Before I even started crossfit, I had been doing research into what the best shoe for crossfit was; lo and behold, the most common response was Inov-8 F-Lite 195’s. I had been into minimalist shoes even before I went ahead and got my first pair of 195’s but I had never felt a shoe quite like them; I fell instantly in love with how the 195’s felt on my feet. They felt like a shoe that I had worn for a year already, no need for any kind of break in. Not to mention they just felt agile. Maybe it’s because I never really had a great shoe prior to them; I loved them, but honestly after I started crossfit, I had to have a pair of Nano’s…and I quickly made that my shoe of choice. Not that there was anything wrong with the Inov-8’s, it’s just that I preferred the wider base of the Nano’s for lifting to the running shoe like stance of the 195’s. I’ve always liked Inov-8 for what they are, the little guy, the OG, not the mainstream…but there wasn’t a perfect pair for me just yet. The Hylete/Inov-8 252 might just be the shoe that changes all that.
The Hylete Crosstrainer is based on top of the Inov-8 F-Lite 252, and from what I understand, the difference is basically just branding and a colorway. The Inov-8 252 is and heavier (8.9 oz.) than a “normal” Inov-8 shoe, but it’s still lighter than most other trainers out there (Nano 3.0 = 9.4 oz). The shoe fits in the middle of their “Natural” lineup, offering a 3mm drop at 9mm at the heel and 6mm at the forefoot. Still a very minimalist shoe but not quite as much as the 232 sporting a 0mm drop. You can expect your shoes to be fine after rope climbs with their new “Rope-Tec” burn guard. The major difference between the F-Lite Precision line (240/230/195/192) and the Natural line (262/252/232) is that it offers a wider fit for your toes to splay and to get better torque out of those heavy lifts. In0v-8 seems to be challenging Reebok’s Nano’s, as Reebok had challegened Inov-8 with their Speed and upcoming Sprint lines.
Could this be the shoe that takes makes me revert back to Inov-8? Let’s take a look…
All black errthang, kind of.
With the Hylete model of the 252, you get a plethora of laces with the shoe. I opted to use the black laces just to give it that stealthy look but occasionally I will switch the laces up to random colors depending on how I feel. The actual shoe itself looks pretty reminiscent of every other Inov-8 shoe, minus the wacky color schemes. I can’t say much about the looks of the shoe, you either hate it or love it and I think they look pretty swell. Though for some reason, as similar as it looks to the 195, I still think that the 195 has a more full, and better look to it. Call me crazy, but that’s just how I feel. Besides the Hylete colorway, which I think is the best, I’m also a fan of the 252 in the red/white/blue color scheme (though discontinued); the rest of them are pretty fugly, in my humble opinion. Running at night? Get the Hylete version for the reflective logos and save yourself from a certain doom.
This is where the 252 really shines. If you disliked your Nano’s because you running in them sucks or if you disliked your Inov-8’s because they were too narrow for lifting, well then this shoe is for you. Inov-8 nails an almost perfect blend of training and running shoe. They feel lightweight and agile so that running doesn’t feel like more of a chore than it already is. While Nano’s still sport a better lifting platform, the extra width of the 252 bridges the gap well enough so that if you wanted a running shoe that is great for lifting, you’ve come to the right place. From heavy back squats to box jumps, I made sure to put the 252 through it’s paces and come to the conclusion that it does ALMOST everything in crossfit very, very well. Almost. The one thing that I wasn’t much of a fan of doing in the 252’s was rope climbs (not that I liked them in the first place). I use the method that wraps the rope around your shin and comes over your foot, and I was never able to get as secure a grip on the rope as I normally am able to with Nano’s. Maybe I’m just not used to it, but I haven’t run into this issue before on my other shoes. Though, I would trade a little bit of grip climbing the rope for a better running shoe.
I tried this shoe on in both size 9 and 9.5 in mens. I wore a size 9 in ALL of my other Inov-8’s (besides the Fastlift), and in order from oldest models to newest models, they’ve all seem to have shrunken down. 195’s were kind of big on me, 210’s fit pretty well, 260’s borderline too tight, and the 252’s were just too tight up front. My 2nd toe jammed in to the front of the shoe. Sized up to a 9.5 and while my toe still jammed a little, it wasn’t much and was wearable. I think I could go up one size but I do prefer my shoes snug. For reference, I wear a 9 in Nano 1’s &2’s, 9.5 in 3.0’s, Nike 9.5 and 9 Chucks. The width is perfect, my toes splay comfortably even with the bunion on my right foot while still providing enough support in the mid foot. You’ll probably want to go half a size up.
Here’s a tough spot for this shoe. The retail on these bad boys is $120…Granted you can always find Inov-8’s on sale for somewhere in the $70 range. Hylete offers AWESOME train and compete team deals, and that’s where I got my shoes from. On sale, they’re VERY competitive with Nano’s. At full price, you better try both of the shoes on before you make a final decision. $120 to me, is a lot to drop on a pair of shoes.
Since I received my 252’s, I haven’t sought out my Nano’s, my original “go-to”. Partly for testing/review reasons, but a lot just because I really like them. It’s refreshing to wear a completely different shoe, but not an entirely different shoe for your purposes. If you’re sick of your Nano’s or you wanted a little more width in your Inov-8’s, I’d recommend giving the Hylete/Inov-8 252’s a shot.
(If you do, be sure to refer me (Joel Te) when you’re purchasing!)