Straight out of the box these were clearly another fantastic looking trail and fell shoe from Inov-8. The colour scheme looks fast, professional and attractive. Couple this with the serious studs on the sole of this minimalist trail shoe and you can see why it may get the heads turning of anyone interested in finding a decent, lightweight high-performance fell and trail runner!
The sole is comprised of huge cleats for extreme mud conditions and steep accents and decents. It is made from Inov-8's excellent and well-proven sticky rubber compound for grip on wet and rocky surfaces as well as mud and grass. There is a meta-flex incorporated into this shoe but no midsole construction as has been seen on previous models. The differential is only 3mm, so this shoe is built for the minimalist and racing market of trail runners with strong calves and feet.
The upper seems to be made of a highly-durable rip-stop outer, with a smoother sock like lining and 6mm footbed. Around the toe area there is a band of thick and durable plastic/rubber material to protect the toes and prevent mud and debris from wearing the material away and creating holes. Over the top of all of this is the lacing system that holds the foot in place. A very good system.
The ups and downs:
These shoes look great. The lacing system is fantastic and the material seems very durable. However, it wasn't all good news when I took them for a run.....
Straight away the shoe was clearly too narrow a fit for my feet. Others may find the last OK but for me it is not comfortable at all. The material allows no room for stretch and the toes are crunched together. I decided to see if they would become better as my run continued. They gripped really well over grass and mud and a variety of gravel and stony paths. However, the narrow fit was starting to really hurt my feet. On top of this, the band surrounding the toe area is a very strong and tough material. Sadly, it decided to bend in one particular place on both feet at the metertarsal flex point and cave towards the toes. This meant that on every step the material dug into my big toes and left me with a terrible blister. I do not see how this would improve as the material is very tough. Maybe with different shaped feet or very thick socks this may not be a problem, but for me, these shoes left my feet feeling constricted, crushed and blistered. I was also surprised and disappointed at how clumpy and heavy these shoes felt for a supposedly lightweight trail shoe.
Sadly, these shoes, as good looking as they may be, had to be sent back. They simply do not fit my feet comfortably. I would not categorise them as a bareform shoe, rather they are a minimalist trail and fell shoe. For someone not too worried about barefoot feel and biomechanics, with narrow feet and looking for a sturdy but slightly lighter than usual fell shoe for serious and extreme conditions, this may be the shoe for you??!!
How would I like to see these improved?
- a much wider fit
- a softer material surrounding the toes
- 0mm differential
- slightly lighter and less cushioning
My search for the perfect bareform trail shoe continues......