As always, I was not paid for this review, and I am under no obligation to write a positive review about the shoe.
The Inov-8 ROCLITE 305 GTX is one of the newly released shoes in Inov-8’s brand new lineup. The ROCLITE series is designed to be the most versatile shoe in the Inov-8 arsenal, claiming to be ready for any terrain you throw its way. The 305 GTX model is the most heavy duty shoe in this line, utilizing GORE-TEX technology to, “…delivers the optimal combination of durability with climate comfort and protection from the elements.” (Inov-8 product description) Knowing that our audience generally puts their gear through quite literally every terrain possible, I decided to push them to their limits to test these claims. Here’s what I found.
|A Quick Overview
|GORE-TEX designed upper that is completely waterproof and breathable for climate comfort
Newly redesigned fit that is snug and comfortable while allowing for natural foot movement.
Lugs that kick butt on almost every terrain, but are still wide enough that they don’t create pressure points.
Significantly lighter than other shoes in this category from most competitors.
|Loses its gripping ability on smooth ice.
If being used as a tactical shoe, you will want to switch out the laces to be a bit more inconspicuous.
Foot Protection: 10/10
I put this category first for a reason. These shoes can take a beating from any angle you throw at them, and your feet won’t even notice. They’re like the Bradley tank of shoes; tough enough for just about anything, fast enough for whatever you’ll need. A completely waterproof exterior protects from rain, snow, swamps, and everything else I could test them on. As a true test of their waterproofing, I actually stomped a hole through some ice and put my foot in the ice water. I left it in the water for about 5 minutes, but my foot was still dry as a bone. Then I took a moment to thank god they held true, because there was several miles of snowy trails between me and my car when doing this brilliant test.
A hard rubber toe cap protects from anything you may kick into while running on the trails, or while out on a mission. I kicked hard into plenty of frozen tree roots hidden by snow with these and never felt any pain from it. This is an extreme improvement from the toe cap used in last seasons X-Claw 275’s I tested, where I took off points for a weak toe cap. The GORE-TEX exteriors are not only waterproof, but they held up to everything else I could throw their way. I took them through a half mile of thorn bushes to see if they would get torn up or let anything through and they came out looking the same as when they went in.
Protection on the bottom comes in the form of an outsole made of Inov-8’s patented Tri-C sticky rubber compound. Underneath the outsole lies the second generation meta-shank, a polymer that aligns with the metatarsals of the foot for added protection. This all equals out to a ride where you can feel the surface you’re running on enough for safe running, but I didn’t run into anything that was uncomfortable underfoot.
As I stated in the previous section, I tested these shoes out in every type of environment that I could without taking a plane ride. The versatility of conditions that they provide flawless traction on is one of the primary reason that these have become my new go-to shoes for Wisconsin winter. Another important aspect if the lug position pattern, which allows for traction and stability for fast lateral movements just as easily as running forward. This is a key component when considering their possible use as a tactical shoe.
They do as well in mud as anything you’re going to find other than spikes. Gravel is definitely no issue, and snow gives no problems at all. As a fun experiment, I decided to try doing some banking turns while sprinting on some slick patches of snow. The shoes stuck like cleats on a football field.
The traction is provided by Inov-8’s patented Tri-C sticky rubber compound, which covers 6mm lugs. The lugs on the new ROCLITE’s are designed specifically to give maximum gripping power, while not holding onto mud or debris. One thing that I noticed in particular was how they used different lug shapes for different parts of the foot, which really improved upon the smoothness of the ride when running on hard surfaces. In my experience, most shoes with deeper lugs lead to uncomfortable pressure points on the foot after several miles on hard surfaces. I never ran into that problem with these shoes.
The only surface that they did not maintain their gripping abilities on was smooth ice. If it was ice that had some debris in it, or snow on top of it they did great. But on smooth sheet ice, not so much. To be fair, I haven’t found any shoes that can maintain their grip on sheet ice without metal studs, but still I did take off a point for it.
Comfort & Stability: 9/10
This is the category where Inov-8 made, in my opinion, the most drastic changes. The entire shoe looks completely revamped; and as with all Inov-8 products, each change is made for practical reasons. To start things off, the lacing system was totally redesigned with their new adapterweb met-cradle system. What I initially assumed was a change for aesthetics proved me wrong as soon as I laced them up. The new lacing system provides a much more comfortable fit than the typical eyelet setup. It makes the shoe’s upper fit in a much more personalized way, to the foot shape of the wearer. It also gives the upper more give when running or hiking, without sacrificing stability by becoming looser.
The GORE-TEX materials used for the upper are impressively flexible and comfortable for being all-weather proof. The midsole is the two-piece powerflow midsole that is one of Inov-8’s signature elements. I have become a big fan of this midsole; it seems to provide the perfect combination of protection and feel that is hard to come by in trail running shoes, while giving a sweet little kickback of energy every time your foot leaves the ground. It comes in handy on longer runs, or when hiking with heavier loads or longer distances, plus the X-lock system does a good job of holding the heel in place minimizing blister potential.
I almost took off a point in this category because of the underfoot feel that the shank gives it. It felt a little weird to me in the beginning, and honestly took me a day or two of walking around in them full-time to get the feel for it. It was never uncomfortable, it just felt a little awkward. However, after spending a day or two getting used to it, I actually liked the underfoot feel more than I did in the X-Claw 275’s. It has a more cushioned ride to it that is reminiscent of some Brooks road shoes I’ve tried out. It’s a cushy feeling, but doesn’t let that take away from the functionality.
The new ROCLITE 305 GTX weighs in at 10.675oz. While this is a little more than many other running shoes, it is much lighter than most shoes in the GTX category. For example, Salomon’s comparable shoe in this category weighs in at 14.3oz. (Salomon XA Pro 3D GTX)
Like the weight, the 305 GTX is a little heavy in the cost department, until you compare it to similar models by other brands. While that’s more than I’d usually drop on a running shoe, I think the versatility justifies the cost. It wouldn’t seem like an unreasonable price for a good hiking boot, which it serves as a good replacement for. You can purchase it below.
The things that stands out most about this shoe is the all around versatility of it. It’s hard to imagine an environment where this shoe wouldn’t be a great choice. It is an absolute beast that can stand up to any conditions your throw at it, the traction is amazing on almost every terrain, plus it’s comfortable, breathable, and lightweight. It feels weird recommending the same shoe to runners as to those hitting the field in tactical positions, because normally what’s good for one is not good for the other. That being said, I’ve recommended these shoes to friends and family for both uses. In my opinion, Inov-8 definitely lives up to their claims with this shoe to be the best, “…no matter how wet and diverse the terrain is.”
Final score: 36/40