The RocLite 315 is Inov-8’s all-around trail model, designed to handle technical terrain but stay comfortable enough for long days on the trail and ultramarathons. It has impressive ground-feel and aggressive tread, but the uppers and midsole are stiff and inflexible. The result is a shoe that feels clunky and unwieldy instead of agile and fast.
The Inov-8 RocLite 315 is a bridge between the toothy, aggressive X-Talon and Mudclaw models on one side and the lightweight, low-slung Trailtalon and Trailroc on the other. Joining the RocLite 315 are the RocLite 305 and RocLite 290, with lower numbers indicating lighter-weight version of the same basic model. The RocLite 315 is the heaviest, most aggressive of the RocLite line, while the RocLite 290 is the lightest and most flexible. Inov-8 designed the RocLite to be a versatile, all-around model. In their words, it’s the, “ultimate shoe for those seeking increased comfort and protection when running over multiple terrains.”
Inov-8 doesn’t include version number indicators (like the New Balance Hierro v3, Brooks Caldera 2, or Columbia/Montrail Trans Alps FKT II, for example), but the new RocLite 315 for Spring 2018 gets an updated “X-PROTEC” upper compared to last year’s version. The 315 model has an integrated rockplate and weighs just 10.6oz (for men’s size 9). The stack height is 24mm in the rear and 16mm in the forefoot (8mm heel-to-toe drop), which makes this the lowest-to-the-ground shoe in this round of testing. For runners looking for even more protection, there is a version of the RocLite 315 with a GoreTex shield, which adds a fraction of an ounce to the weight and $10 to the MSRP.
Overall, our wear-testers praised the RocLite 315’s excellent groundfeel (thanks to the low stack height), and aggressive outsole. It’s a durable off-road shoe that has no trouble with technical, challenging terrain. However, the runners on our wear-test team were unimpressed with the RocLite 315’s upper. One of the primary concerns is the stiffness of the X-PROTEC fabric (blended with Kevlar – the same material in bulletproof vests). It’s designed to be protective and prevent intrusion of dust and trail debris, but our wear-testers had almost uniformly negative feedback. The uppers don’t breathe well, they are too stiff to feel comfortable or secure, and the stiff mesh across the toebox folds down instead of flexing. “I couldn’t wait to finish every test run and get these uncomfortable shoes off my feet,” reviewed one of our wear-testers.
The Inov-8 RocLite 315 doesn’t have the same sort of plush, cushioned uppers that some other shoes in this round of testing do (the Brooks Caldera 2 for instance) or a snug-fitting inner bootie (like the New Balance Hierro v3). The uppers are constructed from new X-PROTEC fabric, which is lined and stiff to give the shoe structure and prevent dust and debris from getting through. Our wear-testers found the uppers uncomfortable to wear because of the stiff, inflexible Kevlar-blend fabric. One area of serious concern was across the toe box, where the stiff fabric created a pressure point. One wear-tester explained, “The stiff, canvas-like fabric in the toebox has no place in a running shoe – certainly not near a flexy joint. It caused the toebox to buckle in and pinch the top of the toes.” Multiple runners on our wear-test team also commented on the voluminous fit, which made them feel like their feet were rattling around inside the shoe.
On the type of technical, rugged trails it’s designed for, the RocLite 315 feels speedy and quick. The low-to-the-ground stack height gives great groundfeel and the midsole encourages quick foot turnover through runners’ strides. “The pacing of this shoe is really quick,” wrote one wear-tester. “There’s a classic Inov-8 forefoot, with lots of groundfeel.” Other runners on our wear-test team felt like the stiff construction got in the way of what might have been a much speedier shoe. As one wrote in his review, “I guess these are on the faster end of all the shoes we tested given the firmer midsole and low weight, but they were not fun to run fast in. Clunky and stiff, like a car with square wheels.”
Security of Fit
Our wear-test team was divided on how securely the RocLite 315 fit. Runners who prefer wider, taller toeboxes appreciated the extra room up front. The toebox is taller than average (similar to the Hoka Challenger ATR 4), but the fabric across the top is firm with no flexibility or give. Other runners on our wear-test team felt like the voluminous toebox felt sloppy and insecure. They could feel the front end sliding around on the trail, which didn’t inspire confident running. There were also concerns with the fit through the midfoot and heel. As one wear-tester noted, “The biggest issue was my right heel lifting during every step, regardless of how I laced them. Part of the issue was how shallow the heel counter and collar was. My heel felt like I was barely in the upper.” Another wear-tester had trouble getting the midfoot to feel locked down. In his review, he wrote, “the laces were futzy and hard to work with, and it took a while to work up an acceptably snug fit.”
Here our wear-test team was looking for how well the RocLite 315 performed under a variety of conditions across different types of trails (hardpack dirt, loose rock, soft soil, snow, etc). Our wear-testers thought the aggressive outsole and edge-to-edge lugs bit into the ground well and gave them confidence on slick, smooth rocks. On descents, however the lugs didn’t grab as securely and the loose-fitting uppers made the RocLite 315 feel unstable. As one wear-tester noted, “on a downhill switchback I affectionately refer to as Death Curve, I skittered and slipped badly.” Another echoed the same reaction, observing, “these shoes did not instill a sense of confidence on the trail. I felt like rolling an ankle was a possibility during any lateral movement. The low ankle collar left me feeling exposed and vulnerable.”
This is one of the RocLite 315’s strong points. As one runner on our wear-test team put it, “the best feature of these shoes is how responsive they are – low to the ground and not overly cushioned, they respond to each nuance in the trail quickly and effortlessly. Little energy is lost on impact and push-off.” Other wear-testers agreed that the firm, low midsole felt responsive on the trail, but concluded that the stiff, inflexible uppers prevented them from taking full advantage of the midsole’s responsiveness. As one noted, “I found the fit really affected my ability to control the shoe and get the performance needed here.”
Providing protection from trail elements is one of the RocLite 315’s strengths. As one of the runners on our wear-test team put it, “This was the highlight of the shoe. Rock Solid. Bombproof. That stiff and uncomfortable upper really protected nicely from the elements.” Another described the RocLite 315 as “a tank,” although she concluded that it was ultimately “way too much underfoot for anything but extreme mountain running or off-trail rock hopping.” Although wear-testing for Spring 2018 models happens in the fall and winter, some of our wear-testers were concerned about how warm the X-PROTEC uppers would be in summer heat. The stiff fabric doesn’t breathe or ventilate as well as a more open weave. One wear-tester observed, “my toes were noticeably hotter than in any other shoe I ran in.” Runners who are looking for a relatively lightweight, low-slung package that still provides a substantial amount of protection will be happy with the RocLite 315 – although the trade-off is that the Kevlar-infused uppers are inflexible, hot and sometimes painful.
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HOW WE TESTED
Over the course of a few weeks, our wear-test team does multiple runs in each pair of shoes they test. They aim for a variety of runs (easy recovery runs, long training runs, harder race-pace efforts) across as many different types of trails as they can manage. The team is spread across the country, so we are able to test under a variety of different conditions, terrains, and types of trail, from gently-rolling fire roads to highly technical mountain singletrack.