Right before I started the recent series of waterfall hikes on Oahu I got a new pair of hiking shoes specifically for the typical conditions in Hawaii: Slick roots, mud, and slippery rocks. Based on about 20 hours of use they have been great for that purpose. They are very much minimalist shoes and so are very light weight and barely noticeable on my feet. The rubber compound is quite sticky and has remained that way, while the very flexible sole further improves the grip and feel for the trail.
Like most Inov-8 shoes the approach to water management is to let it flow through without making any attempt at waterproofing. Especially in a hot humid environment like Hawaii this works quite well and has the added benefit that standing in a stream cleans them pretty well, inside and out.
So what are the downsides? As you might expect with a 200g minimalist trail shoe, smaller rocks are not your friends. I’ve done a few sections of trail totally covered in smaller stones and it gets pretty painful after a while, even when trying to be careful about foot placement. The other downside is the toe cap on one side has slightly pulled away from the upper, and I’ll probably have to use some contact cement to glue it back at some point. To be fair it’s a freaking 200g trail shoe so you can’t expect durability to be that good.
Despite those drawbacks I like them so much hiking in Hawaii I’d get another pair even if they don’t last more than a few months. Inov-8 also makes the Mudclaw model which has more rock protection for only a modest weight penalty if your trails are not as forgiving of minimalism.
If you already have some Inov-8 shoes be warned the fit between Inov-8 models is not consistent so just because one of their shoes works for you doesn’t mean a different model will as well. Running Warehouse has a nice shoe fitter app on their site that lets you compare different shoes and shows a 2D and 3D heat map style fit comparison. It’s worth checking out to whittle down your choices before you get too far along in your overheated shoe fantasies.
Specifications are available here.
After another thirty or so hours on the trail the shoes are still working great. My contact cement repair on the toe cap seems to be a permanent fix and no other problems have come up. My feet also seem to have adapted over time so smaller rocks aren’t bothering as much as they did initially. If these get discontinued any time soon I will be very disappointed.