A few months ago I wrote my very first, first impression review of a shoe, this shoe. I normally don’t do first impressions, but I was so excited about it I couldn’t wait! But now it’s time for the truth – Is this shoe any good?
Well come on, is it any good?
As you can see from the above photo, they have been worn. In fact I’ve currently done 517 miles (832 km or 98,271,360 barleycorns) in them, getting close to my target of 700. The uppers needed reinforcement at about the 250 mile mark. You can’t tell this from the photo’s – I used a clear flexible rubber glue called FreeSole. Great stuff, much better than Shoe Goo or Black Witch – with the advantage of being transparent it doesn’t look like you’ve run through wet tarmac, which is very important for someone like me who doesn’t want anyone thinking that I go anywhere near a road. I reinforced the areas just after the rand on both sides of the shoe, when I started to notice some fraying.
So apart from the usual durability issues the shoe is trés bon. I found that after an initial bedding in period of around 50 miles they felt like home, like a lovely pair of slippers, albeit a nice fitting responsive pair of slippers, with good grip and a gorgeous sticky sole for running over slippy rocks – so not really like a pair of slippers at all. The fit is tight, but not constrictive – no blisters to report of – but I did get two black toenails (one on each foot, second toe along – a matching pair if you like) after a running a long mountain race in them. Saying that, my feet don’t feel pinched and I can’t really blame the shoes for my toenail problems, in fact for a very minimal racing shoe, they feel well protected. Okay, you’re not going to want to drop an iron bar across your toes, but if you accidentally take your mind off the trail and hit a stone it’s not as much of a life changing event as when you do the same thing in a pair of five fingers.
I ran a 50km race in the big mountain and they were great. Running for me is mostly all about the climb followed by a descent, generally pretty steep. Sometimes I might get a bit of ridge running in, or if I’m pressed for time I’ll do a lower route in the forest. If you follow my blog you’ll know that I live just outside of Foix in the Barguillère valley, infamous for that nails on the road indecent during the 2012 Tour de France. The valley lies below the Arize Massif, which is a pretty decent, middle mountain chain reaching a respectful 1700 metres in altitude. I live at 500 metres, so in the course of a week I get some pretty decent vertical in, on average about 2500 metres of up and down, with about 35 miles, or around 9 hours of running, all of this on rough old raggedy trails!
This year saw record amounts of snow in the Pyrenees, and we still had a few lingering patches up to July… Basically I’ve thrown nearly everything the mountain has to offer at these Roclites and in my opinion they perform really really well. In fact they are so close to a one shoe quiver…
The tread is not suitable for steep wet grass or steep mud. You’ll get down it okay, but you’re not going to have the confidence that a pair of X-Talons or Mudclaws would inspire.
I said in my non-review that I want the shoe to last 700 miles, and they’re not looking too bad after 500… Now here’s the thing, without the FreeSoleing they would’ve blown a long time ago, so the unmodified shoe as the manufacturer sells it is not going to last. Well, not for Mountain Thrashers like us. But with the mod they are great and I intend to do this with all my shoes from now on.
After about 450 miles I started noticing a lot more trail feedback through the forefoot, there is no rock plate (which I think I prefer) so protection comes from the EVA alone, and once this degrades, logically the protection does too. To the extent that I started getting spiked by some pesky pointy stones when I ran on packed forest road, unfortunately this caused a bit of a nasty bruising and a week off, and spurred me on to buying the 295’s (review coming soon) to cope with the Montcalm Marathon.
It’s not all bad
In fact it’s all good, since getting over my bruising I’ve been heading out in the 243’s more, and I just love them. I’ve had to adapt a bit to the greater feedback but in all honesty it’s helped me regain a bit of decent form. I’m still getting the odd pointy stone coming through but now I’m finding this easier to deal with (might be, I’m just getting tougher?) I wouldn’t wear them if I had miles and miles of forest road to run on (although at the start of their life they were perfectly fine for this) but for most other trail duties they’re just fine.
Up Hill Running?
Great stuff, light and responsive with amazing up hill grip. I love going up in these shoes, both in running or power-hike mode.
Down Hill Bombs?
Great responsiveness and ground feel make a good combination for fast technical descending, I’m finding I can open up on most grades and for the steeper big mountain stuff they’re fine. Great on slippy rocks too! The grip is great for most things mountain and trail, but really preferring drier conditions. In comparison much, much better than the NB 110’s or the Merrell Mix Master, but what’s great is, if you do hit a bit of tarmac it’s not like running in a pair of soccer boots (read: Mudclaws).
What’s not to like then?
Well, If I could have my way I’d extend the rand to cover the edges of the shoes past the arch area, perhaps adding a reinforcement patch over the arch. And I’d copy the Merrell Mix Master toebox shape, it’s just slightly better in my opinion, I really think Merrel nailed the lasts on their shoes. Inov 8’s are okay, but not as good. Overall though I prefer the Roclite 243. It’s f’ing brilliant.
So in summary; with the glue mod expect to get up to 450 miles of solid forefoot running in these, you’ll be fine running Big Mountain, Skyraces and ultras (providing you got the training of course) and they work great below the treeline too. And if you have to bust out some road running you’ll be okay for a few miles. Great all rounder; good for training superb for racing, comes pretty close to a perfect shoe for me.
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