Saturday, August 18, 2012

Trailroc 235 Run Review: The Update I Promised, the Review That Never Ends

Since I was so eager to post pictures and write about the Trailroc 235 before actually running in the shoes a few days ago, I realize I probably left some of you feeling unfulfilled.

I am sorry about that, trail runners. But, don't worry. After a 12-mile run through Umstead, I finally have the running-specific observations that I promised in part one of this review.

(I'll use the Bare-Grip 200 as a reference point during this review, because that's what I've been using on trails prior to obtaining the 235)

Inov-8 Trailroc 235 on rocks


I've already established that the Trailroc 235 is a comfortable shoe for me right out of the box. So, let's cut through the fluff and address potential shortcomings of this shoe.

The Laces: They're different. None of the other Inov-8 shoes that I've used have the lacing material that I find on the Trailroc 235. The lace fabric is a little smoother and sort of stretchy, whereas laces I'm used to seeing have a fibrous texture with more density.

Inov-8 trailroc 235This new lacing material may be in place for very specific reasons. Perhaps it is significantly lighter than other lacing materials. Maybe it is supposed to stay tied better.

Whatever the reason, let it be known that I had to stop twice during the first half hour of my run to retie my 235's laces because they'd come undone. I've never had to do that with Inov-8 shoe laces before.

However, after those first two instances of shoelace failure, the laces stayed tied for the remainder of the run. That's encouraging. So, perhaps their newness simply makes them susceptible to unwanted untying. Either way, laces are easily replaceable when problematic.

The TPU in Combination with Lacing for a Secure Fit: You'll recall that I pointed out the additional TPU on the Trailroc 235 and how that is there to work with the lacing architecture for a secure fit. Well, it works!

The potential dilemma with so much secure fitting is that you may need to play with the lacing a bit in order to find a comfortable lacing setting. As with any new shoe, once you find that perfect lacing situation, you'll be golden. But, the quest for that fit can be frustrating. Just take your time. Don't get frustrated.

And, speaking of finding that ideal lacing arrangement, you might notice a certain seam on the medial interior side if you've tied those laces too tightly. This is a seam that exists in all of the Inov-8 shoes I've worn. The fabric adjacent to this seam is always a little puffy when the shoes are new. But, that puffiness goes away once you've given the shoes a good workout. So, don't worry about it.

Inov-8 Trailroc 235 interior
That seam indicated in the photo on the left can be conspicuous during your first few miles of running. But, sweat and physics wear it down quickly. The image on the right is just a bonus perspective for you.

So, from an objective perspective, those are the potential nuisances inherent to running in the Trailroc 235. Now, let's get to the good stuff.

Good Stuff

The Cushioning: Since I've been running trails in the Bare-Grip 200 for several months, the first thing I noticed about the Trailroc 235 was the cushioning in the midsole. I'd nearly forgotten how desensitized to the trail a person could be with an additional few millimeters of EVA.

So, of course, I missed the excellent ground feel afforded by the Bare-Grips. But, over the course of that 12-mile run, I decided that I liked this bit of cushioning, too. It feels a little luxurious when I realize I've stepped on a pointy rock that otherwise would have been painful sans midsole EVA. This feature, the midsole, is especially handy during longer runs on tired feet.

But, if you are wholly opposed to midsole cushioning, then this is not the shoe you want.

Flexibility: Despite the extra barrier between your foot and the ground, Inov-8 managed to make the Trailroc 235's outsole flexible on both the horizontal and lateral axis, a quality that has become a necessity for me.

Granted, the 235 is not nearly as flexible as the Bare-Grip 200 in this way. But, it's still more flexible than anything with a rock plate, or whatever.

In my opinion, this exceptional flexibility is important and justifies the softer cushioning (in lieu of dense midsole material), because the shoe conforms to bumps in the trail fairly easily. And, a shoe that conforms to the terrain enables you to run with a greater sense of stability.

