Words: Stephan Meyer | Photos: Courtesy of Inov8
When it comes to trail running shoes for adventure sports, whether it is cross-country, road running, triathlons, Xterras, and many other disciplines, Inov8 immediately springs to mind with its range of high-tech, high-performance shoes. Going one step further, Inov8 has also firmly established itself as a household name in the CrossFit© community, and is also worn by international athletes, such as Bryan Diaz, Lisa Mikkelsen, Derek Mohammed, and Emily Friendman, to name but a few.
Well known to the adventure sports scene is the Inov8 F-Lite, a minimalistic shoe that has little to no drop between the heel and toe. Now, if you were to search the internet to find out more about the ‘minimalistic’ concept, you would find various articles and opinions that are both positive and negative about the application of this trend in running and various other sports. On the positive side, traditional shoes encourage athletes to strike the ground heel first, thus putting a lot of pressure on the body, so when athletes adapt to minimalistic shoes, they will experience flexibility and elasticity in the Achilles and soles of their feet. Other potential benefits include the strengthening of muscles, tendons and ligaments in the foot. Removing the heel lift assists in muscle and tendon stretch and may reduce injuries. Athletes also learn to land on the forefoot and not on the heel, while improving balance and proprioception. On the negative side, why fix that which is not broken. If you have no pain, is it necessary to change your approach? Due to the nature of the shoe, the shoe offers significantly less protection and, in some cases, may increase calf strain, plantar pain and Achilles tendonitis.
For many years, I’ve had challenges with lower back pain and shin splints. After intense rehab and the right on-ramp programmes, I was ready to return to running, but this time I decided to take to the trails in a minimalistic shoe, Inov8’s Roclite 285. It is a 2-arrow shoe, with a drop of 6 mm between the heel and toe, and the change was remarkable. I could comfortably run 10 km in less than 50 minutes, not bad for someone weighing in at 95+ kilogrammes. (Please note that any sudden changes to running technique and/or shoes could have an adverse effect, so consult an expert before making such a change.)
Then I was presented with the F-Lites 195. Inov8 claims that the F-Lite 195 is a performance-fit and lightweight shoe with a 3 mm differential, ideal for athletes with a developed, natural running style. Although this might not seem significant, the change is immediately felt. The F-Lite 195 is just what the name says, light, as well as fast, durable, and eye catching, thanks to the vibrant colour scheme. Reinforced medial and lateral sections increase protection for climbing ropes, and a large contact area sole design enables good grip and stability when running or exercising.
So when asked to review these shoes, I decided to pit the F-Lites against various elements within the CrossFit© scene, to see how they handled – and they more than delivered!
Performing simple movement such as box jumps, double unders, running, kettlebell swings, wall balls, and burpees was done with ease and the necessary stability, with little to no foot role while keeping good form and posture. The shoes also performed well in high-repetition workouts, such as combinations of cardiovascular, gymnastics, and weightlifting, providing great assistance for the associated movements.
In addition, the F-Lite 195 is great for the longer-running workout elements. And with its lightweight design, it definitely does not add weight to any gymnastics or body-weight movements.
The shoe, in my opinion, is not made for heavy Olympic lifting or squatting, as the design does not provide the necessary stability.
To conclude, the F-Lite 195 is a great shoe, with a multitude of applications, for both the recreational and advanced athlete participating in adventure sports, road running, or my preferred sport of CrossFit©. I definitely recommend adding this shoe to the list of possibilities when shopping for a quality, well-engineered minimalistic shoe.
For more information on Inov8’s F-Lites 195 or where to purchase them, visit http://www.rebelstore.co.za/Scripts/default.asp