A couple of months ago Inov-8 via Freestak kindly sent me a pair of TrailRoc 285 shoes to trial, which at that point in time hadn't even been released. To say I was a bit excited was an understatement. The evening they had been delivered I pulled them straight on and headed out for a 4 mile run!
I've been a massive fan of Inov-8's X-Talon range for years, probably for as long as I've been running. I've owned multiple pairs of the X-Talon 212, 200s and 190s and I find them amazing for the Scottish cross country races and great for the muddy trails that I run. However when it comes to hard packed trail, I've had issues. The X-Talon has a soft sole and the grips are really aggressive, ideal for muddy terrain but not so great for very rocky paths as you can feel every stone. I've been looking for something for the harder terrain for a while now and I was hoping the TrailRoc 285 would fit the bill.
Size wise, I was sent the same size as my X-Talons. Always a risk when you can't try them on but thankfully they felt fine. My X-Talon 190s are precision fit, basically good for fast racing but long distance, forget it! My feet swell on longer runs so if I know I'm going over 8 or 9 miles, I opt to run in the roomier 200s. The TrailRoc feels somewhere between the 190s and the 200s - perfect. There is plenty room in the toe area without feeling cramped.
The lacing system also gives a comfortable fit over the top of the foot. The only thing I would have liked was a second eyelet near the ankle. I like to use the 'heel lock' method of lacing my shoes and this isn't possible with the 285s.
I've now ran over 100 miles in the 285s and this includes my first ultra marathon. Their first test was a 16 mile run along access roads up in the Scottish Highlands and I was instantly relieved that the thicker sole allowed for pain free running. I've worn the 190s and even the 200s on similar tracks before and 90% of the time it's fine but then you catch a sharp stone and you'll feel it in the bottom of your foot. No such issues with the 285s.
They also have some protection from kicking stones which I like. This is similar to the X-Talon 200s.
So they passed the test on the hard packed trail but how would they deal with a little bit of sand and mud?
I'm pleased to say I had full confidence in them. I ran along some local trails for an easy 10k and they worked well along the forest tracks and the beach. The paths were dry and firm but I think if they had been wet and muddy I'd prefer to have the X-Talon. TrailRoc isn't designed for mud though, it's designed for the harder trails.
Taking it to the next level
With a couple of 16 mile runs and a 20 mile run done in the Trailrocs I decided these would be the shoes I'd use for my first Ultra. A 50k race along access paths and tracks at Whitelees Windfarm on the West Coast of Scotland. I knew the paths would be hard packed but what I didn't expect was the loose rocks and very uneven terrain but I needn't have worried. The Trailrocs were super comfy and I finished the 50k with zero blisters, no black toenails and my feet felt great.
The rain was also extremely heavy during the ultra and although my feet were soaked, the 285s didn't hold on to the water. I have had times when running in my X-Talon 200s where water has staying in the shoes for a while due to the protective toe area but thankfully this wasn't the case with the 285s.
What I really like about these shoes is I can run on road or trail and know my feet are going to be safe and they look great! Overall, a great shoe!
More information about the Inov-8 Trailroc 285s can be found on the Inov-8 website