Our Favorite Trail Running Shoes
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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 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 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.
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!]