inov-8 are pretty good at making off-road shoes – fact. But how good are they at making a more road-specific shoe? Well, after taking delivery of the brand new F-Lite™ 220 I can tell you – pretty damn good…
If looks could kill
The first thing that you notice about the 220’s when you take them out of the box is the styling. It’s different. The signature bold lines and colours that you come to expect from inov-8 are right there. But, it’s the detail that makes the difference here. From the feather-shaped F in F-lite, to the grippy black and white laces that don’t slip (like your ordinary big manufacturer laces) to the unmissable translucent, non-marking outsole. Funky.
Built for speed
This area of ‘racing shoes’ is always a contentious one. How can you build a shoe that is durable, light, looks great, and will last and last – keeping the weight down to the 200 gram mark? Pretty damn tough for most manufacturers this one.
The build quality on these is good, though as you would expect on a shoe that is very light there are no over-bearing bells and whistles. It’s all about function and form. A key factor for any prospective buyer is comfort, and straight from the box these shoes were no trouble. Outside of the tongue there are very few internal stitch-lines, the fit is sock-like. There is some evidence of glue over spill on the uppers, but other than that spot on.
On the job
I’ve done around 50 miles in the 220s, mainly on road, with a couple of field crossings. My first run was in the wet, in the dark, in Central London – urban! As I danced around the puddles of Hyde Park I felt nimble in these. Until I hit some greasy paving stones however, when the outsole became a little dicey. It could have been the combination of London crap, diesel, leaves and heavy rain, however I have to say that I had to tread carefully. Still, I doubt that there is a racing shoe out there that can claim to grip in all conditions, horses for courses. My second run was in the dry, and in these conditions the grip was faultless.
Bearing in mind that these shoes are also aimed at hard pack off-road running it will be interesting to see how much protection the outsole offers on some of the slightly rougher stuff.
One aspect that I do love about these 220’s is the neutral profile. I am a big fan of low-profile shoes. The world of 3 inches of EVA is one that I am never comfortable in. You feel in-touch and in control in these shoes, sure the Books ST4 and Nike Lunar could lay claim to this territory too, and it is testimony to inov-8 that I am mentioning these shoes in that same breath. The fact that I am now using these shoes for many on-road training runs is also testimony that I get on with these shoes.
The fit is…fit!
Comfy, fact. Again, my priorities might be a little different from others, but if the fit is poor I am not going to use them. The toe-box feel is great, when the laces are tugged in the 220 fits very well, and feels in-tune with your foot. I have relatively narrow feet, and I think that the nature of this build dynamic meant that I was going to get on with the 220’s.
In-line with most other brands out there the 220’s are priced about right. 80 quid is a considered purchase, but when you consider that these shoes can also be used on that dry, hard pack fell race or trail run, the price is reasonable.
Should I buy ‘em?
If you’re looking for that versatile lightweight shoe, from one of your favourite brands, that will feel good, look good and perform. Yes!