Customer Reviews: Inov-8 F-Lite 195 Lightweight Racing Shoe
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on May 18, 2012
Shoes really matter, but not for the reasons most weekend warriors think. For example, if you spend a lot of time looking for high cushioning and support, or if you buy shoes because a sales guy at the running store put you on a treadmill and video your feet to show you how a certain shoe "corrects" your stride, you might be caught off-guard by the Inov-8 approach.

Here's why:

During recent decades, running shoes have been designed to help initially prevent injuries in poorly conditioned legs and feet by building shoes that replace natural body functions with artificial stabilization and extra cushioning. The resulting problem is that the person using those shoes initially becomes more aerobically fit and starts running faster and longer... without their feet and legs being structurally strengthened to handle the increased demand. Before long, the shoes can't continue to compensate for the fact that the person's feet and legs' inner structures simply aren't trained to handle the running. It's too-much too-soon meets too-little too-late. Consequently, painful "overuse" injuries (shinsplints, knee pain, back pain, stress fractures, tendonitis, fasciitis, etc.) are practically an inevitability for many well-intentioned and dedicated aspiring runners who take up jogging or join a cross country or track team.

A very large number of "overuse" injuries in otherwise healthy people result from a combination of two factors. 1) Weak/underused feet and leg structures, as described above; & 2) Bad running form - it doesn't immediately hurt to run improperly on 2" of cushioning, but bad form will catch up to you as you increase mileage. Really, the problem isn't "overuse" so much as "use" when, thanks to laziness and bad shoes, critical parts of our bodies are only conditioned to "under-use".

The solution is to make the following transition: Stop running in shoes that put us on a cushy path to a painful destination and carefully learn to run in shoes that enable our bodies to run the way we were actually built to run. Most people are completely capable of much more running than you might think, but it takes a little work to correct years of under-use. This transition will require a little patience as you build the strength in your legs and feet to avoid injuries. It will also require learning to run with healthier running form, which is a lot easier on your body as well as more efficient for long distance.

Inov-8 shoes are designed to enable your foot, not to support it to the extent of replacing natural foot functions. In other words, if you are out of shape and decide to start running 20+ miles per week exclusively in this shoe, you are taking a risk. The shoes are designed for the runner who is making or has already made the transition as described above. Inov-8's entire product line is built on a minimalist philosophy. More and more runners and fitness buffs are realizing that the Inov-8 approach is, indeed, a better approach. (Not to mention a darned good shoe in terms of materials and quality as well as design.)

If you have not carefully transitioned to a minimalist running style and built up strong feet and legs for this type of shoe, a sudden switch could injure you. Take the transition slowly because your feet and legs need to get strong enough to actually do what they are built to do.

Inov-8 shoes are generally comfortable, very well built, and perfectly able to carry a fit runner through many hundreds, and even a thousand, happy miles. However, they do not replace under-used arches or compensate for pounding, heel-striking strides. (Contrary to popular myth, flat-footed runners can run just fine in these shoes - if they get their feet and legs in shape. Flat feet are not the running liability many have been lead to believe. See the "comments" for more on flat feet.)

How can I say all this? I have flat feet, terrible pronation, and am 6'3" tall. I ran four years of cross country in high school and was on the varsity squad for a state-championship team. The whole time, I fought miserable shinsplints, knee pain, and back pain. I popped Advil like tic-tacs. I loved the sport and ran relatively good 5K times but my chronic pain was bad enough to sideline me for all of track season senior year. Any time I increased my intensity or mileage, the problems got worse. Doctors were talking about "scar tissue" and "surgery". Well-meaning doctors told me to stop running. They said my body just wasn't made for it. Shoe-store employees continued to put me into higher support, more motion control, more cushioning to try and "correct" my feet and legs.

It wasn't until college that a former teammate (who is now a professional runner partially sponsored by Inov-8) explained the concept of minimalist running to me. Although I was in good aerobic condition, I spent a month resting and then the better part of three months carefully re-training from scratch, patiently overhauling my form to be more efficient, working my way into exclusively running in racing flats (Inov-8 wasn't available yet), and allowing my feet and legs to get much stronger and more flexible.

