Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: Roclite 295 (old), Roclite 295 (new), Trailroc 255

Up until now, I have been a dedicated wearer of the Inov-8 Roclite 295 for my trail runs.  This year, Inov-8 released a significantly updated version of the Roclite 295.  In this review I share my first impressions of the new Roclite 295, comparing it against both the old Roclite 295 and the very popular Trailroc 255.

The bottom line:  Inov-8 appears to nail the update to the Roclite 295.  The Trailroc 255 provides a more protective option.

Roclite 295 (old version), Roclite 295 (new version), Trailroc 255

Typically when a shoe company updates one of its models, it does so with a lot of fanfare and discussion new technologies.  Not so Inov-8 with its quiet release of the new Roclite 295 a few weeks ago.  The specs on Inov-8s website indicate that the new Roclite has a 6mm heel drop instead of 9mm (in Inov-8 parlance, it is now a 2-arrow shoe instead of a 3-arrow shoe), but otherwise, they don't offer much in terms of describing the differences.  I love the old version, so it was time to get hands on and see how things had changed.

So let's talk about the changes.  First, this is almost certainly a lighter weight shoe.  (Running Warehouse agrees: they weighed the old version at 10.5 oz, and the new version at 9.7 oz).  So much for the claim that the shoe's model number represents the weight of the shoe in grams!

How was this achieved?  First off, a much lighter mesh in the upper.  The laces are also lighter, there is less of a protective rand around the front and the sides of the shoe, and the overlay material is thinner.  My only concern is that some of this material feels a little plasticky and less likely to wear as well.  We shall see.

Now lets move to the sole of the shoe.  Not only does the new 295 have a lower heel, the overall height of the shoe has also dropped.  I again turn to Running Warehouse for measurements.  The old 295 measured 21 mm at the heel and 12 at the forefront, including the 6 mm lug height.  The new 295 comes in at 17 mm and 10 mm.  And yet, the shoe does not feel any less protective.  I am not sure how this was achieved, but it may be through the use of injected EVA, which is becoming standard on new Inov-8 model.  (The old 295 used standard EVA).

The fit of the Roclite 295 hasn't changed.  A quick walkaround test suggests that the my toes will be happier now that the rand does not extend over the top of the toebox.  I can no longer feel the cleats, and I suspect that these shoes will run better on pavement, when necessary.  A slight concern is that the new 295s feel, less "sticky" -- perhaps the brightly colored rubber isn't quite the same, or maybe they just need to be roughed up a bit.

While the new Roclite 295 hasn't gotten a lot of attention, Inov-8's new Trailroc lineup has gotten a ton.     There's plenty of information about them floating around the web, but I wanted to compare them side-by-side with the Roclite.

The biggest immediate difference is in the fit.  Trailrocs are built on Inov-8s "Natural" last (formerly known as the "Anatomic" last).  By contrast, Roclites are built on the "Endurance" last (formerly known as the "Comfort" last).  Both provide plenty of room for the toes to spread, but from the heel to the midfoot, the Trailrocs fit like a tight glove, anchoring the foot firmly in place.

Underfoot, the Trailroc 255 has shallower lugs, but a thicker sole than even the old Roclite 295s.  (Running Warehouse measures them at 22 mm at the heel and 16 mm at the forefoot).  And indeed, they feel "high" to me.  That height will provide protection, but at the expense of groundfeel.  The sole is also narrower at the heel, so they felt a bit less stable.

Roclite 295 heel vs. Trailroc 255 heel

The Roclite 295 is a much more flexible shoe than the Trailroc 255.  In my hand, I can twist it every which way, which I can't do with the Trailroc 255.  This is, part, because the Trailroc 255 includes a five-fingered shank (or rockplate) that extends all the way up to the front of the shoe.  By contrast, the shank in the less protective Roclite 295 only extends midway up the sole.

Dig that flexibility!

As for the uppers, The Trailroc 255 seems to have a more substantial mesh.  The rand is softer and more flexible, and the heel is also more flexible than in the Roclite 295.  Frankly, the materials in the Trailroc 255 feel like they are higher quality, and I imagine they will get more miles before they wear out.

Inov-8's marketing suggests that the Trailroc line is designed for "dry and loose" trails, which makes sense given the amount of protection they offer.  However, other reviews suggest the soles are good on a variety of surfaces.  I expect that the deeper lugs of the Roclite will be better able to deal with mud, however.

