Today’s run with Darrel was a good test for these new addition’s to the Bleakman household. The Mooney Mooney to Patonga leg has it all in terms of trail running; uphills, downhills, fire-trail and technical all thrown into one lovely 25km run. Initially I was going to do the return leg, but waking up this morning, I still felt a little on the rough side from the illness this week and began to think that the back half could end up being a bit of a death march – so I agreed with Darrel that a ‘harder’ 25kms would be better than an average first 25km and a God awful last 25kms. It can be hard to listen to your body sometimes as we become obsessed with distance… still that’s a discussion for another article I feel.
This isn’t a full review as such, but I just wanted to pen some thoughts after their first outing. The upshot is that these shoes are freaking great. I knew that the fit and feel would be good having worn the Talon 190s quite a bit in the last six months, and these are pretty much the same shoe minus the Talons on the undersole. The only slight concern I had, was if the undersole would have enough grip over the wet and slippery rock plateaus as you head to Patonga. The good news is that it was pretty wet along the trail, and a lot of the rocks on the plateaus were soaking wet too, which meant I could give these a really good going over. They passed the test with flying colours!
In the past, wearing the Nike Free 3.0 over some of the slippery rocks has meant that ice skating lessons were almost obligatory before you ventured up to this part of the course. With the F-lite 195s, the sole grips onto these wet rocks as if you had a pair of Talon 190s on. This is a massive boost to me in that I know I can be pretty confident of these shoes when charging downhill and across wet terrain. The sole has what appears to be lots of very little tiny traction bumps along the entire sole. It’s probably these that able you to run full pelt along very wet rocks and terrain. Tick that first box.
The second area of thought for these shoes was whether or not there was enough protection on the underside of the shoe to withstand loose rocks and gravel. There’s no better place to take these than through that first 10kms of technical track as you leave Mooney Mooney. I think I’m at an advantage because I’ve worn Frees for the best part of two years, but there was no discomfort at all when gliding over the loose rocks. Yes, you do feel the odd pointy rock or stone, but no more than any other shoe I feel. One of the real bonuses of these shoes is that the actual sole is very spongy and rubbery, very much like the Nike Free, but there appears to be this final hardened layer on the sole, which gives extra durability and protection too. However, this is not at the cost of being able to squeeze the entire shoe into a ball if you so wished. In short it’s tough, but very flexible.
The fit is as I’ve described in a response to one of the comments already. True to size and although they may appear a little ‘slim-line’, the shoe very much fits and moulds to your foot. This you would expect from a shoe that has zero support in the way of rigid sides and heels in the upper mesh that so many shoes have and expect your feet to mould around rather than the other way round. The heel to toe drop is as the Talon 190s, 3mm if I recall correctly (14mm to 11mm)
There’s plenty of room in the toe box for the feet and toes to splay around, and although you may have some concerns about whacking your toes against rocks, I didn’t have any issues today. That’s not to say that come race day and 160kms in my legs I won’t, but if you pick your feet up, you shouldn’t have these issues anyway 🙂
That’s it for now, I’ll post a much more comprehensive review once I’ve got a 100 or so kms in these little beauties. BUT, I’ve pretty much decided that bar any major flaw, these will be the shoes for GNW. I think they rock as they combine everything I need, toughness to last a beating on the GNW, yet subtle to flex and mould around your feet. If the Talon 190s are anything to go by, these shoes shouldn’t break apart either like most minimal shoes seem to. Inov-8 I think have really hit upon the perfect combination here and succeeded where the likes of Nike and New Balance have failed in delivering a rough and ready shoe, but that has the touch and build of an artist putting the finishing touches to a future masterpiece.
Now, I think Giselle is waiting for me at Checkpoint four… excuse me 🙂