Since then, I run further and faster than ever before, with no more "overuse injury" bullcrap. My training mileage has at one point been greater than 90 miles per week. I have competed in a major marathon and placed in the top 4 in my age group. I have won a handful of smaller races. Better yet, I have not been injured or hurt ONCE since I made that transition to minimalist shoes and better running form. I haven't even owned a pair of traditional "trainer" shoes in over 8 years. (Much of my training is in an old pair of trashed racing flats with at least 1,500 miles on them. I prefer to use Inov-8 for more rugged terrain and tougher trails, where they excel, but they have models that make good trainers on almost any terrain. When my beloved racing flats finally die, I'll replace them with an Inov-8 racing model.)

I consider myself a "weekend warrior" and I am a far cry from an "elite" runner. Had I listened to the well-meaning doctors who told me I just wasn't built to run and should give it up, I would have stopped years ago. Inov-8 understands that we humans are literally built to be running machines. Tap into it, and enjoy.
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on January 29, 2012
I am avid Crossfitter and have found these shoes to be the best while working out. They are minimalist, but still have enough of a sole for running and any other fast paced movement. Inov-8s have a perfect balance of lightweight, traction, and durability to them. These shoes breathe extremely well, very important while working out. Additionally, the liner fabric is comfortable enough with or without socks. I have put these shoes through paces and have still managed to remain in great condition. They feel light as a feather and they provide just enough protection from all the workouts I do. If you want to avoid cushioning, overblown support, and padding, these shoes are for you! Inov-8s are the next best thing to a "barefoot shoe". If you are looking for a shoe for lifting, running, rowing, and much more activity, then Inov-8s are for you.
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on May 18, 2015
These shoes are just as poor of character as VanHorn Shoes, the company that sells them.
1) sizes listed do not match up with their US counterparts, leading to a too small shoe being delivered.
2) the craftsmanship is shoddy: Logos double stamped and off kilter; Print is cheaply applied and irregular; Laces are too small for the shoes; Shoe uppers are glued off-center to the soles; Shoe glue visibly spills out of the seams; The sole 'core' loses fidelity from the moment they're walked in, even if only on carpet; the list goes on.
3) company disregards purchasers: I had to pay return shipping AND a 20% restocking fee to return of product ($50 total). No offer from the company to replace with a properly constructed / sized product. No helpful customer service at all.

Not only will I never buy from this company again, but I pledge to share my experience with everyone I know, everyone I run with, everyone I work out with at the gym, and everyone involved in my crossfit community.

For a final thought: As far as I'm concerned VanHorn Shoes, through sheer virtue alone, owes me $50. Don't set yourself up to be let down by this company too. At the very least, if you're absolutely dead set on purchasing these shoes, purchase them from someone other than VanHorn Shoes.
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on July 8, 2013
I got these shoes for crossfit-esque types of workouts about a year ago. However, I've ended up wearing them for everything, now. They are very lightweight, have a very minimal drop and feel pretty close to other more minimal shoes like merrells. I will say, they've broken down a bit more than I expected. BUT, that could easily be attributed to just too much work (day after day of heavy squatting, heavy deadlifting, heavy olympic lifts, running, etc) OR really high expectations. If I could do it again, I would still get these, but I might get a pair of Oly-shoes for my more weightlifting-dedicated days, that way these wouldn't have been pulverized. They are great, though, and I will be getting another.
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on October 18, 2012
I've owned these shoes for approximately 10 months now (Christmas 2011), and I have been CrossFitting for about 2 years. It was great to see a shoe company recognize the demand the running/lifting/athletic market was taking. I used to run barefoot for most of my CF runs. But I wanted to reduce my mile times, so I needed to get footwear. Enter the 195.

These shoes will teach you very quickly how to run. What I mean is that if you are a "heel-first striker," you'll notice instantly that you can no longer do this for a long run. These shoes will force you to land on the midsole and/or on the toes. (Which is a good thing. If you're not used to running like this, get ready for sore calves for a few weeks.)

I've taken these shoes through many mud-runs, 5/10/15k's, and one half-marathon. They hold up very well for running. If you're looking for a run-specific minimalist shoe, this is a good entry level shoe.

