inov-8 Roclite 400 GTX 2011

inov-8 is a specialist off-road running brand whose shoes are worn by elite international runners, as well as weekend warriors who just enjoy light and fast travel. So it may be no surprise that the inov-8 Roclite 400 has running shoe characteristics combined with features hill-walkers are looking for. The result is the world’s lightest leather Gore-Tex boot.

Design
At first sight it is perhaps not obvious what is so special about the inov-8 Roclite 400 GTX. In fact it would not have been long ago that it would have been brushed aside as not being substantial or robust enough for hill-walkers (by me too, no doubt). It has a leather upper that is virtually stitch-free, so it should be pretty durable. There is some reinforcement at the toe in terms of internal stiffness as well as an external abrasion-resistant layer. The ankle cuff is lower than some others here and more flexible too, which makes this far less restrictive on the foot. You get an off-road-running-style sole with 5mm deep studs that are widely spaced. To give it more shelf appeal and hill credibility the styling is a little more modern than other leather options.

On the hill
I was fairly cynical about the abilities of the inov-8 Roclite 400 GTX to perform on the hill, but it is better than I expected. I wore a pair for much of last year. They are less supportive than most others here, and so your feet and ankles have to work harder. But assuming you don’t mind that, they are great on grassy terrain in particular as the grip from the sole is superb. On rockier ground you can feel pretty much everything you are doing, and not always in a good way – and I’d certainly prefer something stiffer. But my main issue with these is that the upper tends to soak up water very fast, which makes them slow-drying; and also my pair developed holes in the Gore-Tex liner in four places, which – after an examination by the fabric’s maker WL Gore – was found to be due to grit. Other boots have not suffered from this problem, and according to Gore they don’t hear of this problem regularly, but it means that I am not personally convinced of the Roclite’s suitability for hill-walkers looking for a more durable boot.

Upper nubuck leather, Gore-Tex waterproof lining
Sole Roclite sticky rubber
Sizes 5½-15
Weight 912g (pair, size 11)
Made in Vietnam
Stores in the UK 30
Stockist details (01388) 744 900; www.inov-8.com

The inov-8 Roclite 400 GTX is incredibly lightweight; virtually stitch-free leather upper; reasonable stiffness in toe box; deep and widely spaced outsole lugs. However
durability may be an issue, from our experience; less foot support than other lightweight boots tested here; upper tends to soak up water and be slow to dry. All in all, perfect for those who consider weight the number one priority, but the drawbacks are less foot support and less durability.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine July 2011