Continuing its tradition of well-engineered, form fitting, lightweight trail shoes Inov-8 has retooled and rereleased the Roclite 285 for another year. Over the years I have had the opportunity to place my feet in many a minimalist trail shoe. However, this will be my first experience with a pair of Inov-8’s, and I must say they definitely have a feel, shape and aggressiveness that separates them from anything that I have run in thus far. So, that being said my interest was peaked and I was excited to go and explore – here are my findings.
Inov-8 Roclite 285 First impressions:
When I first received the 285 and opened the box it was very apparent that these were a minimalist shoe. They have a very slender midsole with a very low drop. They thing that also jumped out at me right away was the narrow toe box, and huge lugs on the outsole they eerily mimic a soccer cleat. Initially I definitely had my concerns about not only my toes but how those lugs would handle the rocky and varied terrain that I tend to run in.
Inov-8 Roclite 285 Upper:
First, since I have made it clear that the toebox of this shoe might be questionable let’s begin there. The Roclite 285’s toe box is definitely slender and narrow, but after my first outing in the shoe my apprehensions were laid to rest. I do think that the toe box was slightly restrictive, but with the help of the flexibility of the shoes materials it was not constrictive. What I appreciate about the narrow long design, along with the rubber toe cap, was its ability to protect my toes. This was accomplished by it limiting my foots ability to slide forward in the shoe against the front of the toebox, and also the rubber toe cap to absorb and transfer impact forces of oncoming rocks, roots, etc. etc.
The upper of the shoe is constructed of a 3D hexagonal weaved mesh. This provided superb flexibility and breathability making this an excellent warm weather shoe. The fit of this upper is snug and the welded overlays help to secure your foot nicely in the shoe. This sung fit along with a simple oval lacing system gave me no slippage or discomfort issues ever.
Inov-8 Roclite 285 Midsole:
The 285 midsole begins with a moderately thick layer of standard EVA foam. This provided a firm and simple layer of cushioning while maintaining the shoes overall flexibility. The shoe has a 6mm drop which definitely kept me more in touch with the ground, and had a racing flat type feel. All of this lead to a greater running efficiency than I have experienced with a more cushioned shoe; I was able to feel more in tune with the surface and could change my speed up or down as the inclination of the trail transitioned. The only down side of this midsole that I found was that any distance greater than 10 miles and my feet would start to feel beat up.
Inov8 incorporates their Fascia band that runs the length of the midsole. I found the band in no way to limit the flexibility of the shoe, and provided a nice little energy release when ascending steeper terrain.
Inov-8 Roclite 285 Outsole:
The treads of the outsole are aggressive and brawny resembling a soccer cleat. These gnarly treads harnessed with the shoes super flexibility make it one of the best tractioned shoes that I have ever ran in on loose or soft terrain. The sticky rubber compound that sponges its technology from climbing shoes gave me total confidence when scrambling over or pivoting off of rocks or tree roots.
The only downside that I found to this outsole was the lack of a rock plate. I especially noticed this after taking some wicked pokes to when bombing downhill.
Inov-8 Roclite 285 Opinion:
The Rocllite 285 is a terrific design. The narrow lightweight nimbleness of it make this shoe perfect for shorter technical races especially those that require a lot of ascending. I appreciated how the shoe kept me light and quick on my feet giving me unweilding confidence on trails that required careful foot placement.