In CrossFit, these shoes are OK. When doing squats, overhead presses, or any other olympic / dynamic movement, it's important to not have a cushion on your heel (that most jogging shoes have), because heavier weights will throw you off balance. The reason I gave these shoes 4 stars is because of the rope climb. I use the brake-squat method to climb ropes. Doing this almost destroyed my shoes in one climb. I tore a large chunk of the rubber soles off my right shoe, and my left shoe began to fray just above the toe box.

A word on size: The toe-box is very generous. At first, you'll feel like you bought the wrong size. However, this is to allow your toes to spread out during runs.

Ultimately, if you're new to CrossFit and you're looking for a good minimalist shoe that will aid you with better running form, you can't go wrong here. Just watch yourself when climbing ropes. If you know how to run, and you're looking for a more advanced shoe, this probably isn't it.
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on January 17, 2015
This is my second pair that I've had. I've put over 300 miles on these at a time the rubber coating will start to degrade on the toes but I haven't had any separation of the sole. The rubber coating issue I would chalk up as being in an adverse environment because in the Middle East in the summer time all your clothes are soaked from sweat pretty much 75% of the day in 120 degree plus heat.

The mesh material allows for great breathability and you can feel the wind blow through them if you're wearing a lite sock.
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on July 13, 2012
I usually wear a size 12 asics gel nimbus and read varying reviews on sizing comparison. Most reviews said get either the same size as asics or get a half size down. I think i ended up reading more reviews that said they got the same size, so i ended up getting size 12 and when i got them they were way big. I ended up returning the 12s and ordering a pair of 11.5s, got them and they fit great! I may be able to go down another half size, but these fit great. Overall i really like the shoes. They are a big difference from the gel nimbus. They make you feel you are wearing less of a shoe and give you better support for crossfit exercises as well as a more natural running stride. When i first got them they felt narrow compared to the asics, idk if they have just worn in or i got used to the extra lateral support at the ball of the foot.
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on December 17, 2011
Let me start by saying I have *really* hard to fit feet. I'm a US women's 8 in most brands, with a very wide forefoot, very narrow heel. I'm actually more like a women's 7.5 street size, but because women's shoes aren't wide enough in the forefoot, I size up and put up with heel slip by using crazy lace patterns and heel shims. Most "unisex" (men's) shoes lead to heel blisters even if they're small enough to hit my toes. These have no such issues - they're light and stretchy and wrap around my weird triangular feet with a gentle glove-like fit that gives my toes room to spread and my heels a snug, slip-proof grip. Once the laces are tied, the entire shoe just disappears. For me they run "true to size" in that my size 8 women's foot fits perfectly in the 6.5 UK/unisex sizing, which is what I got. They have a little room in the toe, but not awkwardly so, and as I said, the length of my foot is more like a women's 7.5 US on a Brannock device, so they're very true to what I'd expect.

I am not a high mileage runner. I'm really not a runner at all, but I do some running to cross-train for cycling in the winter. I took a parkour class earlier this year to build strength and agility, and the Innov-8 brand was recommended by the coach. So when I recently discovered Amazon carries them on Prime, I decided to try them out. I've been using Vibrams but in the cold and snow of our Colorado winters, they just don't quite cut it, and I'd gone back to my old running shoes, which cause me some issues. I started using minimal shoes after years of struggling with 'stability' running shoes that fit poorly, and seemed to only contribute to the shin splint and knee pain I'd come to associate with running. I am primarily a road cyclist, and have short, blocky legs with the heavy cyclist-specialized musculature that seems to just contribute to a pounding gait.

I received these a week ago and have run twice in them, doing roughly 4 miles each time. The first run I experienced some calf tightness which led to minor plantar tenderness as well, so I stopped mid-run to stretch out and rub the tight spots and adjust the laces, and after that everything was fine. I actually expected worse on a first run in radically different shoes, so no complaints from me - these shoes will force you to use your calf muscles, so be warned, your calves may fuss a bit as a result, unless you are really accustomed to minimal shoes. No problems at all on the 2nd run, and I even managed to run close to a 6.40 pace for several sections which is just unheard of for me. The lightness and thin sole encourages me to use a shorter, softer, more centered stride, and I can already feel my gait becoming smoother and more natural and less clunky.

