Monday, August 12, 2013

Inov-8 Trailroc 150 Review: It's Complicated

Inov8 Trailroc 150

I've rewritten the beginning sentences of this Trailroc 150 review thirteen times, struggling to make it past this paragraph. The accompanying shoe photos have been stranded in the draft status of this post for at least two months. And, no matter how often I wear the shoes, I wrestle with my imagination just to create an appropriate introduction to what I want to write for you.

Perhaps that is because deciding what I should write about the Trailroc 150 is a struggle in itself.

Inov8 Trailroc 150

I am conflicted, folks!

See, I've been looking forward to this shoe ever since I saw it in the SS13 Inov-8 catalog last year. I'd just received my fantastic Trailroc 235s and realized they were not the ultra-minimal trail runners that I'd hoped they'd be. But, I read about the forthcoming Trailroc 150, with it's lack of a midsole and "authentic barefoot feel." And, I saw that photo of the 150 in the catalog. And, I was just, like, "Oooooh!"

So, I really could not wait for these shoes to be released! I imagined them to be like my Bare-Grip 200s but with smaller, more everyday-appropriate lugs on the outsole. Combining that with the Trailroc's wider toe box seemed to satisfy the final bullet point on my imagined criteria for an ideal, minimally constructed trail shoe.

But, if the designers who created the Trailroc 150 were genies, they'd be the sadistic types who take your wish for world peace and turn it into something mean, like making everyone unable to talk, or something. With this first iteration of the Trailroc 150, they've demonstrated a Greek-god-like knack for granting you the things you want by taking away the important things that you took for granted.

My feet are sad when I run in these shoes.

But, hold on!

There are people who have typed with clear sincerity — on the Internet, no less — that the Trailroc 150 is a lovable shoe. Yes, they said that they love it. These runners appear to be totally, and unabashedly enamored with it! So, before I express my disappointment in detail, let's look past my jilted shoe preferences and point out the awesomeness that may be perceived in this shoe.

Potentially Awesome Features:

You cannot deny that the Trailroc 150 looks good. My dad has complimented the shoes—twice! I mean, come on, even if you're afraid of colors like this, you know, deep down, that it looks good. It's not a timid colorway, for sure. We are not timid runners.

But, um, right, looks aren't important, are they? [rolls eyes]

So, how about that "authentic barefoot feel"? There's no cushy midsole at all. Therefore, the only elements protecting you from the authentic sharp things on the authentic trail are the 8mm (lugs included) Tri-C™ outsole and a 3mm insole (should you choose to wear it).

So, Inov-8 made a shoe that gets your feet incredibly close to the ground while providing exceptional grip and protection on loose or hard-packed trails.

For a barefoot-inspired shoe wearer, those specifications are very appealing, especially when combined with a zero differential between the toe and the heel. If you're reading about this shoe, you probably know that already.

Other appealing qualities of the Trailroc 150 that do not necessitate unique paragraphs:

  • At 5.3 ounces (150 grams) in a US size 9, the shoe is extremely lightweight. Lots of runners like lightweight shoes. I like lightweight shoes.
  • It's properly flexible! (See also the Bare-X 180, Vapor Glove, Skora Phase)
  • Durable upper material: It's some form of ripstop fabric! And, it's new to Inov-8. (And, I've got more to say about it below)
  • That black, inner lining is incredibly smooth and nice against one's bare feet. Sockless runners will appreciate this portion of the 150's interior.

Okay, that's not a bad recipe for awesomeness, right? We've got a good looking shoe with an appealing, barefoot-sensitive sole. It's lightweight, grippy, totally flexible, and protective to some degree. So, what's not to love?

Well...

I just do not feel comfortable running in these shoes! The ripstop fabric and fit make the Trailroc 150 almost stifling. And, every time I take the 150s off, I swear I can see my feet relax and breath a sigh of relief.

From what I've observed, this sense of foot suffocation stems from my personal preference for breathable, open mesh fabric. Or, to put it another way, the 150's ripstop fabric doesn't allow air to flow very well.

