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.
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?
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!
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.
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.