I'm a massive fan of Inov8 (see Road-x 255 review and also have a review of the F-lite 195 coming up) so I was excited to see what their barefoot road shoe had to offer.
Upon opening the box, I was impressed with just how light these shoes were. I'm a UK size 11, and the pair weigh less than one of my regular road shoes. They look great too. When I first put them on, I liked the way they felt on my feet. The anatomic last has been used in this shoe (rightly so) and as my first pair of barefoot shoes I was surprised at how at home my feet felt in them, even though I'm used to having my feet wrapped up a little more. My only issue was the laces are very thin, and very long, as you can see in the picture. I countered the length by tucking them under the bottom lace, but I could not do anything to stop them being thin, so we'll see how it goes.
What midsole?! There s no midsole to speak of in this shoe, as it is completely barefoot...Onto the upper!
The upper is made of a one-piece, lightweight mesh with plastic overlays. The overlays provide support by joining onto the eyelets, and a bit of protections from wear and tear on the front. It is light, and breathable, and offers a surprising amount of support for a barefoot shoe. I should note, that by support, I DO NOT mean it's suitable for over-pronators, I just mean that your foot feels cradled inside the shoe. I've already spoken about the anatomic lasting, and again, it leaves plenty of room for your metatarsals to sprea, which is excellent for barefoot shoes.
The outsole is where this shoe comes into its own. It is light, flexible, gippy, and durable. It offers excellent traction on the pavements due to its Sticky Endurance rubber, and is even more flexible under the metatarsal heads due to the inclusion of a Meta Flex groove. This really makes the shoe feel like you have nothing on your feet. And, they have a skeleton design on the bottom. This (as far as I know) has no benefit other than leaving skeleton footprints behind you (which still tickles me)
I struggled in these. They are supremely comfortable, and excellent at what they are for, however, I am just not there yet! I still need a little cushion, and heel for when I heel strike towards the end of my runs. It was however good training to use them in combination with my regular road shoes, and transition that way. I ended up doing my short fast runs in these, and my longer ones in my road shoes, and that worked wonders. Due to the weight and the fact there is nothing there made barefoot running hugely efficient. They let your calves do the work they were supposed to, and because of the weight, you aren't dragging your feet; everything you want from a barefoot shoe. However, I am still baffled as to why the laces are like they are. If they are thin in order to save weight, surely the should have made them shorter than they are? They weigh the same as a regular thick lace because they are twice the length! Next time, I hope they go for something at least a little wider, as due to my 'athletic' ankles, I once again had to pull the laces tight, which ended up feeling a tad uncomfortable over the bridge of my foot towards the end of my run when my feet had expanded. Other than that, I have no issues with these shoes, and have ended up wearing them for pure comfort when I'm at work or just kicking around. I still use them for my short runs too. I've found them become my out and out gym shoes too, as they are so flat, you get a real work out, and can move more efficiently.