On the plus side, the ripstop upper is pretty good about keeping small amounts of water out. If you step full-on into a stream, sure, you're gonna get soaked. But, if water doesn't cover the entire shoe and you don't linger in the wet stuff, you'll stay more dry than you would in meshy shoes.

But, 90% of the time, I'm not stepping in water. So, the Trailroc 150's water resistance does not help me.

And, remember that comfy inner lining I mentioned above? Well, apparently there wasn't enough to cover the entire inside of the shoe. So, if you choose to wear the Trailroc 150 without socks, I hope you enjoy the sensation of 200 gauge sandpaper scraping the tops of your toes. 'Cause, that's what ripstop fabric feels like on sweaty, running feet. Wear socks.

The ripstop fabric continues to ruin the shoe for me by facilitating some sort of popping sound when running. It's similar to the noise a tennis ball makes when struck by a racket, a hollow, rubbery sound: Fwop! Imagine that with almost every step you take: Fwop, fwop, fwop fwop fwopfwopfwopfwop... Ugh!

When I first noticed this noise, which was pretty much after I took my first step with the 150s on my feet, I assumed it would go away after loosening up the fabric a bit. But, no, not really. Even after 25 miles of trail running, the fwopping sound was still apparent (and that's not counting the mileage accrued from just wearing the shoes casually).

I've attempted to determine the precise cause(s) of this noise. And, I've found that a concentrated forefoot landing with a gentle lift (not push) helps to abate the fwop. So, the sound actually comes from the toe box snapping back into place after the movement of my forefoot to toes bends the toe box horizontally. It's sort of an echo that is accentuated by a combination of the shoe's rather rigid upper material and less-than-perfect running form.

Perhaps the noise is there to help with better running form. Hey, I'm not ashamed to admit that my form could use some improvement!

Inov8 Trailroc 150 inside Trailroc 235
The Trailroc 235 and Trailroc 150 compared for width. Note the difference in forefoot width denoted by space on the outside lugs.

Another fn' contributor to my discomfort in these shoes is the narrower rendition of Inov-8's otherwise spectacular "Natural Fit" last. I've lauded this shoe shape in previous reviews for it's generous toe box.

But, for some reason, those rogue designers in charge of the 150's construction decided that the shoe needed to be narrower than all the other shoes in the Trailroc range! Look at that! ===>

Proportionally speaking, the toe box of the 150 is generous in comparison to the dimensions of the rest of the shoe. It's not pointy like the toe box of the Precision Fit shoes. But, the girth of the shoe is just a smidgen smaller in comparison to the Trailroc 235 or 245.

It's as if the person who configured the machine that cuts the mold for the shoe last set it up to mimic that of the other Trailroc lasts. But, then, perhaps by accident, the configuration was accidentally modified to make everything a couple of millimeters smaller. (Could have happened that way)

And, you know what? If the upper was made of stretchy mesh instead of ripstop nylon, this slightly narrower last would not be a problem at all for me.

But, since the ripstop fabric tends to hold a tighter form — even after numerous miles of breaking in — my feet are restricted to the original confines of the last. This is unfortunate and uncomfortable.

I pulled out the 3mm sock liners, which afforded some more room in the 150s for my feet. And, that helps quite a bit with the space-comfort ratio. But, with such an unforgiving fabric comprising the upper, my smallest toes are unable to splay as they would if the usual Inov-8 mesh were there.

Inov8 Trailroc 150 inside Trailroc 235
The Trailroc 235 could eat most of the 150 if necessary.

Despite the conspicuously snugger fit, I would still prefer to wear the Trailroc 150 in the same size as my Trailroc 235s, or any other Inov-8 shoe with a "Natural Fit" last. Choosing a half size larger than my size 11.5 235s just to compensate for the 150's relatively diminished width would result in a shoe that's too long for safe trail running.

But, hey, that's just how the 150s fit on my feet.

