Sep 21 2012
PUBLISHED IN TRAIL RUN MAGAZINE
Great for: Runners looking for a minimalist-style that provides a combination of good trail feel, grip and cushioning. An all round shoe that handles pretty much all trail conditions, especially the rough stuff.
Not so great for: Smooth, hard-packed trail – not because they can’t handle it but because they’d be wasted on this stuff!
Test conditions: A variety of trail conditions from fast & firm right through to technical, rocky ascents and descents. They were also given plenty of exposure to mud and water.
Tester: Mal Law. An ageing weekend warrior better known for his sense of adventure than his athletic prowess. He’ll give anything a go, particularly if it the word EPIC can be attached to it. A lover of the rough stuff; a hater of the smooth.
Tester mechanics: 70-75 kilos depending on whether he’s run a ludicrous distance recently or not. Fairly low centre of gravity, slight pronator and mid-heel striker (when he thinks about it).
SUMMARY: THE REMARKABLE INOV-8 TRAILROC 255 IS MOST THINGS IT CLAIMS TO BE & MORE BESIDES.
The noise that Inov-8 have created around their Trailroc shoes centres very much on the innovative Tri-C sole, that sees 3 different types of compound used on the shoe’s sole: super-grippy rubber around the toes for climbing loose terrain and dealing with wet rock; endurance rubber around the ball and heel where most foot striking occurs; a hard, sticky compound for the arch that offers protection from rocks and tree stumps for this sensitive part of the foot.
While this might sound like a good idea, I’m always rather suspicious of any manufacturer claim that comes with a ‘breakthrough’ tag. Does it work in practice? Well, hard to say. Perhaps the subtleties of the mechanics were lost on this low-tech tester but if the idea is to give the runner confidence on almost any trail surfaces then yes, it works. Does it work any better than other Inov-8 shoes? I’m not totally convinced on that front but then it doesn’t really matter to me as I’ve always found their shoes to be standout performers, particularly in terms of grip, on most surfaces anyway. I have given the 255’s a good thrashing on a wide range of trails and they stick nicely to pretty much anything a shoe can be expected to stick to, so top marks Inov-8 for that.
What had me really excited about this shoe when I was first introduced to it was the injection-moulded technology used in the construction of the sole. This, it is claimed, results in a low profile shoe with great trail feel but also greater cushioning than could normally be expected from a shoe weighing so little (255 grams). And in this respect the Trailroc 255 does not disappoint. It has all the trail feel that I have come to love through prolonged exposure to their 295’s, but it does feel like a slightly softer ride too. For running long distances, particularly on firm-packed trail and rocky stuff, this is a big bonus.
But my first glance at the shoe did give me a couple of minor concerns. Firstly, the tread on the sole didn’t look quite as aggressive as those on the 295’s so I did wonder about the grip they’d offer in muddy conditions. But while the lugs are not quite as chunky they do have a new shape featuring an extra small cut-out that theoretically offers an increased surface area for contact with the slippy stuff. And based on some pretty rigorous trials on steep, muddy bush tracks I’d have to say I was pleasantly surprised – the grip is everything I’ve come to expect and love from Inov-8’s – so no worries there after all.
My other wee concern was the width of the tongue opening, particularly as there’s no internal sleeve or seal to stop dirt and mud getting in to the shoe. I had fully expected to be finishing my runs more dirt inside the shoes, but for whatever reason this doesn’t appear to happen. So while I’d still prefer a more ‘closed’ feel to the tongue I’ll let them off on that one.
My trial runs also produced two unexpected results. Actually one of these was apparent before even setting foot on a trail. The laces are too short to easily tie a double knot without over-tightening the shoe across the top of my foot. I do admittedly have quite a high foot but nevertheless this is a small annoyance. The other unexpected finding, one that came as a very pleasant surprise, was how quickly the shoes drain. After doing dozens of stream crossings in them I’d have to say these are the most freely draining shoe I’ve ever run in. And perhaps for this reason they also come clean really well with just a quick scrub in the laundry tub.
For those who need to know this stuff, the heel drop is 6mm (a few mm less than the 295’s) and this does seem to help with the shoe’s responsiveness.
Overall, I’d have to say I’m a big fan. Even though the laces are a little short for me they do at least stay done up once tied! My overall verdict – the Trailroc 255’s are a great shoe for anyone who’s not an out and out minimalist but does want a lightweight, responsive and comfortable shoe for running long distances on a variety of trails.