Inov-8 has a long standing history of being a “functional fitness” shoe, without actually saying anything about being a functional fitness shoe. When I first started fitnessing, there weren’t very many options; Reebok, Inov-8 or Vibram. I owned a few pairs of Vibrams but I was on the tail end of my “barefoot” phase. Reebok was, well, just Reebok. Inov-8 was completely new to me, and the 195’s were on sale, so I went that route. The feeling I first got when I put them on was unlike any I ever had when I first got a shoe; they felt exceptional. Minimal, but not barefoot, fitted but flexible, and oh so lightweight. Not to mention the grey and red colorway was beautiful. It had all the makings of a functional fitness shoe, features that would be mainstays for all the fitness shoes for years to come. Until they didn’t…
Inov-8 training shoes are distinguished by their “F-Lite” monicker. Now you’ve got two different styles of fit, with their precision (narrow) and standard (wider) fits. That old 195 has gotten a few improvements over the years, but still remains true to its heritage; bare bones, lightweight and functional. A year ago or so, the 235 came on to the scene, providing something a little more similar to what the “big brands” were doing, with a slightly wider platform, increased rope protection, and a thicker, but more dense outsole. With the addition of the F-Lite 250, we see most of those same traits, with something radically different: a raised heel.
Typically, with Oly shoes, you’ll find anything from a .75″ heel (Romaleo/Adipower), all the way to 1.25″ (Anta/Position). With both Inov-8 oly shoes and the 250’s, you’ll find a 17mm/.65″ heel, only a tenth of an inch shorter than two of the most popular lifting shoes in the world. Why not a full 3/4 inch, probably because these shoes are mainly marketed towards functional fitnessers, whereas the Romaleos and Adipower are weightlifting shoes that have been adapted to fitness. An elevated heel, helps out with correcting mistakes and improving mobility, but having too high of a heel can be bothersome when you’re doing things like running and box jumps. Due to the nature of Oly shoes, they also have an incompressible heel and a rigid outsole, making them unsuitable for most metcons.
Since the 250’s were made for fitness as a whole, the heel is slightly more forgiving for things like running, but is still far more dense than a typical outsole, even more so than the forefoot of this shoe; which is still very flexible as it’s made for agility tasks. Metaflex grooves enhance toe splay for running and their facia band helps provide energy through the midfoot while running. The forefoot stands at 7mm from the ground, making the heel to toe drop 8mm, which is much steeper than normal training shoes, but never feels uncomfortable or even out of the ordinary. If you’re one of those people that are constantly switching between lifting shoes and trainers, you will love the F-Lite 250. Even with the raised heel, I managed to pull 535 for a deadlift PR; albeit with a tad bit of forward lean at the top. That just goes to show you how dense the outsole is on the 250.
Another thing that is inherent with Oly shoes is the weight of them. That 250 in the name, refers to how many grams the shoes weigh, in ounces just under 9 oz.! They’re not even the lightest shoe you can get from Inov-8 and they still weigh less than most of the competition. Both weight and the outsole density translate into overall response time, basically meaning how fast the shoes react to your movements. Heavier shoe and squishier, cushioned outsole = slower movements and bad power delivery. I hope things are starting to come together yet about the F-Lite 250.
When sizing the 250’s, you should go with whatever you’d normally wear in Reebok’s or Nike’s. Half a size up from Chuck Taylors or Inov-8 195’s. I consider this shoe “true to size”. For reference, I wear size 9.5 in Reebok, Nike, F-Lite 250 and size 9 in Chucks and 195’s.
This shoe is EXCELLENT for all things functional fitness, it truly is well rounded, like the athletes it caters to. Imagine doing a workout like “Amanda” (ring muscle-ups/snatches), where you would want to be able to have nothing weighing you down, but would benefit from a raised heel. By adding the Powerheel and retaining the legendary lightweight/flexible qualities that Inov-8 shoes are known for, they took a step outside of the box and totally nailed it with the 250. The main issue that I have with the shoe is that there just aren’t any interesting colorways yet. Another thing I fear is that many will overlook this shoe just because it’s not one of the “big brands” and they haven’t sponsored any of the “popular” athletes. If you’re contemplating this shoe, don’t, just buy it and enjoy it. My only regret is not picking this one up earlier! While Inov-8 (a huge thank you to them!) provided this shoe to me for review, that does not affect my elation for the 250. You owe it to yourself to try this shoe out, they’re just that good.