Out with the old and er, in with the old. Just like my trusty Meindl Burmas, which are now my third pair, the Inov8 Roclite 390GTX boot have also proven themselves worthy of like for like replacement. Spotting the newer version for £70 after the old pair nearly fell apart in Knoydart sealed the deal.
Many early reviews for the original boots seemed to think that they’re not particularly durable and not as supportive as regular boots. I’ve managed to get just over 700km out of them so far which isn’t bad at all for such a light boot. Whilst the soles remain good, they now need regular waterproofing. While they got damp in Scotland, I think that got through gradually over many days as they still repel water perfectly. They’ll get plenty more use on the hill, as they’ve got a good few hundred kilometres left in them, even if some of the seams on the front are coming loose and are now sealed with Shoe Goo. I reckon they’ll be good up to 1000km or so, but comparing them to a new pair you can clearly see where the tread is beginning to wear down.
The Roclite 390s are essentially an Inov8 running shoe with a high ankle so called as they weigh 390g a boot (in size 8). There’s not much support, which I like, but just enough to make these suitable for most hilly walks. I have used these on scrambles, but it takes some getting used to as you can’t jam your foot under rocks for better grip with these. You’ll certainly try without thinking, but once is usually enough. The Gore Tex liner and the high ankle means that these are suitable for the wettest conditions, the originals performing faultlessly until the proofing failed catastrophically one walk as I’d failed to proof them once up to then. That was after over 300km, so user rather than kit failure.
I tested these straight out of the box on the Welsh 3 Peaks – with no breaking in. I had the old pair as reserve, already shoe-goo’d into submission, but didn’t need them. It was a wet and humid day, and we were walking hard, yet my feet remained dry as expected even if I was wearing thicker than intended socks. Subsequently, they did the job on a 35km backpack, again in the Brecon Beacons along with a significant yomp to finish. This could have been tough on the feet, but as these boots are light, comfortable and not overly warm, my feet hardly felt the distance.
There are new thinner laces, which I don’t particularly like the feel of. As they’re very thin, the it feels like you’re trying to knot cheese wire. I can cope with that though as it’s one of those things that keeps the weight down, but I can’t see how you’d go about replacing these if they did break as the loops for the laces are cloth and built only for the narrow laces (check if they sell laces). They’re also textured in order to prevent them coming undone.
The durability of these is perfectly acceptable for such a lightweight boot, especially considering the sheer abuse these have been given from Yr Wyddfa to Anglesey and on to Knoydart. If you used them on less rough walks, they may just give you a bit more use. At the full price, these boots are rather expensive for the distance you get, but at a discount they work out as an economical option even if you only get 750km out of them. That’s half the distance I’d expect to get from a pair of leather boots, so they need to be priced at around half the price of good boots to be worth it. As that’s around £90, I think I’ve done rather well to get them for £70.
Overall, the Inov8 Roclite 390s are a great choice if you’re after a lightweight boot rather than a traditional and heavy leather ones. There are lighter boots available, such as the Inov8 Roclite 288, but that’s at the expense of some protection. These seem to occupy the middle ground, with the protection being just enough for rough mountain walking whilst keeping the boot wonderfully light. You can also run in these, making them more versatile. While a shoe might be even more minimal, these at least give you some chance of keeping those feet dry which I find essential on longer or multi-day trips in order to stave off those blisters.