Gear Review – Inov8 F-Lite 195s

Now that I’ve had a chance to get some decent kilometres into these shoes, I thought it high time to post a more in-depth review of these wonderful shoes and what they’re like over the hard-packed trails of the GNW. I feel as though I’ve fully worn these in now, having clocked up a few hundred kms in them, as well as three of four long runs over 60kms.

The Upshot

So, the burning question, what are they really like? The truth is I love these shoes, but like their brother the Talon 190s, I think I would struggle to go beyond more than 60-70kms in them. That’s not to say that I couldn’t, but when you’ve worn Nike Frees for so long, there a certain amount of cushioning you appreciate with them. The cushioning on the 195s is still relatively thin on the sole, and after a hard 60kms or so, you do feel it on your feet. Now, you could argue that your feet would be feeling it anyway after 60kms, but for some reason I always seem to veer back to the Nike Free and their incredibly spongy soles, which are very kind.

Am I being a bit of a wuss? Is it really that bad? The reality is no, but if you look at how these shoes are marketed by Inov8, they’re very much described as a racing shoe over shorter distances. I’ve no doubt you could wear these for a 100 miler. Heck, I’m sure Nike didn’t really envisage people doing mountain 100 milers like Northburn in the Free 3.0s, but hell I’ve done it. Really, I’m still undecided about whether to use this shoe for the GNW 100 miler. There are sections where it would really come into its own e.g the rainforest section and over the plateaus towards Patonga – but could I see myself wearing them for the whole sch-bang? I don’t know yet.

The very sleek and sexy Inov8 F-Lite 195s - Picture courtesy of Matt Dayka (www.mattdayka.com)

The Detail

However, let’s get to some of the finer points of the construction and build of the shoe before I start rambling on about what to wear for GNW. I’ve alluded to some of these points already in the initial thoughts posted about a month ago, but for its weight this is a very tough and well constructed shoe in my opinion. I know of some people who’ve had a few issues with how this shoe has been put together, but overall I think they’re very sturdy indeed. I know from personal experience with the Nike Frees that if they’re left wet for a few days, this can seriously impact the mesh on the upper and it can start to pull away, so something to be wary of if your 195s do get wet is to make sure they’re dried properly.

There have been some concerns raised on the comments on this website about the width of the Inov8 shoes, which on appearance seem ‘thin’. I’ve noticed in the last month that although they do appear this way, the shoe very much ‘pushes out’ around the mid-foot and the fit is very good indeed for me. I’d say that unless you had freakishly wide feet, then you’ll have no problems with these shoes at all.

Moving onto the sole of the shoe, the major difference between these and the Talon 190s is the removal of the lugs on the bottom and what is known as a ‘sticky rubber sole’. This allows for great traction on wet surfaces and unstable terrain, and on testing on a number of wet rocks I can honestly say that the feet feel very stable in them at all times. In addition (and quoting from the marketing spiel) these shoes have a Fascia Bandβ„’ which supposedly mimics the plantar fascia ligament, providing more thrust power while reducing fatigue. Don’t ask me to comment on this as I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it sounds impressive πŸ™‚

In terms of the cushioning and heel to toe drop, we’re talking 5mm for the forefoot and 8mm for the heel. That’s pretty low, and while not a complete barefoot shoe, the minimal cushioning underfoot allows for quite a bit of ground feedback. Your foot really does know when it strikes the ground, but in taking these across pretty rocky terrain too, there’s enough protection.

As far as the heel to toe drop is concerned, again there isn’t much – just 3mm, and this is where I think people need to be careful before jumping headfirst into shoes like this and others like it that have very little in the way of drop. The lack of drop means that your Achilles is going to get a real work over, and for me, switching between the Frees and the 195s (where there is a big difference in drop), means that I do get some Achilles soreness when I switch to the 195s. I personally think this is really important as I feel that far too many people don’t take this into account right now when choosing a shoe.

The 195 really is designed for a forefoot strike, and after 50 kms or so, your Achilles is going to know about it. My word of warning is to be careful and make sure you build up in these shoes. I’m more than likely going to wear them for GOW 100km as I want to see how my feet hold up post 70kms in them. Although the terrain of GOW and GNW are pretty different in that GOW is relatively soft trails and sand, compared to some of the hard-packed stuff up on the GNW.

Shall I buy a pair?

