Gear Review: inov-8 ROCLITE G275 Graphene-Enhanced Trail Runners
Who doesn’t want a trail runner that’s 50% stronger, 50% more elastic, and 50% harder-wearing than any other shoe on the market? Outdoor fitness brand inov-8 claims that their G-SERIES line of graphene-enhanced sneakers and trail runners can do just that. It was the notion of graphene-enhanced outsoles that initially got me excited to try out to try the inov-8 ROCLITE G275, having previously written an article about the many promising applications of graphene for backpacking. I also secretly hoped these trail runners would help me to channel my inner badass like Jasmin Paris, the female ultrarunner who smashed the UK Spine Race record in 2019 while sporting a pair of ROCLITE G275s.
The inov-8 ROCLITE G275 At-a-Glance
Weight: 9.7 ounces (275 grams)
Sole Composition: Graphene-enhanced rubber composite with Meta-Plate rock plate
Lug Depth: 6mm
Material: Mixed fabrics — 100% vegan.
Circumstances of Use
With thru-hiking canceled for 2020, I instead tested the inov-8 ROCLITE G275 shoes on a variety of shorter hikes and runs. I’ve tested their grip on a range of tricky surfaces, including wet grass, steep rocky inclines, and boggy trails. It’s worth noting that I’ve been wearing a lighter pack than I would normally carry, so the midsole hasn’t gotten as battered as what I’d typically expect on a longer backpacking trip.
Graphene-grip outsole: The graphene-infused rubber used in the outer sole improves the shoes’ traction and durability on variable terrain. True to their name, inov-8 is still the only sports gear company using a graphene compound in their soles.
Rock plate: The Meta-Shank plate protects the foot from rocks and debris on challenging terrain. In retrospect, I wish I’d had this feature on the miles of lava fields in Northern California on the Pacific Crest Trail. The rock plate is rigid at the midpoint and back of the foot, yet has an impressive amount of flexibility at the forefoot. I liked that the plate wasn’t so stiff as to make me feel like I was wearing clogs.
Midsole: According to inov8, their Powerflow™ midsole technology “delivers 10% better shock absorption and 15% better energy return than standard midsoles” for resilient cushioning and maximum memory retention. I found the shoe both responsive and adequately cushioned. Combined with the rock plate, this made for a nice run/hike even when the terrain got rough.
Stretchy uppers: The breathable AdapterWeb material used in the ROCLITE G275’s upper enhances the shoe’s ability to hug your foot. This enables your feet to respond to even the smallest movements. It flexes to allow your feet to swell on long hikes or hot runs. I personally found the upper a little too constricting, but I could certainly feel the flexibility in the fabric as my feet swelled throughout the day.
What Is Graphene?
Graphene is a hexagonal structure on a 2D singular atomic plane of a commonly found material: graphite, the stuff you find in pencils. Now, we’re not going to go into detail on its composition, history, and creation at risk of losing folks. What’s important is what that means for us hikers. Graphene has some really unique properties, including great thermal and electrical conductivity. It’s elastic, high strength, and low weight.
A quick Google search of graphene delivers a long list of near-impossible traits that make the material seem paranormal. Graphene is hailed as the “thinnest, lightest, and strongest material” to be produced and the strongest material ever tested. A paper featured in Science put this into context by stating that a one square meter graphene hammock would support a four-kilogram cat but would weigh only as much as one of the cat’s whiskers. (Lee, Changgu (2008). To put it another way, if you used graphene instead of steel for the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge, the cables would only have to be 0.2 square inches thick—that’s 12,000 times thinner than those used! (Source)
inov-8 ROCLITE G275 Positives
Incredible grip: The combination of deep lugs and graphene soles provides amazing traction on even the trickiest of terrain. The slippery coastal rocks of Scotland were no match for this shoe. I tested the grip on varied terrain that’s left me with a bruised bum in the past, from smooth boulders to steep dewy descents, and was impressed by how much easier they felt in this shoe.
Durability: Having suffered from plantar fasciitis in the past, I generally swap out shoes every 500 miles to keep my feet happy. Usually, I can easily spot how many miles my Altras have done by surveying the wear on the sole. The ROCLITE, however, is very deceptive in this regard. Even after putting over 400 miles on these shoes, the soles look almost the same as they did in the first week of testing—minus a few millimeters of wear on the lugs.
Meanwhile, the hard-wearing upper mesh shows minimal signs of wear and the rubber toe cap does a great job preventing rocks from shredding the tip of the shoe. I have confidence that these shoes could push 600+ miles without falling apart.
Comfort: The ROCLITE provides comfort even in the most uncomfortable terrain. Your feet are protected by the rock plate and toe cap, and your mind rests easier knowing how responsive these shoes are due to their snug fit. Furthermore, the stretchability of the ROCLITE compensates for changes in shoe size due to swelling feet. Most hikers’ feet tend to swell on long hikes, so this is a big deal.
inov-8 ROCLITE G275 Negatives
Laces: I found myself needing to re-tie and tighten the laces frequently, which became a little frustrating on long day hikes. I’m used to flat laces, which typically don’t require any attention or a double knot to stay firmly in place. That being said, laces are the easiest part of a shoe to trade out and upgrade if necessary. I haven’t swapped the laces out yet, but if I were to do a long-distance backpacking trip I would probably replace these with a pair of trusty flat laces.
Tight toe box: The ROCLITE is rated a three on inov-8’s fit scale (one being the narrowest and five the widest). The benefit of this midrange width is that they are suited for both running and hiking. However, for a long-distance hiker, these are on the verge of feeling too narrow. While the materials used are fantastic at accommodating for swelling, I would prefer for the whole footprint of the shoe to be wider. I personally enjoy a wider toe box that allows my toes to splay out for added stability. If you’re looking for more width, inov-8’s Terraultra trail runner has a lot of the benefits of the ROCLITE but in a wider form.
2020 has been a year of smaller, close-to-home hikes and evening runs, and the inov-8 ROCLITE G275 is perfect to accommodate both. I have loved putting them through their paces and am confident that they will outlast all my previous trail shoes. My only gripe with using them on a longer multiday walk was that the fit is very snug. For faster miles, these are the most responsive, grippy, and durable shoes I’ve ever used.
Weight: 9.17 ounces
Stack height: 17mm
Weight: 8.7 ounces
Stack height: 21mm
Weight: 10.6 ounces
Stack height: 25mm
This item was donated for purpose of review.
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