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New inov-8 TRAILROC 285 review

by editor
Monday 7th August 2017
Tags  inov-8 trailroc   |   inov-8   |   inov-8 Trail Talon
I was fortunate to be offered a pair of the new inov-8 TRAILROC 285s to test, ahead of their UK release. The main reason I was offered them was because I was doing a race that they were ideal for - Lavaredo Ultra Trail, a rocky mountainous race in the Dolomites. I’ve been wearing them for about 10 weeks, which is less time than I’d usually test something for review, but given that I’ve done a lot of running in them during that time, including an ultra, I’ve definitely formed an opinion on them. I’ve run about 200 miles in them. 

Trailroc 600

First impressions
I really liked the fact that this wasn’t a flashy shoe. The women’s version is a subdued black and purple. These shoes are all about getting down to business, not looks. This made a really refreshing change from lots of current shoes which seem to scream ‘look at me!’. 
This shoe looks narrow and this really worried me. Compared to the Trail Talon the toe box seems much less roomy. I really didn’t think this shoe would be for me as I like to have room for my toes to spread or I can be prone to blisters. However, right from the first wear the fit around the toes felt good. It’s definitely a bit more snug but they’re still standard fit, rather than performance fit. I actually found that I preferred the slightly more snug fit on long downhills as my big toes didn’t have the opportunity to slide around too much in the shoe.

Trailroc vs Trailtalon
Looks much narrower than the Trail Talon (right)

The heel also felt quite snug but this didn’t give me any problems at all, quite the opposite. The shoes just felt like they didn’t shift around at all on the run, whatever the terrain. The fit of the tongue was a real plus point of this shoe. I can find that on long races the tongue of a shoe can start to  shift, irritating the top of my foot but the tongue on these is wide, thin and padded and doesn’t move around at all. 
I was really pleased with the all round fit of the shoe. Right from the off they were really comfortable and having worn then for 23 hours at Lavaredo I didn’t have any blisters or hotspots and I even worn them home the next day without any grumbling from my feet. 
They don’t look that cushioned, compared to a Trail Talon or something like Brooks Cascadia, but they certainly feel it. As they’re designed to run on hard-packed trails they need to have a decent amount of cushioning. I can’t claim to understand the technology (Powerflow+) but as a runner the midfoot felt very cushioned. I actually thought that it was due to a really squishy insole but I took it out and had a look at it and it’s no different to any other. So I have to conclude that it’s the midsole! You don’t feel the hard rocks as you’re running, which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on how much feedback you want from the ground. On a long run I’m happy to have as much cushioning as possible so I like it. 
As well as providing good protection underfoot they also have great, very tough toe caps, which have saved me from a lot of pain from kicking rocks. Your feet do feel very protected in them. They are a lot more rugged than they look. 
So here’s one of the innovations of this shoe - the sticky rubber. On dry rock this will grip really well. On wet rock it’s better than most other shoes I’ve tried. They will make you feel reasonably confident on wet stuff but there are limits. Same for wet tree roots. But on hard packed trails, loose rocks, grassy trails, a little bit of mud, the grip is great. 

trail roc grip

The grip is made up of lots of little 4mm studs, designed to cut through loose stuff and find solid trail. I’ve tried them out on very rocky trails at Lavaredo, woodland trails, a bit of mud, rocky muddy trails in the Lake District and bits of road and they will cope well with all of this. The only place they’ve come unstuck with me is the very muddy stuff which they’re not designed to deal with.
The upper on these feels slightly more substantial than a comparable shoe like the Trail Talon. Where the material on my Trail Talons (I’ve had 4 pairs now) have started to fray on the outside after a few hundred miles, these are showing no signs of wear. I’ve run in them in the heat quite a lot and they feel very breathable. They also drain really well, which was useful at Lavaredo where there were a few stream crossings. No squelching around in these. 
The range
I tested the women’s TRAILROC 285, which as you’d expect weighs 285g and it has a drop of 8mm and comes in standard fit. There’s also a TRAILROC 270, for speedier runs with a 4mm drop, also in standard fit. 
What is this shoe for
I thought it might be easiest to show this in pictures. See below. Left to right: image 1: road - it doesn't mind this at all. Image 2: rocky trails - all day long. Image 3: hard packed trails - it's in shoe heaven. Image 4: lots of mud - isn't that keen. I hope that clears it up. 

Trailroc collage

When I got these shoes I didn’t think I would like them as much as I did as they looked narrow and not that cushioned. However, I really took to them right from the off, so much so that I ended up running a 120k ultra in them after only 10 days. Chief concern for any ultra has to be comfort and this shoe delivered that in droves - comfort underfoot, protection from rocks, a fit that allowed my toes to spread but didn’t let my foot shift around, and a seamless, breathable upper. If you’re looking for a shoe for a race on a hard-packed trail, I would highly recommend trying a pair of these on. 

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