Inov-8 Roclite 305 Review

Inov-8 has been making the popular ROCLITE series of shoes since 2006. To usher in the next decade of designing versatile trail running shoes for perhaps an even wider audience of demanding trail runners, they revamped this series with fresh function and fit technology and are releasing five new models—the ROCLITE 290, 305, 305 GTX, 325, and 325 GTX. I tested the ROCLITE 305.

The Inov-8 ROCLITE 305 ($130) weighs in at 305 grams or 10.675 ounces but feels much lighter underfoot. It has my favorite 8mm drop with a stack of 22.5mm in the heel and 14.5mm in the forefoot, which means I still enjoy enough ground feel to keep me in tune with what is underfoot without feeling like I’m on marshmallows. The 6mm footbed is substantial enough to smooth the ride but is removable should you prefer.

Inov-8 Roclite 305

The Inov-8 ROCLITE 305. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Inov-8 ROCLITE 305 Upper

The upper has been created with different densities of mesh that is enhanced in three different ways. In the anterior zone in the forefoot, the more open mesh has a small repeated diamond pattern stitched in. After over 150 muddy and snowy miles, the only places this stitching has frayed is in the flex area for pushing off. The mesh itself is still in great condition and drains very well when the slush and goop gets in. Conversely, the mesh does an adequate job of keeping the dust and small debris out as well.

In the mid zone of the upper through the medial and lateral sides of the foot, a denser mesh has welded overlays that integrate with the upper’s ADAPTERWEB met-cradle system. This allows the shoe to cinch better through the midfoot, thus keeping the foot on top of the shoe when the footing gets wildly off camber. This system also gave me more confidence that my shoes would stay on in the shoe-sucking mud. The flat laces included with the shoes retained double knots well and rarely required a re-tie. The completely unobtrusive padded tongue is gusseted to the most proximal lace holes and stays perfectly in place over the miles.

The posterior portion of the upper has a contrasting, reinforced, dense overlay called the X-LOCK, which is designed to create a more snug fit at the heel as well enhance the external stability, which again assists in keeping one’s foot well connected to the shoe when footing is dicey. I’m a big fan of these new overlay technologies when I compare the fit of the ROCLITE 305 to the old Inov-8 Race Ultra 290, which I reviewed several years ago. My foot stays in the shoe, on top of the midsole, and has no ‘quick tip’ to the side if I hit the side of a rock or mucky root the wrong way.

Inov-8 Roclite 305 lateral upper

The Inov-8 ROCLITE 305 lateral upper.

Inov-8 ROCLITE 305 Midsole

The midsole is another place the updates in this shoe really shine. It has been updated with Inov-8’s new POWERFLOW technology, which the website states will provide 10% better shock absorption and 15% better energy return. I’m not great on calculating these types of percentages when I run, but I can say that 150 miles in, this shoe has just as much firm cushioning as I felt the day I took them for their inaugural outing. The responsiveness makes these shoes fun to wear whether on muddy, rooty singletrack or tilted slickrock. I also don’t think twice about wearing these if I know the run will have a fair amount of dirt-road connectors though I wouldn’t call them a ‘dirt-road shoe.’ This is a shoe you could easily take to a varied-terrain 50k or 50 miler in questionable weather and never once wish for a shoe change. I’m sure the same is true with 100 milers, but I’ve sworn off attempting those, so you’ll have to test it out for yourself and see.

I’ve always been a fan of Inov-8’s rock plate, but the second-generation META-SHANK continues to live up to my expectations without compromising the flexibility or lightness of the shoe. I’ve had nary a stone bruise thus far despite my best attempts.

Anyone who has read one of my reviews before knows my penchant for throughly testing the toe caps on my trail shoes. The toe cap on the ROCLITE 350 is excellent. It surrounds the entire front portion of the shoe with a strengthened rubber compound and then has one more thin wrapping of the welded overlay before the transition to the mesh forefoot. I’ve yet to stab a prickly-pear thorn or a pointy rock through these. The sturdy and highly durable compound also does not reveal how many times I’ve tried.

