I am reviewing the inov-8 Roclite pro G 400 lightweight hiking boots, in a size 9 (because I have giant's feet). Now I guess many people's first question to me would be, “But Hazel, why are you testing out some hiking boots when you're a runner?” Well, I was a long distance hiker and backpacker long before I took up distance running and it's something I've been planning to pick back up for a while.
So, my original plan for this test was to go to Cumbria and hike the Cumbrian Way, wild camping along the way. However... due to the ongoing Covid issues travelling seemed wrong. (If you are reading from the future then basically 2020 was the year that didn't happen due to a pandemic, go have a google if you're curious!) The Wolds Way, on the other hand, is about the same distance and local to me, so felt more sensible. Then a new lockdown happened so wild camping was also out.
Anyway, this all made for some interesting logistics. In the end, I decided to hike the Wolds Way in sections, but in BIG sections to properly test the limits of the boots.
Out of the Box
One evening, after a partially rubbish day at work, I got home to find that the boots had arrived. This really cheered me up. I opened them up to have a general look at them and they looked great. I mean, they are a bit boring in colour. Personally I wouldn't go for all black footwear, but really this is a tiny complaint isn't it?
The first thing I noticed on taking the boots out of their box was that, in comparison to other hiking boots that I own, they truly are lightweight. For someone who tends to live in trail running shoes, this is a big deal to me. I find heavier boots a bit cumbersome and for long distance or multiday treks weight can be really important.
One concern, of course, with lighter footwear is that some features may have been sacrificed to help lighten them, but that does not seem to be the case with these particular boots. I'm not sure if it's in part due to inov-8s trail running heritage or just some very clever/careful designing, but these boots seem to have found a very good balance between weight, features and toughness.
inov-8 Roclite Pro Features
Now you can find a long list of the inov-8 Roclite Pro G400 hiking boot features on the inov-8 website. But the big ones from my view point are the G-Grip system which creates a fantastically grippy, lightweight and flexible sole that's still very durable and strong. I don't know about you, but personally I find a lighter and more flexible sole is a lot more responsive and just nicer to walk in. But sometimes these soles wear down fairly fast or just don't feel like they are protecting your feet. That doesn't seem to be the case with this graphene−infused rubber.
The second fancy thing that feels like it deserves a mention is the ceramic-coated uppers. Now I will admit I had to do some research on this one as I didn't really know what it meant. But, from what I can tell, the fabric is bonded with fine ceramic particles which make the uppers incredibly durable, while remaining both breathable and flexible.
Beyond these big features there are also the more usual aspects such as Gore Tex, removable insoles, a half gusseted padded tongue and a rubberised toe.
Initial Try On
Anyway, let's stop listing features and get on with the actual test. I was a little concerned about the sizing as all footwear brands seem to size things however they like and I've never worn inov-8s before. I went for a 9 as I'm a 8.5 in my usual hiking boots and had heard that i-nov8s run slightly small. I need not have worried. When I put them on, they fit perfectly and were very comfortable.
I often have issues with boots causing discomfort in the balls of my feet or around the toe area. I am unsure why this happens, but I had no such issues with these boots. They felt like a perfect fit straight away. They hugged my feet in all the right places, but still left space for my toes to move about. For a first wear I was very happy.
Testing on the Wolds Way
After doing only a single very short test walk around a local nature reserve to check everything fitted, it was time to set off on the Yorkshire Wolds Way. One Saturday, I parked up and set off at 6.30am in the dark, on what was meant to be a very wet day. It turned out that the weather forecast wasn't far off. Once it got light, I realised that I was not going to be in for any good views on this day.
The first 8 or so miles were a total mud fest, which wasn't great fun but a great test for the boots. After 8 miles of sinking into very claggy and sticky mud up to my ankles, and having the leap over very large puddles, I stopped off to check on my feet. They were still completely dry. Not only that, but I was now 8 miles in and the boots still felt very comfortable. I also feel like I was slipping on the mud a lot less that I would have been in some of my other footwear - especially on the uphills, where I had visions of face-planting the floor.
The next 20 miles were a good mix of terrains, through country roads, grassland, disused railways, and woodland trails. The boots felt great on all of these surfaces, even on the wet steep downhills covered in autumn leaves. You know they type, the ones where you end up taking the tiniest of steps as you fear slipping and sliding down the whole thing on your bum.
