Inov-8 is a brand that I’ve grown to love pretty much all products from. They were actually the first shoe that I bought to train in and I’ve used them pretty extensively over the last 10 years of training. They usually have a certain characteristic about them that makes them unique to themselves, and that’s what I really like about the brand. Late in December 2019, they released the F-Lite G300, which is probably the biggest departure in shoe design that Inov-8 has ever made. I was fortunate enough to receive #11 of 16 pairs initially sent out to athletes – probably one of the coolest things a brand has ever done for me.
When I review shoes, I do it with a specific mindset on how I’m going to use them. Most of the time, that matches the shoe, but there are the odd times it doesn’t. In the case of the F-Lite G300’s, I’m pretty sure my expectations didn’t match what the shoe was designed around. My style of training is based around “the sport of fitness”, which honestly entails everything. Even before the G300’s, Inov-8 had some pretty heavy hitting training shoes for inside the box. So, it wouldn’t make sense for them to make another one, right?
There are a lot of things going on in the G300’s unlike the more stripped down designs we’re used to seeing in a typical Inov-8 shoe. When normally, Inov-8 prides themselves on more minimal but still functional shoes, the G300’s go completely in the opposite direction with tons of engineering and technology.
The upper of the G300’s is comprised of a few different materials. First we have an engineered knit upper that extends from right before the ankle to the toe. A more structured ripstop material completes the heel area of the shoe with a built in heel counter. Then on top of all that there is a TPU cage to secure the midfoot area laced up with some seriously beefy laces.
There are panels lining the knit inside the upper to make it so that certain areas don’t stretch, basically any area that you see solid black on the outside, has targeted structure inside of the shoe. The material overall is a little bit more dense and taut than what you’d normally expect from a knit upper, but it’s still comfortable for the most part. The heel area isn’t too spectacular, but that’s not a bad thing. I’ve never found it to be either uncomfortable around the ankle or not supportive enough. No heel slip to report of either.
Where I’m running into a bit of trouble is the TPU cage, the part closest to my ankle digs into the inside of my foot. While it doesn’t make the shoe unusable, it is pretty distracting. If you have collapsed arches or wide feet, this is definitely going to be a troublesome area for you. It wouldn’t take much to fix this issue of the shoe by just getting rid of the first piece of TPU or just adding a structured panel inside of the shoe in that area.
With the G290’s we saw the introduction of graphene used in a training shoe. In the G300’s, we see the first time graphene is used in the midsole of the shoe. It feels dense but still responsive and should extend the shoe’s lifespan (typical shelf life of a shoe is about 6 months). Covering the midsole is the 360 degree Rope-Tec guard (harder rubber, not TPU) that travels all around the shoe, extends up the sides to cup the midfoot/protect against rope abrasion, and around the heel area of the shoe for some added stability. Pretty smart design to increase stability without making the shoe too rigid all over.
The whole lower portion of the shoe extends more outwards all around as it gets closer to the ground giving you more contact area than what you’d expect from the actual fit of the shoe. A new approach for the brand, but I appreciate this as it gives the shoe a much more stable feel compared to the rest of the Inov-8 line-up.
The drop of the G300’s is 6mm, 14mm stack at the heel and 8mm at the toe. This is quite a bit taller than the G290’s and 235v3 and it’s pretty noticeable. It’s not quite as tall as the All-Train models, but if you’re used to an F-Lite, you might not care for it, like I.
According to Inov-8’s fit scale, the G300’s are a 5, which is their widest shoe. I’d mainly agree with that except for the fact that the TPU cage can say otherwise. If I don’t really lace up the shoes very tight, they’re definitely on the wider side, especially for Inov-8’s standards. Unfortunately, like I mentioned earlier, the TPU cage will rub against the instep of your foot when you lace them up properly. Whether or not you can deal with that for a training session is going to be subjective – I can but this isn’t a shoe that I’d be wearing a lot outside of the gym.
The toe box is definitely on the wide side as well, but it’s almost too wide. I much prefer the more socklike feel of the 235v3’s, which oddly also have a fit scale of 5. In the G300’s, I’ve noticed my toes sliding around a little more than I would like and I’m assuming that is partly because of the increased heel height and room in the toe box. The drop of the shoe is neutral and just kind of acts like a slide for your foot which can be troublesome for certain movements.
Other Inov-8’s like the 260’s have a taller drop but the same heel height but oddly feel shorter than the G300’s. I also don’t remember having any issues with my feet sliding forward either. To be honest, I think the measurements on the G300’s are off – you can tell that the heel is definitely higher on the G300’s than on the 260’s even though the former has a taller listed drop.
Aside from that, the length is right on the money and I would still recommend that you size these shoes exactly like you would your normal shoes. If you’ve got a wide metatarsal area and a narrow midfoot, this is going to be the shoe for you, though I realize that’s a pretty small group of people.
