Having been a fan of the F-lite 195, and Bare-x 180, I was very excited about trying this more transitional shoe out, as I'm right in the middle myself.
When I first opened the box, I was very pleased with what I saw. The shoes just look great. The toe box is nice and round, which is a big plus right off the bat, and the midsoles didn't look too thick, but were still very very soft. The laces looked a little on the thin side to me, but this didn't worry me too much. I was just a little worried they might cause the same problems as the Asics Gel FujiTrainer 2's. They also look fantastic, with the Inov8 logo emblazoned on the side underneath the plastic overlays.
The midsole was very very soft, and having seen the Inov8 Road-x 233, was a bit surprising to me. The 233 has a 6mm drop, so only 3mm less than this one, but the midsole material is completely different. The 233 feels very firm and responsive, yet, the in the 255 i found the midsole strangely spongy, but just as responsive. This is a shoe that my feet just felt comfortable on. The use of a Dynamic Fascia Band helped the shoe feel springy in the forefoot, and responsive all the way through.
The upper is made of mesh, with overlays melted onto the surface. This results in a feeling of comfort, and stability without any irritation. The toe box is round as I mentioned earlier, and has a reinforced end, which adds to the feeling of safety, and gives your toes plenty of room to move, not just side to side, but up and down as well. This felt weird at first, but was extremely comfortable after about 3 minutes of wear! The heel has a external counter of kinds, but it isn't as solid as you might expect. This would be an issue if the Inov8 Road-x 255 was an out and out heel strikers shoe, but as a transition/forefoot shoe, was expected. The cushioning is only there to protect you in case you do heel strike, and with this in mind, the heel counter makes sense in being a little flexible. It goes along with Inov8s ethos of letting your feet control the shoe.
The outsole is a very smooth, sticky and hard wearing rubber compound, which looking at it doesn't look very grippy. However, when you put them on, you notice how the rubber has been treated, and can actually feel your feet stick to the floor. The addition of laser cut grooves is also a nice touch, in that it helps 'bite' the floor when you flex the sole whilst moving, and retains excellent flexibility. Combine this with the Metaflex grove under the metatarsal head, and you can see how this shoe has been designed to transition you into forefoot running. You just feel more at home running like that. The outsole also has a line separating the big the from the rest of them. You cannot really feel this, so I'm intrigued to see how if feels when I run.
I can safely say, this is one of the most comfortable shoes I have ever had the pleasure of running in. It feels just as comfortable as day one, and was noticeably easier to run forefoot in than a regular shoe with a built up heel. The Dynamic Fascia band was only really noticeable when I put on my other shoes to run in, which is a good thing, as it makes your running feel effortless. They were flexible, soft, and my toes never touched the sides, but didn't feel lost in the shoe. They were also very stable when it came to heel striking. I end up on my heels at around the 5km mark, and have noticed nothing through my shins or knees, and the shoes have not been distorted in any way. The toe groove mentioned earlier seems to make a difference too, in that it guides your foot forwards, and allows your big toe to work independently, which results in a smooth toe off. The one issue I had was that with my very 'athletic' (read: skinny) feet and ankles, I had to pull the laces tight, and wit thin laces, this could feel a little uncomfortable towards the end of my run. However, it wasn't such a problem that I had to even change the laces, more just me trying to find something negative about the shoe.