After 28 miles of walking through some fairly wet and cold weather, I finished for the day and got a lift back to my car from my partner.
The next day was a much nicer day, actually sunny and almost warm (for November). This was a far shorter section as my partner joined me. He's not into really long distances, so we only did a 12 mile day. However, to say I'd worn the boots for literally 11 hours the day before when I put my feet into them at the start of section 2 they still felt just as comfortable as they had at the start of Day 1. This, as I'm sure many of you will know, is a rare quality to find in a boot.
Section 3 was just as wet and miserable as the first day, in fact I'd say it might have been worse. I really wasn't feeling it on this day, and to be honest just wanted to go back to bed, but pressed on through the rain and wind. Once again there were a variety of terrains and some very wet sections to contend with. But the boots coped well with everything thrown at them. It took a little longer to get into my stride on this day and the boots felt a little off to start with – but I think that's because I hadn't laced them tightly enough.
After a few miles things were going well, other than being wet and cold anyway! Despite what I think might have been all the mud in Yorkshire on the path and a few huge puddles, my feet were dry and warm – possibly the warmest and driest part of my body at this point. I also had to walk through the centres of a few villages on this day and it occurred to me that, unlike a lot of walking boots (which can be big, clunky, and unwieldy), these look a lot like trainers when my trousers are covering the top of them. So even though they are better suited for up in the hills, they don't look all that out of place on the street. They are also a lot more comfortable on tarmac than most of my stiffer boots.
Section 4 – the home stretch. It was a far nicer day today. Colder, yes, but drier. I was getting so sick of mud and rain at this point. This section is almost all muddy fields, farm tracks and the odd rural road until you hit Filey. There you have to travel through the town to the coast and then onto the brig. As usual the boots were great, not too much slipping on the steep muddy bit, feet stayed dry, no foot pain to mention. In fact, the boots felt almost as comfortable now as the did during section one. My feet were still warm too, which is an oddity for me: my feet are regularly the coldest part of my body.
The Good Points
The main good point has got to comfort. Seriously, the inov-8 Roclite Pro hiking boots have got to be the most comfortable boots I've worn in a long time. Especially seeing as they remain comfortable all day long and over multiple days. Ok, if I am being really picky then there was a slight bit of discomfort in the ball of my left foot after about 15 miles. But it was hardly anything really and potentially had nothing to do with the boots.
The waterproofing seems very effective, I honestly started seeking out puddles to walk through to make sure I gave them a good test (I also just like puddles). I also had a lot of mud to deal with and even a small flood at one point! But my feet never got wet or cold. That's another good point, my feet remained warm no matter how cold the weather got.
The grip seems good, as far as I've been able to test it, they were comfortable over every terrain I could find to check them on, and even after walking over 80 miles in them as soon as I wash them they look practically brand new. I've had no blisters or rub points, and the ankle support is good. All in all I am seriously loving these boots.
To be honest there aren't many. The most obvious one is the price. I mean, if it hadn't been for doing this test these are not something I'd ever realistically have been able to afford. However, I do feel like they could last most people a very long time. So perhaps in the long run the outlay may be worth it. It is still a lot of money though.
Secondly, and once again I'm just being picky here, is the colour choices are a bit boring. Especially when you compare to inov-8's selection of running shoes which are in an amazing range of colours.
I honestly love these boots. I have worn a lot of hiking boots in the past and often have had complaints about the weight/fit/comfort and eventually just ended up wearing trail runners for hiking instead. The inov-8 Roclite Pro hiking boots are so light and so flexible that they are like the best of both worlds. It's like having waterproof trail runners with ankle support. I do think these may become my go-to boots, especially in the winter when the trail runners become less suitable for walking in.
As they are also so comfy over multiple days, they will be great for backpacking once restrictions lift and we are allowed to do these sorts of things again. They clean really easily and I really think I'd have to really put some effort in to make them look anything but almost new (challenge accepted though). inov-8 claim these are some of the toughest hiking boots and to be honest I feel they may not be far off with this claim.
About the Author
Hazel Kerrison is an ultra runner and long distance hiker. Usually she can be mainly found exploring the Yorkshire Dales, Cumbria and Scotland. She is training to become a run coach with the intention of specialising in the use of exercise to aid mental well-being. You can find Hazel on Instagram as @ambitiousfailure.