In this resurfacing world of barefoot or forefoot running there are too many brands, like always, that claim they have what you’re looking for. Asics , New Balance, Nike all claim to have the best running shoe for any particular style. For most people a running shoe will also be their work-out, everyday, go-get-groceries shoe, but for those of us that know shoes, like most consumer goods, were made with a particular audience and function in mind, there’s one brand that stands out to me: Inov-8.
I shopped around for a long time, and went to numerous running specialty stores before I could finally feel comfortable pounding the pavement with a pair of Inov-8 Road-x 233’s. Inov-8 is a company that is known more for their CrossFit style shoe, they’re light weight, minimal, and rugged enough to do thousands of burpees before they fall apart (if you haven’t done a thousand burpees, your one of the lucky ones). The company is primarily geared toward helping runners and athletes get back to natural running which, according to their website, “relies on the strength of the runner’s feet and legs rather than the cushioning or support of a shoe.” So, comfort is not what they have in mind at all, right? Well you would think that, but Inov-8 has done a fantastic job of weaning it’s customers from a big bulky pair of Nike Shox, to what’s called a zero drop shoe. A zero drop shoe has to do with the millimeter differential between the height of the heel and to the ball of the foot. Known as a heel-drop, the classic pair of Nike Shox, of which I had plenty of in high school, had a 15+mm heel-drop. It sounds like lunacy when you see that the norm is ~12mm and now shoe companies are making zero drop shoes (0mm from heel to ball of foot).
Inov-8 is a company that acknowledges the fact that some of us made the mistake of buying big bulky shoes in the past and so they have a scale of shoes with different heel-drop heights to them. Starting at 9mm, the company makes shoes in 3mm increments so the next transition stage is 6mm, then 3mm, and finally down to 0mm. See there full explanation on their website.
The pair I chose was the Road-x 233. They have a 6mm heel drop on them because I wanted to transition into what was comfortable to me, not dive right into a zero drop shoe. After putting a couple hundred miles on them, I have been thouroghly impressed by how well they’ve held up. They have a few stitches coming fraying off and their pure white exterior has turned a dingy light brown, but other than just the normal wear and tear they are still going strong. I was a little hesitant about the soles of the shoe because there isn’t any real lugs to them, which isn’t a big deal if you’re just running on pavement, but occasionally I like to cut across the park on a short semi-trail run. The sole isn’t you’re normal rubber with light lugs engraved into a neat design that only you care about. They are actually pretty flat on the front half and heel of the shoe with what’s called a sipe cut. This sipe cut is a small zig-zag cut in the rubber that isn’t noticeable until you flex the shoe backward and they spread apart. A lot of boat shoes will put this in their design because they are extremely good at creating enough friction and surface area so you don’t slip. And I’ll attest to that, I haven’t had one unsure foot in anyone of my runs. And in fact, they’re pretty stout too. I remember running one day and felt something big stuck to my shoe, at first i thought it was a rock stuck in between the lugs, but remembering the shoes don’t really have lugs, I stopped to check it out. It turns out I had about a quarter size piece of beer bottle lodged in my shoe. Good thing I wasn’t running in a zero drop shoe…
Another great attribute to these shoes is the anatomical fit. Inov-8 wins me over again by incorporating this into most of their shoes. The anatomical fit is different than you average shoe fit in that, the toe box is a little wider than normal with everything else being a little tighter. This allows the foot to splay and spread out when landing on your forefoot. Again, they want you to run with a natural motion so that’s supposed to happen. I found that some of the other shoes I own can actually force my foot to land differently if they don’t have ample room in the toe box, especially towards the end of my runs when I get lazy.
Finally, shoe is also extremely lightweight. I love the feeling of putting on a new pair of shoes in the store and barely feeling them on my foot. Anyone who has ever done any sort of heavy backpacking knows the old adage of “an ounce on you feet is a pound on your back,” and that’s never a good thing no matter how cool you look. With the Road-X 233’s the name says how light they actually are, 233 grams. That’s it! And when mile 5 rolls around of your 7-mile run, you still hardly feel them.
So there you have it, in my book Inov-8 is tested and proven to be one of the premier barefoot/natural running motion shoes out in the market. They’re transition stages of heel-drop, the fit, and how light all of their shoes are (just look at the last number to get the weight in grams) make this company on the top of my list for running shoes. And, as always if any of you have questions feel free to call our shop or just leave a comment on here, we love our customers and realize that we’re still here because of you guys.