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Inov-8 Roclite 320 Trail Running Shoes

Inov8 Roclite 320

Trail Shoe Epiphany

I love my new Inov-8 Roclite 320 trail running shoes. Having endured hiking in wet leather Gore-Tex lined boots for years, I can’t convey to you the freedom that I feel being able to splash through any puddle or stream with so little consequence.

On hindsight, I wish I had worn trail runners like these on my end-to-end Long Trail hike in 2008. The LT is famous for it’s mud and rain. Instead, I hiked it wearing wet leather hiking boots that felt like cement shoes, coating my feet with Hydropel and duct tape each morning to prevent blisters. If I had worn trail runners like the Roclites, I would have been a happier lad.

First Steps

It took me a long time to get up the guts to try hiking in a trail running shoe. Stepping down from a leather boot is a big change, and I tried a sequence of non-leather boots and mids last year to see if I could find a boot that would dry faster than leather and still be comfortable when wet for days at a time. I had some directionally positive results, but no breakthroughs.

By January, I was starting to feel a little desperate. I have a 180 mile coast-to-coast hiking trip coming up in Scotland and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hike in leather boots for two straight weeks across very wet and boggy ground. There was no denying it anymore. I needed a pair of shoes that drained water exceptionally well and I could hike in when wet without ripping my feet up.

I shopped around and decided to buy a pair of Roclite 320’s to replace my current informal work/gym shoes that had worn out. I figured, I’d try them for hiking in Scotland, but I could always use them as day-to-day shoes if they didn’t work out.  When compared with Nikes or Asics, Inov-8 Roclite 320s are not that expensive, only costing $100 a pair.

Initially, I bought two pairs, one in a size 9.5 and the other in a size 10. I normally wear a size 9 shoe and a size 9.5 hiking boot, but I wanted to size up so I could wear multiple layers of hiking socks or even a Gore-Tex sock over a wool liner. This turned out to be a good call because the 320s fit about a 1/2 size small. The 9.5 Men’s US was still a tight fit with two socks, but the size 10 was way too long even with multiple socks.

Supination and ITB

Brand new Roclite 320s are very stiff and supportive, especially for people like me, who wear down the outside heel of their hiking boots or shoes. This is called supination, the opposite of pronation, where your foot rolls inward when you walk. Supinators often suffer from iliotibial band syndrome or ITB, an affliction I suffer from, due to increased extra stress on the foot.

When you put on the 320 for the first time, it feels like the outside of the shoe is a little higher than the inside. You get used to this sensation quickly and it diminishes as shoe relaxes and you break it in.

Inov-8 Roclite 320

The Last

The 320 foot bed or last is quite stiff for a trail shoe and has a built-in fascia band running along the bottom of the shoe that is designed to support the fascia in your foot. I’ve had plantar fasciitis in the past but I haven’t had any flare-ups since using this shoe on long day hikes across rocky terrain with a full pack. I’m optimistic that the 320s will be ok in Scotland.

Heel Box

If you are used to hiking boots, one of the most important elements of a good fit is a tight heel box. Leather boots have special lacing systems that are designed to lock the back of your foot into the heel box and prevent heel lift, which causes blistering.

While the heel box on the 320s is rigid like a boot, there’s no need for me to crank down the laces to keep my heel in place. It just fits like a glove. In fact, I don’t have to tie my laces on these shoes very tight at all. I haven’t experienced any heal lift with them and haven’t been able to induce any blisters, even when wearing soaking wet shoes over distance.

Twisting Ankles

Like all boot wearers, I’m a bit paranoid about twisting my ankles when I hike. There have been many times when my ankle has buckled under me on trips and where I’ve felt that my leather boots have saved me from tearing tendons. I did this once as a teenager and had to wear a cast for 6 weeks.

I have twisted my ankle, though not severely, while wearing the 320’s on gear testing hikes. But, I think I understand the conditions when this is most likely to happen and how to mitigate it.

It only happens when I’ve crested a hill and start to walk down the other side with a load on my back and with some momentum behind me. If I consciously slow down and lead with the ball of my foot instead of my heel, I’ve found that I’m less prone to a lateral twist or buckle. You need to pay attention, but feeling every step is part of the buddhist walking meditation thing I do when I hike anyway.

Hiking in Wet Shoes

The main reason I bought the Roclite 320s was to find a way to hike in extremely wet conditions. In Scotland, I expect that I will need to ford mountain streams daily, in addition to dealing with normally boggy conditions and snow melt. This is one of the challenges of hiking in Scotland.

To test the 320s, I took a bunch of long hikes in rainy weather and made a point to wade through every stream I came across regardless it is had a bridge or not. For those of you who live in the Boston area, that crazy guy fording streams in the Middlesex Fells is me!

