The New F-Lite 235 V2 vs. the Original F-Lite 235
This year, Inov-8 updated the F-Lite 235 with quite a few substantial changes. Maintaining the $130 price point, the new F-Lite 235 V2 is currently available in four colors, from understated gray to neon blue. To see the different looks, check out the new F-Lite 235 V2 below (left) compared to the original that we tested (right). Then, keep reading for a full summary of updates!
Here's a summary of the updates:
- Heel — While the heel of this shoe still features the zero-drop construction and high-density Powerheel technology (which we really liked in the original version), Inov-8 has updated the heel lock construction with weight-lifting in mind. We've contacted them for more details about how they did this and will post here when we know more.
- Overlay Construction — The updated version of this shoe features a new welded overlay construction on the top of the foot, which supposedly reduced weight while maintaining the snug fit. We're interested to see how this changes things!
- Toe Bumper — One of our biggest concerns in the original F-Lite 235 was the lack of rubber toe bumper that the Reebok Nano and Nike Metcon both have. As if Inov-8 read our minds (or our reviews), they added a new rubber bumper this year for increased durability. We haven't tested it to see how effective it is yet, but we're excited to see it.
Because we haven't tested the new V2 yet, the rest of this review reflects the original F-Lite 235.
Hands-On Review of the F-Lite 235
One of the biggest problems I had with the previous models of Inov-8 shoes was that they always fit way too tight. I have wider feet, so feeling the wider toe box when I first stepped into the new F-Lite 235's was a big initial relief. As was previously said for the Nano's and the Nike MetCon 4's, the wider toe box is a vital tool in helping you stabilize your feet when performing specific movements, so it was nice to see Inov-8 take this into account when designing their own functional shoe. What I liked most in terms of comfort with these shoes is the overall construction in terms of material choice. These shoes are extremely light and airy - a win here for breathability - and the mesh is not overly restrictive, while still remaining secure/snug around your foot. This thin airy mesh may not play well for the shoes level of durability (lifetime has yet to be determined), but it sure does make them comfortable. With these shoes you sort of forget you are wearing anything, which is typically the primary goal when designing a minimalist shoe. A minor thing that bugged me with these shoes was that the tongue was really long, but like I said, such a minor annoyance. Aside from that, I have nothing but great things to say about how they felt.
The only real downside I had about these shoes, in terms of support, is that I don't think they are designed high enough around the ankles. This is a problem to me because it lessens the amount of lateral support your ankle has, which is really important when performing movements under heavy weights where your foot might have a tendency to roll in. Luckily, the base of the shoe is very firm, and the heel-to-toe drop, which is zero, allows you to really plant your entire foot into the ground. The best thing I could say about the amount of support these shoes provide is that they fit like a sock. They hug your foot in all the right ways.
The main thing I am worried about with the F-Lite 235's, because of their minimalist construction, is how the outer mesh of the shoe will hold up over time. For the couple weeks I underwent testing with them, they held up really well - and that includes putting them through a rope climb workout. I would say the rope tech rubber along the medial and lateral sole of the shoe does good to protect the shoe and offer grip during rope climbs, while the thicker webbing that splays up around the mesh on medial and lateral sides of the shoe also protect the mesh from the imminent destruction usually caused by high reps of rope climbs. Although these shoes don't feature the same thicker rubber around the toe box that both the Nano's and the MetCon's sport, Inov-8 did design the rubber of the sole to run up the front every so slightly, which helps to protect you from ramming your toes into equipment, but not to the same level as the Nano's and the MetCon's.
It's hard to make a minimalist shoe and not provide a substantial level of sensitivity. With the inclusion of the new multi-directional MetaFlex technology, these shoes work really well in quick dynamic movements. You can feel the flexibility of the sole as the shoe contours to your foot and bends with it in whatever exercise you are performing. Additionally, the design of the treads provides a lot of great traction, so your foot doesn't slip out from under you when you happen to be in the heat of a workout.
Designing shoes that are well equipped for running is something that Inov-8 has definitely locked down. That is probably the best feature of these new shoes. Compared to the latest Reebok Nano 7's and the new MetCon 4's, I would say the F-Lite 235's are the clear winner. The soles of the shoe, while designed very minimally, like most Inov-8's, provides enough cushion for absorption and a substantial amount of flex that makes running in them extremely comfortable. The first run I took these shoes one was a roughly three mile jog and not once did my feet cramp up or start to hurt, which is pretty good for not having been broken in. After that, I took these shoes through Murph, and didn't have a problem transition from running to calisthenics and back to running. While they aren't as minimal as most previous models of Inov-8's, because of slightly thicker sole, I think that actually helps increase the level of comfort they offer when running. Overall, I was very happy with how these performed.
Because these shoes performed so well in running, I was pretty worried how they would hold up when I started testing them in weightlifting movements. However, much to my surprise, they actually held up quite substantially. I may even rate these shoes a little higher than the MetCon's in weightlifting. The zero heel-to-toe drop and the thin, minimalist sole of the shoe provides you with a firm foundation when squatting and olympic lifting. My feet always felt planted on the ground, and I noticed little-to-no lateral instability or rocking of my feet from my heel to the balls of my feet. I even managed to hit a new clean PR in these shoes.
Because I would stack these shoes up pretty high with the top contenders, the Reebok Nano's, it is difficult to choose specific applications that they excel at, but only because they perform so well in all facets. That being said, of all the shoe's within the CrossFit industry I have tested, I firmly believe these shoes are the best for the purpose of running. This is a quality of the shoe that really separates it from many others, as creating shoes that are comfortable for running is proving to be the most difficult task for companies to pin down. I would also say that the lightweight design of these shoes makes them ideal for most every WOD.
As of now, these shoes appear to be the most expensive on the market listed at $130. For the purpose of training, I would pick these shoes over the Nike MetCon's, despite the $10 difference; however, I would still choose the Reebok Nano 6.0's overall. Additionally, while they aren't bad looking shoes, I believe both the MetCon's and the Nano's surpass the F-Lite 235's in the aesthetic department. If you are a lifelong, loyal Inov-8 customer, these are definitely the logical next step for you because you won't find another shoe out there that offers all of the minimalistic qualities of an Inov-8 shoe with all the functional, CrossFit specific qualities of a Nano.
I think Inov-8 has done a really great job with their new F-Lite 235. Much like the MetCon's, because this is only their first shoe designed specifically with CrossFit in mind, they will quickly find the ins and outs of what their customers are looking for in a product. As of now, Inov-8 has already built themselves a really strong foundation with this first model, so the only way is up from here. The only thing I hope is that they don't sacrifice on these shoes' comfort during running to make up for other aspects of the shoe that might be lacking.