Inov-8 Roclite 290

The Inov-8 Roclite 290 is a high-performance trail shoe meant for runners with neutral foot-pronation. This model of the Roclite family is lightweight, flexible and has a very nice visual appeal due to the sleek design of the upper. A POWERFLOW midsole brings response and cushioning to the bottom of the foot but keeps the overall weight low, while Inov-8’s second generation Meta-Shank rock plate acts as a shield against uneven, rocky surfaces. Three different rubber compounds referred to by Inov-8 as Tri-C compound, work in unison to protect the underfoot and midsole from repeated impact and aggressive trail objects such as branches and rocks. The pattern of cleats that are raised from the outsole provides the shoe with excellent grip on wet and muddy surfaces as well as the ability to prevent itself from picking up mud and other debris that may stick to the bottom of other shoes. Overall, this shoe has many of the same great characteristics of older models such as the Roclite 295 and the 282 GTX, but is more flexible, lighter and has less cushioning - making it an excellent choice for the efficient runner.

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Pros & Cons
  • Weight
  • Flexibility
  • Versatility
  • Durability
  • Visually aesthetic
  • Comfort
  • Outsole’s grip capability allowed runners to feel confident when running on wet rock and muddy surfaces.
  • Cons
    • The shoe runs a half-size small, according to several runners
    • Shoe may be too narrow for some foot sizes
    • Debris tends to penetrate through the upper, leading to runners wanting a gusseted tongue
    • Breathability is compromised due to a dense and tightly woven upper
    • Key Features
      The outsole of the Inov-8 Roclite 290 is made up of 3 different kinds of rubber. This rubber compound, called Tri-C rubber, provides the shoe with high-quality traction and protects itself against rough surfaces and abrasions. It does not peel off or wear away easily. The design of the outsole features multi-directional claw-shaped cleats with wide contact areas that grip multiple surfaces well and do a good job at releasing debris. Inov-8’s second generation META-SHANK technology serves as a rock plate that protects the bottom of the foot from sharp edges and unpredictable surface encounters. In addition, a reinforced rubber toe cap gives runners an extra layer of protection to the foot if a runner should stub their toe or kick any underlying roots or rocks.
      Inov-8’s POWERFLOW midsole cushioning delivers better shock absorption and more responsiveness than most trail-running midsoles. The material has very good flexibility and it does not sag easily. While the cushioning of the Roclite 290 is said to be better than most of the industry standard’s, there is little of it. Thus, runners who tested the shoe found that it was very sensitive to rocky surfaces and the sharp edges could be felt all the way through their runs. With that said, the rock plate mentioned in the outsole section of this review adds a layer of protection, and what runners feel through the lack of cushioning does not cause any unwanted pain or discomfort. The shoe also contains what Inov-8 calls a 1-Arrow Shock Zone. This infers that the shoe is built with a 4mm drop and possesses moderate levels of underfoot cushioning, responsiveness and speed.
      Inov-8 intends to build the upper section of the Roclite 290 with a breathable mesh that protects the foot and keeps it comfortable by allowing air to flow easily into the chamber of the shoe. However, this intention has not been entirely well received by its audience. According to those who have tested and reviewed the shoe themselves, the upper mesh is woven so tightly that it compromises the shoe’s breathability. The good part about the upper is that it secures the foot in place. ADAPTERWEB met-cradle technology built by Inov-8 is constructed around the anatomy of the foot. It wraps itself around the foot in a secure fashion while adapting itself to your foot’s natural motion and swelling during runs. On the Roclite 290, a Y-Lock stability system is made up of overlays that hold the rear foot in place and prevents the foot from moving around and the shoe from falling off. A toe cap acts as a further layer of protection in case the runner should come in contact with any unseen objects during their run. Last but not least, the Roclite 290 contains gaiter hooks that allow the runner to make quick adjustments if further protection from debris is needed.
      The Roclite 290 weighs 290g or roughly 10.2oz for both men’s and women’s pairs. It is the lightest weight shoe offered by Inov-8. It is built with super-lightweight mesh uppers. The synthetic overlays located in the upper do not hinder the shoe with added weight. The reinforced rubber in the outsole is not heavy, keeping runners satisfied throughout their workouts. The midsole does not offer vast amounts of cushion, thus keeping the shoe minimal in design and lightweight. Even with the Meta-Shank plate sandwiched between the midsole and outsole, the Roclite 290 is a light trail shoe that will offer all the cushion and protection runners need on the trail.
      This is where Inov-8’s Roclite 290 takes on some negative points - ventilation. The upper mesh is woven very tightly, leading to less room for airflow to gain entry into the chamber of the shoe. While many runners found this to be unpleasant, others figured it was an understandable trade-off because the tightly-woven mesh does an exceptional job at keeping debris on the outside.
      With just the right amount of cushioning, the Roclite 290 is received as a very comfortable trail shoe by most users. The ADAPTERWEB foot cradle that gives the shoe its snug and secure fit is comfortable for the foot with no pressure points. The interior lining of the shoe is seamless, preventing the possibility of rubbing and pinching against the skin. Some runners found the sizing of the shoe runs about a half-size small and is a bit narrow. That being said, it is best you go try a pair of the Roclite 290’s on before purchasing because there are others who found the shoe fits true to size and is of average width.
      This is a shoe that is minimal in design. The Roclite 290 comes with little cushioning in the midsole and a 4mm drop. One of the benefits of this particular model was that it came in many different colorways, allowing runners to have several options depending on their preferences. Also, the design of the overlays and shoe overall were taken as aesthetically pleasing by many who have encountered the Roclite 290.
