Mark Verber part of Outdoor Gear Reviews
September 04, 2005 - Minor Update Feb 2010
Product: Inov-8 Flyroc
Manufacture Year: 2005 (and later... unchanged)
Size: 10.5 US (44 Europe)
Listed weight: 11 oz (310g) / shoe
Weight as delivered: 12oz (340 g) / shoe
I love the Inov-8 Flyroc 310 trail running shoes. I am on my 14th pair and expect to continue to wear these shoes long into the future. The Flyroc is a shoe for people who want to be able to feel the trail under their feet and to experience a more natural foot strike. I think that having the front and rear of your foot free to supinate/pronate and flex / extend freely is important to go fast on rough ground. A more "barefoot" experience can reduce stress on knees and hips. The combination of a more natural foot motion, wide toe box, good heel cup, and effective lacing systems dramatically reduced the number of blisters I experienced. When I switched to Injinji toe socks blisters became a thing of the past. For me, this is amazing. Any other shoe/sock combination has given me blisters unless I spent taping and treating my feet, and even then I would sometimes end up with blisters. The Inov-8 Flyroc are extremely light with good traction on mixed surfaces. I typically only get 400-500 miles on a pair before they are worn out. These aren't for everyone but they are perfect for me. People who want more insulation from the trail will probably prefer other shoes that restrict these motions more. Likewise people who need arch support, and need to control pronation will want a stiffer shoe.
Super light trail running shoe. Mesh uppers. Aggressive tread. A core design feature of this shoe is extreme flexibility of the shoe. The sole is stiff from the heel to the metatarsals, but after that the sole is very flexible. It is possible to fold the toe all the way back to the heel. Some people have described the Inov-8 as a "slipper" version of the Montrail Vitesse. Limited cushion for the heel, almost no cushion for the mid-foot or fore-foot. These shoes have a very roomy toe box, a narrow body, a good heel cup, and a high lacing system which kept my heel anchored.
I have used these shoes for more than 6500 miles (14 pairs of shoes) for light weight backpacking, trail running, snowshoeing, and general around town use. Locations include streets in San Francisco Bay area, hard pack trails in the Santa Cruz mountains, in the Sierras including crumbly trails, hard pack trails, granite, wet granite, muck, and snow. Coastal locations such as Pt Reyes which included hard pack trails and sand. In southern Utah and Arizona on hard pack and sandstone. Mountains of Colorado. Ice a variety of locations. I am sure lots of other places and conditions.
At this point there I have used the Flyroc so much it's that writing a field reports which covers all my experience would be a novel, so I will leave my write up of the first time I took the Inov-8 Flyroc 310 into the back country since it's a great example of my experiences with this shoe. I took a quick weekend trip to Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite valley. I covered 21 miles backpacking (carrying 18lb). The first day including 5000ft gain, 4000ft lose. Around 9 miles in I soaked my feet wading through a marshy/muddy area and I only had one pair of clean socks which I was reserving to sleep in. So the next 13 miles my feet were in wet, muddy socks while I went up and down around 4000ft including some snow walking. The second day including 7 miles worth of backpacking, and then 7 miles of trail running. At the end of the second day, no blisters, no foot pain except for something unrelated to the shoes performance. [On the first day I got a splinter in my heel when my shoes were off, and didn't realize it. By the second day it was slightly infected and felt and looked a bit like a blister until I cleaned it up and treat it at which point I could tell it was a splinter.] This was wearing a pair of Wright double socks and wrapping my morton's toe.
The soles are very flexible and very thin in the front of the shoe. I was able to "feel" the trail more wearing the 310 than any other shoe I have worn. The combination of the lack of padding and the extra flexibility has taken a bit of time to get used to. I have noticed more "pressure" / "shock" in my heel and the ball of my foot compares to my light hiking shoes or any other trail runners I have worn. Initially I was concerned that I might bruise the bottom of my feet, but hasn't presented any problems to date. I found that the sole was protective enough that I can hop between jagged granite boulders without hurting my feet. I would describe using the Flyroc as the second closest to going barefoot, while still protecting your foot sole from bruising, and having better traction. The only more natural shoe is the Vibram Five Fingers, but I found they lack the traction of the Flyroc. I would not recommend the Flyroc for anyone who needs motion control.
I grew up wearing custom orthotics due to misshaped feet, though I have a
good arch. I have had chronic, but low grade knee pain. Within a few months of
wearing the Inov-8 Flyroc 310 shoes I found that I wasn't having significant
issues with my knees. I believe the more natural walking and running style that
these shoes encourage, and a heel that isn't boasted like many shoes has taken
pressure of my knees.
The added flexibility resulted in my metatarsals getting much more of a workout than when wearing a more traditional shoe or sandal. The first few months using these shoes I would notice that my feet felt different during the first few miles of any trip. Not "bad", just "different". After around 5 miles I stop noticing my feet. If I stop and think about how my feet were feeling, I realize that they are in general feeling better than they have in the past. I think this is because the extra flexibility permits a more natural stride and the shoes are lighter than nearly everything else I have worn. Initially my feet were a bit more tired at the end of the day and some muscles which don't normally feel tired were sore (specially my calf muscles). After a number of weeks the extra tiredness was gone and I found myself really enjoying the extra lightness and the great trail feel. I would bet if you regularly go barefoot that the transition might be much faster. The one exception to these shoes feeling great is when I am carrying significant weight. On a trip in May, 2005 I ended up carrying somewhere between 60-80 lbs for a couple of miles to help out a friend. [Turns out the Six Moon Design Comet can be turned into a front pack letting you carry someone's pack on your back :-)] After just two miles I could tell my feet got a workout.
