighborhood. I wear smartwool socks and no problem with moisture accumulation (and I have sweaty feet). YMMV.

  3. Anonymous

    I live in Oregon and do a fair amount of muddy wet trail runs. I have tried numerous waterproof shoes and never been happy. I would much rather personally choose a well draining shoe. If the shoe is waterproof it also must have a gaitor, and then, it will be just a cold weather shoe (snow running), or overheating will be a much larger issue.just my 2 cents

  4. Andrew

    I use them for winter running when sweating really isn't a concern. I would not use them in the summer as they would be way to hot for me. I would not recommend too many miles on the road, the rubber is really sticky – good for rocks and such but wears quickly on the road. They are a nice "niche" shoe to have in the arsenal.

  5. flanker

    I also tend to go for easy-draining roclites rather than waterproof ones on the basis that water will always find a way in, so I'd like it out as fast as possible.my current favourite winter shoe for snow/meltwater running is the 320 roclite. It drains well and my feet seem to stay warm in them, and being more heavily cushioned they are more comfortable on frozen ground and road (although tarmac still wears away the soft rubber quite quickly even though it is supposedly inov-8's harder sole compound)

  6. Ron

    I ran with them twice now in warm and hot weather. The first day it was dry and the shoes were no problem. Today it was after a rain and the trail was damp and the grass wet, and after about 10 miles my feet were squeaking in wet insoles. Most annoyingly, after 13.4 miles it felt like none of it had drained out. Afterward I took the noisiest shoe off and I could actually see a small pool of water in there–from the sweat and from whatever moisture got in there.

    I had coolmax socks on–they were soaked.

    My only real complaints about the inov-8 shoes that I've worn is that my feet heat up in them like in no other shoe brand. (Well, too, the trail lugs are absolutely great for the trail soil, but hit a wet rock…and slipperoo….). These are even worse than the others that I own in the heat up category.

    Otherwise, really, really great shoes–lots of padding on the bottom, but they don't feel that heavy and they aren't clunky at all. Much better than the other shoe company offerings. And they grip the soil great.

    I think that I'll get a pair of the 305s and leave these for the winter.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Ron, GORE-TEX shoes won't drain. There's a membrane barrier that blocks liquid water getting in. Same thing happens in the reverse direction. There is a degree of vapor permeability, which can let a degree of sweat out, but not a shoe full of water. You'd have the same issue with a GORE-TEX shoe from any other company. Just part of the trade off. You should be much happier with the heat/water characteristics of the 305 in summer.

  7. rogergamper

    Thanks for the review. I am looking to do my second snow run this year and I have been reading several reviews about Goretex shoes. Several of them made the same experience as you and said that the effect of Goretex can be contra-productive. I could not tell if it is better to use a GTX shoe on snow or not. If there is powder snow, a shoe like the Salomon Snowcross or the LaSportiva Crossover GTX can do the trick. I plan am going to try the Oroc 280 which has DRW instead of GTX. It should be good in harder snow and light ice. I will also try them with gaiters on in deeper snow.

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