Inov-8 ROCLITE 305 Outsole

Outsoles are something I think Inov-8 has done well for a long time. New to this shoe is the addition of three different densities of their TRI-C STICKY rubber compound coupled with 6mm multidirectional claw-like lugs. The spacing is such that very little mud stays clogged between the lugs after a few steps. Even the worst clay the Colorado Front Range–where I train–has to offer only builds up to the lug depth before sloughing off. This is in contrast to some shoes that seem to collect the same clay until you’re two or three inches taller before it falls off in large clumps. The large pentagon-shaped lugs provide impressive traction in the mud, wet grass, sand, and boggy areas. Lacking the more pointy chevron shape made me a little less confident in the snow and slippery hard pack, but that’s just being picky. Even with this small lack of aggressiveness in the traction, they still make great Colorado Front Range winter shoes, and I would feel fine taking them up into the high country during the spring.

Where these shoes might really shine is in the Pacific Northwest (Orcas Island in February, anyone?), the desert Southwest, and anywhere I’ve run on the eastern portion of the U.S. Of course, they’d be a great choice for a run on Snowdon peak or through the fells of the U.K. or any similar location. If you can only have one shoe in your pack and you’ve got significant weather in your future, this might be the only shoe you’d need.

Inov-8 Roclite 305 outsole

The Inov-8 Roclite 305 outsole.

Overall Impressions

I’m really impressed by the Inov-8 ROCLITE 305. It’s a great all-around shoe with aggressive traction yet no lack of cushioning and rock-plate protection. It allows full-bore running without as much concern for foot placement over the rocks, roots, mud, and dry sections as well as in all types of weather. I really look forward to seeing how they hold up over the later miles of their lifetime.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you tried the Inov-8 ROCLITE 305 or any of the other models in the updated ROCLITE line? What are your impressions of that which you’ve worn?
  • What are your thoughts on the ROCLITE line as multi-purpose shoes that still try to specialize in tricky-substrate and bad-weather conditions? What kinds of terrain do they run best through? And what are their limits?
  • Do you have comments on any specific aspects of the ROCLITE 305? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

Inov-8 Roclite 305 view from the top

The Inov-8 Roclite 305 viewed from the top.

Kristin Zosel

is a mom, wife, ultrarunner, physical therapist (on sabbatical), and transcriptionist for iRunFar.com. Her love of steep uphills, high mountain environments, and Swiss “lovely cows” keep alpine visions dancing in her head and strong cappuccinos in her mug.

There are 18 comments

  1. Andy M

    Same as Sniff’s question. Also, I’ve been enjoying the Terraclaw 250 and had some success several years ago with a Roclite shoe (290?). But I’ve always found the Inov-8 shoes a bit “flat” feeling on the inside, i.e., very little under-arch support, even compared to some other low-stack, low-drop shoes. Any thoughts about the underfoot feel on the newly revised line? And, lastly, how’s the forefoot/toebox width- and height-wise? The Terraclaws are super roomy — some would say too much so. Thanks!

    1. Kristin Zosel

      I too could benefit from more arch support inside but it’s not so lacking that my foot is irritated. I think this could become more of an issue ina longer race though. It’s improved compared to the old Race Ultra 290 though.

      I think the roominess of the toebox is perfectly moderate–it’s not a snug soccer boot fit but it’s not sloppy either. More specifically, For me, it’s roomier and stretchier than most Salomons but less than most Altras. Perhaps this is somewhat like Pearl Izumi toe box (N and M series) but perhaps a bit more accommodating.

  2. Meghan Hicks

    Just thought I’d leave a long comment, as I’ve just gone through my first pair of Roclite 305’s and have started in on my second. I got more than 500 miles out of my first pair with a couple hundred of those miles on quite burly terrain. I’d call their durability outstanding.

