Inov-8 Trailroc 235 Trail Running Shoe Review

Inov-8 Trailroc 235When I think of Inov-8, I think of shoes designed for a purpose, and most often that purpose is to run on rugged trails or fells. Their shoes are typically fairly simple in design, but are very effective at doing their job. Unfortunately, you also often pay a premium for their product.

I’ve run in a number of Inov-8 shoes over the past few years, but I don’t have any of their more luggy trails shoes. In part that’s because I’d heard that their performance last tends to run a bit narrow and I was worried that the fit might not accommodate my foot very well (thanks to The Clymb I now have a pair of F-Lite 195’s and the fit is fine). Thus, when Inov-8 released the Trailroc line on their anatomical last I decided to take the plunge and buy a pair.

The Trailrocs come in three flavors based upon your requirements for protection and heel-forefoot drop. Per Running Warehouse, the Trailroc 255 is a 6mm, 9.9oz shoe drop shoe; the Trailroc 245 is a 9.2 oz, 3mm drop shoe, and the Trailroc 235 is an 8.3 oz, zero drop shoe. All three share a similar lugged outsole, but the Trailroc 245 and 255 have an additional rock plate for added protection. I debated long and hard about which shoe to order, and ultimately decided on the 235 after reading Ashwyn Gray’s comparative Trailroc review on the Another Fn’ Runner blog. Here’s what Ashwyn reports as the main difference between the two shoes:

“I mean, it would take a pretty sharp rock, probably one that’s attached to a high-speed drill, to inflict any kind of damage on your foot through the 245′s sole. And, you know that rock plate is there when you step. It doesn’t poke your feet through the insole, or anything. You can just feel the lack of feeling on the ground…

Inov-8 Trailroc 245 and 235

As a consequence of extra rock protection, the Trailroc 245 shares only a fraction of the 235′s flexibility. Don’t misunderstand, there’s a fine and flexible forefoot in the 245…

So, the Meta-Shank™ rock protection should really be the deciding factor for you here. Do you want a tough midsole that will keep pretty much every sensation of pointyness away from your feet? Or, do you want a shoe that twists and folds readily?

The 3mm differential in the 245 is really not as noticeable as I thought it would be. And, I consider myself fairly sensitive to those things.”

Given that I like flexible shoes, and that I don’t tend to run very rugged trails all that often, I opted for the Trailroc 235 even though I I’m a sucker for a blue and yellow shoe(must be my Swedish heritage…).

Inov-8 Trailroc 235 sideInov-8 Trailroc 235 medial

I’ve now run in the Trailrocs over just about every terrain I could find. Trails, acorn-sized gravel road shoulders, ice, snow, road, sidewalk, leaves, mud, etc. They have performed phenomenally well on all surfaces. I’d go so far as to say that they’re one of the grippiest shoes I have ever worn (keeping in mind that I don’t own any super-luggy shoes like some of the fell running shoes that Inov-8 makes) – traction is fantastic even on crusty ice and snow.

Inov-8 Trailroc 235 sole

The sole is what really makes the Trailroc a great shoe. The lugs are prominent enough to provide solid traction, but flat and even enough that you can run comfortably on a flat, hard surface like an asphalt road. As a result, this is an extremely versatile shoe. Stack height is reported to be 13mm in the heel and forefoot, so it’s relatively thin – the shoe definitely feels firm underfoot. The rubber outsole is pretty solid and tough, and as a result I never found the lack of a rock plate to be a big problem. The 235’s offer a lot more protection than say the New Balance MT00, which is also a zero drop trail shoe without a rock plate. I’ve had no issues running over chunky gravel or ice in them – you will feel stuff underfoot, but it’s not the piercing pain you might feel when catching a rock in just the right spot in a less protective shoe. I haven’t run more than 5-6 miles in a single run in these shoes, so your experience may differ if you are a long distance trail runner (which I, as yet, am not).

Inov-8 Trailroc 235 top

As mentioned above, the Trailrocs are built on Inov-8’s anatomical last, so it’s a fit I am very familiar with from shoes like the Bare-X 180. The heel and midfoot are snug but not constrictive (midfoot fit is an issue for me with some of the New Balance shoes). Forefoot width is amply roomy, and the upper is stretchy enough to allow my feet to flex up and down without restraint. The upper material is a more traditional soft fabric, not the plasticky mesh that is so popular these days – this is a good thing, though I have seen isolated reports of it tearing in areas adjacent to the overlays along the mid-forefoot. There is no hard, plastic heel counter, just external overlays that wrap around the back of the heel. The insole is removable, but the footbed is not finished underneath so I have only used them with the insole installed. The Trailroc 235 runs true to size for me.

If I have one complaint about the 235, it’s a very minor, mostly cosmetic one. The toe bumper on the shoe is very small, and as a result the material at the tip of the forefoot tends to fold and crease as the shoe flexes. It doesn’t bother my feet, but it makes the shoe look a little flimsy up front. Oh, and the price ($120 MSRP) is a bit steep, but not that far off what other shoes in the zero drop trail shoe niche cost.