The Flyroc took some getting used to. In the first month I found that my feet were more tired than normal. After a month of use, my feet were not tired. I believe there are three reasons why my experience changed. First, I believe my feet and leg muscles are getting stronger. Second, I found that I started to walk slightly differently. Rather can coming down hard on my heel and then rolling my foot forward I was starting to come down more evenly on my foot or even staying more on the balls of my feet which seems to produce less shock to the rest of the body. Third, I stopped doing things which were not taxing when wearing more traditional shoes, but stressed my feet in the Inov-8 310s. For example, I have a tendency to sit on my haunches in a crouching position, with my bum on the back of the shoes, heels off the ground. Why do I do this? I have no idea. With a stiff shoe I can stay in the position for an extended period of time without taxing my feet. In a shoe as flexible as the Flyroc I start to notice my feet are being stressed within a few minutes.
I was very impressed with the traction of the Flyroc. So far I have used the shoes on streets, hard pack trails, sandy trails, granite, wet granite, muck, snow, and sand. The only time I have any issues slipping was slimy/wet granite, wet/oily asphalt and when I was walking on a very slanted trail where some lateral stiffness would have helped to bite into the side of the hill. I was particularly impressed with the ease I traveled over sand. The one surface that the Flyroc are completely useless on is ice, they have no grip and the lugs are too soft to dig in, though turning them into screwshoes will work.
The uppers are mostly mesh which ventilated well and dries reasonably quickly. For example, when I compare
the Flyroc to the Solomon XA Comp2, the Flyroc is almost as cool / air permeable
as Solomon XA Comp, faster drying, and more water resistant. I was able to run
for a couple of hours in light rain and my feet stayed mostly dry. Note: once
the Flyroc has been soaked or mucked up they no longer seem to be water
resistant, rather they seem to wick water in. The down sides of the mesh are
that it gets torn up more quickly that many other materials, my feet and socks
get quite dirty through the mesh, and that thorns, small sticks, etc can get embedded
in the mesh.
Best of all for me... few to no blisters. I switched to trail runners and Wright DoubleSocks and few years ago and have come to expect not getting blisters in common locations like my heel or the sides of my feet, the ball of my foot, etc... but I would still get blisters between some of my toes which are crooked and bump into their neighbor (I have hammertoes and morton's toes). The Flyroc shoes are the first shoes I have worn that have significantly reduced blisters I get between my crooked toes. Later I switched from Wright DoubleSocks to Injinji Tetratsok. I have not had a blister since making the switch.
I am now on my 14th pair of Flyroc-310. I seem to get around 400-500 miles out of them, at which point the lugs under the balls of my feet are mostly gone and the mesh is typical torn up and looking pretty ratty, and the slight shock absorption is gone. The other thing is that the shoe which normally feel very responsive seem to go dead. I don't know how to describe the feeling better than this. It's like the shoes are saying "I am worn out. Get a new pair." I used to get nearly twice the wear from my New Balance 801 AT. While I would love these shoes to be more durable, I will willing to replace these shoes more frequently to the performance I am getting from them.
One of the most important things to know about Inov-8 is that they do not gratuitously change shoes!!! Finally, a shoe company that understands that once people find a shoe that works they don't want the company to change that shoe. Inov-8 has made a corporate commitment to keep manufacturing shoes without functional change until they are no longer profitable. I have hopes that the Flyroc 310 will be made for many years to come. The Flyroc I recently purchased are identical to the original pair except that have changed the coloring. Otherwise, it's still my beloved shoe.
I think it's interesting to note the number of adventure, fell, ultra-distant races / records have been won using Inov-8 shoes. Especially when you realized that this company has only been shipping shoes since 2003. See Inov-8 in the News. You should also check out backpackinglight.com's Footwear Trends which features Inov-8.
X-Talon 212: Didn't make it on to the trail. Amazing light and the uppers looks like they might be a winner, but I couldn't find a size that would hold my feet securely while still providing enough room for my toes.
Mudclaw-270: Didn't work as well for me as the Flyroc, but I don't remember the specifics and have lost my notes.
Roclite-295: Very similar to the the Flyroc, but they have a shortly life and more cushion. If I was spending a lot of time on hard pack trails I might prefer them to the Flyroc.
Terroc-330: I have been surprised with how 20 grams changes the feel of the shoe. When I bend the 310 and the 330 with my hands, they seem similarly flexible. On the feet though, there is a noticeable difference, with the 330 being clearly stiffer than the 310. If you are looking for a light weight shoe which has a fair amount of trail feel, but you don't want to go to an extreme, you might want to give the 330 a try.
Flyroc-345 GTX: Identical to the Flyroc except uses Gore-Tex uppers rather than mesh. Shoe is a bit stiffer with the switch from mesh uppers. I prefer the Flyroc-310 with a waterproof sock in cold weather to the 345.
Rocite 390: Light weight Gore-Tex boot. Like most of the RocLite line, the toe box is smaller than I would like. I purchase a pair that is 1.5 sizes larger than I would normally wear to make room for my insulated, Vapor Barrier socks and Injinji liners. This combination has been very comfortable in sub-zero winter conditions.
I did a lot of backpacking from 1972 through the '80s. I started by going to various destinations in Ohio, West Virgina, and Red River Gorge in Kentucky. Destinations expanded to include sections of the AT, the PCT, the Rockies (Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone, Tetons), The Big Horns, and various destinations in Canada. In the '90s my outdoor activities slowed down to make room for other aspects of life. Nearly all my backpacking was heavy-weight style. In 2001 I started seriously backpacking again... mostly in the Sierras. Over the next three years I switch from a heavyweight to ultralight to lightweight style. My three season base weight is now 8-11 lb (3.5-5 kg). Full carry weight including food and water is typically 15-25 lb (7-11 kg) depending on the length of the trip. Winter trips run a bit heavier.