      There is not really any concern about durability when it comes to the Roclite 290. The rubber tough and rigid outsole, made up of three kinds of rubber, holds its integrity over time and over rough terrain. There are some reports from users who have tested the shoe that the sticky rubber compound might not be as durable as harder rubber. But these were only minor instances, as just a few nicks and scratches were seen on the cleats of the outsole.
      Starting from the bottom, the Roclite 290 protects the foot along with its own structure through the multiple rubber compound in the outsole. The toe-cap is reinforced with rubber so that in the event of the runner stubbing a toe or kicking against rocks or roots, the front of the foot will be protected. Sandwiched between the midsole and outsole, the Roclite 290 contains the second generation Meta-Shank. It is a shank that offers individual protection for each metatarsal. In other words, these shanks split off near the front of the shoe and protect each toe individually. All of this protection does not reduce the flexibility of the shoe, which many users found pleasing and beneficial. One aspect to the shoe that some users felt could use work was that the tongue of the shoe did not protect the chamber from debris. Runners who have tested the shoe believe it could benefit from having a gusseted tongue, which can be found in most hiking and military boots and prevents dirt, water, and small rocks and pebbles from entering your shoes through the spaces between the tongue and the upper.
      Inov-8’s Roclite 290 comes with a POWERFLOW midsole that delivers 15% more energy return than the industry standard. The foam technology makes the runner feel more energized and enabled, whilst being protected from rocky surfaces. The POWERFLOW midsole will stay comfortable throughout the run as well as responsive. The 1 Arrow Shock Zone, opposed to other levels made by Inov-8, gives the Roclite 290 a medium or moderate level of responsiveness.
      The Roclite 290 is thought of as a very supportive shoe by most runners. Thanks to the Y-lock system in the upper, the heel is held in place with few or no reports of slipping or moving around while on the run. Runners enjoyed how the support of the back heel is lower than other shoes, leading to less pressure on their Achilles tendon. With neutral arch support built into the shoe, it will best suit runners who do not require a lot of arch support and whose feet are medium to high arched.
      Being classified as a trail shoe, runners will be able to make an educated guess as to where the Roclite 290 will be best served. That being said, it does not mean this shoe is incapable of transitioning to the road. Users of this shoe have found it particularly easy to go from trail to road, and back to trail without any problems.
      The price for a pair of Roclite 290’s is $120 in retail stores. However, with just about any shoe on the market, you can find it for cheaper through websites like Amazon.
      The lugs on the outsole do a very fine job at gripping the uneven ground underneath the runner and do not hold onto any mud or loose debris that may compromise the traction of the shoe. The three types of rubber built into the outsole work together in order to provide the shoe and runners with high-quality traction. While the shoe’s outsole is advertised to withstand highly abrasive surfaces and prevents itself from wearing away, users found very minor tears and scratches in the rubbery outsole. While the damage was minor and not worth raising serious concerns, some thought that hard rubber would've suited the shoe better than the sticky rubber it contains.
      This shoe scored major points with users for its flexibility. Horizontal grooves near the front of the foot easily manipulates itself in order to move freely and allow natural movement through the runner’s gait cycle. The upper mesh is not stiffened by the synthetic overlays and bends and moves freely with the foot. The Roclite 290 is said to be Inov-8’s most flexible trail shoe, per company website.
      With 17.5mm of stack height in the heel and a 4mm drop, the Roclite 290 is a very stable shoe. The common belief is that the lower a shoe is to the ground, especially within the heel region, the more stability the runner will feel during their workout. However, with the Roclite 290, some aspects of stability suffered due to the upper mesh. The mesh’s lightweight and flexible material allowed itself to move too much during lateral movement. In one specific review, a user tested the Roclite 290’s stability by running back and forth along a steep hill. The results were not encouraging as the shoe’s upper did not have enough rigidity to hold their feet firmly on top of the midsole.
      In both men’s and women’s pairs, the heel-to-toe drop of the Roclite 290 is 4mm, lending itself to the minimal family of running shoes. The 1 Arrow Shock Zone classification indicates the drop level and informs runners of its moderate cushioning and flexibility. The forefoot only has a 13.5mm stack height. These numbers suggest the Roclite 290 is a light, nimble and highly sensitive shoe. The low seat to the ground will give runners stability and a stronger feeling for the ground.
      Key Features
      •Next-generation ROCLITE outsole
      •Tri-C rubber compound
      •Multi-directional claw-shaped cleats
      •POWERFLOW midsole
      •ADAPTERWEB met-cradle
      •Y-LOCK system
      •Second-generation META-SHANK
      Bottom Line
      With the Inov-8 Roclite 290, runners are going to get a lightweight shoe with enough space in the chamber to be comfortable, yet enough security and stability for runners to take on challenging terrain. Many runners enjoyed the performance of this versatile shoe on and off the trails. It has enough, but not too much, cushion in the midsole to be responsive and lightweight and the aggressive outsole helps runners stay anchored to the ground. There were some minor concerns with the shoe, but not enough to turn runners off of this choice. Those who love a flexible, sensitive and low to the ground shoe will appreciate this model very much.
      Where to Buy
      Moosejaw Link
      See Deal
      Road Runner Sports Link
      See Deal
      By Josh Talero
      Last updated:
      Where to buy
      Best offer on: Jul. 26. 2021

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