Best Inov-8 training shoes - November 2018
Inov-8 is one of the youngest yet prominent brands in the competitive arena of athletic footwear. Launched in the tiny English town of Wolsingham in 2003, it has expanded its trade to nearly 70 countries. The company’s founder, Wayne Edy, started it as a niche brand which produced running shoes specifically targeted at the off-road running buffs.
New horizons opened up for the brand when it introduced the Inov-8 F-Lite 195. Grippy, stable, lightweight, and supportive, this trainer soon became very popular among cross-training enthusiasts. The shoe turned out to be versatile enough to be sported for running, plyometrics, weightlifting, and even CrossFit WODs. Besides, the brand’s dedication to promoting natural movement immediately clicked with athletes.
Types of Inov-8 training shoes
Today you can choose from a wide array on Inov-8 shoes created specifically for training. Even though a vast majority of them are crafted with versatility in mind, some models are better suited for certain kinds of activities. The brand currently offers the following series of training shoes:
The F-Lite. This range is the brand’s pioneer training shoe series. These trainers can be referred to as “do-it-all” footwear. Any shoe from this category can be sported for CrossFit WODs, HIIT, gym workouts, weightlifting, and even short-distance running.
In June 2018, the F-Lite family received a new, state-of-the-art member, the F-Lite G 290. “G” stands for graphene, the world’s strongest material known to exist. Inov-8 became the first athletic brand to incorporate this material into the outsole of sports shoes. It is claimed to be two times stronger, more durable, and more elastic than the traditional rubber used at the bottom of a trainer.
The Bare-XF. The minimalist construction of the Bare-XF shoes makes them a suitable choice for all sorts of training regimens. That includes the constantly varied one as the "XF" abbreviation in the series name stands for "CrossFit." Keep in mind that this range of Inov-8 training shoes does not offer any cushioning and only accommodates those athletes who seek a barefoot-like experience in their workouts.
Examples: Inov-8 Bare-XF 210v2
The All Train. As the name suggests, these Inov-8 training shoes are crafted with versatility in mind. They are most efficient in workouts that involve high impact, agility, and speed training. Some of the examples are HIIT, Bootcamp, Circuit training, and boxing. However, these models are NOT geared for CrossFit as they don't have any protection for rope climbing and do not render sufficient stability for heavy weight training.
The Fastlift. This series was created in response to the athletes’ need for a shoe that would be sturdy enough for weightlifting yet flexible enough for plyometrics. However, this type of Inov-8 training shoes is NOT appropriate for high-impact workouts or running due to the firm midsole construction.
Things to consider when purchasing Inov-8 training shoes
Now that you have an idea of which category of Inov-8 training shoes best matches your needs, there are a few more things to consider. But before settling on a specific pair, make sure to take into account the following aspects:
The shoe’s ability to bend with the foot throughout a cross-training session is crucial. That’s why all Inov-8 training shoes employ the Meta-Flex groove on the outsole unit. It is a horizontal groove which creates a flexion point in the forefoot to ensure unhindered flexibility of the foot.
The Bare-XF models are especially pliable since they only have a thin 3-mm rubber outsole and no midsole. Their minimalist platform can be easily bent in any direction. In turn, the Fastlift shoes are designed to flex only in the forefoot. A shallow Meta-Flex groove allows just enough foot flexibility for exercises like burpees, double-unders, box jumps, and push-ups, but does not accommodate any other types of activities.
Another important factor of efficient training is the right level of firmness or softness underneath your foot. While a plush midsole is suitable for workouts that involve running and jumping, it serves no good when it comes to lifting weights. You can determine to what extent a pair of Inov-8 training shoes is ready to absorb shock and provide rebound by checking the number of arrows at the back side of the sole.
The brand has developed the Arrow System with four levels of cushioning. A platform with zero arrows offers less cushioning, while the one with three arrows provides maximum protection against impact. The All Train models tend to have more arrows and be more responsive, while the Bare-XF and the Fastlift series offer no or very minimal cushioning. The F-Lite range falls in between the two, providing a balance of firmness and impact protection.
The difference in height between your heel and forefoot which is created by the shoe platform is known as the drop. The lower the drop, the flatter your foot is placed on the sole.
Zero. A 0-mm drop implies that the heel and the forefoot are evenly placed on the shoe’s platform. This flat disposition caters to those who prefer to train as if they were barefoot. There is a minimal amount of cushioning in the sole unit which encourages the foot and ankle muscles and tendons to activate more naturally. Both F-Lite and Bare-XF models come with a zero heel-to-toe differential.
Average. CrossFit aficionados often prefer a 3-4 mm drop due to the natural and sure-footed experience it gives during WODs. It is common for the F-Lite series.
Big. The bigger drop implies an elevated heel which provides a cushioning benefit for heel-strike runners. An 8-mm drop can be found in some F-Lite models as well as in the All Train shoes.
