Inov-8 Roclite 290

9.0 score
[Editors rating (9.0)] = (TheGearHunt) score (9.0)/10

Editor rating: 9.0 / 10
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Inov-8 Roclite 290 Review Facts

After comprehensive testing for traction performance, on wet rocks, dry rocks, mud, and steep dirt, a group of reviewers were surprised to find sizable sticky rubber cleats on the outsoles of the Inov-8 Roclite 20.

They gripped surfaces better than the other shoes tested. It was the lone shoe that could handle problematic and tricky surfaces without a hint of slippage. The Roclite 290 is not a gimmicky shoe having excellent traction. It was rated second highest overall contender among the shoes reviewed.

The shoes offer optimal sensitivity, even though a mid-shank rock plate provides underfoot protection. It is comfortable, stable, and has a profile low to the ground. The Roclite 290 is a great running shoe having unrivaled traction.

Editor's Pros & Cons
  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Flexibility
  • Outsole grip
  • Versatility
  • Visually aesthetic
  • Weight
  • Breathability is compromised
  • Debris tends to penetrate
  • Runs a half size small
  • Too narrow for some


Three kinds of rubber are used in the outsole of the Inov-8 Roclite 290. Tri-C rubber provides high-quality traction and protection against abrasions and rough surfaces. It does not wear away or peel off easily.

Multi-directional claw-shaped cleats are featured on the outsole design. A wide contact area grips multiple surfaces well and does an excellent job of releasing the debris. Second-generation METASHANK technology acts as a rock plate.

It protects the sole of the feet from irregular surface encounters and sharp edges. A reinforced toe cap offers runners’ feet an extra protection layer if they should kick underlying rocks or roots or stub their toes.


POWERFLOW midsole cushioning delivers shock absorption and responsiveness better than most trail running midsoles. The material is very flexible and does not sag easily. The cushion is better than the majority of the industry standards, but there is not very much of it.

Runners found it to be sensitive to rocky surfaces. Sharp edges can be felt. The rock plate adds a protection layer. Though the runners feel edges and rocky surfaces, they do not cause unwanted discomfort or pain.

A 1-Arrow Shock Zone on the shoe is built with a four-mm drop. It has moderate speed, responsiveness, and underfoot cushioning. The POWERFLOW cushioning technology used in the midsole is claimed to provide runners with 15 percent better energy return and ten percent more shock absorption than most industry standard midsoles.


Inov-8 intended to build the upper of the Roclite 290 with breathable mesh, protected the foot, and kept it comfortable by permitting airflow into the shoe chamber. The attempt did not go over well with some of the consumers.

Tests and reviews of the shoe relate the upper mesh is tightly woven to the extent that it compromises the breathability of the shoe. On the plus side, the uppers secure the feet in place. Inov-8 ADAPTERWEB technology is constructed around the foot anatomy.

It wraps around the foot securely while adapting to the foot’s natural swelling and motion during runs. A Y-Lock stability system on the Roclite 290 is made of overlays that prevent movement of the foot in the shoe and the shoe from falling off. The toe cap serves as a layer of protection if the runner comes in contact with an unseen object during a run. Gaiter hooks allow quick adjustments of protection from debris if necessary.


The Roclite 290 weighs roughly 10.2 ounces or 290 grams for both men and women versions. It is Inov-8’s lightest weight shoe. The shoe has super lightweight mesh uppers. Synthetic overlays in the upper are not a hindrance to the shoe due to extra weight.

The outsole reinforced rubber is not heavy. It keeps runners satisfied throughout workouts. Vast amounts of cushioning are not offered by the midsole, keeping the shoe lightweight and minimal in design. There is a Meta-Shank plate between the outsole and midsole that does not prevent the Roclite 290 from being a trail shoe that offers all the protection and cushion trail runners need.


Ventilation is an area where the Inov-8 Roclite 290 scores some negative points. A very tightly woven upper mesh leads to less airflow room to allow entry into the shoe chamber. Many runners found the lack of breathability to be unpleasant. Others saw it as a reasonable trade-off for an exceptional job by the tightly woven mesh to keep debris on the outside.


With the right amount of cushioning most users feel the Roclite 290 is a very comfortable shoe. The ADAPTERWEB foot cradle gives the shoe a secure and snug fit that is comfortable on foot without pressure points.

The shoe’s interior lining is seamless. The genuinely seamless interior lining eliminates pinching and rubbing against the skin. Some runners report the show is a bit narrow and runs approximately a half size small.

Others reported the shoe is of average width and fits true to size. It is recommended to try on the shoes before purchasing. The shoe does not have the extra wide forefoot many shoe designs have recently adopted.

The foot cradle system tightens the laces for foot hugging comfortable security. Reviewers rated the comfort of the shoe as eight out of ten. Out of the box, the shoe is among the most comfortable of 17 reviewed.

A water bucket test performance was a bit disappointing particularly for a shoe designed for wet climates. It absorbed the most water after being dunked in water for 20 seconds. Twelve trail shoes outperformed the Roclite 290 in the bucket test.


The Inov-8 290 is a minimalist design. It has a four-mm drop and little midsole cushioning. A benefit of this model is the many colorways available. Depending on their preference, runners have several options. The overlay designoverlay designoverlay design and overall shoe are aesthetically pleasing.


There is no concern about the durability of the Roclite 290. A rigid and rubber sturdy outsole is made of three types of rubber. It holds integrity over time and rough terrain. Some users reports indicated the sticky rubber compound was not as durable as harder rubber. The reports were minor instances with a few scratches and nicks on the outsole cleats.


On the bottom, the multiple rubber compound of the Roclite 290 outsole protects the foot. The reinforced rubber toe cap on the front of the foot protects the runner from kicking against rocks and roots or stubbing a toe.

