Review: Inov8 F-Lite 290 G-Series

Deemed the world’s toughest shoe for the world’s toughest workouts I couldn’t wait to get my hands on these new revolutionary wheels. The soles are made from a unique material named graphene, which made me even more excited to try them out. Had Inov8 finally developed a good looking all singing all dancing shoe to take on Nike and Reebok?…

Looks

First things first, there is only one colour in this shoe and praise the lord Inov8 have gone low key with black. Having worn and tested Inov8’s for the last two years I have had a variety of colours in their shoes which sometimes just don’t go with anything. But now, to my delight, they have brought out a mean looking black shoe. This is what I believe Inov8 have been searching for in their no-nonsense approach to a futuristic shoe.

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The futuristic shoe!

When I heard the Inov8 F-Lite 290 G-Series had a new innovative sole I thought that maybe a futuristic colour. I was wrong. It’s hard to even tell that the sole is any different to your generic rubber sole from first glimpses. The graphene is pretty low key to say it’s ‘50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% harder wearing’. The sole follows Inov8s usual pattern with a Meta-Flex grove to allow the forefoot to expand and grip for a quick change in direction. I thought the graphene would stand out in a crowd of soles, but it’s a very modest material from what I can see.  One problem I have had with other Inov8 soles is rope climb durability. The new graphene Rope-Tec inner has ended any doubts of the inner sole ever losing a fight with a climbing rope

On the upper shoe Inov8 have doubled up on material in areas which historically have had high wear. Individual Squares of thicker material line the toe box but keep the shoe flexible. One of the most significant changes in the shoe is the TPU heel lock.

The TPU heel lock sponge pods secure the foot with no room for movement.

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With my other Inov8s the toe box was often the first area to perish, but designers have tried to combat this by introducing kevlar. The kevlar looks and feels like neoprene.

The heel to toe drop is only 4mm from the Exteroflow forefoot and the Powerheal. This makes the F-Lite 290 G -Series flatter than the Reebok Nano and Nike Metcon. If you are used to their 9mm rise these could take some getting used to.

Performance

These shoes are true to size like most of the Inov8s I have had. The toe box in my Inov8 F-Lite 250s is a little big, but nothing major, but the G290s are a snug fit. They almost feel as comfortable as slippers. The heel lock aids this comfort and as it’s extra cushion around the TPU heel collar helps the foot feel secure. The cushion pods around the Achilles allows for zero movements in running and weightlifting movements. The only problem I have with the snug fit is that the kevlar material is not breathable meaning this and the extra TPU heal lock pods trap in all the heat around the foot. Even in the UK, my feet get uncomfortably hot while in the G 290s. I did find that removing the 3mm inner sock liner helped, but as you’d expect that then allows the foot to move a little inside the shoe.

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Rowing in the G290s

The midfoot has Inov8s traditional Adapterweb mesh, which allows the shoe to expand as your feet do during workouts. The lace loops run the full length of the shoe and ensure you can get a good lock on your feet. This ensures that the tongue stays in place behind the laces and doesn’t move. That being said the laces are round and not your traditional flat locking laces. These tend to come untied, so make sure you double knot them.

Inov8 G290’s look and feel bulkier than your traditional F-Lite shoes, but they are still flexible and natural feeling in comparison to competitors. The bulkier size panels on the shoe actually make the foot more secure and ankle more stable when weightlifting. I rarely wear weightlifting shoes and so have used these for most movements including heavy squats, cleans and snatches and there was no problem.

They keep the ankle secure while allowing for flexibility throughout triple extension.

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Lifting in the inov8 F-Lite 290 G-Series

I tested out the graphene sole on rope climbs and as you’d expect it handled them like a boss. These are made to perform inside a CrossFit box on rubber matting. They grip to the floor like no other shoe and even when pushing off the floor during a burpee you can feel the difference. Running outdoors is also no problem. I have tested these out on a wet road surface during a workout, which can sometimes be a problem in other gym shoes.

As these shoes are the best looking Inov8s to date (in my opinion), I have also worn these for leisurely walks and general day to day life activity. They wouldn’t be my first choice of walking or running shoe, but a good hybrid if you’re only taking one shoe on holiday with you for example.

Conclusion

As these are a world first with graphene being used within a shoe, you can expect a big price tag. They retail for £150.

You can get non-graphene gym shoe for a similar price (NoBull and Nike Metcon 4s), so if you look at it like that it’s not actually that bad. Unfortunately, Inov8 don’t use the new graphene wonder material in any of the upper of the shoes. But that doesn’t stop them being one of the most balanced and natural feeling CrossFit shoes on the market. They are definitely the best shoes Inov8 have made for functional fitness.

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Team shoot in the Inov8 F-Lite 290 G-Series

The only problem is that they make your feet annoyingly hot, especially at the end of the workout. The heel lock and kevlar trap the heat in. This doesn’t make them unbearable, but you do notice it.

If you like your feet warming up and love the design as much as me I would definitely recommend at least trying these. Inov8 have now caught Reebok and Nike up with this latest fitness shoe. Some aspects of it are far superior to any other shoe I’ve tried.

In my opinion the next model when developed with a few tweaks could rival the Metcon’s crown of best training shoe!

JT.

Photos by Paul Furniss.

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