Not Upset, Just Disappointed

Regardless of its disappointments, I still really like the Trailroc 150, but not for running. I wear it casually quite often, especially for hiking or playing soccer with the kids. But, as for running, I'm going to stick with my Bare-Grip 200s for breathable, flexible, grippy, midsole-free trail running footwear.

However, I will be one of the first in line to try out an updated version of this shoe! It has a lot of good things in its composition. And, I think that the features I dislike could be easily changed, namely the upper material.

If you've read this entire review and still feel compelled to try out the Trailroc 150, I'd highly recommend visiting my affiliate friends at OptimalRun.com, because they have a fantastic return policy.

Thanks for reading!

cmp.ly
Product provided by Inov-8.

20 comments:

  1. Great review, Ash! That rip stop fabric sounds the same as the fabric used in the NB Minimus zeros. I hated the crinkly sounds it made when I tried them on in the store so much, I walked out without buying them, even though the last seemed to fit my paddle foot adequately (and that's rare in any shoe!).

    What I really don't understand is the why Innov-8 would *narrow* the Natural Fit last like that. It's not like the NF last was that wide to begin with! Was it too wide for their customer base of trail runners? Seems like a very odd decision.

    You did a really fine job with this review. I always have so much trouble writing a negative review. It always comes out like so much whining. In fact, I've written 3 negative reviews for shoes I've purchased, only to turf them because they felt too personal. Not to say the my positive reviews aren't personal, but "works for me" is so much more acceptable as a review than "stinks for me", or at least it feels that way.

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    1. Thanks so much, Scott! It was challenging to write this review, that's for sure. Anyone who has read more than two posts on this blog knows that I'm a huge fan of Inov-8's shoes. So, I really tried to find every way I could to look past the disappointing characteristics in the 150. But, I didn't want to mislead anyone into thinking that I wholeheartedly recommend this shoe.

      My hope is that the good people at Inov-8 will make note of these issues and consider updating the 150 next year. It really has potential to be much more spectacular than it is.

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  2. While, I have my own issues with the shoe (mainly that is is too minimal for anything but my easy days), I think it is still quite unique in the market and have to applaud inov-8 for continuing to produce these niche shoes (like the Bare-grip 200 as well).

    I would say, while the outsole of the Trailroc 150 is surely narrower than the 235/245, the last has to be the same, in my opinion. The midsole in the 235 sticks out beyond the upper and the outsole wraps around that so it is going to be wider, where as the 150, with no midsole wouldn't have even fit right had they used the same outsole mold and so they had to cut it down to glue it straight to the upper rather than to the midsole and then the upper. Regardless, I do agree on the ripstop upper, and while it saves weight, I just don't feel the tradeoff is worth it. Full featured mesh with TPU overlays are what makes inov-8s fit so well and I think would effectively fix the fit side of the shoe. Anyway, I like the shoe, but just run too much mileage and rough trail to use it on a regular basis, but I love it when I do take it out and want to feel the ground and rip around with lugs literally strapped to my feet ;). Thanks for the review.

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    1. David, I'm thrilled to read your opinion here! You make a great point about the limitations that come with removing the midsole from an existing last. Being that creating the last is one of the most expensive pieces of the shoe-design process, it was probably most economical for Inov-8 to simply shave off some of the existing Trailroc last rather than create a bigger mold for the 150's outsole.

      But, as you and I both agree, this narrower fit would not be as much of a hindrance to comfort if the upper were made of mesh.

      Thanks for the comment!

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    2. Yeah, one of inov-8s limitations being a relatively smaller company. They just can't afford to do new lasts, midsole and/or outsole molds for every shoe. You'll see them reuse many things across different shoes (Mudclaw 265 has the same midsole as the new F-Lite 195 for example) to save money. This works fine to me because inov-8 choose to keep things simple with full outsoles (not deconstructed like many other companies do with their minimal options) and simple uppers. To me inov-8 is one of the few companies who actually get it when it comes to minimal footwear for everyday running...most just design minimal shoes as "training tools" and they just don't hold up well to me.

