Over the years I continue to bring trail running footwear into the world of backpacking. The Inov-8 Trailroc 285 is designed for trail running in rugged terrain keeping you fast and agile. But is it also a well built capable shoe for ultralight and fast packing overnight trips in the alpine?
Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Trail Running Shoe Review
Prior to the Trailroc 285 I had been using my Merrell MTL Cirrus which handled all the trail races and mountain summit fast pack trips I threw at it. As with any shoe it eventually was beat up and worn down so I headed to Frontrunners Nanaimo to get new shoes. Sitting on the floor was a sweet looking pair of blue trail shoes that were calling my name. A quick test fit and stroll around in the parking lot let me know that this would fit my wide foot nicely. It had all the attributes I now list as a criteria for spending time in rugged rocky alpine environments so in the box and out the door we went.
Key Features of the Trailroc 285
As I mentioned above from my many trips and runs I now have key features that I look for in a trail running shoe. Inov-8 loaded them all up into one shoe that checked all the boxes. First off, the shoe is very light as the name comes from them weighing 285grams. Next the shoe needs to have an aggressive tread that can dig into the loamy soil of forest trails but grippy on alpine rock. Along with that tread the midsole needs to have rock protection in the shank. The outsole and toe needs to be protected with a wrap around rand and rubber armour. The insole needs to be responsive, provide cushioning and not fatigue my feet after long days on the trail (remember I also backpack in them). Good heel support with a locked in feeling, laces that stay secure but allow adjustability from toe to ankle and a wide toe box that isn’t sloppy round out my go to criteria.
Official specs from Inov-8 on the Trailroc 285
- Powerflow : Mid sole technology in the eva foam for shock absorption & energy return
- MetCradle : Mid foot lacing lockdown overlay
- Meta-Plate : Underfoot protection for sharp rocks & debris
- G-Grip Sole : Graphene infused sole for grip and durability
Putting The Inov-8 Trail Running Shoe to the Test
It has now been an entire year of using the Inov-8 Trailroc 285 for everything….seriously I mean everything. I have done 25km days backpacking, trail runs, used as my bikepacking shoe and has even become my daily dog walking shoe. According to Strava just for my recorded runs and hikes I am nearing 200kms of distance with them. The lugs have all held up to the mixed terrain and rocky scrambling I have done. I am seeing some wear on the forefoot lugs but that is to be expected.
The Meta-plate is amazing, I have had alpine runners that my feet were very sore after endless sharp rocks but not the case with the Trailrocs. The footbed is still cushioning and responsive, not that stiff dead feeling of a shoe that you still wear and has seen a lots of hard miles.
The lacing system has worked so good, my heel stays locked into place and the Met-cradle mid foot overlays keep my foot in place. I am able to leave my forefoot laces loose while my midfoot stays tight which allows my feet to swell and not feel cramped on big days or long runs.
I am not a fan of gortex shoes in summer as i want my feet to breathe and also if they do get wet be able to dry out quickly. For that the mesh of the shoe upper has been perfect and the design has stayed very strong with no major breakdown (except one area which I will get to).
The toe box rugged rubber bumper has done its job, saving me from plenty of stubbed toes but it also adds a bit of extra grip for scrambling on summit climbs. The full wrap around rand has done its job nicely but it is also the biggest failure of the shoe for me. For the areas that have the rand down low, it protected the mesh well and shoes no signs of damage.
BUT just above the rand at the widest point across the foot on the big and little toe the mesh has completely blown out. Inov-8 should have thought this spot through and create a triangle bump up of the welded rand protection on the inside and outside of the foot in these spots. I completely tore through on both shoes and needed to use gortex tape on the inside and shoe goo on the outside to repair them. It isn’t pretty but has worked to allow me to keep enjoying the shoes.
Final Thoughts Inov-8 Trailroc 285
I would highly recommend this shoe to anyone looking for a do it all rugged shoe that breathes well, handles rocky terrain and is at home running on the trail. The shoe is comfy right out of the box and maintains comfort to this day. I wear a size 8.5 and the shoe was consistent in sizing to the Salomon and Merrell shoes I have wore. Even though I have stated how the shoe upper mesh blew out above the rand I do need to be very clear that I do serious bushwhacking and off trail route finding in the alpine. If you are sticking to trails and paths, no matter the terrain, you should be fine with the design of the shoe as is. I give this shoe a 4 out of 5 and if that rand came up a touch higher I would give it a 5 out of 5. I am asking a lot out of a shoe and balancing basically mountaineering with trail running is a huge demand of a shoe. For that reason I would and will most likely look at Inov-8 again for my next pair of trail running shoes.
Inov-8 has updated the Trailroc 285 from last year to the Trailroc 280 (yup its 5grams lighter now) . The toe rubber kick plate is changed but the rubber rand does extend higher now. I’ll have to check it out in person to see if the change is significant enough to tackle off route abrasion like the 285 have seen on my adventures.
If you live on Vancouver Island, to support a local independent store I would suggest checking out Cowichan Valley Running in Mill Bay. The owner Laura is a wealth of knowledge and a passionate trail runner, she curates a great selection and also has a terrific online store.
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For more reviews from jackets and pants to packs and trail shoes be sure to swing by my Gear Review blog page. Be sure to check out my current complete Gear List on all outdoor apparel as well as technical and camping gear.
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