Inov-8 F-Lite 250 Review

In a quest that’s stretching now beyond the two-year mark to find the perfect trail-running shoe, I’ve discovered only one real thing: There is no perfect trail-running shoe.

For every situation and every trail, for every person, for every foot, a different shoe will work better or worse. I’m happy now, finally, with that conclusion.

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But all that said, for the subgenre of trail sprinting, for 5K races and shorter on dirt and rock trail, there is a perfect shoe, or at least a most-perfect shoe on the market, for my particular foot.

For me, that near-perfect shoe is the F-Lite 250 made by Inov-8, a U.K.-based company.

This svelte little shoe, which is built on a minimalist philosophy, is among the industry’s lightest-weight models made for the outdoors. An average F-Lite 250 weighs 9 ounces.

The company calls the $90 F-Lite 250 an “elite lightweight racing shoe ideal for use on hard pack mountainous terrain.” It has a low-profile midsole, which essentially means there is very little cushioning underfoot, and its upper is a thin synthetic mesh that offers only mediocre protection from errant roots and rocks.

The sole is so thin that you can feel sharp stones through the rubber when running on a path. Also, its outsole is made of a sticky smooth rubber with no knobs and little tread, making the F-Lite 250 slippery on wet grass.

But the lack of material makes the shoe feel almost absent from your foot. It is nearly half the weight of some trail-runners on the market, and this makes a huge difference over the course of a couple mountainous miles.

It just fits me right, too, letting my foot move and flex totally unencumbered over different types of terrain.

Beginning runners need not apply for the F-Lite 250. By design Inov-8 made sacrifices in comfort, support and foot protection in the name of speed. Anyone with knee issues might think twice as well.

But for heat-of-the-race type scenarios, for that specific situation of sprints on the trail, I have yet to find a better shoe.

(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eight U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)

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