Inov-8 ROCFLY G 350 GTX Trail Shoe Review
Long-distance hikers ask a lot of their footwear. We need our shoes to be lightweight, comfortable, energy-efficient, and last for hundreds and hundreds of miles. Newly released for 2023, Inov-8’s RocFly G 350 GTX integrates unique technology and design to improve performance and durability.
Inov-8 is a UK-based sports brand that’s been designing running shoes and clothing for twenty years. In 2018 Inov-8 released the first shoe using graphene-enhanced rubber, developed in collaboration with the National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester. The new RocFly G 350 GTX shoe features this wonder material in the foam cushioning and rubber outsoles, as well as GORE-TEX waterproofing in the upper.
What Is Graphene?
Graphene is the lightest and thinnest material on earth and yet 200 times stronger than steel. Graphene is an isolated single layer of the mineral graphite. It was discovered by scientists at the University of Manchester in 2004, who were later awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. It’s also one of the best heat- and electricity-conducting materials ever discovered.
Graphene is a versatile material that can be integrated into composites that will be stronger, tougher, thinner, and lighter than any other materials currently available. There are many unique applications for graphene being researched around the world including in solar cells, electronics, biomedical devices, tires, and clothing.
READ NEXT — How Graphene Will Revolutionize Thru-Hiking
Inov-8 RocFly G 350 GTX At-A-Glance
Weight: 350g / 12.3 oz each
Sole: Graphene G-Grip Rubber
Stack height: 25mm heel / 19mm forefoot
Upper Material: Rip-stop and Gore-tex membrane
The Inov-8 RocFly G 350 GTX shoe is the first waterproof shoe in Inov-8’s line-up of hiking shoes. The moderate cushioning and Gore-tex help them excel in less-than-ideal conditions during multiple long days on the trail. The RocFly is also available in a higher-ankle boot version for those who want additional stability, as well as a non-waterproof version (women’s).
Circumstance of Review
I wore the Women’s Inov-8 RocFly G 350 GTX shoes during a 12-day, 115-mile section hike of the Great Divide Trail in the Canadian Rockies. I normally wear more minimalist zero-drop shoes which recently included the Inov-8 TerraUltra G 270.
I’ve previously worn Xero and Altra brand shoes on my long-distance hikes. However, I figured I’d want something a bit more solid and durable for my challenging section hike on the GDT. I wore the RocFly through a wide variety of terrain, from mountain top to valley floor, and through some gnarly bushwhacking.
G-FLY Foam: The midsole of the RocFly shoe is made of Inov-8’s innovative graphene-infused foam. Scientific tests have proven that the unique foam midsole delivers 25 percent greater energy return and is more resistant to compression, meaning lasting comfort and support over the endless miles of a thru-hike.
Adapter-Flex Groove: A 10mm deep groove runs horizontally across the sole of the foot, separating the mid-foot from the heel. The idea of the groove is to allow the foot to move more naturally and react and adapt more readily to uneven terrain.
Graphene-Grip Rubber: The graphene-infused rubber of the outsole offers both a sticky and durable grip. The outsole is scientifically tested to be 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% more harder-wearing, significantly outperforming all other outsole rubbers.
Gore-Tex Waterproofing: The inside of the RocFly shoe is lined with a Gore-Tex membrane to keep feet dry and comfortable. There is additional rubber reinforcement and waterproofing protection on the outer fabric of the shoe.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Inov-8 decided to take a thorough look at their sustainability practices. In 2020 they partnered with industry-leading expert Dr. Anne Prahl and developed a strategy based on three pillars:
- Improve the durability of their products so they last longer.
- Reduce their impact on the world.
- Support their local community.
Inov-8 is very transparent about their strategies, which include reducing air freight and eliminating employee air travel, using recycled and fully recyclable shoe boxes with water-based vegetable ink, occupying renewable energy offices, cutting down on the number of sample products used, and using as much recycled material as possible in their products (where performance/durability isn’t reduced).
Inov-8 RocFly G 350 GTX Pros
The RocFly shoes are incredibly comfortable to wear day in and day out with a moderately heavy pack. The shoes needed minimal break-in time. The upper felt a little stiff at first but relaxed and got more comfortable as I wore them. Cushioning at the heel and on the tongue kept them comfortable even when laced down tight.
