Without divulging too much at the outset, I’ll just say that the Inov-8 Roclite 285™ is probably my favorite shoe. There. Now you know. The mystery is gone.
Once you get past the bright red color and minimal cushioning, you realize that this shoe offers more than good design and sleek styling. Like it’s sister shoe, the f-lite 230, the Roclite 285 features a 2-arrow Shoc-Zone™; a soft, low-cut heel cup; and flexible mesh upper—features I find incredibly conducive to running.
In fact, if it weren’t for the technical-trail-friendly lugs on the outsole and beefed up toe box protection, the Roclite 285 is pretty much the same as the f-lite 230. This is especially useful to know if you’re looking for a more rugged version of the otherwise perfectly-fitting f-lite 230, which brings me to my next point.
A review of the Roclite 285 would be incomplete without comparing it to the f-lite 230.
After wearing the f-lite 230 for a couple of months, I grew to love it immensely. The fit of the 230 is superb thanks to a flexible mesh upper that allows me to fit my rather wide forefoot into a seemingly narrow last. However, the rather flat outsole left something to be desired when running on particularly rocky, technical trails. "If only the f-lite 230 had more traction on the technical trails," I thought to myself.
Enter this year’s version of the Roclite 285.
When I saw the Roclite 285 on the Inov-8 website in September, I was immediately struck by the similarities it appeared to share with the f-lite 230, namely the low profile midsole and heel cup. If the Roclite 285 was indeed a f-lite 230 with bigger lugs and a different color, then this was the ideal trail shoe for me!
I researched the web for impressions and insights of the new Roclite 285. But, it was too new to have been reviewed at any length. Sure, there were mentions of last year’s model. But, that looked very different from this year’s. And, any verbiage I managed to find about the shoe wasn’t sufficient enough to compare it with the f-lite 230. I had to know whether the Roclite 285 would fit me like the f-lite 230. When the Roclite appeared on the Running Warehouse website, I took the chance.
Needless to say, I was not disappointed. The Roclite 285 fits just as well as the f-lite 230. It’s as slipper-like and smooth as the 230 with the added benefit of gripping lugs for technical trail maneuverability. The extra protection on the toe box slightly detracts from the flexibility in that area at first. But, after a few runs, the shoe’s upper conforms to your foot just fine.
The Inov-8 website describes the Roclite 285 as "ideal for short, fast races." This is certainly true. However, I wore this shoe in my first marathon after just a couple of long training runs. And, I was perfectly pleased. Sure, I’m not an elite runner by any means. But, once you get used to running in a shoe like the Roclite 285, you can definitely wear it for a trail marathon. There’s just the tiniest bit of support there to get you through the last few miles.
As the tech sheet above makes clear, the Roclite 285 is perfectly at home on rugged trails. Its sticky rubber outsole grips large rocks and logs well. And, the lugs are adept at providing traction in soft grass or mud and pushing pointy stones away from the bottom of your feet.
Also, I’ve run through a few shallow creeks in these. And, I wasn’t at all disappointed with the rate at which they drain water.
Some of my trail runs with the Roclite 285 have included a few fractions of miles on pavement. This shoe is adequate on pavement, certainly more comfortable there than the Flyroc 310. However, you certainly wouldn’t want to spend more time running on pavement in the 285 than you have to.
In case you forgot after reading the first paragraph of this review: I love the Roclite 285. The redundancy of this statement after reading my review of the f-lite 230 speaks volumes, I think. If you like the 230, you'll like the 285. It is an ideal, lightweight trail shoe.
So, unless you wear a size 11.5 (save those for me, thanks), you should definitely give this shoe a try. I obtained my Roclites at RunningWarehouse. But, you can certainly find them at other online retailers.