I decided to give this trail running thing a go, and needed a pair of shoes I could take out on the trail. I’ve also been reading about the benefits of minimalist running, so I set out on the web to find the best shoe to suit my needs, and eventually settled on the F-lite 230 shoe from Inov-8. Note that I needed a multi-purpose shoe that would perform equally well on the road, as well as trails. If, however, you’re going to spend more time on trails, definitely look at the Roclite 285, or X-Talon 212 for better muddy grip.
A little background on my physiology and running history first to provide a bit of context: 5’11, 65kg & size 8.5 shoe. I recently took up running again after an extended break to improve my health (need stop getting sick so often, and be fit enough to keep up with the kids ).
On to the shoes:
If you’re in South Africa and in the market for inov8s – check out Cape Multi – got them about R200 cheaper than the larger retailers. The service was also very good to boot.
The first thing you notice about the shoes when unboxing them (besides the shocking blue colour), is how light they are. They reminded me of an old pair of reeboks I have, with which I did my PB 10km.
When they say it’s a minimalist shoe – they weren’t kidding! There’s no cushioning to speak of – just light-weight mesh on top of a rubber sole. I specifically went for the FL230’s, because these aren’t really true “bare-foot” shoes – there’s still about a 4-6mm drop from heel to toe – making it a nice transition shoe for anyone wanting to get into minimalist running. If you want to get a zero drop show, the NB MT00 looks like quite a good bet.
Probably the most important thing about this shoe compared to a normal running show, is that it has no support. The sole is extremely flexible, and there is no extra material to support the heel and arch of your foot – hence these are the 2 areas that will be effected most on your first run with these. What it also means, tho, is that you need to watch your footing: A normal running show will provide a stable base for which to plant your foot. These shoes do not – they conform to the ground your stepping on, which is good for promoting a more natural running gate, but not so good for protecting your feet and potential sprains.
For the tread, inov8 have used a sticky rubber, which makes it good for trail running – but the profile is fairly flat – which makes it equally good on the road. I’ve read a lot of people using it for cross-fit for exactly this reason. The same feature, however, also means that this shoe does not fair well at all in the mud.
WARNING! As per all other reviews of these kinds of shoes – you need to take it slow \ transition your training if you’re not used to minimalist shoes – if you don’t ease into these shoes, they’re likely to bitch-slap your calve muscles for days after any significant distance.This, however, also means you’re building up strength that you wouldn’t do with an ordinary running shoe.
They fit is pretty snug – I have thin feet, and have read some reviews by other thin feet reviewers that this shoe probably isn’t for people with wide feet – but I haven’t seen any wide feet reviewers say that these were uncomfortable – which can only mean that this shoe conforms quite nicely to your feet – whatever shape they may be.
I’ve also seen many recommendations that this shoe is only for shorter distances, but there’s plenty of people on the web who have used these for ultras (road & trail)
So in summary – in case you needed to skip all the waffle above:
- light weight
- builds lower limb strength, which implies less injury
- multi-purpose (trails and road)
- cool design
- mesh design provides good water drainage and quick-dry
- promotes more natural running gate
- very flexible/no support: extra care needed on foot placement
- no mercy on the legs for beginners
- not good in mud
I’ll probably end up using these for shorter distance (trail & road) to build up strength in my lower limbs. For the long distances (anything over 25kms) I’ll probably stick to the more support orientated running shoes in my collection – for now.