A big heel-to-toe differential is also inherent to weightlifting shoes as it helps in protecting the Achilles tendon from getting strained during squats. It also allows the wearer to reach greater depth with a more upright posture. The elevated heel distinguishes the Fastlift trainers among other Inov-8 training shoes. The drop in these trainers measures at 16.5 mm.
Inov-8 pays particular attention to this aspect of its footwear. Feeling confident that your heel will not lose steadiness and slide off the edge of the shoe is crucial, especially when lifting weights.
Internal. Some Inov-8 training shoes employ the Powerheel technology to create a sure-footed experience. This compound makes the heel section about 40% denser than the forefoot. Also, the Bare-XF models have a very steady, grounded foot positioning due to the zero heel-to-toe drop and the ultra-thin sole.
External. These reinforcements include the External Heel Cage (EHC) and the Y-lock system. Made of either TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) or thick synthetic material, these components wrap around the rearfoot to prevent it from wobbling during multi-directional movements and weightlifting.
The hallmark feature of the Fastlift models is the Power-Truss heel wedge. It is comprised of multiple TPU pillars that provide an incompressible platform for athletes to lean back on during squats and lifts. An EHC works together with the Power-Truss to hug the rearfoot for enhanced heel steadiness.
A vast majority of Inov-8 training shoes employ the brand’s proprietary Sticky rubber compounds to shield the platform. This material is designed with the use of climbing rubber technology to deliver exceptional grip, even on wet surfaces. The more recent Inov-8 training shoes feature an enhanced version of the Sticky, named the Sticky Grip. The Fastlift trainers also feature suction cups in the heel section to further minimize the chance of slippage.
Inov-8 training shoes vary in the type of material used for the upper unit. Most trainers employ a traditional open mesh, while the updated versions come with a knitted material for a more sock-like experience. However, both fabrics offer a lightweight and breathable coverage. Most models use welded synthetic overlays on the midfoot for lightweight support and protection against the wear-and-tear. The Fastlift shoes stand out from the rest as they employ sturdier synthetic overlays for structured support.
The integrated Met-cradle system ensures a secure foot lockdown on most Inov-8 training shoes. Its synthetic webbing is non-restrictive and adapts to the foot movement. The cradle works together with the lacing system to provide a snug yet flexible support.
Some trainers also make use of straps to keep the foot even more firmly in place. The F-Lite 275 model features a new Adapterstrap closure. It is the brand’s variation of a hook-and-loop Velcro strap that complements the laces for enhanced support.
While the earlier incarnations of the Fastlift used a Velcro strap on top of a lace-up closure, the newer versions have stepped up the game with the BOA system. It is comprised of a low-friction cable which is locked up by a regulation knob. The tightness is adjusted by turning the knob: 1 click equals 1 mm.
If you are doing CrossFit, then rope climbing must be part of your workout routine. And you know how fast shoes get ruined from the friction caused by sliding down the rope. That’s why each pair of F-Lite and Bare-XF shoes is equipped with a reinforcement called the Rope-Tec. It is a rubber compound which shields the sole in the midfoot section. In some Inov-8 training shoes, it also covers the upper. The rubber ensures grip by biting the rope on ascents and guards the shoe against abrasion during descents.
One of Inov-8’s principal aims is to offer athletes all the benefits of a well-performing training shoe at the lightest weight possible. That’s why most Inov-8 training shoes weigh between 195 and 290 grams per shoe. The trainers from the Fastlift series are the heaviest since they are crafted for heavy weightlifting. However, they are still among the lightest weightlifting trainers on the market. They range from 325 to 400 grams per shoe, while other brands offer this type of footwear at 400-600 grams.
The fastest way to find out the weight of Inov-8 training shoes is to look at the name of a model. The number corresponds to the number of grams of that particular shoe.
Fit and sizing
Lengthwise, Inov-8 trainers tend to run true to the sizing scheme. The US, EU, and UK sizes conversion chart is available on the brand’s website.
Widthwise, Inov-8 training shoes are classified on the scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is the tightest and 5 is the widest. Since all Inov-8 training shoes have a Met-cradle technology locking down the midfoot, the difference in width is only noticed in the toe box.
Frequently asked questions
Can I run in Inov-8 training shoes?
Given the versatile nature of most Inov-8 training shoes, they can be used for short- and mid-distance running sessions. If these are part of your exercise regimen, then the F-Lite and the All Train models with thicker cushioning and an 8-mm drop could be the footwear of choice. However, a pair of dedicated Inov-8 running shoes would work better for long-distance running, trail traversing, and competitions.
How much do Inov-8 training shoes cost?
The price of Inov-8 training shoes ranges from $110 to $140 per pair. The cost directly depends on the type of materials and technologies used in a particular shoe. The Fastlift trainers tend to be more expensive (around $190) due to the TPU heel wedge and the BOA lacing system.
Can Inov-8 training shoes be customized?
Customization is not available for Inov-8 training shoes. However, the brand offers its products in an array of color options to satisfy the various tastes of its customers.
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