Monday, 19 August 2013

My inov-8 f-lite 252 review - the perfect running shoe?

Hello again fans of trail running and inov-8 shoes. 

I think I've found the perfect running shoe - the inov-8 f-lite 252. (following the link will support this blog) put them out there on sale and I couldn't resist.

I've gone for the black and lime f-lite 252 - a perfect amalgamation of my black inov-8 Road lite 155s and my lime green inov-8 trailroc 235s! There's even a hint of the red from the blue bare x-lite 150s and the Road X 233s. 

Thought I'd give the shoes a wash while I waited for the f-lites...
Like magic - the f-lite 252 appears to have taken the best of the former three!

I say I think they're perfect as they are a 3mm drop trail bred shoe that looks to be easily transferable to the road, as well as in the gym. The stack height is about 14mm.

They are also built on inov-8s natural last - meaning that they are wider in the fore and mid foot sections than the classic f-lite range. 

Having worn them for a few runs and couple of weekends, I can so far say that I love them. 

When I read a review I want to know how a shoe fits. Will it be true to size if I'm ordering off the net? Firstly the color is awesome and for walking around in they fit beautifully. The laces are the flat type and tie easily - I always double knot and have never had a pair come untied. For the first time ever I have noticed the 'heel' in them. I never noticed it before in my x-lite 155s but when wearing these casually I have an awareness of the 3mm heel drop.

I actually sized up with the inov-8 size chart and ended up with a 1/2 size smaller than my other inov-8s. I admit that I really like the feeling of having a shoe wrapped around my foot again. Saying that, there is plenty of wriggle room for my toes and forefoot. So, using the inov-8 size chart, for me the fit was perfect.

I now realise my other pairs are perhaps a 1/2 size too big. 

For something different, I've posted this review in three sections, as the inov-8 website touts this shoe as a cross-fit/gym shoe that is also developed for someone with an established natural running style. - 

1) The f-lite 252 as a trail and off trail shoe.

So, I was amped to be able to get out in the 'nongs' and do my first night run. I had the head torch charged, the rain jacket on the ready and the f-lite 252s all laced up. 

I ran one of my favourite loops, roughly 12-13kms on some rough 4WD tracks, walking trails and through the bush on single tracks. The elevation levels varied from flat and fast or rose to 7-15% inclines and descents over varying sections. To add to the excitement it had rained the previous couple of days and was raining during my run. Score! This was going to be a make or break for the 252s.

So this was almost a literal 'blind test' for the f-lites, as I had good but limited vision of what lay beneath me. 

On the 4WD tracks I really enjoyed running with these shoes. I was able to run at a good 5:00 min kilometer pace and not have to be too concerned about my grip. I got great feedback on the trail but enjoyed the added protection of the Dynamic Fascia band that is embedded in the sole. I've never been too worried about how much I feel rocks and stones through the trailroc 235s, but these made running a pleasure. I could tell the surface was rocky and uneven but there was minimal to no discomfort. 

When I had to tackle the hills and climb the shoes gripped really well. I've spoken of running with a quick tempo before and again, this really proved to be the key to running with these shoes. Running over a mix of stone and clay based surfaces, I never felt like I was going to slip. The few times I got sloppy, the f-lite 252s grip was strong and steadying. In the single trail sections I could plant my feet where I needed to and use the track to my advantage. Need to place your foot on a 45 degree slope to avoid a fallen tree, no problem. Need to leap onto a fallen log to push off, grip is ample and secure.  

At one stage I hit a sharp descent down Camilia Track and got caught out by the change to a clay surface and started to slide down the hill. Once I was able to reassign my weight and regain control it was just a matter of shortening my stride and using more of the Pose 'lift' and place technique. Once I did this I felt in full control and was able to rely on the grip of the f-lite sole to halt any further slides, or was able to safely ride out the slide. At the end of the descent they were almost mud free on the soles - no extra weight! 

In summation, everything I encountered out on the wet trails was handled with ease. Drainage in the 252s is also excellent. At the runs end my socks were damp but not wet. After about a 1/2 hour in the sun the next morning the shoes were again dry. 

The inov-8 f-lite 252s were so jealous of all the shoes getting a run at the third Salomon trail race! At race four these bad boys will be getting the run. 

2) The f-lite 252 as a road shoe for my weekly tempo and easy sessions around the streets and:

After a few good 45 - 60 minute runs I can report back that I really like the fit. 

The f-lite 252s feel quite firm underfoot and you do become more aware of your foot strike, but with a developed natural running style they're not uncomfortable. You just get a sound awareness of the pavement or road that you are running on and good feedback of your form.  A big positive is that they really grip into corners and you feel like you are turning on rails. So on concrete and asphalt they have great levels of grip. They also rewarded a higher cadence and true mid foot strike. 

As each run run progressed I could feel them molding to my feet, especially under my right foot. The Dynamic Fascia band also works really well in this shoe. I could feel it rebounding with each step, almost pushing me to run faster. I was worried about the smaller than previous sizing I had chosen and how it would go in a longer run, but at the runs end my feet feel really good. 

3) The f-lite 252 as a gym shoe. 

I'm not into crossfit or any really dedicated program. I enjoy my spin session, leg workouts and I also do a light weights routine. 

For me a gym shoe needs to be comfortable on the bike, provide great stability for my core routines and have the right stability grip when I'm doing the leg workouts. 

So, the f-lite 252 are great on the bike. They lock into place nicely in the cage and the dynamic fascia band gives you a little bit of flex and lift when you 
push down through your calves. Previously my New Balance 890 V2 were a little stiff and using my Road X-lite 155s lacked structure in the sole and caused a little discomfort on the pedals. 

The wide surface area of the natural last provides great stability when I'm doing my squats and core exercises. Previously I did them barefoot, but the f-lite sole helps grip into the carpet and stops me sliding around and losing form. 

The Meta-flex in the fore foot does give great flexibility to the shoe and allows you to do lifts and raises easily. It also works in your favor when your stretching out the legs. 

Finally, I couldn't resist a rope climb to test out the new rope-tec in the mid foot section. I don't do it a lot but I could really lock the feet in place and 'hang out' for the photo shoot. 

Big thanks to Leigh from Refine Training in Kew for the pics. 

So, do I recommend the inov-8 f-lite 252? 


In fact, I ordered the blue and red pair to keep for the roads, and I'll dedicate the black and lime pair for the trails and tracks.

If you like the sound of them, I'm part of the affiliate program with wiggle, so I recommend looking there as your first stop.

Cheers, Lachie - Australias leading inov-8 store

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