Inov-8 Roclite 320 Trail Running Shoes

Every time I emerge from a stream crossing, I get a kick out of seeing the water stream out the 320’s mesh fabric uppers. As you walk, you’re literally pumping the water out of them.

If it’s warm outside, the 320s dry remarkably quickly. If it’s cold and damp, they’re fairly warm if I just wear a pair of thin Smartwool Merino Liners or Gore-Tex socks over the liners to slow down heat loss.

I haven’t experienced any running or blistering, even on consecutive days or long distance hiking in extremely cold wet conditions. It’s a miracle!

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.

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20 comments

  1. Quoddy (John Haley)

    I'm glad to see that you've had the success with Inov-8's that I have. I began with the Roclite 315's in early 2007 and by 2008 had settled on the Terroc 330's, mainly because of my foot and arch shape. I particularly liked your description after wading through streams, because I too like to have shoes that dry out as I hike.

  2. I've had the same issues with IT and PF. Looked at my boots and hardrocks and they too wear on the heal on the outside.

    Would like to give these Inov-8 Roclite 320 Trail Running Shoes a try. How did they fit for you? Did you size up or do they fit fine for the size listed?

    Thanks – Chris

  3. I'll be trying the Terrocs as well this week, but the 320s are working fine, so I may stick with them. I thought I you when I was writing this post. Glad you chimed in.

  4. Chris – order your boot size and 1/2 size larger than that – in other words, get 2 pairs and return 1. They run small.

  5. You might consider a pair of desert gaiters from REI (or similar).

    We use these in riparian habitat reconstruction – lots of hiking on trail/ off trail and in knee-deep water. The gaiters help keep sand out of your shoes.

    That would be my concern with mesh-type shoes as well. How much silt gets introduced into the Inov-8's?

  6. Interesting post. They do look like a winner! Love the photo in the stream, looks like you are lost or something….

  7. Phil – I wear a pair of event gaiters from MLD but I still get silt in the shoes during stream crossings. Forgot to mention that, but it's not a big deal.

  8. Frank – all who wander are not lost!

  9. Have you tried putting your green superfeet in them? Wondering if the greens will work in the roclite 320's

  10. Welcome to the Damp Side. (someone had to say it).

    I've done something similar when canoing, where the awful jungle boots are better. I've used similar shoes when day-hiking, but never with a pack.

    One thing, though, if you can't get your feet thoroughly dry because it is too consistently wet, then you probably want to back some sort of lightweight sandal or shower shoe to have a dry change for around camp. (permanently wet feet are asking for trouble).

  11. I like my Nike Wild Edge ACG trail shoes weighing in at 13 oz. (for the pair); I was able to find them on sale for $59 late last year. The construction and support is nice, especially when facing a mountain scramble or long mile days.. just do it!

  12. Ah yes Patrick, thanks for reminding me. The Roclite 320s weigh 26.4 oz in a US Mens 9.5/UK Men's 8.5.

  13. Ryan- trying green superfeet was the first mod I tried. Not enough space. The shoes are not deep enough. But the 320 has quite good support, alone. I had a pair of Terrocs just arrive. They don't have the fascia band that the 320s have and are far less laterally rigid.

  14. Rob – I hate packing sandals. I'll just cook in my bivy sack in a sleeping bag and dry my feet out that way.

  15. Great review and I may look into these. I just completed a 50 mile trek down the upper Washington State coast, very rugged terrain largely comprised of jagged stones and slick tide pools. Constantly wet, often fording creeks. I used Seal Skins (which work, but never dry on the outside) and Salomon Tech Amphibian 2 trail runners. They performed very well and flow great! I also have ITB, and would like better support, so thanks for the head's up. PS: Right now I'm on a five month trek through the Olympics and down the coast back to San Diego. Your blog is very helpful.

  16. I actually agree whole-heartedly about packing sandals and the like (never do pack them myself) – but if I knew my feet were going to be soaked 8-10hrs or more every day, I would think hard about some lightweight alternative that was good enough to wear on short trips out of the bivy.

  17. I went for a pair of merrell moab XCR shoes to deal with these same conditions on my multi-month trip up from Chile. I was the only one with dry feet at camp at the end of each day in Patagonia and I'm excited to put them to the test in the Salcantay pass up to Machu Pichu next week. The only problem I've had with hiking in shoes like this is the smell that accumulates after multi-day wet hiking…to the point where it's unbearable. Do you think this might be the gor-tex in the moab or have you also found this to be true with your 320s? Glad they're supportive though, that sounds great

  18. I find disposable overshoes handy for around camp; especially useful when nipping outside during the night!

  19. That's a good tip Paul – I can see how surgical booties or something like them would work and last for a while.

  20. I use insoles from other runners for my camp sandals. Just make up a strap system with cord and attach to the insole by poking holes and tying knots or looping to another hole & back out. A little hard to explain, but about 1.5 oz

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