by Carol Crooker | 2006-05-31 03:00:00-06
Inov-8's motto is that the foot should control the shoe; the shoe should not control the foot. The F-lite 300 shoe exemplifies this motto. It is very lightweight (300 g, 10.5 oz US men's 9), flexible and cradles the foot closely. That's nice - but is it anything more than a glorified moccasin?
Yes. What makes the Inov-8 line stand out among other lightweight shoes is comfort and support. Inov-8 offers levels of support to match your tolerance, proceeding down to the F-lite 250 race flats (250 g, 8.8 oz US men's 9). My recent favorite backpacking shoe has been the Inov-8 Terroc 330 (330 g, 11.6 oz, size US 9) which is nearly the heaviest shoe in the Inov-8 line-up. Then along came the F-lite 300. The F-lite 300 employs a new technology, Meta-shank, consisting of five bands running under the fascia bands of the foot. The result is a shoe that is an ounce lighter than the Terroc but just as supportive.
Many of the new Inov-8 shoes include fascia-band technology, which they believe can help prevent plantar fasciitis. The five bands of the Meta-shank run beneath the foot's fascia and are believed to help prevent the fascia from over stretching - something that is more likely to happen on long, hard uphill climbs. The Meta-shank also adds torsional rigidity to the shoe without adding extra longitudinal stiffness.
Inov-8 claims that the Meta-shank harnesses the Windlass effect (the increase in tension on the plantar fascia as the foot moves fully through heel lift and toe extension) in the foot's plantar fascia ligament structure to increase the propulsive efficiency of their shoe. In other words, that the energy of foot flex is converted into forward motion.
Inov-8 claims the five-finger Meta-shank aligns with each individual metatarsal for greater flexibility when contouring while retaining underfoot impact protection. And not only that, the Fascia-band technology harnesses the energy of foot flex to convert it into forward motion.
Maybe, maybe not, but in practice, the fascia-band technology reduced my foot fatigue compared to what I've experienced wearing the Terrocs. I wore the F-lite 300s on a 5-day backpacking trip through Saguaro National Park in Arizona. Tail mileage on two of the days was about 50% more than is typical for me. My feet were less fatigued than usual. The shoes had enough midsole cushioning to prevent stone bruises on very rocky trails. Luckily, there was just enough toe bumper protection to keep the tips of my toes undamaged during a fast moonlit descent from sunset viewing on Rincon Peak.
I like the F-lite 300s but they have some flaws. The first has already been corrected. The test shoes I received have very slippery nylon laces. The bow will only stay tied if double knotted. Inov-8 informs me that production shoes will come with two sets of laces for a secure hold/tie. The second is a small toe box. A feature I love about the Terrocs (and Flyrocs) is a roomy toe box. The F-lite 300s have a narrower toe box which caused some minor trauma to both my pinky toe nails during the Saguaro trip. The F-lite 300s are running small - Inov-8 recommends sizing up a half size. My test shoes are size 11.5 where I normally hike in an 11. The 11.5 F-lite 300s are long enough for me, but I'm considering sizing up to a 12 for excess length that will move my toes back to a wider area in the shoe. The third flaw is documented in Water Weight Gain and Drying Characteristics of Lightweight Hiking Shoes after Submersion. The F-lite 300s soak up water like a sponge. These shoes, although the lightest tested, soaked up water (measured by weight) in the upper range of the shoes in the test. Both the Terroc and Flyroc shoes absorbed less water. The culprit is a spongy lining on the uppers.
One final comment, these are the only backpacking shoes I've worn that elicited comments on their good looks. One hiking partner even called them "stunning."
South Mountain Park in Phoenix. Day hiking in a rain storm.
"Inov-8 F-Lite 300 Shoes SPOTLITE REVIEW," by Carol Crooker. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/inov_8_f_lite_300_shoes_spotlite_review.html, 2006-05-31 03:00:00-06.