I’d been dying to try a pair of these, ever since they were released, but until the kind folk at FitnessFootwear offered to let me have a pair to test I’d not really had the opportunity. Boots aren’t normally something you can try on whim – they’re something you have to live with – something that can make the difference between a joyous walk and a nightmare of discomfort and pain. So when I got an email offering to swap a pair of the boots for a review of them on the blog – I jumped at the chance.
When you get them out of the box they look a bit space-age – something Jane Fonda may have worn in Barbarella, or James Caan in Rollerball (without the wheels obviously) – they have a shiny mesh coating over most of the upper and white flecks in the rubber sole bed. Very striking. They are shockingly light too. I’d requested a size 11 (UK) and these weighed in at an average of 448g each (15.8oz) – the lid of the box was all that was keeping them from floating away. The only problem with ordering boots over the Internet is that you don’t get a chance to try them on. My Roclite 315 slippers are a size 11 and they fit fine – the boots are a half size (maybe even 3/4 of a size) bigger fit, so they are a bit loose for my liking. The ridiculous lacing system they use also doesn’t help in trying to get the boot snug on your foot – it’s incredibly difficult to draw in the slack – so I ditched that almost straight away and replaced it with the traditional cross-over method.
Below, on the left the bizarre lacing system from Inov-8 – on the right the traditional cross-over method Using a thin liner sock and thick soled training shoe sock I managed to lace them to the point I was reasonably happy and then set out on a fourteen mile walk across Kinder with them. Bold or what?! But I thought if I’m going to test them, I’m going to do it properly 🙂 It’s difficult to test the grippiness of the boot when you’re walking on the gritstone of Kinder – my Roclite 315 shoes had always felt a bit lacking in the grip department, but the boots seemed fine, even on the grassy sections we encountered, I didn’t have any loss of traction. I did experience a rather annoying sound from them though. The mesh cover (and possibly the layer beneath it) on the front of the boot makes a soft popping sound each time you take step. When the shoe goes from bent to straight it seems to pop. Not a problem, just a bit odd – and possibly down to the shoes being a tad too large for me – I don’t know.
Anyway – that’s just about the only negative I have to report on the boot. Over the 14 miles of Kinder walking I hardly knew they were there – they were instantly comfortable, gloriously light and of course waterproof too. Many people, myself included, have tried Inov-8 shoes and lived with the lack of waterproofing as a way of reducing weight and relishing the responsiveness of the Inov-8 technology. We’ve lived with the gravel in the shoes and wet feet. But we don’t need to anymore. The Roclite 390GTX saves me over a kilogram of weight on my feet compared to my winter Scarpa boots. They keep the water out and they are cut high enough to discourage most of the debris you would normally accumulate with a shoe.
As an initial review summary I’m impressed. These will stay on my feet for the remainder of my summer walking and I’ll post another couple of updates to this over the coming weeks. The real problem with Inov-8, in my experience at least, is longevity. A single review, a single walk is not conclusive. My Roclite shoes and my Terrocs before that have died too quickly – lets just hope the Roclite boots will last a bit longer. I’ll leave you with a dirty picture to round off this initial report……
Review #2 (10th August 2010)
This is a follow-up report of the Inov-8 boots I’ve been testing. The Roclite 390GTX is a waterproof mid cut boot from the people who brought us the ultimate in lightweight footwear, Inov-8.
If last weeks walk over the gritstone of Kinder was no test at all of the grippiness of the Roclite boot, then this weekends walk over the limestone above Malham was surely the ultimate test – not having any ice available yet of course. If there’s anything more slippery than limestone mud then I haven’t found it and wet limestone pavement has to be one of worst stone surfaces to walk on in the UK.
On the whole I wasn’t impressed with the way the boot coped with the surfaces. I used to suffer from a lack of grip when I used the Roclite 315 shoes and the sole on the 390GTX seems to be almost identical.
The layout of the tread seems to be identical (315 on the left, 390 on the right) and the 390 still has its tiny little dimples on each lug – it still didn’t help traction on the limestone. I walked down a long track, a fairly shallow descent, but very rocky and my feet were constantly sliding off rocks I would have happily been firm on with my Salomon Mission boots. The lack of traction was noticeable.
