When 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.
More 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.
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!
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.]