Inov-8 Road Runners

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Inov-8 Ltd. is a U.K.-based shoemaker known for its trail-running shoes. The company’s line — which spans from traditional supportive runners to footwear made for orienteering and equipped with carbide spikes — is one of my favorite brands. I’ve worn the company’s shoes for years training and racing at home and around the globe.

New this year, the company debuts a line strictly made for road running. There are five models, from the “steady, comfortable and natural” Road-X 255, which is the most traditional shoe in the line, to an uber-minimal silicone “foot glove” made with individualized toes.

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Inov-8 Ltd.‘s Road-X 233 shoes

In between these extremes, the Road-X 233 model is touted (with some great British vocab!) to offer “scintillating performance as a race day shoe for club runners, whilst also providing sufficient under foot protection for the elite to use regularly.”

For the past three weeks, I’ve been running in these “scintillating” Road-X 233 shoes, which cost $110. My initial reaction is positive, as the shoe is minimal and fast, though not harsh when you’re on a long run pounding the pavement for an hour or more. (Indeed, I ran a marathon in the shoes last weekend to happy results; see info below.)

The shoe has a 6mm differential or drop height from heel to toe and a neutral fit. It’s a unisex model, made for women and men. Shoe weight is less than 9 ounces per foot in most sizes, which is light. (Official weight is 8.2 ounces in a U.K. size 8.)

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A no-tread smooth sole on the pavement-ready Road-X 233 shoes

A smooth, non-treaded sole and a meshy, lightweight build set the Road-X 233 apart. Like the company’s trail runners, the sole has grooves and flex points made to mimic your foot’s anatomy, including the “Dynamic Fascia Band,” which is a design feature between the midsole and outsole that Inov-8 says offers “maximum efficiency and power transfer with each stride.”

Is the shoe as “scintillating” as the company touts? So far, I like the shoe a lot. As noted, last weekend I ran a marathon in the Road-X 233s, the National College Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke, Va., a hilly course touted as “America‚Äôs Toughest Road Marathon.”

For the whole run, including thousands of feet of elevation loss and gain, the shoes were fast and supportive. The smooth tread never slipped, even on wet pavement running downhill fast (it rained all day during the marathon this year!).

My time was 3 hours and 57 minutes, which was respectable on this tough course. A lot of training helped for the weeks and months before the race, but so did these shoes. For short training runs, all the way up to the marathon distance, for me Inov-8’s unique — and, yes, scintillating even! — new road runners passed the test.

—Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.

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