Summary

The Inov-8 Trailroc 235 is a grippy, zero drop trail shoe that provides adequate protection even in the absence of a rock plate. It works well on varied surfaces from roads to rugged trails, and provides a roomy fit that minimalist runners have come to expect in zero drop shoes. I think highly enough of this shoe that it ranked 2nd on my best hybrid trail shoes of 2012 list – highly recommended!

(Note – for those wanting an even more minimal Trailroc shoe, Inov-8 just release the Trailroc 150. I’ve shared some photos and my first run thoughts on the Trailroc 150 on the Runblogger forum.)

The Inov-8 Trailroc 235 is available for purchase at Running Warehouse and Zappos.In Europe, they can be purchased at Wiggle.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Brian Williams says:

    I have been wearing my Inov-8 235s since November. I had been wearing the NB MT110s but they started to bother my left ankle (PTT). The Inov-8 235s have been great and I’ve done up to 18 trail miles on them with no protection issues. The black rubber wrapping the toes started to pull away from the shoe immediately and the inside is not ideal for sockless running. Other than those issues I really like the shoe.

  2. Unleaded_Group says:

    Inov-8 Running Shoes feel great! I just bought a new pair for CrossFit

  3. Mr. Gordo says:

    Pete, thx for finally reviewing these shoes. My one question is if the upper manages to keep your feet dry when running in snowy conditions? Germany is winter wonderland these days. ;)

  4. What you’re opinions on the F-Lite 195? I’m trying to decide between that and the Road-X 155

    • I’m also curious how the 235 compares to the 195. I just got a pair of the 195s and love them. They seem like they will be the perfect road/trail hybrid for me and the initial feel is better than just about any other shoe I’ve tried (and I love the rasta green/red/yellow colorway!) My one concern is durability as I’ve read numerous reviews that say that that is a concern. I will need a more dedicated trail shoe and the 235 looks like a nice option.

      • I’ve heard that the sole of the 195 is more durable than that of the 155, which is something like EVA. Durability is why I’m leaning more towards the 195, but I would primarily use it as a road shoe. Plus I think that 8 oz (the weight of the 235) might be a little too much for my one running shoe.

  5. Andrew Bentley says:

    To anyone who has experience of the 235 / 245 and New Balance MT110……..

    How do these compare from a protection point of view? I have found that the lack of protection in the midfoot of the NB110 can cause me issues sometimes if I step on a particularly pointy rock when descending. I would think that the 245 would be better in that regard due to the meta-shank. Is that the case? Thanks

  6. Nice review. I’ve been considering adding some 235s as a more minimal option to my 245s. Though I have to say my 245s are still way more flexible than any trail shoe I’ve ever tried with comparable cushioning/protection. For rocky trails, I personally wouldn’t want any less protection for distances ~12+.

    Also, the 245 is holding up much, much better than my F-Lites did. I’m at 400 miles, and they look fine.

  7. Pete,

    Great review. Have you tested the Skechers GO Trail? I’m in the market for trail shoes and wonder what they’re like as I love my GOBionics.

  8. Christian Eriksson says:

    Nice review Pete, it really increased my appetite for these, although I also find them a bit pricey.

    And if you ever want to visit the Land of your Ancestors, I will happily guide you around ;)

  9. Maurice Guillen says:

    I’ve been looking for a pair of trail running shoes that would suit my needs. I think these new Inov8 shoes can be perfect for my needs.

  10. I ended getting the 245s since I felt I wasnt ready for 0mm trail running, so far I like them, BUT … I dont like their last, it feels to narrow (for a minimalist shoe), my toes dont splay as much as I got used towith the MT10s, in fact my big toes get irritated and sometimes blistered in the under outer side which is really infuriating in longer runs :-[

    In fact I came to the conclusion that the last is so narrow a part of my big toes is actually “off” the last when running, which is the reason for the bistering in this area.

    on the contrary my Bare-x 150s are a half size smaller and fit my forefoot way better….

    I really like the trailrocs, except for the last, meaning this will be my first and LAST Trailroc pair until they create a version with a wider forefoot last….something more in line with the barex last…. :-/

  11. Ashwyn Gray says:

    Whoa! Thanks for the mention, Pete! I totally agree with your remarks here. You provide a great description of the level of proprioception afforded by the Trailroc 235 outsole. And, I’m so glad you like these shoes!

  12. Aaron Grenz says:

    I’ve been researching trail running shoes for a couple months. This review pretty much convinces me my next pair will be some Inov-8s. Now to get to one of the few stores with a good selection to try the different models out first (I may just order from Running Warehouse as another excellent alternative).

  13. Pete, I wanted to love my inov-8 (252) so much, mainly for crossfit- yet they were so narrow I couldn’t walk in them (size 7.5- length is ok).
    No sure what am I missing- I’m a small guy with not so wide fit. How come they hurt so much? Mild overpronation?
    Any suggestion per shoe? I run with the sacuni hurrican 16- they are ok.
    Thanks!

  14. I have tried 2 different Inov-8 shoes, Trailroc 255 and Roclite 243. Both felt very “hard” especially at the hell area. I wish they would be softer. Right now i run with Mizuno Ferus but it lacks traction and the trailroc 235 might provide much better but i am hesitant about the lack of softness.

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