      If you haven't tried the Natural F-Lites (F-LIte 232, 252, 262) yet (http://www.inov-8.com/New/Global/Product-View-FLite-232-Orange-Blue.html?L=27), you should. They are like the non-lugged counterpart to the Trailrocs and I pretty much run them for everything on trails except super rocky or steep routes. Yes, they are supposedly cross fit shoes, but F-Lite were running shoes when they first came out and nothing has really changed with them since then and these are on the natural last. I've run multiple ultras in them and they are still the best minlmal trail running shoes out there in my opinion.

      I concur on the upper of the 150. I'd venture to guess it would feel quite similar to the 235 if it had a mesh upper.

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    3. Yes, I completely agree with you on all counts. I'm always surprised when people say that Inov-8's naming convention is confusing. Basically, they're just describing the weight and a fairly small range of outsoles.

      I was most drawn to Inov-8 in 2010 when the f-lite 230 was still marketed as a mountain running shoe. And, I'm incredibly tempted to purchase a pair of the new 232s. The f-lite outsole is one of the best all-purpose ones I've worn.

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  3. Why not try the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail or Neo Trail which are pretty much the same thing but without the cons you mention?

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    Replies
    1. That's an excellent question, Anon. Technically, I have considered the Breatho Trail. But, I simply haven't rushed to order the shoes yet. They're on my list, though!
      (I am under the impression that many of the Vivobarefoot shoes are fairly warm on the interior. And, clearly, I am sensitive to that) ;)

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  4. Awesome review as usual, I feel the same way as you in every respect. Although I found the Natural Fit last of Inov8 Trialrocs actually narrow, too narrow that that the middle of my big toes actually hurt since they end up half oustide the last when they splay.

    A bit wider, true natural, sort of NB MT10-ish sole and it would be an awesome shoe.

    I agree also on the uppers, the upper on the Trailrocs (except the 150) is great for european weather, but for dry hot weather such as many places in the american continent it is simply to much. Wish they had a second version with open mesh, without taking the original upper away (i mean europeans and canadians surely need it).

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    1. Thanks César! It would be interesting to see an upper that is specifically designed for hot temperatures.

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    2. that and a better last. The Flites 195 have a better last, just right, and they dont have the Natural Fit, but the Performance which is narrower. Inov8 must get these things in grip.

      If you got contact with them please tell them! ;)

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  5. Hi ash, nice review!

    I like super-minimal trail shoes without a midsole and there aren't too many of them around these days. This seems like maybe Inov-8 have tried really hard to hit a weight target and to create a product that can be clearly differentiated from the 235's but the nett result is simlar to the NB MT00 - looks like a great idea but doesn't work out in practice.

    They are soooo 2010 but I actually think that the Vibram Spyridon is a good option in this category

    Cheers

    Andrew

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  6. Conflicted is the word.
    I hate these shoes, you can feel every little stone, so uncomfortable, and I dont like the colour. but...
    They're so light, you just have to run fast. Which is nice. The grip is astonishing for so little tread - must be a barefoot thing.
    They do fit my feet, but I have sore feet when I take them off.

    So I'm happy to get them off and pleased I wore them to race. Go figure.

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  8. wow that shoes which is exactly i find. however i like a hot pink one. i would love to know they have a pair of other colour one. do you think it fit for the girl?

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  9. Thanks you, Ashwyn Gray for sharing a detailed review about the shoe. This is a good and durable shoe. I have been using the shoe and I am quite happy with the shoe. This is comfortable, provide enough grip option. However, I am a bit dissatisfied because of its narrow design.

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  10. I really enjoyed the informative review of the Inov-8 Trailroc 150 shoes. Mostly, I like the lightweight that is suitable for walking for a long time. However, are they good for flat feet?

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  11. Good post. You talk about nice runner shoes. this shoes is best through this situation for runner. But you must know about plantar fasciitis. Some trainers protect us from plantar fasciitis. so be careful about it. Thanks of this post.

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  12. I appreciate your very honest review of this shoe! I know how it feels to be on the different side of the fence when it comes to items reviewed online especially when it seems that everybody loves a certain item and you don't!

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