INOV-8 is not a company with which many people are familiar. Originally a trail running company from the UK, they have recently entered into the road market. The initial response is very, very positive.
My first pair of INOV-8 (you never forget your first, um, pair) was back in late ’03 or early ’04 (don’t remember exactly as I was touring with the Dead or something, and those years are a little, like, you know) I’d already had a sip of the minimalism Kool-aid in my road footwear, back when minimalism was generally referenced when talking about Donald Judd and not Anton Krupicka, I found them in an outdoor retailer in Taos (RIP, TMO), I was all over that like flies on rice. Wait. White on $#!t? I liked that they were low profile and fit like socks. And it helped that no one had heard of them, save for the real trail heads. They were, arguably, the first company to promote minimalism in running footwear.
My first run in them was on a cold, wet day, through the dog-and-rabbit trails on the mesa south of Taos. The snow melt had mixed with the dirt and formed this Vaseline-like glop that stuck to everything it touched and splattered. My INOV-8s were brilliant. I couldn’t fall down with them on. It was as if there had been no rain, no snow, no melt. What was supposed to have been a nice, leisurely hour long roll through the trails ended up being a quick, strong tempo over the roller coaster hills. No other shoe in my quiver at that time could have done that. They were brilliant! And they weren’t even designed for the wet. The out sole was INOV-8s out sole designed for hard pack. They were that good.
The out sole lugging will keep you upright in the nastiest of the nasty, and rolling comfortably over the hard Texas dirt and rock. The simple strapped upper holds onto the foot in any and every direction They still are that good. They were the Terroc 330. We have them now, here at Rogue. And for the women, the Terroc 308, equally as brilliant.
You might have seen the F-lite 230. Probably not so much on the Scenic Loop or on Lady Bird, but if you spend any amount of time around anyone in the Crossfit world, likely you’ve seen the electric blue or fire red low profile kicks on their feet. Maybe the hot pink, maybe the kelly green, I don’t know. The black. The 230 is the (official?) shoe of Crossfit. Seriously, they have an official shoe. I know. But they do know their footwear, because not only will the 230 make you crave lean meats and veggies only, it will carry you through some seriously fast and efficient runs.
A month or two ago, Lori, the hyperkinetic INOV-8 sales rep, sent me a pair to try, knowing that I like ’em light and low. Daaaaaamn, that is a smooth shoe. With a lightly snug upper that is becoming very familiar across many brands, the 230 is a flat designed for road or trail, and begs you to run on either. The heel/toe differential is 3mm, according to the website, so the shoe feels fast before you get out the door. I’ve done tempo runs, fartlek on the trail and a two hour run on the roads in them, and noticed them only when I tried to take them off after the long run and was so tired and sweaty that I couldn’t unlace one shoe, having triple knotted the extra long laces, preventatively. They are protective when they need to be, and unrestrictive at all times. It is not a stretch to say that this shoe, or variations of it, is what a running shoe really should be.
INOV-8 was once a (small) player in the trail market and is now a (small) player in the road market. But they are worth a run or several, because they appear to be true to their roots and honest in their presentation and marketing, which is a lot more than I can say for some of the others. The 230, too, will bring together, at least in matching footwear, the often antithetical approaches of distance running and Crossfit.