Inov-8 Trailroc 235 and Trailroc 245
If you are a trail runner who doesn't care so much about lateral flexibility and prefers more protection between yourself and the ground, then you'd want to look at the Trailroc 245 (pictured left). I'll write about that one in another post.

To give you a reference point outside the Inov-8 product line, the Trailroc 235's outsole and midsole are similar in flexiblity to that of the NB Minimus Trail 10 — probably a bit more less flexible, actually. But, the Trailroc's advantage here is that the protective rubber outsole covers the entire bottom of the shoe. This contrasts with the MT10's pockets of exposed EVA, which allow pointy things to hurt you easily.

Inov-8 Trailroc 235 mud print

Traction: The outsole's Tri-C™ compound features the Sticky rubber you may have enjoyed on other trail shoes. It's good stuff and seems to work well over wet rocks.

As I ran up and down a few slippery hillsides on the Loblolly Trail, I paid careful attention to my traction. After all, running through mud is one of the Bare-Grip's strong points. So, I wanted to compare how the Trailroc outsole performed on the soft stuff.

Inov-8 Trailroc 235 on wet rock

The Trailroc performed as well as the Bare-Grip for me on East-coast muddy trails. I even attempted to run sloppily so as to allow for a slip or fall. But, the lugs of the Trailroc definitely gripped the mud and wet leaves very well.

I noticed, however, that there was a very slight loss of traction as I ascended a long hill with a lot of rocks under foot. The Bare-Grips typically provide precise footing on this particular climb. So, I was keenly aware of the difference in the way the 235s handled this hillside.

Now, I'm not saying the Trailroc can't handle lots of rocks. I'm just saying that Bare-Grip and X-Talon wearers might detect a degree or two difference in these circumstances when using the Trailrocs.

Liekwise, I suspect that grassy terrain, where the Bare-Grip and X-Talon outsoles also excel in performance; would be more of a challenge for the Trailroc. But, I don't know from experience yet.

Oh, also, The Trailroc kicks ass on hard packed trails! Thus, you would feel comfortable wearing these for one of those trail races that start out on pavement before leading you to the trails.

Drainage: I crossed through an ankle-deep stream on the Cedar Ridge trail to test whether the 235s are satisfactory shoes when wet. And, they drained as well as most other trail shoes I've worn. That midsole EVA probably holds water a little longer than it would if it didn't exist. But, the shoes didn't feel especially heavy after the water crossing.


There you have it: Two long posts about a single shoe. And, I haven't even tested durability yet! I might have a problem.

But, that personal problem works to your advantage, right? Now you have more than enough information to decide whether you want to try the Trailroc 235 for yourself. And, if you still have questions, I check for comments, like, all the time. So, feel free to ask!

Thanks for reading!


  1. I need to get to the US and buy me some shoes, clearly... I love the look of those trail shoes and the ones I have have such hard soles - these look much more flexible.

    1. Well, I certainly wouldn't argue against the acquisition of new trail shoes. These shoes are probably more common in your corner of the world, Petra. Since Inov-8 is a British company, I'd imagine that they're easier to find there.

  2. Hey Ash,

    Thanks for the review. I may have to migrate back to innov8, though the weight of these is a little much.

    Try this and your laces will never come untied again:

    1. And, thanks for the shoelace link, Garth! I'd thought the knot I'd been using was supposed to stay tied no matter what. But, I guess not. So, I'll definitely give this one a try.

      I certainly understand the hesitancy due to the weight. The fit of the wider last really makes it worth it to me, though.

  3. Thanks for the review. I've been waiting for these since I found your out-of-the box review through google. This is the first "real" review for these shoes on the web!

    I've been eying this shoe ever since it was announced. However, I'm not scared of midsole cushioning and I'm looking for a zero-drop, moderately cushioned trail running shoe. I already own a pair of X-Talon 190 but find them too little cushioned for long runs on our alpine trails here. You compare the Trailroc with your Bares, could you also make a comparision with shoes from the other side of the (cushioned) spectrum?


