When the 312′s first arrived, my wife commented, “Did you get some football cleats?” I just laughed, but I must admit, she was right–the black color-scheme with meaty treads did make them look somewhat football cleat-ish. Thankfully, a walk around the tile wasn’t met with disdain since these lugged kicks have soft, sticky rubber instead of turf-digging spikes.
What first caught my eye about these shoes was the styling. They don’t look much like other trail runners on the market. The full mesh uppers, a lightweight exo-skeleton for support, chunky treads and piping around the toebox really set these shoes apart. They were smart looking on the shelf and are smart looking on the trail (good thing too… I hear mountain lions stay away from sharp-dressers on the trail).
One of the first things that I noticed about wearing the Roclite 312′s was the natural stride and flex. I really like how the entire system works in concert to provide a smooth and consistent feel throughout the step. While some shoes suffer from a hinged feeling, these feel nothing of the sort.
The large, widely-spaced treads are great for maintaining traction on rough and wet trails. You can actually feel the treads as they bite into the dirt. The only caveat to this is in loose conditions where the toe-off push wasn’t always as solid as I’d like. This may likely be due to the squared-off nose.
As far as support goes, these shoes are pretty minimal. I was able to slip in a pair of Sole footbeds to support my pancake-flat feet, but the lateral support is pretty light. That, combined with the narrow heel profile, did exhibit some foot rolling tendencies, which aren’t typically common in trail shoes. That said, if you are confident and sure-footed, you may not have issues, but the technical terrain I’ve been tackling did present some occasional challenges.
As far as Gore-Tex shoes go, these are by far the most breathable I’ve worn. The full mesh uppers really lend themselves to allowing your feet to breathe. While I still wouldn’t recommend them in dry, warm climates, I was comfortable in temperatures around 60 and above. I intentionally stood in a running stream for 30 seconds and not a drop of water entered the shoe.
- Very lightweight
- Solid overall traction
- Smooth and comfortable stride
- Ample cushioning
- Excellent foot protection and trail feel
- Waterproof, yet still very breathable for a GTX shoe (still comfortable above 60-degrees)
- Love the casual-esque styling accents
- Stability is lacking–especially with narrow heel
- Toe-off traction could be better
- Very high volume (bad for me… OK for high-volume feet)
- Mesh toebox captured dirt between mesh
- Grippy rubber outsole feels really slow on pavement
Bottom Line: Inov-8 Roclite 312 GTX
Unique styling and good function really makes the Roclite 312 an appealing choice for the sure-footed trail runner looking for a lightweight, bad-weather trainer.