I can also tell these shoes should be much safer for trail running than the heavy, blocky "stability" runners I've been using, which have such poor ground feel that it's fairly easy to turn an ankle in them - you never get good "free-flow" on technical trails since you're constantly having to worry about foot placement and backing off. Since taking parkour, I've learned that the key to agility and running well on uneven ground is not stability, but speed, flow and proprioception; meaning, how well you can carry momentum and feel the ground. Many specialized "parkour" shoes worn by high level traceurs look similar to a climbing shoe - they are ultra thin and grippy. These Innov-8 195s are light and grippy enough, and have such great ground feel, that I can't wait until the ice and snow subsides a little bit so that I can take them out on the trails and let them rip.

The bottom line is that these are great lightweight minimal runners. The fit on these shoes may not be for everyone - you can expect a wide forefoot on them, especially if you're a woman. However, they are forgiving, stretchy, and extremely comfortable. The low profile heel will force you to work your calves if you're not used to "barefoot" style shoes, but the grip and ground feel is exceptional, and will be a benefit for a trail runner on rocky ground, as well as people looking to use them as a cross-trainer to use for things like parkour, plyometrics, or crossfit.
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on March 20, 2013
These are definitely not cheap running shoes. When you get them out of the box they look like they are going to fall apart after the first use. Nevertheless they have held up pretty well. I've had them for 6 months or so and I used them for running. They are great shoes if you want a minimalist shoe. I like they and would buy again.
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on September 28, 2012
I got these shoes to perform as lifting and all-around gym shoes. I went with these instead of a barefoot model because I had owned vibrams for almost 4 years for squatting & deadlifting, and I wanted something new.

First Impressions:
When I opened the box I was highly impressed with the look of the shoe. Even though I got the black & white model they still have a flashy & crisp look to them. Seeing them in person does them so much more justice. Upon closer inspection I was upset to see that the white along the soles was shoddily painted on. Being one for function I didn't dwell on it for too long, but if you're big into looks I can guarantee you some disappointment. It looks as if a third grader brushed the white on, and couldn't keep the brush inside the lines. That being said it's only really visible upon close inspection.

The fit:
Typically I wear an 11-12 size shoe depending on the brand. More of the minimalist/barefoot models put me closer to 11/11.5, so I purchased these in an 11.5 to be safe. My foot is slightly on the wide size, but I've never had a problem with standard width shoes. These were a different story, as the toe box is narrow, and the shoe comes to a point. This led to the length being perfect, but my last two toes rub along the side of the shoe despite it being the optimal length for my foot. Should I ever buy these again, I would definitely go with a wider fit. I found that taking out the 3mm padding in the sole allowed for a better feel, but my foot still spills over the sides. The feature I found great was the meta-flex. It allows for a more natural foot bend feel.

The function:
Like I said; I got these as gym shoes for lifting (though I'm not a crossfitter), so my opinion is based primarily on the shoes ability to support my feet under heavy loads. That was my first mistake. I began testing these shoes out with some air squats. They felt pretty good when driving my heels into the ground, but when I inspected them I saw that the crappy white paint job on the soles had some tension lines. I weigh about 185lb, so it worried me that the heel was giving under this pressure. If you're serious about your lifts you know incompressible soles are best for pushing something like a 3 plate squat. That was an instant turn-off. Running and walking is an entirely different story. The combination lightweight feel and meta-flex allow for very comfortable walking/running

I wouldn't recommend these for lifting, as not having a sturdy sole can lead to all sorts of problems. They are, however, one of the best running shoes to grace my feet, and I think they're a great shoe for someone transitioning to minimalist shoes; hence the "ok" rating. If you're a lifter, or crossfitter who's got a passion for oly lifts, then look elsewhere. I'll appease the crossfit population by acknowledging their great functionality for metcon's, but for your own safety it's better to lift in something more stable. I haven't tried inov-8's bare-xf 210, but they seem much better for lifting purposes. For those who want a shoe that will be there for you during heavy lifts invest in an actual weightlifting shoe, or a barefoot model. I'll be sticking to my vibrams/barefoot style shoes for deadlifts. As far as squats I'm going to stop being stubborn and spend the money on real weightlifting shoes.
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