IntroductionI'm a huge fan of Inov-8 shoes, particularly the f-lite 195 and Roclite 285 shoes. The f-lite 195s have been my go-to trail and mountain racing shoes for over a year now, and the Roclite 285s are fast becoming my primary trail and mountain training shoe. I've also raced in the Roclite 285s and X-Talon 190s several times each, and they both perform very well for racing in some of the tougher trail conditions that the f-lite 195s would struggle with. When I heard about Inov-8's new Trailroc line earlier this year, I was eager to see what they would bring to the table and have been anticipating their release ever since.
I will be reviewing the Trailroc 255 and 245 in separate posts, with this one being dedicated to the 255. My review of the Trailroc 245 can be found here: Inov-8 Trailroc 245 Review
Part 1: Trailroc 255 First Impressions
The most obvious changes to this shoe from other current Inov-8 trail models are the new tread, mesh, and overlay designs. I ordered the shoes in a US men's size 11, UK size 10, which is the size I wear in every other Inov-8 shoe model. As it turns out, the pair that I got are about 1/2 size smaller than what I would expect based on my past history with the shoes. They were not too small, but I didn't have as much gap in the toes as I might have liked. If I buy more of this shoe, I'll consider sizing up 1/2 size.
Let me back up and explain why I was so eager to receive the 255 model and what the basis is that I'll be comparing it to when trying it out. When I first started looking at the Trailroc line, I noticed that the 255 model looked suspiciously similar in design and technical specs to the Roclite 285. My thinking is that if the 255 is a good seller, Inov-8 may do away with the Roclite 285 since it is sort of an outlier in the Roclite line of shoes anyway. If this happens, I want to make sure that I either love the 255 enough to be happy making the transition to use it as a regular mountain trainer, or if I don't love the 255 I can be prepared to stockpile several pairs of the 285s if and when they're discontinued in order to hold me over until I find an acceptable alternative.
With that said, here's a look of comparison between the Trailroc 255 and the Roclite 285.
As promised by the specs, the shoes appear quite similar. The toe box of the 255 is wider than that of the 285 due to the anatomical last used by Inov-8 for this line. The 255 also rides a decent bit higher (specs say 4 mm) than the 285, and this is noticeable when running on hard ground. The mesh used on the 255 appears to be lighter and more closed than the mesh on the 285s. The feel of the mesh on the 255 suggests that it may not hold up as well to abrasion as the 285 does, but this is yet to be seen.
Both shoes use the 2 Arrow Shoc-Zone midsole design which is supposed to result in a 6 mm heel to toe drop. I have never felt that the 285 has as much drop as the other 2 Arrow designs that I've used, and this case is no exception. When I put the 255 on one foot and the 285 on the other and ran around in them, the drop in the 255 felt noticeably greater than in the 285. I put on one of my f-lite 230s (also a 2 Arrow shoe) opposite the 255 and the drop felt the same in both shoes.
The protection on the toe and upper of the 255 is something that I'm very interested in testing out to determine how it performs. In several of the Inov-8 trail shoes that I use regularly, namely the f-lite 195, f-lite 230, and X-Talon 190, the uppers are not reinforced save for the area immediately around the toe box. This results in the uppers wearing out and holes forming, usually in the forefoot flex area on either side of the shoe, as the shoes are subjected to abrasion from the outside, weathering of the mesh, and fatigue on the mesh due to forefoot flexing. I have not had this happen with the Roclite 285s because they include an extended tough protective layer further down the forefoot area of the shoe. As you can see in the pictures above, the protective material applied to the 255 supplies even more coverage toward the back of the foot than on the 285, however the material used is slightly different from that on the 285. I will be paying close attention to how this material holds up to wear.
The outsole of the Trailroc line utilizes three different grades of rubber in different areas of the tread for optimal wear. The tread itself is very similar to that of the Roclite line, however there are more lugs under the arch area of the foot. Whether these extra lugs will prove useful is yet to be seen but I would normally not consider this many lugs to be necessary.
Although the weight of the shoes is advertised by Inov-8 as 255 grams (9.0 oz) for the Trailroc 255, and 285 grams (10.0 oz) for the Roclite 285, the measurements by Running Warehouse are just about the opposite - 9.9 oz for the Trailroc 255 and 9.0 oz for the Roclite 285. Because I don't have a scale that measures this precisely, I can't confirm any of these numbers, but the weight in hand of the two shoes feels close enough that I can't tell a difference.
I will not go into the rest of the technical specifications of the shoe in detail. If you're interested in reading more about the specs, the Inov-8 website lists some additional technical details. Click here for the details on the Inov-8 website.
Part 2: Trailroc 255 Field Test Review
Friday evening I took a warm up run before the true test, which would occur Saturday morning. For this warm up I decided to do a side by side comparison of the Trailroc 255 and Roclite 285.
During the 5 mile side by side run, I confirmed my initial observation that the 255 does sit a little higher and has a slightly higher heel to toe drop than the 285. The 255 also has some extra cushioning that makes it a little softer of a ride than the 285. When testing out the grip while running downhill, the 255 seemed to grip the trails just as well as the 285 with no notable differences in stability.
Saturday morning I put the Trailroc 255s to the test along the Halo Ridge route on Mount of the Holy Cross. The terrain on the route consisted of several miles of smooth trails, several miles of rocky trails, lots of miles of off-trail scrambling across rough boulder fields, and some high alpine meadows. The many miles of scrambling across a sea of sharp talus blocks over the high ridge lines were a real test of the durability of the shoes, and of my lower leg stabilizing muscles.
I will caveat this to say that I would not expect for very many running shoes to truly be capable of holding up over a route such as this one. Extended scrambling through sharp rocks has a tendency to rip even very well built trail running shoes to shreds. That being said, the 255s held up very well to the punishment. In particular, the extended toe rand cover that provides protection to the uppers of the shoe held up very nicely despite taking a huge beating throughout the day. The one durability issue that I noted is that the toe edge of the outsole on both shoes began delaminating from the upper material. I don't consider this a big deal because I've had this happen with lots of different shoes and it's a $0.50 fix with some good two part epoxy. Usually I only have to make this repair once and it's never a problem again.
As Adam noted in his comment below, the extended toe rand material on the 255 has the capacity to cause some drainage issues, and this is something that I wanted to pay close attention to as I was testing out the shoes. I'm glad that Adam brought this up because I had forgotten to mention before that quick water drainage is the one slight problem I've had with the Roclite 285 that I was hoping would be improved with this shoe. When I crossed East Cross Creek near the end of my route on Saturday, I made sure to fully submerge the shoes and get them nice and soaked so I could find out how quickly they would drain. Unfortunately they didn't drain as quickly as I had hoped, and I had a couple of minutes of water sloshing in the toe area before it all got pushed out.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the shoes that was evident during this trip is that the wider toe box and overall design of the shoe contributed to it remaining very comfortable through the entire route. I'm inclined to say that at the end of the day my feet were more comfortable in this shoe than they would have been in the Roclite 285.
Update - I have now put over 50 tough miles, including many off-trail alpine miles, on the Trailroc 255s. My overall impression is that I'm definitely a fan of the shoes and I think they're a great fit for some of the tougher mountain terrain. Whether they'll steal my heart away from the Roclite 285s is yet to be seen, but the odds are looking pretty good so far.