I never once found myself with aching feet no matter how many miles or what variety of terrain I’d covered that day. After a long day of hiking, I’m usually keen to toss off my shoes and quickly get into my sandals, but the RocFly were so comfortable that I was happy to keep them on while setting up my tent and doing camp chores.
All Terrain Sole
I generally enjoy wearing minimalist shoes for the ability to react and adapt quickly to the shape of the ground below my feet. While the ground feel was somewhat less in the RocFly than in more minimalist shoes, I found that I was still able to sense the terrain underfoot.
The Adapter-Flex groove helped the shoe mimic the more flexible soles of minimalist shoes, allowing the shoe to flex and adapt to more technical terrain and making steep uphills and rocky trails easier to navigate. The 4 mm graphene-infused rubber lugs provided solid grip and stability through mud, on wet and trail-worn rocks, over logs and more.
I did some significant bushwhacking in these shoes and I’m really impressed at how well the RocFly endured the scrapes and pokes from rocks, roots, and branches. The ripstop fabric and wrap-around protective bumper were dirty but otherwise showed surprisingly minimal wear after twelve days of hard use. One of Inov-8’s goals is to make more durable and longer-lasting shoes than the current industry average of about 500 miles.
The sole also showcased the durability of using graphene-enhanced materials. The lugs were just as grippy on the last day as the first. After over 100 miles of use, there is very little obvious wear on the outsole. The one hit to durability was that the upward-wrapping toe outsole on both shoes partially unglued from the upper fabric within the first few days of wear. Thankfully it didn’t unglue any further and simply became a trap for occasional trail debris.
Inov-8 RocFly G 350 GTX Cons
Tapered toe box
The RocFly G 350 shoes are among the widest Inov-8 makes. However, the tapered toe box of the women’s RocFly negates some of the benefits of the added width, forcing my toes together instead of giving them a more natural foot shape. I ended up wearing a shoe half a size larger than I probably should have in order to give my toes a bit more space. This means that the heel wasn’t as snug and I had to use the extra eyelet and a more complicated lacing pattern to keep my foot in place.
As a whole, waterproof shoes simply don’t have the same breathability as non-waterproof. As amazing as Gore-tex is, the added membrane simply can’t shed heat and moisture as quickly as regular mesh uppers. It definitely took a long while for my shoes to dry after completely wetting out. My socks would pretty well stay damp all day.
I did come to appreciate the waterproofing every time I hiked through mud, marsh, meadows, or creeklets. Being able to trek right through wetter terrain saved me lots of energy compared to tip-toeing around it. But on a rainy day, a waterproof trail shoe won’t keep your feet dry as water inevitably creeps in from the top.
The Gore-tex (GTX) version of the RocFly G 350 is currently unavailable on Inov-8’s US website. If you live in the States and want the extra weather protection, then it looks like you’ll need to wait. However, if you’d rather skip the Gore-tex, then go nuts. The ‘regular’ version of this shoe is currently available here (women’s).
Inov-8 is a worldwide brand that’s recognized for making award-winning trail running shoes. The introduction of the RocFly series in 2021 was a competitive answer to the demand for lightweight, high-performance, and durable hiking shoes. Adding a waterproof version of the shoe broadens their portfolio to encompass more seasons.
The RocFly are some of the most comfortable shoes I’ve hiked in. The deep Adapter-Flex groove allows my feet to move more naturally and adapt to the ground similarly to when I’m in a more minimalist shoe. The Gore-Tex protection was handy at times, but at the end of the day, I’d be happier having the more breathable and quicker-drying non-waterproof version.
The biggest draw for me of the RocFly G 350 GTX is its durability. Both the graphene-infused rubber on the sole and the ripstop nylon upper show hardly any wear after miles on the punishing trails of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I plan to test RocFly’s assertion that these shoes will last hundreds of miles longer than other comparable shoes on the market.
Comparable Trail Shoes
The Inov-8 RocFly G 350 GTX was donated for the purpose of review.
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