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Inov8 has updated their popular Roclite 295 model for 2011. Gone are the dull gray and blue uppers and endurance rubber soles. This year's shoe has a sharper black and lime green upper with the Inov-8 logo boldly displayed. Not that fashion matters among trail runners. It's function that counts and the 295 performs very well under a variety of terrain and surface conditions with it's new sticky rubber soles.
Let's start from the ground up.
The minimal heel-to-toe drop and low arch structure of the shoe keeps you low to the ground and less likley to roll an ankle. Although the sole is now made with sticky rubber it keeps the traditional Roclite lugs that work well on hard-pack, mud and other surfaces. The sole grips well on muddy trails and over wet rock and roots but it will wear faster than the harder endurance rubber of other Roclite models. The softer sticky rubber is also more flexible than the endurance sole and gives the runner a better feel for the trail. This soft, flexible sole does come with a price besides less durability. It does not provide enough protection on technical trails from sharp rocks and gnarly roots. You will feel them through the sole which can become a problem after hours on the trail.
The mesh upper has a tighter weave than previous models but it still drains well and should be more resistant to wear and tear than a looser mesh. There isn't much structure to the upper which contributes to the shoe's light weight. But less structure means less support. To help control lateral movement, Inov8 has developed the Met Cradle. It's an upper webbing system positioned to cradle the forefoot and provide a secure foot hold. It works to some degree but there is certainly more foot movement in the 295 when compared to the heavier, more structured upper of the Roclite 319. The toe box is generous in height and width and gives your piggies plenty of room.
In my opinion, the Roclite 295 is another winning shoe from Inov8.