Taylor: To each their own. Especially to runners and their shoe choices. As a shoe reviewer, I test shoes to see if they live up to their proclaimed hype. As a runner, I’m on the constant quest to find the optimal trail shoe.
This year has seen some really solid choices cross my path, but the search continues for that Cinderella slipper. The Inov-8 Trailroc G 280 comes oh-so-close to being that magical shoe here on the rocky mountain trails of Colorado.
Not a huge name in the U.S. (yet), inov-8 is primarily a British shoe company that has its roots in fell (mountain) running. They pride themselves on quality and—get this— innovation. Here in the US, inov-8 has an ever-growing band of cult followers, but this was my first experience with them.
The Trailroc G 280 is a shoe designed to tackle rocky/hard ground terrain. This version is the resurrection of a shoe that was discontinued a few years ago, but has returned in all its glory. Let’s just say that this shoe has a better comeback story than Michael Jordan’s time with the Wizards. Time to dig in!
Taylor: Let’s take a ground-up approach because I want to get straight to business with this outsole. G means graphene. Graphene in the Trailroc’s outsole means the grippiest most durable stuff ever.
Over the last year, I’ve taken to Vibram’s Megagrip on a lot of shoes, but whoa— this G outsole is just as grippy, if not more. In any condition.
For starters, the Graphene outsole is extremely durable. After many runs on rocky trails and a solid 20-mile high-alpine adventure, they look brand new!
Even though the lugs on the Trailroc are modest at 4mm, the outsole stood up to all conditions and terrain that I was able to throw at them. For me, I start looking at new shoes when an outsole is pretty trashed. Usually, the integrity of the upper is still in pretty good shape. The G outsole may flip that equation.
Moving on up. A POWERFLOW+ midsole defies some logic. In short, it has a softish ride, yet it’s very protective and responsive. It employs a two-layered midsole with a thicker, more firm layer nearest the outsole with another, quite soft layer, laid on top. Similar to a cake donut with frosting. Mmmmm… donuts (insert Homer Simpson voice).
The POWERFLOW+ midsole delivers the goods with a softer-than-typical ride for a shoe made for rocky conditions, while offering the same level of protection as any shoe out there. A flexible and light 5th Generation Meta rockplate is layered in to assist with protruding rocks, roots, etc., and does so very well.
Hear me out… the TrailRoc G 280 comes close to the protection-level of shoes like the HOKA One One Evo Mafate 2, but with much less stack height (20mm heel to 12 mm vs. 35mm heel to 31 mm toe). The relatively low stack height allows for a touch of ground feel and I welcome that.
The flexible mesh upper is probably the least spectacular component of the Trailroc. That being said, it is the right choice! It is breathable and has proven to be durable so far. Both on the tongue and heel collar, there is a little extra padding that allows for some structure and extra protection. Seamless overlays wrap the foot to boost security.Shop inov-8 Trailroc G 280
Taylor: The most common comment that I have heard about Inov-8 shoes, in general, is that the toe box is quite narrow. That’s my complaint too, although my foot width is above-average. If you have narrow feet and don’t mind the fit of say, a HOKA Speedgoat, you can take this criticism with a grain of salt.
I experienced heavy friction on the lateral sides of my pinky toes through a little bit of the forefoot. After about 20 miles the rubbing lessened but I still was ready to take the shoes off pretty quickly after every run. One odd thing was that my forefoot and toes didn’t crunch together because of the narrowness. There wasn’t any wiggle room, but they were not overly constricted either.
A few advertisements and reviewers have given the Trailroc G 280 a green light for ultra-trail running. I gave it a good go with a 20-mile run over various terrain through Rocky Mountain National Park, and all of the qualities for an outstanding long-distance mountain shoe are there. That said, the narrowness eventually gave way to friction around the 17-19 mile mark.
If you have above-average foot width, this would not be a viable ultra-trail shoe.Shop inov-8 Trailroc G 280
Taylor: I love, love, love the inov-8 Trailroc G 280! There is a big BUT though (I cannot lie)… the narrowness of the toe box reminds me of an oppressive parent on a kid with big dreams. It really limits the potential of this overall-incredible shoe. Dang helicopter shoes.
Almost everything that I have ever wanted in a trail shoe for rocky and technical terrain has turned up in the inov-8 Trailroc G 280— highly protective underfoot with a touch of ground feel, the grippiest of outsoles, durable, light, responsive, and a soft and smooth ride.
Despite the friction on the toes, I’ll still continue to wear these shoes for “shorter” outings (up to 15 miles or a few hours) because they are just that good. If you have narrower feet and run rocky or technical trails, I would say these are a no-brainer and could be your Cinderella slipper. If your feet are pretty average or wider, be very wary about the fit/feel.
You can pick up the inov-8 Trailroc G 280 at Running Warehouse (with free 2-day shipping and returns) using the shop link below.Shop inov-8 Trailroc G 280