October 24, 2014

Review : Inov-8 Race Ultra

  • Type : Standard
  • Use : Trail running
  • Price : $130

I tried my first pair of inov-8 shoes in the Arizona desert and was immediately impressed. I loved the underfoot protection and the grip, while the shoe, overall, felt light and fast. I wore it only two or three times, because when I got to Urique, I realized my Raramuri friend Javier had torn through his last pair of shoes. “Try these ones”, I said, handing out my Trailroc 235’s. He keeps the shoes that he likes; needless to say, I never got to wear them again :)

When my Race Ultra came in the mail, I was a little surprised to see how much thicker it was, and the 8-mm drop worried me a little bit. The shoe itself felt awesome in my feet and reminded me of the La Sportiva Cross Lite, one of the staples in my shoe cabinet. I had a race coming up, so I thought “Let’s try something new!”

Trail Test
I took the inov-8’s to the gorgeous Pandora 24 course, out here in Quebec. It’s one of the most technical terrains we have available, with ever-changing ground that swings from muddy mess to rocky pitches, and everything in-between.

I immediately felt that this shoe is built for the long run. What it loses in ground feel, it gains in overall comfort. This is way more cushiony than what you might expect of an inov-8, yet the added height doesn’t get in the way. Typically, and that’s what I usually dislike about thicker shoes, a bulkier outsole elevates my foot too much away from the ground and I end up twisting an ankle.

The grip is as good as it gets; whether I jumped down on shaky rocks or quickstepped through slippery mud, my feet never slid. I felt secure and in control. This is a key element for me, as it allows me to build enough confidence to increase or maintain speed over trickier segments in the trail.

My mudcaked Race Ultras, after a go on the Pandora course
I have yet to run an ultra in these shoes, so I can’t say for sure whether the added cushioning proves relevant in the long run. After two hours in the woods, and on a fairly wet day, I was happy with the grip and the stability of the Race Ultras, although I did miss a little bit of the fast and nimble feeling I experienced with the slimmer, meaner Trailroc.

The lacing is precise and the upper material allows for enough extension that you don’t need to re-lace in the middle of your run. This is a true trail shoe, no doubt about it. Plus, with fall in full effect and winter at the door, I get the feeling the Race Ultra will be my shoe of choice for winter running, with its great combination of grip, thicker sole and a beefier upper.

If you like to have a wide choice of shoes to choose from, I think the inov-8 Race Ultra could definitely find a spot in the thicker, souped-up end of your range. It is definitely built for long outings, while still offering outstanding grip and stability, something not a lot of shoes in this segment can gloat about. Moreover, if you have to deal with winter running, the Race Ultra has everything you need to keep warm, standing upright and smiling… through your frozen beard ;)

High points
  • Excellent grip
  • Upper material is flexible and comfy
  • Behaves admirably on varying terrain
  • Very likely to become my winter running shoe of choice
  • “Ethical approach” to manufacturing which respects both workers and the environment

Low points
  • Bulkier than what I usually wear
  • I would’ve liked a 4-mm drop option

The equipment for this personal review was supplied by inov-8, free of charge, without any conditions.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the insights! Comparing to the Trailroc and some good trail experience. It will either be the Trailroc or the Race Ultra for a backpacking shoe... now to make a decision?