I'll be running in the Roclite 295 because I appreciate its light weight, its relaxed fit, its ground feel and its suitability for a variety of trail conditions.  Here in the southeast, I don't need the protection that the Trailroc 255 offers, and would feel constrained by its more substantial upper, especially when the weather warms up.

Parting glance


  1. Joe, Thanks for the review. Is there any difference in shoe sizing between old and new roclite 295?

  2. Joseph,

    Good question! I've not been able to detect any difference. I wear a size 13, and the fit of both versions feels almost exactly the same.

    Since posting this review, I've done a fair bit of running in the new Roclite and am really enjoying it. I continue to believe that the soles are a bit less grippy than the old version, but other than that it is light, flexible shoe that makes you forget you have it on. I have a few longer runs planned in the next several days, and after completing those, I'll put up some further impressions.

    Thanks for dropping by our blog! If you do decide to try the update, we'd love to hear what you think.

  3. Joe,

    Thanks for your speedy response, I am considering to get new roclite for my long run training. How's trailroc 255 sizing compared to old roclite?

  4. I wear a size 13 in both the Trailroc 255 and the Roclite 295, and in each case, the size feels "right". However, other people have suggested that the Trailrocs run on the small size. To test this out, I pulled the footbeds out of each shoe and measured them. Sure enough, the footbed of the Trailrocs is about 1/4 inch shorter, so they do run a little small.

    Just as importantly, its worth noting that the shape of the footbed is different between the two shoes. INOV-8 describes the differences on their website:

    This isn't just marketing - there really is a difference between how the shoes fit all the way around. I've described the differences a little above, but the only way to really understand the difference is to try them on.

    Happy running!

  5. This morning, we received the following questions from one of our readers:

    How would you judge Roclite vs Trailroc wrt. a course of mostly trail with some (lets say 20%) on asphalt/hard gravel roads? According to the hard/loose/soft barometer on Inov-8's website, Trailroc should win on hard surfaces, but the greater flexibility in the sole of the Roclite you mention seems like a win here. Are the lugs on the Roclite "too much" when hitting hard surfaces?

    Another question: If you had to pick between the old and the new Roclite 295, with a price difference of about 30 % (current prices from Amazon UK), would the new version be worth the premium?

    Good questions! It would help to know a little bit more about the particular trails you will be running, and also how long you will be running for. However, I feel that both shoes are suitable for a wide variety of trails, and can even handle pavement (although certainly not as well as a road shoe). The Trailroc 255 is much more protective than the Roclite 295. Many people prefer the extra protection on hard/loose surfaces, which may be why Inov-8 gives them the nod for those conditions. Personally, I stll prefer the Roclite 295, as I like to allow my feet to adapt to the surface underfoot. I don't find the lugs to be "too much" at all, and indeed, I'm not even aware of them at all, even on pavement.

    There is also a very signficant difference between how the two different models fit. I would certainly try on both the Trailroc 255 and the Roclite 295 before making a decision, if you have the opportunity.

    As for your question about the old and the new versions of the Roclite 295. I don't necessarily think of the new version as being "better"; rather I see them as two similar shoes, with some minor differences. The older version is a little bit more protective, especially under the heel), and the rubber is a little stickier in wet conditions. The newer version is lighter weight and more flexible. It really depends on which set of attributes you want. (I also suspect that the newer version is going to wear out quite a bit faster, so you should figure that in when thinking about costs).

    I hope that helps! Let us know what you choose and how they feel!

  6. Joe,

    I have finally ordered Roclite 295 (new version) based on your valuable comments. I have just received the shoes. The fitting is just perfect and lighter than old model. Looking forward to running on these shoes. Thanks for your help.

  7. I was wondering if somebody has compared this shoe with the Salomon S-Lab Fellcross?

  8. We've not yet had the chance to run in the Fellcross, though we'll post a review if we do!

  9. Thanks for the review, Joel. My favorite current mid-distance (15-20 miles) trainer is the TrailRoc 255. I'm looking for something with a bit more under foot for longer runs (currently running in Montrail Masochists for longer runs, but they have far too much underfoot for my liking), so I was considering the Roclite 295. Even based on Inov-8's description of the Roclite 295, it is both heavier and more suitable for the long runs than the TrailRoc 255. But you suggest just the opposite. Maybe I should just be pushing it further in the TrailRocs, rather than assuming I need more support, but assuming I chicken out of that route, would you suggest I look somewhere other than Inov-8 for something a little beefier than the 255s, because, according to this review, the 255s are about as beefy as Inov-8 gets (other than the quite heavier Roclite 315s)? So is Inov-8's description off in your opinion?

