It is only natural that since the weight on my back has decreased, the weight on my feet should too! Even though I love my Lowa Renegade II boots, and even considering that they are only mids, they still weigh in at a whopping 51.2 oz (yeah, that’s 3 pounds 3.2 oz!). You know, they say that a pound on the foot is 5 pounds on the back. If this is true, then when wearing these boots I am adding an additional 15 pounds to my weight! So, I did the unthinkable and decided to make a run at some (much lighter, yet effective) trail runners.
Now, before I go on, I would like to say that I only plan to use the trail runners for warm and cool weather hikes. However, once it is cold, I plan to swap back into my warm boots. As well, there were a few things that I did require in the trail runners, especially since this is a new transition…
The first thing that I was looking for in a trail runner was a shoe without a waterproof liner. Since I plan to wear these during the warmer months and not the cold, I am quite alright if my feet get a little wet from time to time. And I know that they will. Whether it be from walking in the dew covered grass in the mornings, sloshing through puddles and streams that follow along the center of the path (cause they always do 🙂 ) or even boldly crossing a stream…they will get wet. And lets face it, a shoe that hardly reaches the bottom of my ankles will have a hard time keeping water out anyway.
As well, I was looking for something with a lot of mesh. For 2 reasons really. The first one I alluded to in the above paragraph, which is that I want a shoe that will dry out as fast as possible. So, obviously, the more mesh in the shoe, the faster the water will simply spill out. But, that’s not all! The other (obvious) reason for a lot of mesh is that my feet will breathe better in a shoe covered in mesh. I did mention that I plan to use these shoes in warmer weather, right? So, in my eyes, a liner will only make my foot sweat more, and keep the water in longer.
Another thing that I wanted in this shoe is a shoe with at least a partial shank underfoot. In my past experiences of walking down trails in my simple everyday “tennis” shoes, I noticed that I felt everything that happened to fall under foot. So, I could easily imagine how this would leave my tender little feet bruised and sore after hiking with a pack on all day. So, I did want a little something extra to smooth out the bumps along the trail. However, (in my limited knowledge) I felt that in a trail runner, a full shank may be harder to find, and even if I did, it would add in more weight overall. Here I am trying to cut weight in my hiking shoes, so I was open to “partial length” shanks… At least give them a try.
The last truly important feature I wanted in the shoe was good traction. Simply put, I wanted a sole that would allow a solid hold, obviously not necessarily for simply walking along a nicely worn, packed trail (any shoe can do this). Nope, like most, I am interested at staying in an upright position while walking across wet rocks, or roots. And even more importantly while I am (carelessly) bounding across those oddly shaped and ill positioned rocks that barely jut up across a wide bodied stream…
As far as I was concerned the rest of the details were of little importance, or at least if they are of any importance, I simply did not understand it yet… But don’t get me wrong, the better they “looked” is always much appreciated… I mean, I am not particularly fond of sporting hot pink shoes… 🙂
So, now that I knew what I wanted in my trail runners, I started hitting up the forums. I came across a few different names, but immediately, the Inov-8 brand stood out like a sore thumb (better a thumb than a foot). It seemed that a lot of hikers both wore them and liked them. So, I checked them out and found that Inov-8 has quite a few different models to choose from. However, the 2 versions that I seemed to come across in most reviews were the Roclite 320’s and the Roclite 315’s. However, it seemed that the 320’s were not being made anymore.
So, I set my sights on the Roclite 315’s. Here are a few of the features of this shoe:
- Meta Flex: All our footwear incorporates a meta-flex groove which is anatomically aligned in front of the metatarsal heads to provide a natural fore foot flex.
- Meta Shank: New 5 finger meta-shank aligns with each individual metatarsal for greater flexibility when contouring while retaining underfoot impact. protection. A softer compound is used on performance product while a firmer compound is used on the endurance product.
- Met Cradle: The upper webbing support in our footwear is anatomically positioned to cradle the forefoot behind the metatarsal heads and provide a secure foot hold.
- Fascia Band: A replication of the plantar fascia ligament to increase propulsion efficiency and reduce fatigue.
- Three Arrow Midsole: Mid level cushioning generally used for training.
- Waterproof/Breathability: Waterproof level (none 0/5) breathability (high 4/5).
- Webbing Upper Support: Lacing attached to nylon webbing, cradles and secures the upper behind the metatarsal heads.
- Comfort Last: Generous fitting and offering a more comfortable style. Ideal for training and long distances particularly on trails.
- Endurance Rubber Compound: Our endurance rubber compound has been formulated for an optimal balance on wear and mixed terrain grip.
So, while much of this is just technical jargon to sell a shoe (IMO), there is actually some that I understand enough to feel like this shoe may just fit my needs. Here is what I got out of that in comparison to my initial requirements:
- This shoe does not have a waterproof liner! For the most part, the entire upper is composed of mesh. Due to this, the shoe will not hold any water, as well as allow my feet to breathe.
- This shoe incorporates what Inov-8 calls a Meta Shank, or in my terms, a “partial” shank. Essentially, this is a bare bones shank that just covers key places under foot. This should provide needed protection with as little weight as possible.
- The sole of the shoe is a compromise between grip (traction) and it’s durability. (From what I can tell…) This means that the rubbery sole is soft enough to be sticky, but not to soft so that it will last longer than a day… As well, the lugs on this shoe are rather deep which aids in providing good traction.
Another important thing that I would like to discuss that I have not yet mentioned, is fit. I say this last because fit is the most personal part of deciding on which show will really work for anyone. It is always a great idea to try on the shoes before purchase to be sure that it is the correct size, or fit. Saying this, I did not have the luxury of trying these on. So, my next best choice was to order from Zappos.com, and internet store that offers free shipping both ways. As well, some like to order 2 different sizes of the same shoe so that they can compare them at the same time. Again, due to $$$, this was not a real option for me either. I only ordered one pair (and crossed my fingers).