    I’d also call the footprint overall narrow to medium, but more so in the heel and midfoot. There is a sensation that the toebox is roomier than the rest of the shoe, but I don’t think that’s because of the shoe’s footprint. I think it’s because of the shape of the toebox. The tall toecap rubber keeps the rest of the toebox’s material lifted off/away from the toes, which creates the sensation of a roomy toebox without increasing the overall footprint. I have low-volume feet on the narrow side of medium width, and the footprint is just perfect. I can imagine that people with wide feet and those who like a super roomy shoe will find these restricting.

    As others have said, the footbed feel is flat compared to other similar trail running shoes on the market. My arches are just on the high side of average. The effect for me is that the feet and lower-leg muscles have to work a little harder to maintain the foot’s form though all phases of the running stride as the shoe platform is less curved than the curves of my feet. I think also the firm midsole–that there isn’t a lot of cushioning relative to similar trail running shoes on the market–requires of the foot and lower legs more action so that cushioning comes from the body rather than the shoe. I found there to be an adaptation process, but I’ve found that my feet and lower-leg muscles have grown stronger. And now that I’m here in England’s Lake District and running on fells, the terrain for which Inov-8 started making shoes, I can understand why the footbed might be flatter. Tremendous foot strength and proprioception is required to run at the paces at which people run on the off-camber and soft terrain here. If you don’t have really strong feet already, fell running is going to come hard to you.

    As mentioned, the midsole material is a firm ride. Underfoot, it feels a lot like typical Salomon midsole materials. I think I would find the ride a little too firm for runs longer than 50k on hardpack terrain (I trained in these shoes on runs up to 25 miles on Moab, Utah’s very hard terrain before bringing them abroad and trying them on other sorts of trails.), but the miles come really easily when the substrate softens up. The midsole now makes perfect sense from a fell-running standpoint. The terrain here generally has a lot of give, so give in the midsole would be overkill/inefficient.

    The upper has a pretty tight fit in the heel and midfoot. I get superb lockdown, but the webbing through which the laces run provides just enough give that the tops of your feet don’t go numb, like I’ve sometimes gotten in other shoes when I tie the laces hard to get big lockdown for technical terrain. I do find that I have to readjust my laces after some hours of running on off-camber terrain, but I suspect that’s from the laces sliding out of their knots just a little rather than too much give in the webbing system. I say that because the laces are my least-favorite part of these shoes. They are too slippery for me, and come out of their knots too easily unless they get gunked up by moisture and dust or moisture and mud. Once gunked, they stay put, but that’s not ideal.

    The outsole is just fantastic, and I’m not surprised. That’s been the best part of Inov-8 shoes all along, I think. The lugging is aggressive by trail running terms, and at the edge of what one would need in fell running terms, it seems. The rubber is sticky, sticking to almost everything–including some (but not all) kinds of wet rock, which is downright miraculous. I’ve lost traction in these in three extreme situations: incredibly steep grass (steeper than typical fell running terrain even, a situation I don’t think many people would ever run on and if they did they would have traditional fell running shoes with taller lugs), algae-covered wet rock, and steep downhill with ball-bearing-size rocks over hardpack. Otherwise, it’s been super fun to learn to ‘trust’ these outsoles a lot more than I’d normally trust the outsoles of a trail running shoe. ‘Can I step on that? Yep. How about that? That works, too!’ There are other outsoles out there with sticky rubber like Inov-8s, but I’ve had lugs rip off in burly terrain because the rubber is a lot softer in order to get that stick. The effect of those other outsoles is 150 miles of awesomeness until I lose too many lugs/parts of lugs. Also, sticky rubber in outsoles usually means that the rubber wears fast. I got 500-plus miles out of my first pair of Roclites, and didn’t loose or damage a lug. I am retiring them because of overall lug wear down–I’ve lost half the height of the lugs and they no longer provide the same traction as they once did.

    I’m really happy with these shoes so far. I don’t think I, personally, can wear them in super hardpack terrain for ultra-distance runs. But I’m planning to wear them in a 24-hour outing on variable (and generally fairly soft) terrain very shortly here in England. They seem like a marriage of fell running and trail running shoes, trending more toward trail running shoes. I’m excited to take them up into the American alpine terrain later this year and see how they perform when trudging around in rotten snow, otherwise sloppy, soft alpine materials, and on our alpine rocks. The outsole is an incredible performer and the hands-down best part of this shoe.

