I have been testing the Inov8 Trailroc 245 for the past couple of months. Inov8 is a UK brand that specializes in minimalist shoes and the 245s are what I would describe as their “go-to” shoe for most conditions/distances and worked well for me on anything from quick post work trots to long runs over weekends.
With a 3mm drop (stack height of 13mm at the heel and 10mm at the toe) these are fairly low to the ground and will give you tons of feel. Combine this with a weight of 245g (Inov8 name their shoes based on their weight in grams) for a UK size 8 and you come up with a proper natural shoe that would make most fans of the minimalist movement more than happy.
My test shoes are a fantastic looking pair of red and black monsters, the other option being blue and lime. As these are minimalist shoes, they are fairly simple and stripped back, with nothing but the bare necessities added. They clearly sit very low to the ground with the stack height actually appearing lower than the measured 10mm at the front. Overall, these shoes look the part and should appeal to most runners’ taste.
Inov8 tend to have fairly wide toe boxes and the 245 is no exception. At the front of the shoe there is plenty of space for lateral movement of the toes and I have never had issues with damaging toe nails by hitting the front of the box. The wide fit might not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you are used to narrower shoes (think Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra and Speedcross) but do have the benefit of some extra room once the feet start swelling on longer runs. I take a size 11 as the 10 was just that tiny bit too small (I prefer quite a bit of “play” in the toe area) but think that the UK10.5 would have been absolutely spot on (half sizes are unfortunately not available locally). There is the option of switching out the inner for a 3mm version (the shoes come standard with a 6mm foot bed) should you need a little more space, although I can’t really see this being an issue.
The mesh upper is extremely durable, while still being breathable and drains fairly quickly in wet conditions. The sole is constructed from Inov8’s Tri-C compound, which basically means that 3 different types of rubber are used on different areas of the sole – softer rubber where more grip is needed and harder rubber where more wear occurs. I have noticed some wear around the upper close to my ankle but nothing worse than expected after having clocked more than 700km and counting. I have given them some serious pounding on tough trails and have not noticed any damage apart from regular and expected wear and tear.
As mentioned, there is quite a bit of play in the toe box area, which allows the toes to splay and gives the shoes a very natural feel. Due to the low drop the shoe gives you a “low to the ground” ride and contact with the trail surface is superb – you really feel the shoe shaping around the foot and adapting to the terrain. The Trailrocs give you a good feel for the terrain underfoot, and due to the flexible metashank (Inov8’s name for their rockplate) there is still plenty of room for proprioception and they will pretty much allow you to shred switchbacks and downhill sections as quickly as your abilities allow you to! Even though these are proper minimalist shoes there is still enough cushioning to make the ride more than comfortable enough without making the shoes feel disconnected from the trail surface.
The 245s have a flexible (flexible enough that you can easily fold the shoe in half from toe to heel) rock plate in the sole of the shoe that offers protection from sharp stones underfoot. As far as toe protection goes – there is basically none. The toe cap consists of a very thin rubber cover, although this appears to be more for aesthetic purposes than anything else. One gets the idea that this was mainly done in order to shave off some weight, but in all honestly a little bit of “insurance” at the front would have been welcome, especially towards the back end of longer runs when the feet start getting a bit lazy…
I have done more than 700km in the Trailrocs to date, and where the general state of the shoes are concerned, they probably still have a good couple of hundred left in them. The soles have become a little smooth around the toe section of the shoes, meaning that slippage does become a problem when faced with more technical trails, especially uphill. Bearing in mind that most of my running happens on hard-packed, rocky terrain (including about 1km on tar to get to my local trail head), I feel that you might be able to get even more mileage out of these shoes if they were used on softer trails (and this also makes sense if you keep in mind that they were born in Europe, where conditions are very different to here). All in all though, coming in at a price tag of about R1200 to R1300 (and I have seen them on special for as low as R895), the “bang for your buck” factor is not bad at all.
If you are looking for a good, simple, minimalist shoe, I would recommend giving the Trailroc 245s a try. At 3mm drop and with a weight of around 245g, there are lower and lighter shoes available, but these perform more than adequately as a “starter shoe” for runners who want to see what the minimalist movement is all about. That being said, these are equally suitable to more experienced runners that want a fast racing shoe for short to mid distances. The lack of support around the ankle and heel does mean that for longer runs you might want to use a slightly more built-up shoe, but I have raced distances up to 25km in these without any problems.
The only potential negatives to the shoes would be the lack of protection around the front of the shoe – be warned that you will probably experience one or two stubbed toes before you retire these. I have also heard of one or two runners complaining that the rubber around the toe cap sometimes starts coming loose a little, but have not had this issue myself (and this wouldn’t impact the performance of the shoe in any case). Furthermore – the sides of the tongue of the shoe is unfortunately not attached to the upper (I don’t understand why this isn’t just standard for all trail shoes), which means that you will occasionally have to clear out some debris that will inevitably make its way inside.
In short, the pros definitely outweigh the cons and if you want to see what all the “natural running” fuss is about, I would definitely recommend you go out and give these a bash!