While not quite as flexible as Inov-8’s normally are, I would still consider the G300’s one of the more flexible training shoes. Anytime you start adding more denser materials into the frame of a shoe, you tend to detract from the overall flexibility, which is exactly the case of the G300’s. It’s a little departure of what were accustomed to seeing from Inov-8, but some might not mind the change for what you get back in stability.
That being said – surprisingly, I don’t think the G300’s are all that awful to run in. They’re definitely not as good as the 235’s but despite having a more clunky profile, the midsole is cushioned well and is responsive. It feels like the shoes push you to heel strike, which is going to be fine for most people and even if you don’t normally, heel to toe transition feels smooth so it’s not too hard to get used to it. Typically, I run with a midfoot strike but I can adjust to a heel strike for certain shoes.
Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t the best running shoes or even close to it, but for a training shoe, they’re one of the better ones.
The comfort is adequate when it comes to doing plyometric movements. Flexibility in the toebox is good, probably best area in comparison to the rest of the shoe. Burpees, double unders and box jumps aren’t uncomfortable for your feet to do because of this, but there will be a little bit of a break in time for the rubber Rope-Tec guard before it becomes comfortable for the midfoot.
When comparing the G300’s to pretty much every Inov-8 shoe before it, this is the area that gets the biggest bump – there’s no question that the chassis of the G300’s is beefy, but I personally think there are things that detract from the overall solid lifting experience of the G300’s.
From construction standpoint, the G300’s are most similarly shaped like a Metcon 3/4. The edges of the outsole are very pronounced and sharp, giving you a planted to the ground feel. With lateral movement, these shoes are the best any Inov-8 has ever been. Lunging and cutting movements had a sure footed feel due to the outsole design and grip. The extended contact area of the heel makes for a nice wide, flat base for squatting movements. The shoe’s graphene infused midsole is a great blend of comfort and response. They almost feels a bit springy but not so much that it would cause the shoe to be unstable.
For movements that you can get your feet planted, the G300’s are excellent. I had no problems loading up weight for my backsquat, nor did I ever doubt that I would be able to hit a max squat in these shoes. While they wouldn’t be my first choice for deadlifting due to the stack height and drop, power delivery is excellent so either way it should be fine if you needed something to cover all your bases with if you’re in a pinch.
For cleans, I thought these shoes were great. The month of December was a bit hectic so getting consistent training in was tough, but I was still able to hit a pretty heavy clean triple at 255 with the G300’s on. On the other hand, I had a rough time snatching the same weight I was hitting in other shoes I’m currently testing. I found myself losing a bunch of lifts forward because my feet were sliding down the shoes. After a bit of tuning, I was able to adjust to it but this isn’t a shoe that I could throw on and immediately feel comfortable snatching in. This could vary greatly depending on technique and mobility. I tend to prefer a flatter shoe because my overhead mobility is no bueno.
When it came to other miscellaneous movements around the gym, I didn’t really have any issues. The heel height does work in my favor for wall balls by helping me keep my torso a bit more upright and the platform responsive to keep it going for those longer sets. Box jump rebounding felt snappy, but I did find my feet sliding around a bit when it came to weighted step overs (though thats normal of most shoes). And I did notice the heel of the shoe catching in the rower foot holds – I don’t know if thats by design like on the Metcon, but it works.
At $150, the Inov-8 G300’s fall into the more premium pricing category. Honestly, I probably went into this review thinking this shoe was supposed to be something it wasn’t. In my opinion, the G300’s are more of an everything training shoe v.s. an actual “sport of fitness” trainer. Something more like the Under Armour Project Rock 2 rather than a Nano or Metcon. But with that in mind, I can see why they would want to take another direction since they already have the (excellent) 235v3 and 290.
If that’s something you’re looking for, the G300’s would make for an excellent “WOD” shoe, something great for a plethora of movements and working with submaximal loads. At least that’s what I’ll use them for, but I’ll probably stay away from Oly days with these. Another thing to take into consideration is fit with the TPU cage – try to buy these from someone that has easy returns because you might not be able to live with the cage pushing into the side of your foot. I can only wear them for so long before it drives me crazy and I need to take them off.
Personally, I think I’ll be sticking to the 235v3’s for my training since they work a bit better for all things inside the box. If it were up to me, I would drop the heel of the shoe down considerably and either add more padding to the inside of the shoe to protect against the cage, or just remove the first piece of it. Maybe even make it thinner? I feel like aside from the drop, that part of the shoe is going to be the most detrimental to people.
With all that being said, I love that Inov-8 is trying to actually innovate with new technologies and designs. As tech head, the idea of the G300’s is awesome, but sometimes ideas don’t quite pan out into the final product. Honestly, I really wanted to love these shoes, but I just like them, with my style of training in mind. They’re a better general training shoe, which is what I’d recommend them for, assuming you’re willing to spend the extra bit of money on them.