    1. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not tried the X-Talon 190. But, aside from the lugs, that shoe's level of cushioning is probably like that of the f-lite 195, since they're basically the same shoe above the trail outsole.

      So, I would say that the midsole cushioning in the Trailroc 235 will feel a little more substantial than that of the f-lite 195 or X-Talon 190. This is because the forefoot of the 235 is a bit higher off the ground than the 195. Also, I think the 235 will feel a little more protective than the 190, because the 235's outsole is quite dense compared to the X-Talon outsole.

      If you are hoping for something with significantly more impact protection than the 235, the Trailroc 245 fits just as comfortably but has a very different feel underfoot due to the built-in rock guard.

      I hope that helps. Thanks for reading!

  4. Thanks for the response.

    After enjoying the pleasures of running zero drop shoes for quite a while now I simply can't go back to a 3 mm drop shoe. I know 3 mm does not sound much but I really notice the difference between my zero drop and the 4 mm shoes that I own. Particulary when running downhill. I strike fore/midfoot there as well. With a dropped shoe this feels very weired.

    Greetings from across the pond.

    1. I completely agree, Stefan. Going back to a shoe with a 3 mm or 4 mm drop is hard to do once you're used to something with zero differential. If it's convenient for you, I definitely recommend trying the 235s. Let me know if they work out for you.

  5. Just got the 245's and 255's, not run in them already, but out of the box they feel great. The 245 is pretty minimal, but with very good rock protection. In the 255 you can notice the difference in drop and height, specially the heel, and the cushion. I wonder if the protection in the 235 without rockplate is enough for pointy rock tracks downhill. A zero-drop 245 would be ideal, but the 3mm are barely there.

    1. I walked around in the 245s for a bit and definitely felt a difference in the density of the midsole compared to the 235. But, I still consider the 235 to be fairly protective. I suppose the level of protection needed for rocky descents is fairly subjective, though. And, I agree that the 3mm differential is not terribly noticeable in the 245s. Have fun running in those new shoes!

  6. Hi Ashwyn, I am considering getting the 235; How would you compare the degree of protection vs the 245? If you step on, let's say, an unnoticed stray rock in a singletrack, will it be ok?



    1. That's a good question, Óscar. I consider the difference in protection between the 235 and 245 to be fairly significant. However, that doesn't mean the 235 offers very little protection. The 235's hard outsole rubber and midsole cushioning still provide a good buffer between your foot and pointy things on the trail.

      So, let's say you step on a fist-sized rock as you're descending a hill while wearing the 245s. That rock would feel like a smooth bump in the trail.

      But, if you step on that rock while wearing the 235s, it would feel more like a block of wood with rounded edges under foot. So, you'll have the sense that you've just stepped on something with some shape to it. But, that something will not necessarily feel very sharp against the ball of your foot. And, the 235's outsole will conform slightly to the shape of that rock so that your foot is a bit more stable on the uneven terrain.
      That's my opinion, anyway. I hope it's helpful.

  7. Thanks a lot Ashwyn, I like a shoe as minimalist as possible, have been using trail gloves a lot, but found I needed a bit of more of protection on some trails, specially when racing. Big rocks are not a problem, what annoys me is the conceived pointy pebble that pokes through the sole and hits your mets painfully. I think the 245 have a very good balance, as the merrell mix master do. Maybe I will get the 235, they will be ideal for training on singletrack and forest roads. Cheers!

  8. How much fine grit gets through the mesh upper?

    1. Now that you mention it, I haven't noticed much grit at all getting through the mesh, definitely not as much as I've seen in the f-lites. I think the inner mesh does a better job of keeping sand and such out of the shoes. I'll pay more attention to this and let you know if my opinion changes. Good question!

