Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Inov-8 Trail and Mountain Running Shoes-Long Term Test

I have been running NH and Utah trails in Inov-8 trail and mountain shoes for almost a year. A previous post gives some background on what I think is a shoe company with its feet firmly on the terrains trail runners, and now I think all runners including road, actually experience. Inov-8 elegantly melds true biomechanical knowledge of the foot in action with grip, support, and cushion, for differing terrain, with corresponding models for race and training on varied terrain all into a comprehensive and coherent line for off road running.

My first model was the FlyRoc 310 which I found stable and nimble on all manner of trails, if a bit difficult to get on and keep laced snugly.

Lately I have been running in the RocLite 315. REI carries them The 315 cancan be considered the succesor to the FlyRoc 310. Note that at Inov-8 numbers correspond to weight in grams and model names correspond to terrain type-Roc, Mud, etc.. If you are gram challenged Inov-8's are far lighter than conventional trail runners with at least as much if not way more support and protection.

The 315 is a most worthwhile succesor indeed. I now have well over 250 miles of all sorts of terrain on the 315. I have jetisonned my Asics Kayano "boat" road shoes and now run everything in the 315's.

As the picture illustrates there is minimal wear to the soles. The upper around the midfoot is snug and supportive in the trademark Inov-8 style and has not collapsed or stretched as the 310's did somewhat over time. The upper is a very fine mesh of the same material as the 280 described below which breathes very well and drains fast and in my beach sand runs does not collect as much fine stuff as typical mesh shoes. The shoes are far easier to put on, tighten as you want and once laced stay as you chose.

RocLite 315

So, at least for me, and I suspect many others this is one shoe equally superb on rough trails and cushioned and responsive for long road runs, all in a very light package. I believe the concept of light and flexible, close to the ground when combined with the snug Meta Cradle design of the upper and the light protective and supportive Meta-Flex plate not only prevents ankle turns on the trail but also strengthens feet for the road thus preventing injuries.
Meta-Flex tm Plate inside RocLite 315
Note how plate fingers follow foot metatarsels

Next I will try the F-Lite 300 which is actually designed for hard pack trails and some roads as my road shoe. I also look forward to a new series of Inov-8's with "4 arrows" of cushion. The 315 having 3 arrows.

While on the light and fast subject. I also recently ran a 10 mile trail race in torrential rain and wind in the MudRoc 280 essentially the racing version of the 310 and 315 and found them surefooted and fast in very mucky conditions. Even had comments from fellow racers: "What are you wearing? You're not slipping. I am." The Mudroc would be a superb shoe for high school and college cross country racing The Mudroc is to the left in the picture below.

MudRoc 280 (left) RocLite 315 (right)

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