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inov-8 - Trailroc 235 and 245

posted Oct 21, 2013, 2:01 PM by GoOut Project   [ updated Jan 23, 2014, 4:13 AM ]

For 10 years inov-8 has been promoting the so-called "natural running", which essentially means to run free from anything that interferes with the natural movement of the feet. Today, inov-8 pushes this concept to the extreme and after years of development and improvement, it now offers a vast catalog of natural-running footwear.

It is important to remind that natural running needs a quite long process of readaptation to a completely new way of running compared to one most of us are used to. If this process does not take place gradually, it may cause injuries, such as annoying tendon inflammations. The transition process consists in gradually reducing the thickness of the sole differential from heel to toe, until reaching a completely flat sole. inov-8 produces models with different differential thicknesses of the sole (9mm, 6mm, 3mm, 0mm), which are designed to accompany the runners on the long road that leads to the natural running (i.e. flat sole, differential=0 mm).

Go Out Project decided to try one of the most interesting models for off-road running: the Trailroc. We tested this model with two different types of sole: one with a differential of 3 mm and one with 0 mm. We have chosen the two most extreme (flattest) differentials in order to properly assess, with the help of on our testers, what are the real dangers and contraindications of the natural running. And, here, after months of injured ankles, tendinitis, and the creation of new, imaginative, and very complex swearing, our testers report on their experiences.

Technical Description

The upper of the Trailroc is made of a very light and thin mesh, reinforced with rubber bands on the sides and around the eyelets of the laces. The sole, that has a slightly thicker and more robust heel, is composed of three sticky rubber compounds of varying hardness having a very aggressive design with spaced cleats.
In both versions tested (the 235 and the 245) the thickness of the inner sole is of 6 mm.
The 245 version has a differential profile of 3 mm, while the 235
 version has a zero differential (0 mm) .

Trailroc 235: 235g (size 8 UK)
Trailroc 245: 245g (size 8 UK)

Our Test

We tested the Trailroc 235 and 245 for 6 months (between spring, summer, and autumn) mainly for trail running, but we also try them on the road, for training, and for hiking. We tried them both in wet and dry conditions, in a very wide range of temperatures (10-30°C), and on different terrains (rock, grass, gravel, sand, mud, and asphalt). We ran mostly on intermediate distances (about 5-10km), but we also tried them for a few longer runs (10-20 km).

First Impressions
At first, we inspected them carefully and... mmm... such a minimalistic, thin sole with such an aggressive notching... very weird! The upper is essential. It looks like all the "old" cushioning systems and support systems of traditional shoes have never been invented. These shoes are extremely soft. They flex like a thin rubber sheet and they are impressively light! It's almost ridiculous! But we do not resist and we put them on... we tie the laces and... PUFF!... we enter into a new dimension!
They are really little more than a sock with a sole! Wearing them for 
the first time gives you a strange feeling. For those who had that experience, the feeling is reminiscent of that of wearing a track and field spike-shoe. The first thing you notice is a distinct change in the balance and propulsion compared to that you are used to with the traditional running shoes. The freedom of movement of the ankle is exceptional: no constricting parts, no hassle, these shoes are basically like gloves for your feet! They wrap around your feet perfectly and they are fused to a sole designed to perfection. If you flex your toes, the shoe flexes along with them! Amazing!

Adapting to a new way of running
Running with a shoe as the Trailroc requires a relatively long period of adaptation during which one has to develop a specific running technique. At Go Out Project we also wanted to experiment this process, therefore we have moved from a ultralight running shoe, to the Trialroc 245, and finally to the Trailroc 235... and we must say this process hasn't been totally pain-free!

On the trails
The extreme sensitivity, that makes you feel everything under the sole, is fantastic, perhaps also because is more natural! Any roughness of the ground, even the smallest one, is perceivable through the thin sole. This gives a more direct contact with the ground and stimulates a greater attention on where you step. One has to restart learning how to run, becoming step by step, more and more precise. The propusion also changes. It becomes more direct, swift, and very effective.

Probably the laces of a traditional running shoe are heavier than a pair of Trailroc! With a weight of less than 250 g, each comment is superfluous!

What kind of means would you use to tackle rough, uneven terrains? Probably a dirt bike! That's it, the soles of the Trailroc are designed exactly like the tread of the tires of a dirt bike. The sharp and well spaced cleats seize on any surface, including loose ground, mud, 
and sand, both uphill and downhill. The special TRI-C compound, consisting of three different types of rubber, sticks everywhere. On dry terrains the grip is exceptional and you can put the pedal to the metal, but when it's wet, you better slow down!

The fit and comfort are really excellent! The laces can be tighten very well and uniformly. The upper is soft, well wrapping, and it has no seams or other constricting parts that may cause chafing. The sole perfectly copies the shape of the foot, giving a feeling of extreme ease and freedom during the action. The lack of cushioning, however, makes the impact with the ground a bit more traumatic than that of well cushioned shoes and this should not be underestimated, especially when running on longer distances. Obviously, a thicker sock can be very helpful!

The mesh on the upper is very breathable. Even at temperatures above 30°C, we never noticed excessive moisture accumulation...
which also means no stink! In the hottest days it is, however, advisable to wear quickly-drying, thin technical socks, which also have the advantage of preserving the high sensitivity of the shoes.

Cushioning on natural running shoes is usually very low or close to zero. Therefore, all the judgements must be renormalized when compared to other kind of shoes. The 245 version protects a bit more the heels from the impacts, while the 235 is less protective, but on both versions the soft cleats of the sole guarantee a minimal cushioning, that is something you'll appreciate. If you need some extra cushioning, however, a thicker pair of socks can be helpful, this is particularly true in the initial stages of the process of adaptation to the natural running.

The soles of the Trailroc have rounded edges and the shells that contain the heels are quite soft. This makes these shoes less stable than the "traditional" running shoes. But the whole concept of stability 
on the Trailroc is new and different. Soon you realize that
 you start developing greater sensitivity and stability through the adaptation of the feet themselves to the ground, actively working with joints and muscles of feet, ankles, and knees.

If used for hiking or walking, the Trailroc are great and with them you can safely travel the world. You will love them for their lightness and agility and you'll never be tired of them. For running, as already mentioned, they require a good introductory training period. Off road they are fantastic! On paved roads, they are admittedly tiring, even after months of preparation. They are only suitable to dry conditions. Unfortunately, they don't like water!

Shoes that are reduced to the bone: ultra-light materials and nothing superfluous. Even the classic rubber toe protection, here becomes a thin, almost non-existent layer. Therefore, you cannot expect them to last forever. The upper may suffer cuts and abrasions (although after the 6 months of our tests we didn't notice any sign of damage). 
The sole, on the other hand, has very thick cleats and a compound that do not tend to wear out easily.

Our Verdict

The Trailroc are pure performance, fast, minimalistic trail running shoes! Excellent on many different terrains and conditions (or at least the dry ones!), they are the perfect choice when high performances and full contact with the trail are sought. We really liked them! Perhaps also because Go Out Project is always looking for innovative ideas. After a good long preparatory transition period, we started to appreciate them and to really enjoy them and today we don't want to go back to "traditional shoes" anymore! If you deeply understand the concepts that are behind the Trailroc and you approach them correctly, they are awesome shoes you are never gonna get tired of!

+ Extremely light
+ Super sensitive
+ Comfortable
+ Good grip

- Only usable in dry conditions

 Lightness  10/10
 Grip 8.5/10
 Comfort 8.5/10
 Breathability    9/10
 Cushioning 6.5/10
 Stability    7/10
 Versatility    8/10
 Durability 7.5/10
 Total Score 8.1/10