Okay, I’m just going to say straight off. Great shoe.
Here’s what they look like new, I didn’t take a photo of mine fresh from the box so I’ve snipped this of the Inov-8 website
The first thing I noticed was how the laces seem to go further down towards the front of the shoe than normal, this reminded me of a hiking boot, or more specifically a climbing shoe. On slipping the 295 on I was really taken by the high levels of comfort a nice plush feel, with a cavern like toebox, wide and high. As I reclined in my arm chair and reached for my pipe I was wondering if these would really be my thing?
My first mistake was assuming like all of my other shoes that I’d be better off without the insoles in. I ran in them sans insole for about 3 months, putting up with toe banging slippage on the descents and a sloppy feel and resigned myself to the fact that these shoes would be set a side for long distance use only, not for racing.
But of course I did race in them, last years Montcalm Marathon, and a shorter 20km trail race, where they worked out okay, apart from the aforementioned slippage issues.
So in the end I realised that It wouldn’t hurt to put the insoles back in and see what they felt like – the problem was, where were the insoles? My girlfriend, with all her best intentions, is a great tidy-up-er, the only thing that lets this immensely positive attribute down is her long term memory. “Where did you put those insoles from my last pair of shoes, darling,” I asked only to be replied with a “I thought you didn’t want any of those old insoles anymore?” “Did you throw them away” I resigned… “Umm, they might be in a bag with all the other insoles actually, somewhere in the attic.” So my quest to find the insoles began. You need to know at this point that I’m in the process of renovating the attic, a task that is made harder by the number of times I’ve had to move all the boxes containing our stuff from one side to the other, in order to carry out the work. Consequently all our stuff was buried to the point that extraction of any particular small item was a task really not worth contemplating – I had a “boys look” but couldn’t find my insoles.
I could have bought some new insoles, Inov-8 does sell them separately (which is a very good idea) but in the mean time as temperatures were getting lower I got away with running in the 295’s with a thick hiking sock on. And do you know what? – with a hiking sock they were great, no slippage issues! The only problem was that I was down to my last pair of hiking socks, To be able to run 5 days a week, I would need at least 4 more pairs, costing over 15 Euros each. This solution was looking pricey.
Then one fateful day, my girlfriend announced that she had found my insoles (they were actually in an old shoebox)…(face-palm). Eagerly I put them in and…
wait for it…
The addition of insoles turned a good shoe into a great shoe. No more slippage issues, more responsiveness and much more confidence descending steep ‘n nasty spindle like track. Who’d have thunk it hey? That’s not to say that they make the shoe in anyway tighter, there’s still bags of room in the toebox, you could swing a cat in these toeboxes. The fit of the shoe is overall comfortable but not cross country spike tight… With the lace lock technique I can secure my midfoot and heel in place wonderfully, giving me a great positive feeling but in no way cutting of blood supply to my feet. A perfect option for ultra marathons in mountainous terrain.
Underfoot they look like this:
Grip is the same as all other Roclites, great all round performance on gnarly terrain, mud (if it’s not too deep), loose stuff, grass. Best in the dry but if you get caught out you will not flounder… And not too rubbish on the road too. I love this tread pattern, always have, always will. The only minor criticism is that the rubber is not the sticky climbing stuff used on the 243. However, this has benefits in that it lasts a while longer, so it’s a trade off which makes them a little less stable on wet rock. But I think we can all cope with that, just go with the slide…
Robustness and longevity
These shoes have a full rand and strong toe bumper, overkill if your thing is pootling along a canal towpath, but essential for mountain running (expect a post all about randing shortly) The shoe has held up well but I needed to reinforce two areas with Freesole shoe glue (pictured below) I also had some minor restitching to do along the top edge of a rand, but I think if I’d have left it alone, the shoe wouldn’t have fallen apart. At the time of writing I have 417 miles on them and the tread looks like new.
Are they race day worthy?
Yes and no. Yes if running long, but for a shorter, faster course I’m going to go for the 243’s no question.
Well, they work extremely well in a big mountain setting. I think so far this is the best shoe I’ve used in conjunction with Microspikes, and for some reason, I don’t know if it’s the overall look of the shoe with the randing, the yellow rubber sole and the lower reaching lacing, but they just scream mountain use to me. And I love them for that. They are a 6mm drop shoe, which is the highest drop I’ve run in for a while but feels okay. To be fair drop is a non issue when running up hill and as I spend most of my time ascending, well like I said it’s not an issue. Descent however is a different beast, as is running on flatter or undulating surfaces. I did feel that I went through a small amount of adaption, between running in these and my older 3mm drop 243’s. At times I caught the heel on descent, but in the end this just conspired to get me to run faster downhill in order to get back the full foot plant I prefer on loose terrain. Now that I’m pretty much exclusive to this shoe, they just feel right. I may feel different about this after the winter – these shoes are noticeably heavier than the 243’s. For thin sock (or sock less) summer running I’ll probably be back to using the lighter shoe. Don’t get me wrong though, they are still flexible and light enough to allow natural foot function and I would class them as a minimal shoe, though perhaps at the north of the spectrum. Hokas, they are not.
So there you go, that’s the review, if you were wondering about these then I hope I’ve been of some help. I’d not hesitate to recommend this shoe to any mountain or trail runner, whether minimalism is their thing or not. Theses are a fantastic tool, working well in winter and in summer, My preference really falling towards winter running, or just tons of upper splitting big ass mountain terrain. Seriously, you’ll love ’em.
The latest model is now available to purchase at Amazon via the links below