Inov-8 names its shoes like European cars. Take a BMW 318, which stands for the 3 Series with a 1.8 liter engine. The model and numbers used are not just flashy names, they actually mean something. Similarly, with Inov-8’s Roclite 295 we have the Roclite tread on a shoe that weighs 295 grams in total for US men’s size 9. The women’s version of the 295, the Roclite 268, follows the same naming convention. The Roclite 295 from Inov-8 is now on its third update since the shoe first hit the market about 2 years ago. The initial release featured a bland blue and grey upper and the endurance rubber outsole. The second revision of the 295 stayed the same from the tongue all the way down to the midsole but then swapped out the endurance rubber for the sticky rubber tread. Now, in it’s third and current version, we find the sticky rubber has stayed but there has been a new flashier black and lime green color scheme as well as some more tightly woven mesh update to the uppers. So, does this low profile trainer from England perform like a luxury sports car? Check out the video below for a detailed overview or hit the text for the basics.
[Editor’s Note: The video has been lost to the ether.]
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The Roclite outsole is one of the most versitile in the Inov-8 line. Hardpack, sand, gravel, road, technical single track, snow, mud, you name it and this tread pattern will be up to the challenge. Is it the best for all of those conditions? No, but if you are unsure of the road (or trail) ahead, the Roclite line is an admirable choice.
The tread pattern is quite simple. Small lugs up at the tip of the toe act like little teeth when climbing. Medium and large lugs make up the midfoot and heel portions of the bottom of the shoe. These lugs are bi-directional, too, aiding in climbing and descending. The sticky rubber compound is used here, which does a few things. One, it provides tackiness when wet. Two, it is more flexible than the endurance rubber compound which aids in traction. Three, the softer rubber aids in more shock absorption. However, the sticky rubber does wear down quicker than the endurance rubber. How much quicker? While I can’t say for sure I can say that the upper of my 2nd generation 295’s wore out before my tread even looked close to retirement.
In the portion of the shoe lacking any lugs we find 3 bands that connect to a lug in the center of the heel and run vertically, fanning out along the middle then connecting to the 3 center lugs behind the ball of the foot. This is the Facia Band. The Facia Band is supposed to replicate the plantar fascia ligament in your foot, thereby aiding in forward propulsion and reducing fatigue. Does it work? I don’t know. I have worn these shoes for lots and lots of training miles and ran some 50k’s in them and do not feel beat up afterward, but I’ve also worn shoes without a Facia Band for training and racing without issue. We can chalk this one up to compression sleeves and chia seed theories. If it works for you, go with it.
Now, let’s poke around on the rock plate. Instead of the full length, solid piece of plastic or hard rubber that makes up a rock plate found on many trail running footwear, the Meta Shank starts under the middle of the foot as a solid piece of flexible plastic-like material then fans out individually like fingers or in this instance, toes. The goal is to provide protection under each of your toes while still allowing your foot to flex naturally.
Lastly, Meta Flex. This is a groove that runs horizontal behind your toes and creates a flex point in the outsole. This feature lets your foot bend and.. well, flex, like it normally does in toe off. It provides for a broken-in feeling right out of the box. A lot of Inov-8 models have this feature and I’ve found it to cause a weak point in the upper just above where the Meta Flex groove is located.
In true Inov-8 fashion, the midsole on the 295 is not about what it has, it is about what it lacks. You will not find anything special going on here. A single density foam is used all the way around. There is not any progressive, multi-density, stability cages, or any other fancy terms here (all those terms must have been used up in the outsole). Inov-8 uses an arrow system to describe the amount of cushioning and how close to the ground you get. This model uses the 3 arrow cushioning, which makes it good for training or long distances on the trail as well as being light and low enough to feel fast. A 16mm heel and and 7mm forefoot makes for a 9mm drop to keep you low to the ground.
The toe box is ample enough to let your piggies wiggle and even swell a bit, but not so big that you feel like they are swimming in there. The toe bumper is made from flexible rubber that adds structure as well as puncture resistance, but it’s not bomb proof. The more dense rubber from the outsole does wrap up from the bottom a bit to add a little more toe protection at the apex of the shoe.
The upper is made from tight-weave mesh. This style of mesh is a update from the previous 295’s that used a more open design that was more prone to snags and potentially less durable. Here Inov-8 uses the Meta Cradle technology to secure the foot. The Meta Cradle is a series of fabric bands layered over the mesh upper. The bands start at the base of the upper goes up to create a loop for the laces then diverts down to attach down again at the base of the shoe in an arch shape. This arch pattern is repeated 4 times intersecting each other and creating a web of support to hold the foot in place. All of the laces on the shoe are created from these Meta Cradle except for the top two eyelets which are more standard fare.
The heel has structure, but lacks a rigid hard counter. It can be collapsed by pushing on it but provides enough structure to lock your heel in and feel stable. The ankle cuff is low. The first time you try it on it feels weird because your heel is not sitting as low as what you might be used to. This is by design. The idea is to not interfere with your Achilles tendon when descending.
Inov-8 has created a mashup by combining its historically more narrow platform of the Roclite with the comfortable upper of the classic fell runners like the Flyroc and Terroc. What you end up with is a nimble trail runner capable of tackling a variety of surfaces in a lower than average weight.
Call for Comments
We’d love to hear what folks who’ve worn the Roclite 295 think of the shoe. For those who haven’t, feel free to ask any questions you may have.