From time to time I enjoy putting on a pair of racing flats and taking a run. Sure, they are more cushioned than the typical minimal shoe, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I’ve preached for a long time that the feet have muscles, and they need to be worked. Well that means they also should enjoy a rest from time to time, and that is where a shoe like the 155 from Inov-8 comes in handy. Of course this shoe is much more than a recovery shoe, and if you enjoy running in light, fast, and comfortable shoes then you should read on as this could be the perfect shoe for you.
Back in January I reviewed the F-Lite 195 from Inov-8, and they are great shoes. There were some things I would have changed on that shoe, and it appears that Inov-8 has listened. I wasn’t the only one talking, but I will continue to believe that it was all me. Inov-8 is a company that believes in the natural biomechanics of the body and wants to help runners employ those so they create footwear to help encourage that. They recently released a four-shoe series to help people adapt and transition to a more natural running form. In creating their Shoc-Zone system they have given runners an easy way to gradually ease into changing the way they run. Many people say the best way is to just dive right in and completely change your form, but I have worked with runners for years, and I have seen a lot of serious injuries come from such a drastic change so I applaud Inov-8 for taking a more conservative approach.
The Road-X Lite 155 is at the minimal end of the Shoc-Zone spectrum weighing in at 5.5 oz and having a thinner sole than the other shoes in the line. I measured the sole without the insoles in (my preferred way of wearing this shoe) and got some interesting numbers. The info I was given on the shoe said it has a 3mm drop which is not bad and is the same as the 195s, which I barely noticed. I measured the sole without the insole and it doesn’t add much as it measured in at 2mm. I came up with measurements of 10mm in the heel and 7mm under the forefoot so the three milimeter drop was there as advertised. (Inov-8 confirmed that it does have a 3mm drop going from 10mm heel to 7mm toe)
The sole is comprised of a unique injection molded Fusion Sole, and I like the way it feels. It is super light and really flexible. Like the 195 it feels really spongy to the touch but not when under foot, and I still cannot figure out how they pull this off. I got these out of the box and immediately thought they would feel like walking on marshmallows, but instead they feel firm and give me nice feedback. Inov-8 says this sole is not the most durable, and they rate it at 300 miles because there is nothing protecting it. There is no blown rubber or anything of the sort, which helps to make this shoe so light and flexible. They left the Dynamic Fascia Band off of this shoe to allow for the natural strength of the foot to have its way. Basically that means they didn’t add anything special to this sole but instead made it wonderfully simple. I have nearly 300 miles on mine and do not see any signs of this shoe breaking down just yet. In fact they still look quite new outside of the once pretty white sole now being mostly black. I have spent all of my time in these shoes on the road, sidewalks, and the track so they should be showing some signs of scuffing, but there is nothing there. Being a racing flat I would say the 300 mile recommendation is fair, but I also believe you can get much more out of these shoes if you want.
The upper is basically the same as the 195, and I like it a lot. It’s a nice bright yellow and everyone will see you coming. The design and structure are simple to allow for lighter weights and more foot function. They use the same heat molded rubber material along the sides of the shoe to give it structure as well as provide a durable eyelet for the laces. There is also a small amount of it on the heel of the shoe to keep the heel cup shaped properly. Most people will look at these things and think they are merely decorative, and I think that’s a good thing when function can become part of the aesthetics. There is also some rubber poured over the toe box to keep it shaped as well as provide some scuff protection to the toes. This material is light, flexible, and not noticeable beyond its looks. The upper is a nice open sandwich mesh that you would find on most running shoes so it’s pretty standard except for the awesome yellow color.
I wasn’t sure where to talk about the toe box on this one so it gets its own paragraph. One of my issues with the 195 was an awkward toe box. It was long and narrow in a way that has always felt weird to me. It never caused an issue with performance, but I just never truly adapted to it. The 155 erases that completely! The toe box has much more natural shape that allows for a good amount of toe space. It’s not quite foot shaped, but it’s leaning in that direction. In all honesty I like that it isn’t completely foot shaped. The slight taper that it does have seems to hug my foot just right for going fast. If you race to win then you know what I mean by that, and you will enjoy the way this toe box feels. If you are not an all-out speed runner you will still really like the way this toe box feels. Bottom line is that Inov-8 got this right.
In terms of performance this shoe does not leave you wanting. The shoe is light, and I cannot stress that enough. It weighs 5.5 ounces but it does not come anywhere near feeling like that much. Even when holding it in your hand you get a feeling that it might just float away. I believe this is due to the designers doing a really great job of keeping the weight balanced throughout the shoe as neither end of the shoe feels heavier than the other. When running the shoe is responsive and gives you good feedback about terrain changes. You know when your foot has made impact, and it just feels good. It is easy to keep a good natural forefoot landing which I really like about this shoe. You can heel strike in it if you would like as the sole offers enough protection for that, but I do not recommend these if you are a heavy heel striker as that will probably leave you with sore feet. This shoe is meant for speed, pure smooth speed. It’s a racing flat, and it acts as such. You can use it as a daily trainer if you like a more minimal shoe, but I can see this being a great pair of shoes to pull out of the bag on race day to lead you to some new personal
I have one and only one negative for this shoe, and this is arch support. The 195s had a slight bit of posting on the sole right in front of the heel cup. It took a run or two to get used to, but after that the shoe always felt good as it was not really supporting my foot. For the 155 they left the posting on the shoe, but they moved it forward considerably, and it falls right in the middle of my arch. If you don’t know what I mean by posting you can see it in the pictures I posted below. It is nothing more than a slight raise in the height of the shoe material placed in the same place on both sides of the shoe. It’s a subtle addition but one that was really noticeable for me. I have never liked any kind of arch support and spend the majority of my time running in very minimal shoes so this may go completely unnoticed by others. I actually had a few people try these shoes on, and I found that barefoot/minimal runners noticed it but said it wasn’t an issue, and my friends who wear more conventional shoes had no idea what I was talking about. My first run in these left me with a foot that had fallen asleep mid-run as well as some arch pain. I played with the shoe and decided that I just didn’t like the shoe with the insoles in place. There is nothing wrong with the insoles as they are just a standard foam insert that is actually very thin, but I found that the issue was greatly reduced to an almost “not there” feeling after I
took the insoles out.
Since the removal of the insoles I have enjoyed a lot of miles in these shoes and that is why I was able to give so many positives on this shoe. Most shoes out there have some level of arch support in them, and I have yet to find a racing flat that doesn’t, so this subtle posting becomes standard to me and I approach it as such. If you are used to such things in your shoes then this issue for me will go unnoticed by you. If you are a barefoot runner looking to have a recovery shoe then this is still a great option for you, but you might have to feel your way into like I did.
Overall I have to say this is a great shoe and the one negative I had about it was not enough to make me think negatively of it. I wear it weekly at this point for all manner of activities that include everything from running to just lounging.