Between the outsole and midsole is a second generation Meta-Shank that offers individual protection of every metatarsal. The shanks split off close to the shoe front and protect every single toe. All the protection does not cause a reduction in the shoe’s flexibility. Runners found the flexibility beneficial and pleasing. Some users felt the tongue aspect of the shoe does not protect against debris in the chamber.

A gusseted tongue is thought to be beneficial. Most military and hiking boots have a gusseted tongue that prevents pebbles, small rocks, water, and dirt from entering the shoes in spaces between the upper and tongue.

Protection is a weakness of the shoe. Runners with a light-footed, agile running style who dance over rough terrain instead of stomping through, appreciate the shoe. Of 17 shoes reviewed, the Roclite 290 had the lowest height forefoot stack.

It is 13.5 mm and sports quite a bit of flexibility. When a thick, rubberized toe bumper and rubberized overlays cover high wear areas of the upper mesh fabrics, the features protect the shoe more than guard the foot against obstacle impact.

Reviewers score the Roclite 290 as five out of ten. Twelve shoes scored better. The shoe is on the less protective and more sensitive end of the spectrum, but still dampens the effect of tromping across sharp rocks better than two other shoes tested. It was slightly less protective than the majority of similar competitors.


A POWERLOW midsole is said to deliver 15 percent more energy than standards dictated by the industry. Foam technology makes runners feel more enabled and energized. At the same time, protecting them from rocky surfaces. The midsole remains comfortable and responsive throughout runs. The 1-Arrow Shock Zone gives the Roclite 290 a moderate or medium responsiveness feel.


Most runners describe the Roclite 290 as very supportive. The Y-Lock system of the upper holds the heel in place with few to no reports moving around or slipping. Runners enjoy the lower back heel support of the shoe when compared to other shoes. There is less pressure on the Achilles tendon. Neutral arch support is built into the shoe. It best suits runners who have medium to high arched feet that require little arch support.


Because the Roclite 290 is classified as a trail shoe, it is easy to take a guess where it is best served. A trail shoe can transition to the road. Users have found it easy to go back and forth from trail to road without any problems.


The Inov-8 Roclite 290 has an MSRP of $120. As with many shoes on the market, a lower price can be found on Amazon or other websites.


Lugs on the outsole grip uneven ground below the runner. They do not hold loose debris and mud that can compromise the shoe’s traction. Three types of rubber are built into the outsold that work together to provide the runner and the shoe with high-quality traction.

The shoe is advertised to be able to withstand highly abrasive surfaces. Minor scratches and tears are found in the rubber outsole. The minor damage is not a serious concern. Some users think harder rubber would suit the shoe better instead of the sticky rubber of the outsole. Testers compare shoes for performance on steep muddy trails with rock slabs, dry talus, steep grass, and steep loose dirt.

Out of 17 shoes tested, the Roclite 290 was the only one to receive a perfect rating on every surface. The five-mm deep cleat-shaped lugs have been spaced apart for optimal mud shedding and grip on dirt and grass.

An impressive sticky Tri-C rubber compound grips rock, even when wet. The reviewers had a minor concern about durability. The few tears and nicks experienced during testing suggested a harder rubber may be better.

When other outsoles failed to hold on wet rocks, the Roclite 290 aced the test. The award-winning traction benefits runners on trails. Athletes who venture off path will also profit from the shoe’s unique grip.


The shoe scores significant points for flexibility. Horizontal grooves close to the shoe front manipulate easily to move freely and permit natural movement through the gait cycle of the runner. The synthetic overlays on the upper mesh do not stiffen the shoe.

It moves and bends freely with the foot. Per the company’s website, the Roclite 290 is Inov-8’s most flexible shoe for trail running. It is designed for quickly running over multiple terrains. The shoe is relatively light and ultra-flexible.

Low level cushioning means non-minimalist runners have a shoe suited for soft terrain. Pavement and sharp gravel feel harsh underfoot. Grass, loose dirt, and hard-packed mud are ideal. Most testers appreciate the cushioning level of the midsole but refute the claim that energy return is 15 percent better and shock absorption ten percent.

Lab tests suggest a 55 percent average energy return which is on the low end of the spectrum. The shoe does not have pillowy cushioning or a spring platform. However, if a runner is looking for a shoe with excellent ground feel and flexibility, the low heel to toe drop and low stack provide what is desired.


The stack height in the heel is 11.5 mm and has a four-mm drop, making the Roclite 290 a very stable shoe. A common belief about stability is, the lower to the ground, especially in the heel region, the more stable a runner will feel during a workout.

Some aspects of the Roclite 290 stability suffer due to the mesh in the upper. The flexible and lightweight material moves too much during lateral moves. The upper does not have sufficient rigidity to hold the foot above the midsole.


The heel to toe drop for both men and women is four-mm. 1-Arrow Shock Zone is a classification that informs the runner the shoe has moderate flexibility and cushioning and indicates the drop level. A height stack of 13.5 mm suggests the Roclite 290 is highly sensitive, agile, and light. The low to ground seat gives runners a stronger feel for the ground and some stability.

Key Features

* ADAPTERWEB meta-cradle
* Multi-directional claw-shaped cleats
* Next-generation Roclite outsole
* POWERFLOW midsole
* Second-generation META-SHANK

Bottom Line

Runners who purchase the Inov-8 Roclite 290 get a lightweight shoe that has space enough in the chamber to provide comfort, as well as stability and security for runners who take on challenging terrain.

The cushion in the midsole is sufficient but not too much to be lightweight and responsive. Aggressive outsoles help runners remain anchored to the ground. Some minor concerns are not enough to dissuade runners from choosing the Roclite 290. Those who love a low to the ground, sensitive, and flexible shoe appreciate the model very much.