  10. I found the Roclite 295 to feel softer than the Trailroc 255 when my feet landed. However, I could also feel rocks and roots a lot more when wearing the 295s. I don't think that either shoe is noticeably heavier than the other; rather, they are different styles in terms of fit and intended terrain.

    Eric and I just ran The North Face Endurance Challenge Gore-Tex 50-Mile DC in Roclite 295s -- I wore the older ones and he wore the newer ones. So, Inov-8s description of them feels true to me. But if you are looking specifically for more support, I don't think you'll find that in the 295s.

    I haven't worn any other shoes in the Inov-8 range yet, so can't comment on other options. Good luck!

  11. Hi,

    Thanks for your review and answers to all the questions.

    I am going to run my first 50k trail in October. I am mid foot runner. Sometimes I do heel strike. My questions are:

    1. Is the new roclite 295 a 2 arrow shoe vs. older roclite 295 that was a 3 arrow shoe? Is there a significant difference in support and cushion between the two and therefore higher chances of injury with the newer model?

    2. I am not able to try trailroc as it is still not available in Singapore. I have tried old roclite 295 and feel comfortable. Can i assume trailroc will fit equally well and buy one online?



    1. Kapil, i know Joel responded, but i'll add my two cents as well. i can't say for certain what kind of "striker" i am... i've hit the forefoot at times, the midfoot at times and the heel at times. none of these times did i feel discomfort in the 295s. in fact, the cushioning/protection has only been an issue on a single variety of offroad terrain: when i hit loose stones, the lugs on the 295s are widely space, and at times a rock will let me know it's there. all in all, living in new england, i run fairly technical trails and i never have an issue with the 295.

      from what i've learned, and i've never owned the trailroc, the trailroc are more narrow in the heel than the roclite. i run the inov8 233 on the road, which has a similar last to the trailroc series and i really like the way it locks the rear foot in while giving the forefoot room to swell/splay. i might try to trailroc 245 at some point (Joel implies the 255s are less nimble than the 295s) to see how they work out.

      the 295s are a solid shoe though, at least in my experience.

      congrats on your 50k, and best of luck. hope it goes exactly as you've imagined!!

  12. Kapil,

    Congratulations on getting ready for your first 50k trail race!

    You are correct: the new roclite 295 is a 2 arrow shoe, whereas the older one was a 3 arrow shoe. I found the difference in support and cushion to be noticeable, but I wouldn't call it significant. I've personally not found that a lack of cushioning increases my chances of injury -- though it does affect how comfortable my feet feel! For me, the Roclite 295s are best for relatively short runs, although my co-blogger, Eric, wore them in a 50 mile race and seemed very happy with them. Everyone's feet are different!

    As for your second question: The trailroc certainly do NOT fit the same as the roclite. If you buy online, I would suggest buying from a website that offers free returns.

    Best wishes on your race!

  13. Hi Joel & Eric... thanks a ton for your advice and wishes. I will go roclite 295 based your feedback and other blogs and reviews I have read.

    Will post once I get and try them out.

  14. I need to replace my old Roclie 295 and would like something with a little more support/cushioning for longer runs. Seems the new Roclite would offer less.
    Would the Trailroc 255 be a good option?

  15. To me, the Trailroc 255 felt like it offered a little more support, and was firmer underfoot than the old Roclite 295. The bigger difference, though, was in fit - it really has an entirely different fit. It's worth giving it a try! I've been running in North Face shoes for the past 6 months and really enjoying them. You might take a look at the North Face Ultra Guide as well.

  16. Very good review and comments.I wonder why, according to Inov-8,more cushioning means more heel to toe drop. Why zero drop shoes should necessarily be minimal?

  17. Runningwarehouse states that the stack height of the Roclite 295 is 17mm heel-10mm forefoot and for the Trailroc 255 22mm heel-16mm forefoot. Do you feel that the 295 is lower to the ground compared to the 255?

  18. I also feel that the trailroc is firmer than the roclite. I feel the lugs more in the trailroc. Although Inov-8 website mentions both the trailroc and roclite as standard fit, the trailroc has a much wider toebox.