Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Inov-8 Roclite 335 Review: Warm Welcome to Fast Winter Running and Hiking

Article by Sam Winebaum

Inov-8 Roclite 335 ($150)
Introduction
The Roclite 335 is a light (approx. 11.8 oz /335 g) "boot" designed for running and fast hiking in cold conditions. It is in the line based on requests from customers in Canada and Scandinavia for a winter running option for cold conditions. dIt features a thin layer of Primaloft Gold Insulation Eco insulation beneath a tight weave water resistant soft shell type upper. Underfoot it shares the agile and flexible midsole platform of Inov-8 warmer conditions Roclite trail runners, so this is no lumbering near hiking shoe. It's rubber outsole has the brand's new graphene infused G-Grip compound for outstanding durability in a sticky type rubber outsole.
I put them to the test running on a variety of snow covered surfaces from looser packed powder to very hard packed snow.

Pros
  • very light weight for a boot,
  • roomy and broad for winter weight socks,
  • warm but not overly so, focused on cold snow conditions.
  • agile and flexible, a real trail runner, 
  • outstanding "tacky" grip on very hard packed snow.
Cons
  • upper is not waterproof /breathable, less utility for shoulder season conditions,
  • broad and extensive lug surface coverage was not as grippy in softer powder as soft ground shoes are.
  • tongue could be a bit denser in padding to better bridge side wings given thin cord laces.
Stats
Drop 8mm
Footbed 6mm
Lug Depth 6mm
Midsole POWERFLOW
Midsole Stack 16mm / 8mm
Overall Stack: 22mm /14 mm (not including footbed)
Shank META-PLATE
Sole Compound GRAPHENE GRIP
Product Weight 335g/ 11.07oz

First Impressions, Fit, and Upper
The black and gray upper is highlighted by the bright blue laces and blue lateral mid foot stability plastic. The look can go anywhere from trail to town.
The upper itself is a very, very dense woven water resistant but not water proof soft shell like mesh.
In cold  to very  cold conditions some breathability is important to prevent moisture build up and chill and thus no waterproof breathable membrane was specced here. If you are frequently in deeper loose or wetter snow a gaiter is useful. I found when snowshoe running in deeper only partially packed powder my feet got wet from snow sneaking in the top of the boot.

The 335 has a thin layer of Primaloft Gold Eco insulation. During my testing during runs down to the low teens Fahrenheit or- 10 C, and even moderate several degrees above freezing my feet staying pleasantly and tingly warm but never got overheated or soaked by sweat.

The fit was true to size with plenty of room in the toe box and most importantly room for heavier weight socks.  Low volume feet may need to size down half a size.
There are no overlays upfront beyond a pliable toe bumper so the fit there is accommodating but maybe a bit too relaxed for the aggressive capabilities of the undercarriage on technical terrain. The rear of the shoe is very stable assisted by the decently rigid cuff and not overly firm heel counter area.
While not waterproof the lower areas of the upper have a stout sewed on rand for water and rock protection.
The tongue is lightly and softly padded. I think it could be a bit more rigid over the lace up to better draw the sides in or the laces made broader.

The laces are thin cords. While they work decently my sense is broader flatter laces would improve the foot hold especially at lace up.

Midsole
The PowerFlow midsole is pure trail runner and not hiking boot stuff. Inov-8 claims 10% better shock absorption and 15% better energy return from the midsole. The midsole stack is 16mm heel 8 mm forefoot with an 8mm drop. To date all my running in the 335 has been on snow so those claims are hard to judge but... I found the 335 flexible and agile, always  key in a winter running shoe where digging into the snow is key. An over built midsole in my view is pretty much useless on the softer surface snow provides and I invariably prefer lower profile shoes for winter.

Outsole
The star feature of the 335 and most new Inov-8 is its graphene infused G-Grip outsole. Working in collaboration with the National Graphene Institute in the UK over many prototypes Inov-8 has incorporated graphene, a material which won a Nobel prize in 2010 into its outsoles. Why graphene? Graphene is a one atom thick (so very light and flexible carbon sheet  and  is 200 x stronger than steel. When combined into rubber the concept, tested in the lab, was to create an outsole compound which has increased strength, elongation and abrasion resistance. Brought back to the trail the idea is to have outsoles which are not only tacky but also wear longer. Generally tacky rubber tends to wear faster than firmer denser rubber.So what did I experience?

On very hard packed snow, not quite ice, the outsole of the 335 is indeed tacky with outstanding grip front and back from the compound and the large surface contact areas from its 6mm lugs. Stability at mid foot is provided by a plate.

On softer deeper loose snow the grip suffers somewhat more from the large contact surface lug design with relatively mellow angles compared to a dedicated soft ground shoe, and Inov-8 has plenty of others with G-Grip. While I have not yet been on rock I have no doubt the grip there will be fantastic,

Ride

On snow the ride is agile and fun. There is no sense of running a boot here yet there is welcome additional support from the cuff, and warmth. The 335 is flexible, low to the ground and responds extremely well. Climbing and descending are clearly a forte although the roomy, soft shell front of the upper and lacing system can feel a touch out matched pushed hard.


Conclusions
Live in cold climes with lots of snow and slippery conditions? The 335 provides a warm running alternative for comfort and speed in winter conditions. It is a lively, protective, warm boot at the weight of many summer trail runners. If you tend to get cold feet during winter running it is a great new very runnable option, I found it great for snowshoeing, snow running, and around town. If it is powdery adding a gaiter is important. The 335, is a somewhat "specialized" run and fast hike shoe for cold climates and does exactly what it set out to do: keep your feet warm and moving fast.  If you are looking for the same ride in a Gore-Tex version consider the Roclite 345.
Score 9.7/10
-0.3 for thin laces and overly soft tongue at lace up. Not a comfort issue but a lockdown issue.

Comparison
Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid WP (RTR Review)
The closest non Inov-8 comparison is the Speedgoat Mid. It  has a water proof breathable upper and similar high cuff with slightly better overall foot lock down, It is massively cushioned and stiff which is not ideal or needed in a winter snow running shoe. Come spring it will have wider utility and distance potential than the Roclite as a running shoe for rough terrain and fast hiking   It's outsole performed slightly better on soft snow and not quite as well on firm snow.  For pure winter and some fall and spring cooler days and if you value warmth and agility pick the 335, for 3 season (spring, fall, winter)  and for water proof breathable wet conditions performance pick the Speedgoat.
Read Sam's full run bio here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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