When I did decide that these were the trail runners that I wanted to try out, then I had to guess the size. Typically, I wear a size 12 (US Men’s) in both my shoes as well as my boots. However, many people report that these shoes run small and recommends that these shoes be ordered anywhere form 1/2 to 1 full size larger than what one typically wears. I was leery of ordering a full size larger, so I bit the bullet and went with a size 12.5 (US) men’s.When they came in I wore them around the house for about 4 hours before I dared step outside with them on (in case I needed to return them…)
So, a few things that I noticed…
- Fit. This was the biggest thing I was concerned about, considering I ordered a larger than normal size. What I found is that they fit me pretty good. However, now I do wonder if a size 12 would have fit me fine too. Length wise, they fit fine. My heel seats nicely and my toes do not hit the end of the toe box. However, the toe box is a little wide. With my wool hiking socks, this is not too noticeable, however, with my everyday cotton socks (ankle height) I can tell that there is a little extra room in the toe box. Because of this, I wonder how a size 12 would fit me. But, the rest of the fit was good enough that I felt they were good enough to keep.
- Immediately I noticed that where the forefoot flexed, the material along the outside-side dimpled in and pressed in on the side of my foot. This dimple was very noticeable, and especially with each step I took. Because of this, I almost sent them back, but I decided that it was due to the shoes being new, and with some use, the material would soften up and the dimple would be less noticeable. So, still, I decided to keep them.
- The sole was the next area that really drew my attention. The lugs on the bottom of this shoe are deep, real deep. I actually thought that they were baseball cleats…not really, but they were that deep. As well, they are quite soft, which would allow for nice traction on wet rocks/roots. I understand though why they say that the sole is a balance between wear and grip. The lugs seem like with a lot of hiking on rocky ground they may begin to wear off quickly, or simply tear off. I do feel like this will be the first thing that will fail on these shoes. (Don’t get me wrong though, I think that they will last for a while, just not forever.)
- And of course, what gear freak could get a new item and not weigh it! Let me just say that (after some time I learned that) the number of the shoe (ie: Roclite 315) represents the weight one of the shoes in grams. Therefore, the Roclite 315’s weigh 315 grams (or 11.1 oz) for one, or 630 grams (22.2 oz) for a pair. However, in my size 12.5 (US Men’s) one of these shoes weighs 346 grams (11.7 oz) or 692 grams (23.4 oz) for the pair. So, in the end I shaved off 27.8 oz from my boot weight, or around 8.5 pounds from my back… 🙂
Once I realized that I was for sure going to keep them, I decided to try the heel customization that Inov-8 recommends for a more personal fit. Here are the instructions, straight from the Inov-8 site:
Since our footwear is based on the average runners’ foot, it is impossible to guarantee everyone a 100% fit. Prominent heel spurs can cause hot spots and in turn premature wear of the heel lining or blistering.
In the construction of our footwear, we use a soft thermosetting heel counter which means it is possible to alter the shape to the exact contours of the heel where necessary.
To do this apply heat to the inner heel area of the shoe with steam from a kettle (Please exercise caution when doing this) for approximately 30-60 seconds or until the heel counter softens. Put the shoes on immediately after when the temperature allows, and go for a short walk or run. The polymer thermosetting heel counter will reform to the new heel shape for a custom fit.
Extreme caution should be exercised when using steam and handling the heated product. This information is provided for guidance and does not constitute an agreement between you and inov-8. Neither inov-8 nor it’s affiliates can or will accept any liability for injuries caused.
After doing this, I can honestly say that I did not necessarily “feel” a difference, but I can now say that I have done it, and maybe there is a difference…
So, once I finished steaming them up, I wore them outside and ran a few laps around my yard. Considering that my yard is not much of a mountain, and is relatively flat I didn’t get to see how they would really perform, but that did not stop me from wearing them. I wore them for the next week and a half, right up until I took them on my first hike…
For my first hike, I left to hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. I left with a 20.8 pound backpack, a great weight for trail runners! The first day I hiked 20.2 miles along the uneven trail which was made up of hard, packed dirt and protruding rocks and roots. The second day I road (asphalt) hiked 9 miles.On this hike I was very happy with them. Not only was this my first hike in trail runners, but it was also my first 20 mile day-hike. There was a couple of times that I stepped wrong however I was easily able to regain control very quickly. The soles did in fact grip pretty well to rocks (both wet and dry) and roots, and I also found that the lugs dug into the ground pretty well too. And the entire time my feet never felt hot. However, the road hike was a different story! Hiking 9 miles on the asphalt just about killed my feet, although, walking on asphalt with any shoes seems to kill my feet…
The only bad thing is that after the hike I found a tiny blister on the back of my right heel, almost on the bottom. Good thing is that had I not have seen it, I would have never noticed it was there. It was not painful at all, and I never felt a hot spot. So, I am wondering if this blister was actually from walking such a long distance in a short time, rather than from the shoes.
So, at this point, I am very happy with these shoes. Of course I don’t have much use on them so far, so the real test will come in time. But, at this point, I can say that I am happy that I moved to trail runners for these hikes. They seemed to perform well and I like to think that I could feel the difference in weight, but that may also be due to my light pack too!
So, I look forward to wearing these shoes on many other hikes, and will be sure to update if there is anything substantial that happens, or if my feelings simply change. Until then, thanks for reading. If you have any comments, please post them below, or even share your thoughts about your own Roclite 315’s!