    1. Michael Roberts

      Super helpful Meghan! Especially the midsole info. Do you have a pair/brand of shoes you really like for hard pack trails? That’s what I usually hike (Southern Utah and granite) and I’m looking for shoes with a little more cushioning than my current Salomons.

  3. Stephanie

    Hi, thank you for this great write up and to Meghan for her comments as well. I am a huge fan of the Inov-8 Roclites and have been wearing various versions of them since 2008. They are my go to shoe for steep, rocky descents on scree fields or any terrain that looks treacherous. I am considering purchasing this shoe for an upcoming race – the Bighorn 52M – to use specifically on the first 18 mile section which is a long decent known for its shoe-sucking mud. It seems like the perfect shoe for these conditions.

    My one and only issue with my Inov-8s over the years is that the lining on the heel seems to wear out really quickly. This may be a testament to the fact that I always use these shoes on the steepest of terrain, forcing my heel deep into the heel pocket during the uphill hiking. Sometimes the lack of lining is not an issue but sometimes it produces hot spots or blisters on my heels where normally this is not an issue. Could I be wearing these shoes wrong? (I order up by about a half size from my American running shoes and that seems to be the right fit, giving appropriate space in the toe box). Is this an issue for any one else? Has Inov-8 addressed this issue with the new release?

    Thanks!

    1. Kristin Zosel

      Thanks for this! I think they’d be great for Bighorn. I did forget to add I do wear a 1/2 size up compared to my Salomons, Montrails, and Pearls.

  4. Ben Nephew

    I’ve been testing for inov-8 since 2003, and had a few different versions of this shoe over the last two years.

    For anyone wondering about comparisons with other similar inov-8 models, the Trailtalon 275’s have more a curved last feel to the footbed and forefoot in general. If you just look at the side profile on the website, you can see this. The Trailtalons are also softer, and may be preferred if someone does more mileage on hardpack or dirt roads. They lack the traction of the roclite sole on loose substrate, and some of the protection in the forefoot, although they can still handle rough terrain. They just flex a bit more.

    The X-Claw 275’s also have a more curved feel and have better traction on loose terrain, but while not as narrow as the performance fit X-talons, they are narrower than the Roclites. They do not have as much forefoot protection.

    I have bone spurs on my heels and rip holes in the heel liners of most of my inov-8’s. I wasn’t sure if it was the bone spurs or the construction, but I’ve recently noticed a couple friends with bone spurs do the same thing with a number of other brands. The construction required for Goretex liners completely eliminates this issue. The inov-8 upper liners have been getting more durable, and for me, the holes become an issue around the time the midsole or upper is shot; it doesn’t tend to shorten the life of the shoe prematurely.

    I like to wear 9’s for ultras, but can wear 8.5’s. One thing to try to reduce the flat feeling is to put a extra footbed in, which doesn’t pose a fit issue for me in ultras.

  5. Amanda S

    Not holding front range clay – that’s what I like to hear! Even if there’s a tiny bit of moisture in the clay soils here, it seems like all my shoes grab that stuff and hang on for an added pound of weight. Would be great to try these out!

    1. Kristin Z

      It’s relative, right? The clay here has special sticking power but these don’t get tall–you don’t get tall, I guess I should say. It falls out quickly.

  6. Brendan Gilpatrick

    One of the few brands of shoes I have not run in is Inov-8 so it would be interesting to try these out. I have heard only good things regarding their tread/grip when running up and down rocks here in New England.

  7. Victor R.

    I bought the Roclite 290’s for my second 50 miler, Lost Boys 50 in San Diego. The race is point to point, starting off in the desert and climbing up to Cuyamaca Peak before finishing in Lake Cuyamaca. Despite the great variety of terrain in the race, these shoes never let me down and were in fact some of the most comfortable shoes I’ve raced in.

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