Last year, I bought a couple pairs of Inov8 shorts that are great for my long runs, as I can securely stash my phone in the back pocket.
I was eager to test out the Inov8 Roclite trail shoes to see whether they also were a solid fit for my running needs. It did not take me long to realize that the Roclites ($120) were also a perfect fit.
Inov-8 Roclite 290 General Info
I prefer a minimal drop shoe and the Roclite’s 4mm drop is a great match. But it wasn’t just the drop that I liked.
The shoes have superior traction — I tested them on regular dirt trails, muddy sections and other spots that were filled with stones, roots and branches.
In fact, I also pushed the Inov8s through a section covered with leaves, downed branches and limited visibility — just my headlamp — and the shoes responded effectively and efficiently as I navigated through the changing terrain.
During one of my testing runs, I did several loops around the local cross-country course after a series of rainstorms. Perhaps what impressed me most about the Roclites is how well they gripped both dry and wet terrain.
It did not matter whether I was bounding up a soaked grassy hill, zooming down a wet rocky area or zipping through a muddy section.
The Roclites provided superior gripping, allowing me to speed through more quickly than I have in other shoes in similar conditions.
Here’s a fun fact about shoes made by Britain-based Inov8. The shoe model’s number — in this case 290 — is the weight, 290 grams or 10.15 ounces. The lightness plays well in the shoe, giving the user the ability to hit top speeds.
Inov-8 Roclite 290 Sole Unit
The superior gripping ability is thanks to the shoe’s 6mm multi-directional lugs, which look and act like claws.
There is decent room separating the lugs, which allows for clean gripping on mud, dirt, grass, rocks and whatever else the trail offers.
Inov8 uses a Tri-C rubber outsole that provides the security when propelling oneself of a wet rock dry branch, or other track obstacles.
Best of all about the outsole is that is quickly sheds mud and other trail materials, allowing for cleaner runs in murky conditions.
It also has a solid, rubbery toe bumper to protect the foot from invariable toe stubbing on rocks. Fortunately, I didn’t test how much cushioning protects the toes against jaggedy rocks but it feels like it would provide adequate protection.
The Rocklite 290’s Powerflow midsole is built to provide better shock absorption and energy return. I found that even after tough runs, my legs recovered quickly.
While Inov8 built the Roclite with a midsole rock plate (MetaShank), it does not provide as much protection underfoot than many other shoes in its category.
That is perhaps my biggest criticism of the shoe, and the main reason why I would hesitate to wear it during ultra marathons over 50 miles or those on significantly technical trails. But even for 50Ks on moderate trails, the Roclites will be a top performer.
Inov-8 Roclite 290 Upper Info
The Roclite’s high-quality inner construction is comfortable and flexible. A mesh upper and rubberized overlays protect the top of the foot.
Inov8 prides itself on how its “Adapterweb” foot cradle system supports the foot and the Y-Lock system that holds it into place. The laces work well to tighten the shoe comfortably and securely.
The interior liner is also comfortable. After 50 miles, I had no experience with rubbing, pinching or other irritations.
I am not sure why Inov8 dropped the gusseted tongue from the 290 (they are available in the similar, but slightly heavier 305 version). It’s an interesting tradeoff — a better tongue for slightly more weight.
Inov-8 Roclite 290 Conclusions
The Roclites are among my favorite trail running shoes, neck and neck with the Brooks Mazamas. For those who like superior cushioning, wider toe boxes or a vastly different drop, the Roclites are probably not for you.
The responsive Roclites stand out because of their design for speed, gripping power, drop and comfort. All of those assets work well to propel me down the trail and through challenging terrain at a speed that is race worthy.
The one caution I will be exercising is not to use the Roclites for too many regular or easy training runs.
I want to be able to turn to them when I need a quality workout/long run and for upcoming races where their superior speed, nimbleness and gripping ability will help me excel.
We purchased a pair of Inov-8 Roclite 290 from runningwarehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.