This is a quick first review of my latest purchase - long awaited Inov-8 Trailroc 245's. I pre-ordered them from online from Swaledale Outdoors Shop for just under £95, and they arrive on Monday 20th August just one working day after they first arrived in the shop. Thumbs up for prompt dispatch and competitive pricing against other retailers, but Ouch... these shoes are Expensive.
I first learned of the new Trailroc line back in Autumn 2011, and even before that was waiting, waiting for Inov-8 to make a lightweight low drop trail shoe with an Anatomial Last. While my Roclite's 295's have been a dependable workhorse for my ultra and long distance training, for several years all I really wanted was a shoe like the Trailroc, and here they finally were in my house and ready to put on my feet!
The insoles nicely show the Anatomical Last - the big toe goes nearly straight forward and doesn't pull in the big toe like the vast majority of conventional trainers do with their fashion inspired pointy foot lasts. The width across the forefoot/metatarsal heads is around 100mm and stays pretty wide though to the mid foot so plenty of room for toe splay and those with wide mid-foot like me. The shape of the Last is quite similar to my Vivobarefoot Neo Trails so is keeping good company.
As important as the Last, the grip had to deliver as good as my trusty Roclite's, first impression is of a good set of lugs that should handle trails and roads well. The new sole design provides lugs everywhere except a small section under the inside arch, this fixes a flaw in the Roclite which misses lugs under the arch which leads to them collapsing more under load at mid-stance. This small design change might help fix a bout of Plantar Fasciitis that has plagued my running over the last two weeks.
With my feet in the shoes the upper felt very comfortable, the Anatomical Last provided ample room for my big through to little toes, and even my very wide mid-foot is accommodated without any discomfort. Finding a shoe that doesn't cause discomfort on the outside of my mid-foot is very very rare, almost all my shoes I have to modify in some way so this was a great step forward.
Unfortunately the fit isn't perfect though, just in front of my heel on the inside the instep just cuts in too quickly and it puts pressure on the front of my heel where the Plantar Fascia heads out towards the big toe. I can't yet work out whether this is down to the design of the last just being too aggressive with cutting in around the heel or a manufacturing tolerance/error issue. For someone with a current Plantar Facia problem in both feet this wasn't good news.
I did a little plastic surgery on the inside of the shoe, putting in a small amount of silicon bath sealant smoothed to make the connection between the upper and mid-sole a little more gentle. This helped ease the pressure point enough for me to head out for a 6 mile loop.
My Plantar Fascia was a little uncomfortable during the first mile, especially around the pressure point but after that my tendons and muscles all warmed enough so that I didn't have any further issues.
The shoes felt firm underfoot with good grip on the mixture of wet and dry roads and stony trails that the run took in. Grip is better than my Vivobarefoot but not better than the sticky rubber on my Roclite 295's. I'm left wishing that Inov-8 would have stuck to sticky rubber all over for the sole, since I have a pretty descent mid-foot running form I don't see big issues with wear even with Sticky rubber on the 295's.
The so called Meta-Craddle works well to hold your feet in place, and the ride is firm but not hard. There is enough protection from sharp stones to not worry about misplaced landing, something I still have to care of when wearing my Vivobarefoot. Personally I still find the 3mm heel drop more than I need though, and when deliberately heel striking found a little bit of mushy feeling that I so dislike from the heel of the Roclite's. The ride feels much lower than the Roclite's which fixes another of my complaints of the Roclite's - this will afford much more confidence when tackling technical off trail conditions such as when running on the open hill across tussocks and heather.
The modest sole provides good ground feel - so work well for both proprioception and balance, I even felt confident enough to stand on one foot and take a photo of the raised foot. The above photo should give you an idea of the type of stony trail I was one - nothing too technical, but a good first workout.
I ran without socks as this is how I run with my Vivobarefoot and the inside of the upper has very few seams so felt confident that it'd be fine without socks...
However, within two miles the top of my left foot was beginning to get irritated by a fold in the upper during toe off. My right foot was fine though, I stopped a couple of times during the run to try and adjust the position of the fold when the heel is lifted off the ground but to no avail, the fold stuck in same position. At the end of my run I took a photo of the shoes with my feels off the ground simulating how the shoe bends during toe off, this photo illustrates quite nicely how fold on my left foot (on the right in the photo) is a sharp diagonal while the right foot upper folds more evenly.
I took my shoes off to find the slightly bloody blister about 4mm across, with the skin peeled back. Nice, thanks Trailroc's.
This is my first blister this year. All the training I did for and racing the Highland Fling, the Lochalsh Dirty 30, three mountainous training runs over 26 miles and no blisters... yet one 6 mile run I'm rewarded with my first blister of 2012!
Early verdict:So after 6 miles what is my verdict...
- The grip is great
- The balance between ground feel and protection from stony trails is about perfect - one feels confident and sure footed
- The Antomical Last is very very welcome and almost perfect, just the heel area is too tight on the inside for my feet to consider them perfect. I'm still exploring ways of tweaking the insole shape around the front inside of the heel to avoid the pressure point. The pressure point didn't seem to cause problems when running though so perhaps it won't be a big deal, only more mileage will answer this one.
- The Upper is nice and breathable and very comfortable except at toe off when the hold in the upper caused problems in one of my feet.
- The weight is modest at ~200g for my size 6.5's, about 50g's lighter than my Roclite 295's. I'd still like a lighter shoe, but given the balance between protection and weight I think it's a pretty good trade off.
6 miles is still too early days for a full verdict though, it sure is promising shoe. I provide more details on how I get on over the next few weeks.