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.
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.
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 Band™ 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 🙂
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