My passion for reviewing shoes continues this week as we look at the beefier and chunkier Roclite 295s from Inov8. The reason for trying this shoe was simple. I love the Talon 190s and the F-lite 195s, but for me they’re very much a racing shoe which I use for 50km and below.
So still in the pursuit of a perfect 100 mile shoe, I decided to do some serious research in the Inov8 range to see what was on offer. What I need is a shoe that has around 5mm-7mm of heel to toe drop, a chunkier sole for protection and also something that was much more heavy-duty on the upper too. The reason for more heel to toe drop is that over distances of 60kms in the shoe like the f-lite 195s, (which has 3mm I believe) is the achilles tend to get quite sore after seven hours on the trail.
I also wanted something with a little more grunt underfoot too. The soles of the 190s and the 195s are extremely thin, which again is fine for the shorter stuff, but for the longer stuff I do need a little more protection underfoot. So after quite a few hours of deliberation I plumped for the Roclite 295s.
The Top Line
Having worn Inov8 shoes regularly for a year now, I was pretty confident about taking these out of the box and just hitting the trail in them. The scene of my first jaunt in them was 50kms in the Blue Mountains along the Anderson fire trail from Wentworth Falls through to Woodford and I wasn’t disappointed. The most noticeable difference between these and the more minimal Inov8’s is the cushioning underfoot and more protective layer. The trail is pretty rocky once you turn off King Tablelands Road and onto Andersons. In a slight difference to the other Inov8’s I have, this shoe is wider around the mid-foot, so much so that I’m considering wearing two pairs of socks with these shoes as they do feel slightly looser, even though I have bought true to size.
I’m a big fan of these shoes and it’s fair to say that I jumped straight in at the deep end with them as my second outing in them was the Great Ocean Walk 100km race. This is a race that needs a heavier duty shoe which can cope with all the mud, water and sand on this course. They passed again with flying colours I feel and to the extent that they’re pretty much neck and neck with the Nike Frees as far as using them for GNW.
So let’s start with the name, Roclite 295s are called as such as with every other Inov8 shoe, the numbers represent the weight of the shoe in a UK size 8. Having started out pretty minimal with Inov8 shoes, I didn’t want a really bulky shoe that weighs the earth. I want the best of both world’s, a shoe that is protective, yet is still light and able to adapt to differing terrains of GNW, such as dense bush, dirt road, mud and bitumen. This shoe really fits that bill.
Moving to the sole, one of the big things for me is the flexibility of the shoe and being able to ‘scrunch’ it up that makes sense. I can’t stand shoes that have no give in them at all, and being a fore to mid foot striker, these shoes are again specifically designed to allow that to happen. Inov8 have what’s called ‘Meta-flex’ grooves, which basically means that the shoe will flex to your foot strike, allowing it to flow with your natural foot movement.
Another noticeable feature of the Roclites is the appearance of what seems to be ‘Talons’ that you see on the 190 model. These are indeed similar, but there is much more cushioning underfoot so that after around 50kms you don’t feel the Talons starting to press against your foot at all. These grip the trail incredibly well. In fact that grip the trail so well that about 5kms into the GOW100km as I came to land in a big muddy patch the shoe stayed firmly in the mud and my legs just carried on running. Running in mud with just a sock is not a great experience 5kms into a 100km race I can tell you. These little ‘Talons’ as such also have the Inov8 ‘sticky rubber’ on each of them, so when you’re running on slippery rocks, again you feel very confident that the shoe will stay there and you won’t end up with some flesh wounds from trying to impersonate the idiots from ‘Dancing on Ice’.
Up to the toe box and right around the front of the toe is a very hard and firm layer of rubber to protect the toes from rock strikes and alike. This is a novelty for me as I’m used to the flimsy Nike Frees giving me zero protection at all. Personally I don’t think I need it as I’ve become pretty adept to getting out of the way of rocks having worn the Nike Frees for the best part of 2.5 years, but still, for the wussies amongst us, it’s there 🙂 I think it also adds in a good layer of leech protection too for the GNW.
The mesh on the shoe is very lightweight, which I’m assuming goes someway to explaining why such a heavy-duty shoe is pretty light on the face of things. There is also what Inov8 describe as Met-Cradle lacing (see picture to the left), which means that the lacing is webbed all around the upper mesh to provide what is meant to be a more secure fit. Personally I don’t buy into this as I’ve bought true to my normal size and the shoes do feel slightly loose to me. I haven’t worn two pairs of socks yet with these shoes, but I do intend to I think as I don’t think these are anywhere near as ‘tight-fitting’ as some of its more lightweight cousins. But this is a good thing for something like a 100 miler where your feet invariably swell and you need the extra room. So maybe those second pair of socks will come off post 100kms into a 160km+ race.
Moving onto the heel, this was one area I had a few doubts on as I’m not a big fan of hardened solid heels and prefer as little structure as possible to it. Surprisingly however it was not an issue at all for me and it does feel very soft indeed. The heel to toe drop is also something that may surprise a few of your given the more minimalist shoes I’ve championed – 9mm to be exact. This is probably a little more than I would have liked, but it’s no biggie.
The Bottom Line
So is this the perfect 100 mile shoe? Personally I think so as it has everything you need. Its beefy and chunky but not over-bearing and heavy. It grips like a mother and suits across pretty much most terrains you can think of. It will protect your feet and it will adapt as a race goes on, allowing your feet room to move about if they swell. I wouldn’t wear them for the shorter stuff – that’s what the F-lite is for, but for 100kms+ where terrain differs and you need adaptability, this is certainly a bloody good shoe to have in your arsenal. I have a slight doubt about the fit and do wonder if I should go down half a size, but it’s not a massive consideration for me as I think a thin liner sock will sort this out fine. As for price, well it differs depending on where you go – just do you research.
As far as our star rating goes, I’ll give these 4out of 5. They’re a great solid shoe and if you want something that’s going to give you protection and all round control on the trail, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything that betters it. I’m certainly in a bit of an indecisive mode right now as to whether to wear these or the Frees for GNW. Hmmmmmm….