My answer is yes. I’m not saying these shoes make me run faster, but I’ve set a couple of training PBs in them. No running shoe will ever make you run faster, afterall you’re the one doing the work here. What they allow you to do is be more confident with your footing, and be sure that when you place that foot down, it’s going to stay where it is and you have complete confidence. Given the weight of them too (195 grams for size 8), you don’t actually feel like you’re wearing a shoe at all, given the mould and fit around your foot. They almost become an extension of your foot, very much like the picture on the packaging that they come in. Indeed, this is the ethos and philosophy that Inov8 aim to portray. I really do love what this company does. They are 100% focused on giving runners great shoes over trails and mountains and they know what they’re talking about too.

Would I wear them for a 100 miler? I’m really not sure yet, and my decision will be based on how I go down at GOW in a few weeks time. I’m even muting the idea of using different shoes for different sections. Call me stupid, but that’s where my head is at right now. I also have a pair of the Inov8 Roclite 295s on order, which are similar in build to these, but appear to have more cushioning and heel-to-toe drop than its lighter cousins. This I feel could be a more appropriate shoe for the likes of 100 mile races.

But, if you’re a person that loves racing hard over anything up to 50kms, these shoes are a must. If you want to grab yourself a pair of these, visit the guys at Footpoint here.

A big thank-you to Matt Dayka for allowing us to use his fantastic imagery of the shoes. Matt is a keen runner and as you can see, an awesome photographer too, so we really appreciate him allowing us to use his image. For more of Matt’s work, visit his website at www.mattdayka.com

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Dan
I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

17 thoughts on “Gear Review – Inov8 F-Lite 195s

  1. You definitely have me interested in trying a pair. I just need to find a retail outlet so I can actually see how they fit, having had problems with fit in Inov8s years ago. I’ll check yours out at GOW and be interested to see how they cope with the varied terrain. You might wish you had the Talons when you hit the mud at GOW.
    Nice work again.

    1. Cheers Whippet, I’ll bring all my pairs down in a few weeks, both the Talons and the F-lites and you can try them on. Not worried about the mud… I paced Darrel in my Nike Frees last year with all that mud on section one! He was going pretty slow though πŸ™‚

  2. Great review, great pics. My Achilles are wincing just reading about that heel to toe drop. Curious Dan, do these shoes make it to the Summit or are they sitting pretty at advanced base camp 4?

    1. Ahh yes, I forgot about doing that didn’t I. Hmmm, tough one as it really depends on what you want to use them for. If as Inov8 says that they’re for hard fast racing for up to 40-50kms, then they’re a Summit shoe.

      1. mmm not sure from your review Dan that they make it all the way to the summit, because if you are going to restrict them to 40-50kms max wouldn’t you just go with the extra grip of the Talon 190’s? I think the search for the perfect shoe to knock the Nike 3.0 all round performance needs to continue and you are just the man for the challenge of continuing said search πŸ˜‰

      2. I agree. I measure a shoe by whether I can or would wear it for 100miles (I have never changed shoes in a trail race yet). I have several excellent trail runners that are perfect for short stuff. But the real test is going the distance. Mind you I still can’t comprehend 100 in Free 3.0s so maybe I am getting soft with age.

  3. To weigh in here, for me, the f-lite 195s have replaced the Free 3-0s for anything off road – big call, but definitely where I would have worn the Frees before I am now in the f-lites and really appreciate not picking up all the extra stones that the Frees brought along for the ride. No, they are not as spongey as the Frees, but I am finding them responsive, grippy and best of all – comfortable from the moment they go on.

    I haven’t done enough technical wet runs to wear them for GOW, so will stick with the Talons 190s there – I know I can do 100k in them and how the respond over wet muddy sections.

    Definitely not the shoe for everyone, and as Dan said wont make you run faster (but they make me want to run faster – just need the ability to do it). Having already crossed to the lighter Inov8 shoes, for me these are a great solution to issue of needing a shoe that is great on trail, but stands up well to having a few road kms thrown into the mix on a long run.

    Additional feedback from sending others for a couple of kms in mine, is that they fit great on a very narrow hard to fit foot female foot. I have a wider forefoot, but still find the fit great with the stretch in upper.

    Will be sticking with these for now, but if you find that summit shoe, may be tempted to give it a try.

  4. my master wore these last weekend for a road marathon and had to pull out at the 17km mark,not sure what the problem was but strained his selias(calf muscle); could have been- road camber;first time wearing them for long distance on road;stress;or just soft !!
    woof woof

    1. I think your master needs to listen to what we said Cooba and to ease in gently with these shoes… Hope your master gets into GOW, Gordi needs someone to hold his hand again.