However, having said that, once I got used to knowing the amount of traction I had, I adjusted to it – as you do – you just take more care in foot placement and don’t rely as much on the sole of the boot.
The first three or four miles of the walk was through fields and then pathless fellside. All through long wet grass. Within an hour my trousers were soaked almost to the knee and I could feel my socks slowly drawing the water into the boots. By the end of the walk my feet were sodden, but it’s impossible to tell how much water ingressed through the actual surface of the boot and how much was via the socks. In my experience no boots are waterproof – these proved to be more resilient to water than my recent Salomon Fastpackers (which I had to return) and my Salomon Missions (which I still use).
The laces in the 390GTX are the thinnest laces I’ve ever seen. Even the Roclite shoes have thicker laces. I’m sure it’s a weight saving measure, but this could be a step too far. Not only do they not stay laced tight they cut your hands when you have to keep re-tying them. I have to re-lace most boots once on a walk – I had to re-lace these three times in 12 miles. I will be replacing the laces with something more usable.
So it sounds like I don’t like these boots – but that’s not the case – I really have grown attached to them. I love their weight, their flexibility, the close proximity of shoe to earth, their comfort and the fact that they are cut high enough to avoid the worst of the grit and debris associated with fell running shoes.
Despite their poor grip I will continue to use them this summer. I have a weekend backpacking trip coming up this weekend (fingers crossed) and I’ll be using them for that – a proper test with a full pack, over the top of High Street.
Review #3 – Final Review (18th July 2011)
This is the third and final review of my Inov-8 Roclite 390 GTX boots – I know its the final review because they’ve just about fallen to pieces – they are completely unusable as walking boots.
I originally got these in August 2010, as review boots from FitnessFootwear.com, so it’s not like I can even send them back for a warranty swap – but then I’m not out of pocket and I have had some good use out of them.
But I’m being a little premature, I should review these before I come to my conclusions. I first walked in these boots in August 2010, but that’s not to say I’ve used them for a year – I haven’t – in fact nothing like. I didn’t wear them at all over the winter period, preferring instead my Salomon Missions, or perhaps my Scarpa ZeroG10 if there was likely to be snow involved. So I’ve not had a year’s worth of wear out of them.
They have been incredibly good though, while they’ve lasted – I’ve enjoyed them immensely. They are wonderfully light, incredibly comfortable and adequately grippy when they’ve needed to be. They are by far and away the most waterproof boot I’ve ever used. If you used these in conjunction with gaiters (which I haven’t) then I think you’d pretty much guarantee dry feet under even the most taxing conditions – and there’s not many waterproof boots you can say that about.
On the downside, they aren’t the most protective boot – as you can imagine, they are built to be light, so the sole isn’t very thick and doesn’t protect you from stony tracks. In fact on the Coast to Coast this year I felt quite abused in the foot department after one or two long days over rough tracks with the Inov-8s. But then I doubt this would come as any surprise to anyone who’s worn Inov-8s before.
The main problem with the Roclites though is their longevity. Like every other Inov-8 review I’ve ever done the same conclusion is arrived at. These are great boots/shoes, they are lovely and light, but they won’t last you a full season. If I’d bought these boots they would have cost me about £100 – you can find them for less if you search, but that’s a ballpark figure. So £100 for a summer’s worth of walking boot – I just don’t think that’s good enough value.
I think I’ve also concluded before that I will never buy another pair of Inov-8 shoes/boots – that opinion hasn’t changed – there are much more reliable and resilient light-weight boots out there – they may not be quite as light as the Inov-8s, but they will probably last you more than a few dozen miles of walking.
I’ve included some photos of the failings of the boots below, please forgive the carpet in the background, but I took the photos while I was on the C2C, in a B&B, so it’s not my taste in floor coverings at all.
I think you can see the problem. It’s not like one of the boots has developed a fault, it’s both of them and both at the same time. I think they started to come apart in the space of two walks, both together – so not coincidence.
I love Inov-8 footwear, I would wear them all the time outside the deep winter, but I find the longevity so frustrating and I can’t really justify the cost per mile that’s involved in ownership. Now perhaps if they could sponsor me….