My very first “lightweight” hiking shoe was the Inov-8 Roclite 295 back in 2010. I’m amazed to see how far trail running shoes have come in that period of time, and I’m even more amazed at their adoption in the hiking community. Inov-8 shoes were all the rage back in 2010, but Inov-8 spent the next few years getting dwarfed by companies like Altra, Hoka, and Salomon. Back in 2010, “barefoot” running was the market driving trend, and Inov-8 was able to capitalize on this with the ideology of your foot controlling the shoe, and not the shoe controlling the foot. Hoka’s oversized running shoes and “maximalism” all but killed that minimal movement, and stunted the growth of many companies that rode it’s wave to profits (ie. Newton). Inov-8 was able to stay alive during this time and thrive due to it’s growth in the Crossfit market, but seemed to struggle with it’s trail offerings. With this new Roclite 305, Inov-8 seems poised to push on in the trail running space.
This new Inov-8 Roclite 305 is the first Inov-8 shoe that has me excited in quite some time. Inov-8 was founded in 2003 by Wayne Edy, and released some incredible products under his stewardship. In 2012, a company called Livingbridge invested in Inov-8 for a minority stake in it’s ownership. In my opinion, Inov-8 took a turn downhill under Livingbridge’s investment. In 2015, Livingbridge was bought out by Japanese company Descente. Ever since this buyout, I have noticed an overall increase in the quality and designs for Inov-8 footwear. The future is looking bright, and I think the new Roclite 305 will play a roll in Inov-8’s revival in the trail running space.
Fit and Feel:
I purchased the Inov-8 Roclite 305 in my standard size 12.5, and it fits perfectly. Inov-8 names their shoes based on a weight for size 9 (305 grams). My size 12.5 comes in at 361 grams, or 12.76oz. The inside of this shoe is very well constructed with no noticeable seams to create hotspots. The toebox is comfortable and spacious, high in volume, above average in width. The midfoot fits with precision due to the AdapterWeb lace eyelet wraps. The heel has a structured counter and welded overlay that Inov-8 calls X-Lock. The counter is more soft than firm, and fits a little less snug than I like my heels to fit. I don’t feel any slippage when walking, but I do notice a touch of ‘side to side’ action with lateral movements and angled cuts.
The Roclite 305 comes with a plush and very high quality insole, which is not always guaranteed with an expensive trail shoe these days…I’m looking at you Salomon Wings and Hoka Clayton! There is only the slightest touch of support under the arch, and it is provided by the insole, not the shoe. The Roclite 305 has a great deal of flexibility in the toe-off, due to Inov-8’s Meta-Flex groove. From the arch back to the heel, the shoe remains stable and torsionally structured due to the Meta-Shank II rock protection.
The upper of the Roclite 305 is a breathable mesh layered on top of the AdapterWeb midfoot skeleton wrap. The breathable mesh fabrics used on the upper seem to be very durable, but only time will tell. As I mentioned with the fit, the AdapterWeb provides a very secure and precise wrap throughout the midfoot without feeling constricting. There is also a series of welded overlays to work with the AdapterWeb to provide structural support throughout the upper.
The Roclite 305 has a fully gusseted tongue to keep out dirt and debris. The AdapterWeb wrap cords are also the lace eyelets for the first four lace rows. There is a little too much fabric on the upper of the toebox that causes a slight bit of creasing and a pouch when laced tightly. I can say that it’s nothing uncomfortable after a first few outings, but still worth noting. The laces on the 305 are nicely textured and stay in place very well.
The breathable mesh upper comes in two pieces, with the more ventilated mesh coming in the forefoot. This design choice makes for a very breathable shoe. The main toe guard is semi-rigid and should do an adequate job of protecting the toes from rocks and roots. There is an additional bit of welded overlay on the toebox that goes past the toeguard to provide some seep-through protection on wet or muddy trails.
The midsole on the Roclite 305 is made of Inov-8’s Powerflow compound, which is used in their Crossfit shoes as well. Powerflow is a firm, stable, and responsive midsole compound that is great for running fast and far. I tend to prefer a midsole a touch softer, as the ride on firm midsoles can be a bit harsh as I rack up the miles. I do love the responsiveness and inherent stability of the Powerflow though, so pick this up if you like a firmer ride.
The Roclite 305 is built on an 8mm drop with 24mm in the heel and 16mm in the forefoot. Inov-8 labels these shoes as a two arrow rating, on their three arrow scale (three being the most cushioned). For rock protection, Inov-8 uses their Meta-Shank II technology, which starts in the arch and extends in a five-finger fashion into the forefoot.
“Multi finger polymer Meta-Shank™ aligns with each individual metatarsal for increased underfoot impact protection and flexibility.”
The new outsole design on the Roclite series of shoes should provide excellent grip and shed mud easily with it’s deep and widely spaced lugs. The lugs should also provide great traction due to the large amount of surface area provided on each cleat. To aid with traction, Inov-8 uses their Tri-C outsole compound, providing three different rubbers underfoot. This places the stickiest rubber on the forefoot (black), slightly less sticky rubber in the heel (bright red), and a firmer rubber around the medial ridge (dark red). The beauty of the Tri-C is that it provides sticky rubber where you need it, and highly durable firm rubber in the high wear areas.
The Inov-8 Roclite 305 is a very solid shoe for trail running and light hiking. I think the uppers and outsoles will work for a lot of people. The midsoles will be what drive most decisions. If you’re looking for a responsive ride on a stable platform with great toe flexibility, this will be your go to shoe.
Are you interested in the Inov-8 Roclite 305? Let me know your thoughts below.