Compromise represents one of the most fundamental lessons I had to learn as a runner. Despite our dreams, and intentions, we must frequently make compromises in our running just to keep going. Doesn’t matter if you’re reading this living in Keswick or Soho, I assure you the grim reality is the same for all of us: we don’t quite get out as much as we’d like. From tube strikes stopping you making it up to the lakes, to weddings for people your partner vaguely knows, something always stops us from getting out. Half the time we must make do with a quick lap of the park or the lake, rather than the felltop epic we’d planned.
With that in mind, there comes the matter of footwear. Is it really necessary to wear some ultra-aggressive shoes running on 95% fire track? The 5% muddy downhill might be hideously slick, but the rest of the time you’re just wearing down the tread of your fell-munchers. What you really need is a good all-rounder. You need a compromise that performs well on soft, steep terrain, and won’t instantly wear flat on forest tracks. For a while now, that compromise manifested itself in the Inov-8 Roclite series. The shoe quickly became a fell runners training favourite for those runs that need a little bit of everything. After some years of success, the time came for a redesign. And ladies and gentlemen, what a shoe it is.
Introducing the new, fresh Roclite 290. 4mm drop, 6mm Footbed, Powerflow midsole, 6mm Lugs, Tri-compound rubber and a tread pattern pseudoscientifically proven to make your eyes bleed with excitement. Nothing quite tickles the pickle like a well-crafted shoe, and I’ll admit from the outset I’m a teeny bit biased. You see back in September, I got a sneak peek at the new Roclite, and I had been impressed then. Once I’d got it on my foot, the time came to get testing. Seeing as this shoe is an all rounder, I thought I’d do a few different runs to put them through their paces.
Route One: Stile end, Outerside and Barrow. 6.1km, 437 meters gained.
Terrain covered: Mixed Bridleway, Lanes and Felltop paths.
Conditions: Dry, Snow underfoot.
Comments: So this is a classic route, a good evening romp when you’re stuck for a quick taste of fell. The route has also been used by us for a Fell race(details here). I was a little worried setting off, as there happened to be a fair whack of snow on the hill. While I jogged up the frosty lane, I wondered if I’d chosen the wrong day to test shoes. However, as the moonlight danced off the clear trail, I ripped my way up the track with the stability and traction that only comes from a proper fell shoe. With confidence restored, I zoomed down at breakneck pace, only pausing to wait for my less suicidal running partner.
Number of times arse over tit: 0
Route Two: Graystones, Broom fell and Lords Seat. 8.4km, 452 meters gained.
Terrain Covered: Runners trods, Fire track and Forrest paths
Conditions: Dry and frosty underfoot.
Comments: A brilliant metal test for the shoe, this run. All courtesy of Rob Stien and the CMRT. Began with a brutal accent, on quite challenging grass sloping terrain. The Roclites gripped well, and I felt well grounded, even on the steep descents. Aided in avoiding certain vicious fence like obstacles!
Number of times arse over tit: Still 0
Route Three: Slate fell from the door. 6.4km, 137 meters gained.
Terrain covered: Pavement, Paths and open fields.
Conditions: Mega Soggy underfoot.
Comments: This is a quick from the door run in my hometown of Cockermouth. If you give it the beans, it’ll take no more than half an hour, and the view from Slate fell looks straight up the iconic Lakeland valley of Buttermere. If there isn’t low cloud in the way, that is! The conditions underfoot could not have been more imperfect. Off camber, saturated muddy grass slopes line the way to the top. Still, I never fell over and felt secure descending at a reasonable pace. Considering the density of the mud, I washed my shoes in the river at the end. Bit nippy, but at least they’re clean again.
Number of times arse over tit: Amazingly 0
After a week with these awesome all-rounders, my opinion has been cemented. If you want one shoe to fit them all, or an entry level shoe for getting into off road running, this is hands down the best shoe money can buy. So long as you get on with the fit (C/D width, so the very wide feet might have to play with sizes a bit.) there is no better shoe on the market. It looks great, has the perfect amount of cushioning and grips the way only an Inov-8 can.
Bravo guys, you’ve done it again!