Inov-8 has long been a favorite amongst the CrossFit community. Their minimalist style running shoes were really the first shoes that became widely accepted and used for functional fitness. However, soon after, Reebok came in and partnered with the CrossFit brand as their top tier sponsor. With that came an onslaught of new shoes specifically designed and geared towards the ever-growing sport of CrossFit. Fast forward a few years, and Inov-8 has finally made their first explicit step into the CrossFit market by releasing their own shoe that is designed to specifically tailor to the movements associated with the sport.
Inov-8 F-Lite 235 V2 Review
Cons: Support, protection, durability
Our Analysis and Test Results
Below we've highlighted the differences between the original 235 and the 235 V2 from Inov-8.
The New F-Lite 235 V2 vs. the Original F-Lite 235
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.
- 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 8 and Nike Metcon 4 both have.
Because these shoes performed so well in running, we wondered how they would hold up when we tested them in weightlifting movements. However, much to our surprise, they held up quite substantially. The zero heel-to-toe drop and the thin, minimalist sole of the shoe provide you with a firm foundation when squatting and Olympic lifting. Our feet always felt planted on the ground, and we noticed little-to-no lateral instability or rocking of our feet from our heel to the balls of our feet.
Inov-8 started as running shoe company, and the F-Lite 235 V2 design supports that. The 235 V2 provide you will feedback on how the road feels; the thin outsole will give great feedback on your running form, and it will force you to a midfoot strike because the outsole is so thin it can be troublesome for heel strikers. The snug heel and mid-foot are quite comfortable, and the wider toe box allows for the toes to spread out naturally.
The only real downside we experienced with these shoes is the lack of arch support, but that is to be expected as a minimalist shoe. Of all the minimalist shoes we tested, Xero, ASICS, and New Balance, the F-Lite 235 V2 is the second best to the New Balance when it comes to support. Due to the snug fit in the midsole, the F-Lite 235 V2 provides excellent lateral support when having to change direction quickly.
The main thing we worried about when testing the F-Lite 235 V2, because of their minimalist construction, is how the outer mesh of the shoe will hold up over time. During testing, they held up well through rope climb workouts. However, various athletes in the gym do wear the F-Lite 235 V2, and over time they seem to be bursting at the seams from overuse.
Fortunately, the F-Lite 235 V2 did well gripping the rope during rope climbs, but high volume could deteriorate the outer mesh. Although the F-Lite 235 V2 shoes don't feature the same thicker rubber around the toe box that both the Reebok Nano 8 and the Nike MetCon 4 do, Inov-8 did design the rubber of the sole to run up the front every so slightly. This helps to protect you from stubbing your toe into equipment, but not to the same level of protection as the Reebok Nano 8, the Nike Metcon 4, or New Balance Minimus 40.
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 perform well during 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.
What may be a problem for some is the snug fit of the F-Lite 235 V2, but any athlete with a narrow foot will love it. The Reebok Nano 8 and the Nike Metcon 4 provide a wider toebox, which is vital in helping to stabilize your feet when performing specific movements. It's nice to see Inov-8 start to take a wider toe box into account when designing their own functional shoe. These shoes are extremely light and airy - a win here for breathability - and the mesh is not overly restrictive while remaining secure/snug around your foot. This thin, airy mesh may not play well for the shoe's level of durability, but it sure does make them comfortable. With this pair, you sort of forget you are wearing anything, which is typically the primary goal when designing a minimalist shoe.
We rank the F-Lite 235 V2 second best minimalist shoe behind the New Balance Minimus 40 and fourth overall behind including the Reebok Nano 8 and Nike Metcon 4. This is a quality of the shoe that really separates it from many others, as creating shoes that are fairly comfortable for running is proving to be the most difficult task for companies to pin down. The lightweight design of these shoes makes them ideal for most every WOD.
The Inov-8 F-Lite 235 V2 is priced at $90, which is a fair price for what you get. If you are a lifelong, loyal Inov-8 customer, these may be the logical next step for you. If you are looking for more than the Xero Prio and still in a minimalist shoe, we recommend taking a good hard look at the 235 V2.
Inov-8 has done an excellent job with the F-Lite 235. Much like the Metcons, 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 built themselves a solid foundation with this first model, with the only way to go being up.
— Chris McNamara and Ben Mimran