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Inov-8 F-Lite 290 Review

The Inov-8 F-Lite 290 is one of the most adaptable shoes we have ever tested. It is impressive, and the ideal match game for CrossFitters who are looking to really step up their games. This shoe has been touted by Inov-8 as the “world’s toughest pair of shoes for the world’s toughest workouts”. This multipurpose training shoe has some of the most impressive technologies we have experienced in sports-focused shoes. For these reasons and more, we decided that we had to buy a pair and give them a test drive.

Image of the Inov-8 F-Lite 290 G (with Graphene).

F-Lite 290 for Men

F-Lite 290 for Women

F-Lite 290 G (with Graphene) Unisex option available at

Inov-8 has continued making their dominating presence in the speciality exercise footwear world apparent. While their existence on the global stage has been short thus far, Inov-8 has already garnered impressive showings in all-terrain running and several other markets. Their new foray into CrossFit has resulted in an absolutely incredible shoe option.

Notable Features of the Inov-8 F-Lite 290

The most notable feature that can be found when researching the Inov-8 F-Lite 290 (as well as many of their newer workout shoe options) is Graphene.  This is available in the F-Lite 290 G option (linked above). It does beg the question: what the heck is Graphene? 

Graphene is a thin semi-metal substance that is extremely durable, while also being quite tensile. Through the use of this material, Inov-8’s shoes are a bit lighter than shoes that would not have contained Graphene. This is done while not losing out on any of the durability expected of Inov-8’s shoe offerings. Surprisingly, they are the first shoe manufacturer to utilize Graphene in their construction.

However, these shoes go beyond Graphene when it comes to features. They also are incredibly thin, very flexible, and surprisingly light. Together this provides a feel that truly moves around with the foot. Additionally, the grip on the soles, which are thicker than other options tested and purchased, provided impressive levels of grip on just about every surface we tested them on. The materials are very durable, from the sole to the upper, providing a responsive and flexible overall fit.

One product reviewer noted that the shoes were “50% stronger, more elastic, and harder wearing than other training shoes on the market”. This was quite the claim. We felt that we had to buy a pair and try them out for ourselves to verify.

How We Tested

We wanted to ensure we performed an acceptable number of WODs (workouts of the day), to provide a good sense of how the Inov-8 F-Lite 290 performed under a variety of circumstances and scenarios. What this meant was, in the consideration of time, we avoided workouts that were focused completely around the upper body.

For this reason, we selected four solid workouts that we performed while wearing the F-Lite 290. We did these same workouts with competing CrossFit shoes to ensure we had a good understanding of how they compared to an overall landscape. Those four WODs were:

  • 10-To-One Countdown WOD: In this WOD, we performed ten kettlebell swings and ten dumbbell thrusters. A dumbbell thruster is when you hold a lighter pair of dumbbells in front at chest level with both hands. Then, squat and stand straight, raising the dumbbells over your head simultaneously. When we have performed ten of these two exercises, we rested. Then we did nine reps of each, eight reps of each, all the way down to one rep.
  • Ten For Ten WOD: This workout consists of ten minutes of intense exercise. In this, we performed as many sets as possible for the following three exercises (ten reps each): kettlebell, box jumps, and ring dips.
  • SPPR (Squat/Press/Pull-up/Run) WOD: This intense WOD consists of three sets of the following exercises: 12 front squats, ten pull-ups, and eight push presses. Once these three exercises have been completed, the set is done... once you gut-punch your way through a 200-yard sprint.
  • Burpees and Push-Ups in Fives WOD: This workout is five consistent rounds of five push-ups, five burpees, and a 200-yard sprint.

These four WODs, when combined with the rest necessary between each exercise and set, represented well over an hour of solid HIIT (high-intensity interval training). This training and conditioning work meshed together perfectly to provide an incredibly well-rounded field test of what turned out to be some of the most effective CrossFit shoes on the market today.

Testing Results of the F-Lite 290

We put these shoes through their paces for sure, and they excelled in just about everything we put them through. While it was difficult to truly compare these CrossFit shoes to the options from New Balance and Reebok, we still found them to be more than acceptable for almost any cross training exercise.

