Merrell Agility Peak 4 vs Inov-8 Roclite 280: two pairs of shoes built for speed

Both the Merrell Agility Peak 4 and Inov-8 Roclite 280 are designed to help you move fast and light – but which is better?

Merrell Agility Peak 4 vs Inov-8 Roclite 280
(Image credit: Merrell / Inov-8 / Future)

Sometimes a trail running shoe can also be a trail walking shoe, acknowledging that you might want to go fast and light, whatever your mission specifics. The Merrell Agility Peak 4 and the Inov-8 Roclite 280 fall into this category, by virtue of their features, offering a sound degree of protection alongside high-performance and light weight. But which is better?

The Agility Peak 4 is Merrell's ruggedised trail runner, beefed up for taking on the most challenging terrain. This lends it to use as fast and light walking shoe particularly with the addition of gaiter D-rings to add wet weather protection.

The Inov-8 Roclite 280 is based on Inov-8's trail running platform, strengthened with a rand to protect your toes, an internal rock plate to deflect rocks and deep lugs to tackle mud and grit. It's a definite contender for the fast, light and rugged crown. Both are amongst the best men's walking shoes around – but which is right for you?

Merrell Agility Peak 4 vs Inov-8 Roclite 280: design and features

Merrell Agility Peak 4

This is the fourth version of the Merrell Peak Agility 4 and the midsole cushioning has been beefed up with a lighter material (FloatPro foam). This makes it an extremely comfortable shoe, never spongy but soaking up impacts under foot without getting too heavy. FLEXconnect grooves in the midsole also promise better ground connection.

The Vibram Megagrip outsole balances durability with excellent grip. This rubber compound is often used in approach shoes too, so it will lock onto rock even when it's wet. 

An external rear strap locks in the heel for a snug fit, while the jacquard upper features a gaiter D-ring and an integrated lacing system for an excellent fit. It has a breathable mesh lining and the  insole is removable.

Inov-8 Roclite 280 

The Inov-8 Roclite 280 weighs in at a miserly 280g, which belies its rugged look and deep lugs, designed to bite into the most challenging conditions. Like the Merrell Agility Peak 4 it is not waterproof but the addition of a mesh upper does make it supremely breathable. 

The External Heel Counter (EHC) does provide extra stability and support, so you can tackle uneven ground with confidence, even at speed. The extra-deep lugs may have the edge on the Merrell Agility Peak 4 in the sloppier stuff and the rubber is super-sticky.

There's plenty of cushioning on tap and the 8mm drop does make it good for walking when you do want to hike rather than run. 

Merrell Agility Peak 4 vs Inov-8 Roclite 280: comfort and performance

Merrell Agility Peak 4

The standout feature of Merrell's Peak Agility 4 is its comfort, combined with sure-footedness. It may have more cushioning than many trail shoes but it never feels spongy or OTT. The outsole locks into the ground with fearsome grip. 

The fit of the upper really does feel like pulling on a sock – the tongue is integrated and extends to the midsole and there's great arch support too, to offer a stable platform. The heel really locks in and overall, you feel like your feet are very well supported.

The Peak Agility 4 has a rubber toe protector and beefed up material around the tops of the toes, to deflect the worst of the mud. The upper is not waterproof, although the inclusion of the gaiter D-ring does mean you can add some of your own bad weather protection and the added breathability of the upper means that it's really going to shine in hotter, drier conditions when you're trying to up the pace.

Inov-8 Roclite 280

Inov-8 has a reputation for producing supremely effective trail runners that stick like glue, whatever terrain you're traversing, and the Roclite 280s live up to the rep. The tread gives you great confidence and you never feel like you're going to be let down with the grip.

The upper mesh does do wonders for breathability, although like most fast and light models offers less protection from the elements. Despite this they retain their shape well, even after many miles of use. 

It's the versatility that makes shoes like the Roclite 280 stand out, and for fast hiking, trail running and just being outdoors in varying terrain, from rock to gravel to grass, they are hard to beat. 

Merrell Agility Peak 4 vs Inov-8 Roclite 280: verdict

While each of these shoes is optimised for speed over rough terrain, and both have their undoubted selling points, there can only be one winner. This time, the Merrell Agility Peak 4 crosses the line first with its incredibly effective yet light cushioning, glove-like fit, comfort-enhancing features and burly heel to toe protection, whether you're out for a fast run or a speedy hike.