Review: Inov8 155s, or My Little Yellow Corvette

This time last year, I owned one pair of running shoes: the Brooks Adrenaline. Today I own four: my Brooks, Vibram Bikilas, Altra Instincts, the Inov8 155s.  I thought I’d be good with three, since I’d have the Vibram;s for working on barefoot form, the Altra for my standard shoe, and the Brooks for while I am still transitioning to less supportive shoes.

The reason I bought the Inov8’s was I was hoping for something between the Brooks and the Altras, something to split the 12mm heel of the Brooks and the zero-drop of the Altras.  Inov8 is a company I’d never heard of, but found through The Natural Running Store, and my new rule of thumb is that if Patton loves a shoes, I’m willing to give it a shot.  I actually was hoping to get the 255’s, but Patton said they ran a bit narrow, and the 155’s were nice and wide in the toes, something I need with my 3E feet.

When they finally arrived, my first impression was that they were the sexiest shoe I had ever owned.  Mulzer thinks they’re ugly, but then she and I disagree over whether my running sunglasses make me look like a bad-ass or an idiot, so apparently beauty (or bad-ass-ness) is in the eye of the beholder. Pulling them out of the box, they were so light they felt like they might float away; in fact, on my feet, they feel even lighter than my Vibrams..  Like the Altras, the fit was slightly narrow, until I re-laced them and took out the insoles, and then they fit perfect.  They weren’t quite as roomy in the toe-box as the Instincts, but then, Altra is the only company shaping their shoe like an actual foot.

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Lacing up the 155s feels like you’re slipping into a yellow Corvette: you just want to go fast.  Every time I’ve gone out in them, I’ve started out at a much faster clip than I expected, and I actively have to reel myself in.  Their only problem is that they don’t really play the role I was hoping they would, that is, a midpoint between the Altra and my Vibrams.  A 2mm heel drop really isn’t much more supportive than none at all, and I find myself up on my toes even more than when I’m in my Bikilas; in many ways, in fact, the 155s feel more like running barefoot than the Vibrams.  They have a bit more padding, but the sole, despite feeling soft to the touch, is nice and firm, much like the Instincts.

I toyed briefly with returning them, since I didn’t need them per se, but after a few short runs, it was too late:  I was in love.  They feel so light, so fast, and they are just to happy in their bright canary yellow, that they make me smile and my legs twitch for a run just looking at them.  After a few 3 miles runs, I’ve built up to 7 miles in them; this last run left my legs a bit sore the next day, but it felt great.  I still need my Brooks to help my calves and heel rest, but my legs are getting stronger; I don’t think I’ll need to buy another pair of them, and will just wear my current pair into the ground.

So now I’ve got four shoes to rotate through, and honestly I love all of them except my Brooks – now they feel like so heavy and bulky that its hard to force myself to wear them, even though I need them every few runs to keep from giving myself an overuse injury.  The Inov8s are a great addition to the rotation, and I can’t wait to wear in a race – after all, they are essentially racing-flats, and they want to race.  Besides, I like being able to support yet another alternative company to the major corporations, and one that also seems to actually care about quality shoes and good running form, rather than just cranking out a new gimmick so they can push a new model for a new season.

Of course, everyone knows that the next step down the road to crazy is making my own huaraches . . .

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About Chris Van Dyke

I am a 33 year-old high school English teacher and long-distance runner. I live in Brooklyn with my partner, our 3 year-old son and 1 year-old daughter and a growing collection of muppets and trains. Besides running and teaching I like to draw, read, write, cook, and play the harmonica. While I didn't get to run my first ultra-marathon on my birthday, I've got a few more I've set my sights on. You can follow my (seldom updated) twitter feed @aboutrunning. I also blog as part of the Run Smiley Collective.
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