  5. I’ve already commented on your previous review on the shoe, and still like it. It is my favorable shoe for any distance. I am doing my trails, my roads and my track workouts in these. Never had any issues anywhere. I have around 1200km in them. The shoe is still perfectly useable, but it is falling apart. Holes on the side of the mesh, the sole is getting dead flat, the toe bumber is separated from the mesh, the toeprotector(paint) is total cracked. That means if you are not a fashionate but a passionate runner, it can be good for 2500-3000Km, maybe even longer.
    I recently ran a 29K trail in very rocky, very technical terrain with steep ascents, and the shoe held up well. I don’t recommend it on grassy or muddy tracks as there is no traction at all. That’s why the X-Talons are developed.

    In my opinion the more you train in these, the more you can get accustomed to them. My longest run up to date is 8and a half hours, and was absolutely delighted.
    As you mentioned just a bit more cushioning would be great. Or if not cushioning a full size extra flexible rock plate (doesn’t exist). Altra footwear might be a good approach towards the desired shoe, 10mil Zero drop sole, foot shaped design – cons = it is heavy, I am size UK12, it is heavier.

    I think if you are already running in some 6mm or 9mm heel to toe differential type of shoes the transitioning time can be around 1month (progressive gradual). But if you train in traditional 12-14mm shoes where the heel can sit high up to 35mm high off the ground, these shoes with the 8mm heel will beat you up.

  6. Did 180 km last year in F-Lite 230’s on Day 1 of a 6 Day race on 50% trail and 50% cambered bitumen, Had Achilles issues on Day 3 but still convinced that these would be great for 100 mile trail races if yoou adapted sufficiently,

  7. Thanks for the comments everyone, sounds like we’re all on the same hymn sheet here. I’ve no doubt that you could wear these for a 100 miler, but they do need time and attention paid to them in terms of conditioning your feet and lower legs to adapt to the lower drop. That’s what’s quite surprising about Nike Frees is the perception that they’re a minimalist show, but compared to others in the market, I really don’t think they are. They have quite a large heel to toe drop, which is why I think the Inov8 Roclite 295s could be a very good shoe for 100 milers. They’re relatively light for the way in which they’re constructed, but have a bigger heel to toe drop to allow for the laziness that creeps into your running stride post 100kms. Can’t wait til they arrive so I can take them for a test drive.

    In the meantime, I plan on wearing the 195s for GOW in a few weeks to see how we go in them.

  8. hey I ran the leadville 100 in a pair of these and they were amazing. Actually I did change to another pair of 195 at the 60 mile mark after the streams, but the shoes are amazing, no blisters. Can’t recommend them enough. Tim

  9. I hate mine, but I have a long history of platar/calf issues. The fascia band is a wank, it should be on the medial side of the shoe with a flat mid foot on the laterial side if it is going to mimic your foot. The free is so good because of its flat sole so you can midfoot or forefoot strike. I can’t do that in these shoes, its either heel or forefoot. Dan, were you wearing these when you strained your calf?

    Having said that, the grip is amazing, the airflow fantastic and the fit is perfect and I would buy other Inov8s, just not these

    1. Didn’t strain my calf in there rob, but I do think you need to be really careful in them. The main thing about these shoes is that there’s only a 3mm drop from heel to toe and I think when you transition, you have to spend some time getting used to them. The Nike free has around 6-7mm drop which is a massive difference compared to these. I would also never use them for anything over 40kms as there is just too much pressure placed on the Achilles.

      At the end of the day, shoe choice is a very personal thing. I wear Nike free pretty much for everything on the road, but will from time to time wear the 195s for shorter road runs of up to 20kms. But I really do feel the difference when I switch between the two.

      As for the band, I haven’t got a clue if it works or not. I’m pretty sceptial of companies that claim all this innovative technology in them. What I do know though is that inov8 shoes are probably some of the best shoes you can buy for running downhill. As you say the grip is amazing. I wore them on our weekly hils session in mosman and I can really push harder downhill in them compared to the frees which do feel a little unstable to be honest. My PBS for the hills have come wearing those shoes and part of the factor is the ability to run downhill quicker and more controlled. Although Moreno because of my fitness. No shoe will ever make you run quicker, you do that yourself.

      Rob, I think you should go with either the talon 212s or the flite 230s. They will give you a bit more support, rather than these very minimal shoes particularly as you’ve got plantar issues. And I wouldn’t do more than 30km tops in the 195s… Save then for the shorter trail races and sprints. That’s just my 2 cents worth mate… As always, it’s up to you what you do πŸ™‚

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