  9. Thanks! I got a pair of the 235s, but I think I will send them back and wait for the women's version in the spring. The shoe comes up a bit high around my ankles, and I think it would rub if did anything besides wear them around the house. I'm hoping the ladies' version will be lower cut.
    I have been wearing Vivobarefoot Breatho and Neo Trails, and I am looking for something with a little bit of cushion for when my feet are extra tired. This shoe is the closest thing I've found.

  10. Thanks for the reviews.
    They really read as tested material.

    I've been running on Vivo breatho (good grip, but last nothing...) and Merrells (not enough grip) and I'm looking for an alternative.
    I also own bare x-180, but it feels a bit narrower than I'd like (far narrower than Vivo!).

    Are this trailroc as narrow as the bare x-180 ? (in the pictures they seem to be a bit wider...).

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi there Anon! Thanks for the great question. I've just tried on a 180 and a Trailroc 235 to be sure I could answer correctly. And, as far as they feel on my feet, the shoes are almost the same in the toe box. The Trailroc 235 actually feels just a tad tighter in width. And, I think this is because the upper is attached to the midsole, whereas the upper of the 180 has only the outsole to attach to. Thus, the 180 has a tiny amount of extra room for the toes.

      So, I'm sorry if that's a disappointing answer. It's hard to find a zero-drop, minimally cushioned trail shoe, I know. If you don't need a lot of grip, the Skora Phase has a really nice fit. It's sole is much like that of the Bare-X 180 but with more grip. I'm working on my review of that one now.

      Thanks again!

    2. Thank you!

      Yeah, a bit disappointed.
      I guess my holy grail would be the Vivo with trailroc sole.
      I'll cross my fingers!
      Keep on running and writing this blog.
      Really appreciated!

  11. I just ordered a pair of these to replace my well worn Altra Superiors. I realize that the toebox may be a bit more narrow comparatively, but the ShoeFitr on showed fairly similar footbed contours. So, with all of your praise and well-written reviews, I pulled the trigger (Thanks!) I hope these puppies last longer than my Superiors (destroyed after 230 miles of east coast rocky trails), and I was figuring if I needed the extra protection of a rock plate, I could trim up my Superior insert and shove it under the 235's insole. I very much look forward to the better traction of the 235's outsole compared to the Superiors fun, but easily-worn-down tread. I'll let you know how the two shoes compare. Cheers!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Kevin! I hope you like the Trailrocs. I'm sure they will be narrower than the Superiors. But, then, I haven't tried the Superiors yet. So, I can't compare them.

      I wear the Trailrocs without the 3mm insole in order to decrease the cushioning. But, that also serves to create more room in the toe box, if that helps you with your initial run. If you have a second, let me know if they work out for you.

    2. Hey Ashwyn,

      I just got the 'rocs in the mail today, and have very high hopes for them.

      My first impressions are extremely strong.

      The shoes do seem more narrow than the Superiors, but to be honest, my size 10 Superiors were a bit "sloppy" in the width, and I noticed that my foot would move laterally during runs. Now I loved these shoes, so this didn't bother me much, but I felt it. I can already tell that this will not be an issue with the 235's.

      In terms of length, the 235's (9.5 US) have a bit more material at the toe than the (10 US) Superiors. I'll report back if this is noticeable on the run. I anticipate needing some foot-swelling room, but my relaxed toes are further back from the end of the toe box than I anticipated.

      The outsole is no contest. The tread on the Trailrocs really whips the tread of the Superiors in terms of "stickiness". This makes me giddy. If I didn't have to work, I'd take off for the trails right now.

      The only other initial thought I had is that I probably won't need to worry about using the rock plate from the Superiors. The rubber tread of the 235's seems VERY adequate underfoot, and I can't imagine a rock that would cause any issues. Again, I will have to confirm this after a good run.

      I have a hefty plan for Saturday on some challenging SNP trails, and I will report back with post-run impressions if you're interested.

      Perhaps you'll get a muddy running shoes tumbler post...

    3. Hi Kevin,

      Yes, I'd really appreciate your feedback after you take the 235s for a run. I'm always curious to know how my observations compare to those of others.

