I have mentioned in the past that my feet are wide, like flippers wide, and so finding footwear is a real nightmare. My search for suitable outdoors footwear is more of an epic quest rather than a search, and when I moved to minimalist shoes, it was no different.
Mika is a huge fan of Inov-8 and her feet are really narrow, so initially I didn’t look into Inov-8 at all. I tried their shoes several times, but was not happy. What convinced me in the end is the acceptance that most shoes are too narrow and that includes hiking boots and dedicated hiking shoes, so if I need to have a narrower shoe, I might as well have a pair that will have everything else working for it. Inov-8 is a natural choice for outdoors use if you are looking for a trail shoe and with their newly introduced (2014) Zero Drop range, I was ready to give them a go.
I was after a zero drop shoe that is not waterproof, has some cushioning, some underfoot protection (shank) and will be good for mixed trails (hard pack, loose gravel and some mud) – so I went for the Trailroc 235.
Inov-8 is a Fell Running (what they call trail running in northern England) gear company from Cumbria, England. They started as a footwear only company specializing in trail shoes. Over the years they have expanded into CrossFit footwear, road running, court shoes and more, developed a line of running clothing and packs and expanded their ranges. Inov-8 have a unique classification of “arrow” levels – from 0 to 3 arrows indicating drop, cushioning and support and their shoes have their weight in the name (Trailroc 235 weighs 235g, simple). The company is now refocusing its range on trail and fitness only, and offers a very precise range of footwear, clothing and accessories to do those activities.
The Trailroc range is part of the trail range and it is aimed for hard packed trails, with a mixed sole to offer better grip. The Trailroc 235 is the most minimalist shoe in that range (there are also a 245’s and 255’s) and it offers a very simplistic design: mesh upper, zero drop, EVA midsole and a mixed compound sole. The Trailroc range falls, in my opinion, in the “door to trail” idea – a shoe that can be used on asphalt, hard packed trails and some softer trails.
The first detail about the Trailroc 235 is the weight – 235g places it at a very lightweight category. The rest are:
Upper: mesh and TPU, very well ventilated and fast to dry.
Midsole: 6mm injected EVA that has enough give to be comfortable when doing some “pavement pounding.”
Sole: Trialroc sole that has 3 compounds to allow a good balance of traction in various conditions.
How I use them
I have had the shoes for roughly a year now, and I bought them originally for hiking, backpacking and fast hiking. The shoes were part of my “going lighter” transition; I was looking for a zero drop shoe with some cushioning to reduce feet fatigue.
After a few hikes the Trailrocs started to be my go-to shoes for all hikes and runs, in all conditions and trail types (including pavement and mixed). The shoes are light and offer the right mix for me of flexibility, protection and minimalism. When hiking I have used the shoes on day hikes and multi-day hikes, in mud and snow or just on sunny days. So far they have performed perfectly and I have had no major issues with them.
Fit is where I have the biggest issue with Inov-8 in general, and the Trailrocs specifically. I have wide feet, very wide (2E), so finding shoes is never easy. Inov-8 decided to cater to narrow feet only, and sometimes offer some shoes to regular width feet, but never any for wide feet. Inov-8 have two lasts (shape/volume of the inside of the shoe): Precision (read “very narrow”) that Mika loves, and Anatomy last (your average shoes width: C-D). The Trailroc 235 is made with the Anatomy last, and it is still a little narrow for me. In my first couple of uses toes 4 and 5 were a little sensitive, but the mesh top means they had no major injuries. On the other hand, since my feet haven’t gotten injured from the narrowness of the shoes, the shoes did. I now have holes breaking up on both sides of my forefoot and next to toes 4 and 5. You can actually see where my feet have been grinding the fabric and causing a break.
Besides the break in the mesh, which is probably not fatal to the shoes, no other problems have come up: the sole is still in great condition and the midsole still provide the protection I need.
- Good compromise between flexibility and protection
- Very breathable
- Versatile – can be used for trails and pavement
- Zero drop and minimalist
- Can accommodate wider feet
- Mesh is not robust enough
- Slippery in muddy conditions
- Laces have the tendency to slip open
The Inov-8 Trailroc 235 is a really great shoe, and would have been perfect if it was slightly wider, or had a wide option. Despite the little flaws, it has been surprisingly comfortable for such a minimalist shoe and it had managed to give me what I need to complete my transformation to the “fast and light” style.
End of life for the Trailroc 235
I’m adding this part after the shoes have finally retired, more then a year after I bought them.
The Trailrocs went on a whole range of hikes with me, from summer day hikes, to winter overnights to a challenging long distance trail and for most of the time they were perfect. I probably ended up using for roughly 600-700 miles, of them about 250 miles too long….
Before taking the Trailrocs to the Cape Wrath Trail, the shoes should have been retired after doing roughly 400 miles, no more and i would say that you should expect that distance from any on the Inov-8 shoes. I took them through a variety of terrains, including rocks of all kinds (including slate, granite and more), bogs, sand mud and anything in between. The soles are still usable, after 700 miles, but the mesh in the upper is completely destroyed. The ruined mesh could be a result of me having pretty wide feet and so creating too much pressure on the mesh from the inside.
The second part that have obviously reached its end a long time ago is the midsole. As a forefoot runner and walker I can feel that any cushioning in the forefoot as been compressed and collapsed after roughly 300 miles, but they are still usable with it. I did find that in tarmac use and packed trails that caused some foot bruising from repeated impact.
Despite all of the above, I plan on getting another pair of Trailrocs 235s for trail running and light day hikes, where they truly excel, the only problem is that Inov-8 seemed to have stopped making them!