Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Shoe Review: Inov-8 RocLite 295

Written by Richard Bolt
This shoe review review was made possible by Trail Runner Magazine. Portions of this review were published in Trail Runners annual Fall shoe review issue.

Testing Environment:
A good all around trail shoe deserves an equally good all conditions test. With that in mind I tested the Inov-8 RocLite 295 on pavement, dry dirt, mud, water, loose gravel and snow.........all in one day. Where might you ask is this possible? Early Summer on Mt Hood is an excellent venue for all conditions. Specifically at the site of the annual Mt. Hood Scramble and self-proclaimed "grand-daddy of filth". Park at the White River West Snow Park and lace-em if you got-em. State road 35 offers an easy paved warm-up for your legs and for the well built RocLite 295. Peel off the road's shoulder and venture into the sand and gravel to tempt the tread and show off your tractive capabilities. Venture futher still and traverse well packed late season snow where temptation ends and real challenge begins. The RocLite 295 likes the snow; its slim profile minimizes surface area and pushes blocky lugs deep into the granular snow for maximum traction. Move down to the White River and run the loose gravel banks along the water and feel the open tread pattern easily clear clumps of muck. Need to clean-up a bit? Cross the cold mountain run-off of the White River and notice how water drains nicely from the shoe. Repeat this cycle as much as you dare - no doubt your legs will cry "uncle" long before the Inov-8 295 comes apart at the seams.

Initial Impressions: As the descendant of the original World Championship winning shoe, the RocLite 295 offers light weight, superb traction and a trim fit. While many trail shoes are bulky, overbuiltroad shoes, the RocLite 295 has been built from the ground up as a specialists off road running and racing shoe.
Ideal Terrain and Conditions: While the RocLite 295 is clearly best adapted for off-road use, it is still a very comfortable and runnable shoe for the roads. The medium depth blocky tread and soft outsole offer a stable and cushioned road ride. While not ideal for road use, it's by no means uncomfortable to traverse a couple miles of road on the way to your favorite trail. Most trail runners will find the tread pattern just fine for very muddy conditions. For those runners who require extreme traction or who live in a bog, think about upgrading to the Inov-8 MudClaw.

Best Features: Fit and out-sole. With its' narrow last and trim mid-sole, the RocLite 295 might not be good for all runners, but for those who like that fit, it's a wonderfully comfortable shoe with excellent ground feel. To maximize this excellent feel for the trail, Inov-8 has given the RocLite 295 an open and blocky tread that grips well in snow as well as mud and carves up twisty singletrack with outstanding lateral stability. Speaking of stability, many trail shoes loose it when they get wet. Not the RocLite 295; with its solid upper construction and laces deep into the toe box, you can be assured that a secure dry fit will be a solid wet fit as you cross, mud, water or snow.

Worst Features: With this and other Inov-8 shoes I've found the low cut upper around the heel and ankle to be a magnet for little stones and sand. It's not that I expect gaiter like protection, but I often find myself flicking gravel out of the shoe before it works it's way down to my heel and out of reach.

Overall Rating: I talk with many runners who are reluctant to buy trail shoes because they feel they are too specialized. For them I would recommend the RocLite 295 precisely because it can be used in so many off road conditions. It's a light shoe, but no too light. It has fantastic grip in most all conditions but is still usable on the roads. Finally, when cleaned up, the subtly branded Inov-8 RocLite 295 in its low-key color scheme looks perfect with a pair of nice jeans and your favorite shirt for a night on the town.

Final Thoughts: Inov-8 makes the winningest shoes at the World Mountain Running Trophy and the RocLite 295 builds on that experience to provide even the first time trail runner with a solid shoe that will provide confidence in all conditions. With over a dozen models of dedicated trail shoes to choose from, the Inov-8 product line may seem daunting to navigate, but if you choose this shoe, you won't be disappointed and who knows, you might just be tempted to add a few more trail tools to your box of trail tricks.

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