      And, thanks for the comparison to the Superiors. That's good info.

      Enjoy your run this Saturday!

    4. Hey Ashwyn,

      I've only put about 50 miles on these so far, but have some feedback.

      My first run was by far the most testing of the shoes. I hit the Old Rag trail and then ran up the fire road to Corbin Mountain and then down the Indian Run trail for a total of 15 challenging miles.

      The shoes performed marvelously, as I had hoped they would based on my initial impressions.

      The outsole is much more solid than the Superiors, but I felt less cushioning (good and bad) than the Altras. The bad: I'm a bit worried about foot fatigue / protection on longer rocky trails (like some of the 50K / 50MI races around here). The "ground feel" is slightly reduced (compared to the Superiors) due to the thick rubber outsole, but the thinner insole places my foot closer to the trail, so my impression of the trail surfaces is a bit of a wash between the two shoes. The good: The biggest benefit of the outsole is that I trust the shoe way more than the Altras. I even got a bit carried away on the scrambling surfaces at the peak of Old Rag as well as some stream crossings; bounding over the wet rocks without a care (which resulted in one good fall - not many shoes grab on to mossy slippery surfaces very well).

      Wet feet allowed me to think about how the shoes drained. I wore SwiftWick merino blend socks, which, while on the thick side, are my preferred trail sock, due to the quickness with which water is wicked from my feet. In short, the shoes drained just fine combined with these socks. Drainage was comparable to the very porous Altras.

      I think I would enjoy a LITTLE more cushion and a bit more of a toe guard. However, I realize that this is personal preference, as I find myself adapting best to "hybrid" zero drop / minimally cushioned shoe, and I may be running on some trails that push the Trailroc's to their limit.

      I will continue to run these things through the ringer, and so far am really enjoying them on the trails.

      Thanks again for the thorough review!

    5. Wow! Thanks very much for this comment, Kevin! It's interesting to read your thoughts on how the Trailroc compares to the Altra Superior. I'm glad you're enjoying them well enough.

      If I happen to find a shoe that matches the cushioning and toe guard levels you've described, I'll be sure to mention it!

  12. Thanks for the review, do you think they could handle 10km on a road/track? I've just started running tails and have used my old pair of f-lite 195's which have managed just fine, but are now ripped beyond use. I have beeing running on the road and track in road-x 155's (3mm drop) but have just ordered a pair of road-x-treme 138's (0mm drop). My 155's don't grip very well in the wet on the road or track so I need a shoe than can handle wet conditions and also the trails (I'm not talking monsoon, I've fallen on a small puddle and a random patch of mud on an otherwise dry road). I've looked at the trailroc 150's but think they may be too minimalist for a newcomer to a trail but think the 235's with a zero drop could work, but it all depends if they can handle the road and track as well as the trail.

    1. Hi Anthony!
      Personally, I would prefer to use the Trailrocs for off-road running only. They are not especially efficient on pavement, because the studs are spaced far enough apart to reduce surface area and, therefore, helpful friction.

      If I wanted a shoe to be useful on most trails and all paved conditions, I'd actually look at one of the f-lites. The outsole design and sticky rubber are exceptional on all sorts of terrain. And, they feel fast no matter what. They're even available in "natural" and "precision" fits now.

      So, that's what I'd try in your situation: f-lite 192 or 232, probably. However, if you like the Road X-Treme 138, you'll find that they are great on slightly wet pavement. 'Course, they're not well suited for trails.

      Thanks for the comment!

    2. Thanks Ashwyn, I've actually owned two pairs of f-lite 195's and have just recently sent my current pair back as the toe box was cracking. The new designs seem to be geared towards crossfit rather than running so I was concerned about their durability, but have read older reviews about them being a trail shoe that crossed over. I asked inov-8 the same question but they suggested roclites, which is going the the wrong direction, to big and heavy and more of a drop.
      There are some good deals on f-lites at the moment which is probably going to make my mind up for me.

  13. 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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