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Inov-8 Roclite 312 GTX Review

I’ve been wanting to try trail shoes from Inov-8 and I needed something that could handle every miserable condition for the Transrockies Run.  In the words of Leadville 100 founder Ken Choubler, “Hope Pass is a bad son of a bitch on a good day.”  I needed a shoe that was ready for battle.  And since I never pay full price for the latest model (the old model used to be the new model, right?), I chose the Inov-8 Roclite 312 GTX. 

Inov-8 Roclite 312GTXThe most obvious feature of this shoe is the eye-popping red color, which has been discontinued.  Maybe they decided it’s not very manly, but I don’t really mind, especially since all my trail shoes are generally covered in so much dirt the original color is barely discernable.  The clever insert that comes stuffed in the shoe claims the Roclite has a “radical design upper (that) provides excellent support while the fascia-band™ aids propulsion efficiency of the running cycle.”  The fascia-band claims to “replicate the plantar fascia ligament to increase propulsion efficiency and reduce fatigue.”  Hmm, really?  OK, if you say so.  Turns out a Google search for  “propulsion efficiency of running cycle” turns up the Brayton cycle (or Joule cycle)–the operation of a gas turbine engine ideal for jet propulsion engines.  It’s an unrelated connection but an ironically good metaphor.  These shoes feel like they generate their own power!

Roclite tread patternWhen it comes to traction, the Roclite is actually the middle of the road in the Inov-8 lineup.  The Mudroc, X-Talon and Mudclaw all have treads that make a tire on a backhoe look smooth.  The beefy tread and lug pattern on the Roclite is a cross between a snowmobile and  a pair of snowshoes.  I was afraid it would feel terribly uncomfortable but I was impressed with how smooth they felt across every kind of surface…except for asphalt.  You really don’t want to wear these on the road.  It seems almost counter-intuitive for a company that bases their designs on optimizing the natural biomechanics of the 26 bones and multi-directional joint systems of the foot would end up with a shoe that looks suitable to wear on the moon.  But at 312 grams (numerical designation = weight), these shoes are nimble, versatile and responsive.

My favorite feature is the generous toe box, which becomes more important the longer the running distance.  I have yet to try these for an ultra distance but I’m looking forward to it.  I was a bit concerned about the somewhat low profile.  I know that’s the trend in trail shoes, but I’m not sure shoe manufacturers are fully considering how a custom orthotic changes the higher position of the foot in the shoe.  So far it hasn’t been a problem. 

The only thing I haven’t quite figured out is how to wear my gaiters with these shoes.  The laces start fairly high up on the shoe, which means the back of the gaiters need to be velcroed way at the bottom of the heel to keep the trail out.  Pretty sure they don’t think about gaiter fit when they design these things.  Speaking of laces, these shoes are designed with an innovative loop lock lacing system to secure the heel and forefoot.  It also locks off the lacing while distributing pressure across the top two eyelets.  roclite-312-GTX blackThe crazy thing about Inov-8 is the sizing, so don’t forget this is a Brittish company.  Sizing is not what you would expect.  I generally wear size US 12.5 road running shoes and size 13 trail shoes.  I felt like an NBA player ordering size 14 but they are exactly the same size as my size 13 Vasque trail shoes. 

Aside from proper training, nothing makes me feel more prepared for an epic run than a great pair of trail shoes.  With my Roclites,  I’m ready to handle whatever Leadville has to dish out.

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