Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shoe Review - Inov-8 Flyroc 310

To satisfy the FTC, I'll say right up front that the reviewer bought her own darned shoes, no one provided them to me for free and I'm not receiving any compensation for this review whatsoever other than the personal satisfaction that someone will have reviewed the women's model. When I was researching them, I found reviews of the women's models pretty thin on the ground. It's my unvarnished opinion, and that's that. That said, if anyone wants to send me free shoes, feel free. I love free shoes. Mostly free running shoes. Free Nike Free running shoes would not be sniffed at. Well, okay, maybe just for the new shoe smell right out of the box...

I did, however, purchase them from Planet Gear. Planet Gear mostly carries fitness gear and apparel, and seems to focus on overstocks and closeouts. I will say that sometimes they have wonderfully reduced prices, other times, not so much. (I once found what I thought was an awesome deal on Inov-8 road shoes, only to find that they could be had about $20 cheaper elsewhere. Several elsewheres, actually. As always, do your comparison shopping and don't just assume they're automatically a fantabulous deal simply because they're well below the MSRP. MSRPs can be ridiculously inflated.)  Planet Gear usually runs overlapping sales that last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, focusing on 4-6 brands at a time. There can be limited quantities and occasionally, popular sizes sell out quickly. As a runner, I find a lot of their stuff quite tempting, especially the high quality running shoes and fitness apparel. If you miss out on a deal, don't fret too much. Chances are the brand you missed out on will be making a return appearance eventually. Bags and water bottles seem to be frequent featured items. I snagged a Po Campo bike bag there in a cheerful yellow print that has stoutly served as "purse large enough for my iPad on those occasions where I don't want to lug it separately" ever since. If you're eyeballing something $50 or above, click my referral link here to join and get $10 off your order. In the interest of transparency, I also would get $10 in credit to use on a $50 order within the next six months, assuming I buy anything in the next six months. Gotta pinch them pennies for those race entry fees, amirite?

Anyway, I looked these up because I've been quite fond of the Inov-8 Road-X 238, a fairly minimalist/zero drop road shoe with a smooth sole and because I briefly lost my mind and signed up for a local trail half marathon and figured I should get trail shoes for it so I don't die with a broken neck the instant I hit the gravel/packed trail. The road model works well for my foot, which can perhaps best be described as "narrow heel, much broader forefoot, arch you can practically toss a cat under". Another thing I love about the road model is the fact that the soles are not quite as soft and squishy as the Nike Free, but aren't so stiff that you feel as though you're unable to bend your forefoot. That became important as I recovered from an unfortunate bout of turf toe brought on by hill training for my first half, followed by a bout of "I am really, really bad about slipping in the shower and stubbing my almost-well toe". The toe remained somewhat tender and stiff for months, so I tried to go light on the bendy shoes to avoid injuring it again. The generous toe box and forgiving upper on the 238s were also much appreciated while I had that sore toe. They carried me through the hilly road half, The Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon, just fine. I finished that butt-buster in 2:25, if anyone's interested, and it more than earns its title of One Of America's Prettiest Half Marathons.

My first impression out of the box was that the Flyroc 310 was a very nice looking shoe. Good lugs without having a jacked-up sole, but that the toe box looked less generous and the shoe looked smaller.

 Looks can be deceiving, though, and a little side-by-side comparison revealed that the Flyroc is actually slightly longer and the narrower appearance is likely due to the thick, padded bumper at the front of the toe. The thicker sole and lugs of course make them discernibly heavier in the hand than the 238s, but they feel quite light and comfortable on the feet, just like the 238s. The soles are surprisingly flexible, at least as flexible as the 238, and there's easily a thumb's width between the end of my toe and the end of the shoe. I generally sport a size 7 in running shoes (for comparison to other brands you might be familiar with, I've favored Nike Frees and New Balance Minimus quite a bit in my zero/low drop running years), and that seems to translate just fine to the Inov-8s. A 7 (4.5 UK) is plenty roomy without shifting on my foot. I always run with socks, but the inside of the shoe feels very comfortable for you sockless runners. 

I gave the shoes a first whirl on the worst possible surface to test trail shoes. The treadmill. Unfortunately, the weather was stormy that morning, and while I don't mind getting wet in the rain, recovering from being struck by lightning is very near the top of Things I Never Want To Do.  As you would expect, the lugs and thicker, stiffer sole were a little more noticeable on the treadmill, but without being jarring or uncomfortable. There was a surprising amount of give and cushion to the shoe, and it definitely didn't feel like I was wobbling along on monster truck tires, which is a sensation I've actually had with some deep lugs. They really weren't any more noticeable than the New Balance Minimus. I had no blisters or hot spots after a four mile easy recovery run at a very slow pace and I'm fairly sure the way my lower half is currently grumbling a tad is down to the 5 sets of plyometric jump squats I put in following the run, not the run itself. Honestly, if they aren't uncomfortable on the surface of a treadmill, I can't imagine them being uncomfortable on a natural surface with a bit of give. 

I'm really glad to see that the lugs, unlike the super-flexible sipe on the Nike Free, doesn't appear to be at all prone to spreading, grabbing and tenaciously holding gravel. They're open enough to easily shed any nasty, pointy, stabby rocks that might be around the place.

Frankly, I'm rather looking forward to giving these a true test outdoors and off the road, where I'm told these shoes shine. I think they would make a very solid, go-to shoe for the large, loose gravel stretch in the middle of the  Pokey Pig 5K and this trail half, as well as a good "there's snow on the ground" shoe for winter runs, and the quick drying should come in quite handy at that point. The Flyroc 310s definitely get a thumbs up. 

Now, the bad news. The website doesn't list the Flyroc series any more. It seems to be available at a few online sellers, but not widely available. My hunch is that the Flyroc line has been more or less replaced by the Roclite line as the Roclite 315 looks very nearly twinsies with the Flyroc 310, especially the sole/lug design. The Flyrocs may once again come around on Planet Gear, too. Either way, the Inov-8 shoe lineup is definitely well worth checking out if you're into zero drop shoes.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE your FTC disclosure at the top - HA!