These shoes were at another level altogether for functionality compared to alternatives. However, they had a price point to match the increase in quality and function. One of the things we definitely noticed, though, was that these shoes were significantly heavier than the Reebok and New Balance options we tested. This weight came even with the inclusion of Graphene into the shoe’s construction.

But hold on. This added weight in no way affected the overall performance and wearing of these shoes. To be completely honest, we didn’t even really notice the added weight when we were exercising. What we did notice, though, was the very impressive combination of responsiveness and flexibility. This was surprising, as typically these two factors are a one or the other trade-off when comparing shoes. This goes triple for CrossFit shoes.

Comparatively, the New Balance Minimus was significantly more flexible. Reebok’s CrossFit option provides far more responsiveness. The Inov-8 CrossFit option provides a perfect middle-ground for both flexibility and responsiveness. We liked that.

With the added weight, though, we were concerned a bit regarding our ability to complete these sprints. Imagine our surprise when we didn’t feel weighed down at all. There were no issues when we were lifting weights, or when we were performing kettlebell swings, or when we were doing box jumps. While we didn’t complete any rope climbs on the initial testing, rope climbing in future workouts were problem-free. Finally, the grip worked perfectly on all surfaces tested, from grass to wet concrete, carpet to tile and asphalt.

Pros and Cons of the Inov-8 F-Lite 290

You could have a shoe that answers all of the burning requests that CrossFit users want, and there are still going to be droves of people with problems. There are still going to be technical issues that are not made clear until mass produced. The Inov-8 F-Lite 290 is no exception to this commonality. Through our research and testing of this CrossFit shoe, below are the advantages and potential disadvantages we discovered.

Pros

  • These shoes have been built to last. With Graphene woven throughout and high-quality materials from sole to upper, the durability is incredible. They have the rugged features that we would expect from shoes that were twice as heavy.
  • The Inov-8 F-Lite has become our official shoe for most workouts for quite a while. Unlike some other alternatives, these shoes have experienced virtually no wear, leading us to believe that they have a useful life far beyond competing workout shoes. This justifies the higher price point in our eyes.

Potential Cons

  • Thus far in our extended testing processes (which took place after our initial test workout), we have noticed that there is a bit of the collar padding that tends to get tight after a long time spent working out. This caused a bit of rubbing, which has persisted. However, we got used to it.
  • Another thing we noticed during our initial testing process is that, compared to Reebok and New Balance CrossFit shoes, the Inov-8 option had no mesh in the upper to provide enhanced breathability. This meant that our feet would get hot and sweaty far faster than more conventional alternatives.

Three Months Post-Purchase Results

After three months of regular-to-heavy use, we like to reflect upon our purchase and provide any updates to the quality of the shoe after many wears.

In that time, we have used the Inov-8 F-Lite 290 extensively. They have worked wonderfully, save for the minor problems with breathability and rubbing we mentioned in the potential cons listed above. We have gotten used to any added weight when compared to the New Balance and Reebok options, and quite enjoy the added support we get (as overpronators and flat-footed individuals, we respect the sanctity of a nicely padded sole).

Our Verdict

Overall, for the price we were more than impressed with the results we received from the Inov-8 F-Lite 290. With its Graphene technology, extremely comfortable feel and fit, and propensity for longevity, we were happy to have tested and purchased these shoes for CrossFit purposes. While we would change the lack of breathability over extended times, and maybe adjust the styling to decrease the rubbing experienced, overall these are easily the best CrossFit-focused shoes in the market today.

Latest Prices (Men's, no Graphene)

Latest Prices (Women's, no Graphene)

Check Latest Prices and Availability for 290 G (Unisex with Graphene)

The Inov-8 F-Lite 290 was featured in our articles: CrossFit Shoes – Find The Best CrossFit Shoe for You and Weightlifting Shoes – The Best Weightlifting Shoes for Every Lifter.  Definitely check those out if you want some more shoe options!

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