Chris Townsend put 14 trail shoes to the test for the August issue of The Great Outdoors. Here’s what he thought of the Race Ultra 290s
Although aimed at runners, Inov-8 shoes have a following among walkers, especially long-distance backpackers. The Race Ultra 290s are designed for long-distance running but are equally suited to long walks. Like most Inov-8 shoes they’re made from mesh with thin reinforcing struts that link the lacing to the rand that runs round the lower edge of the upper. The heel is quite firm. The toe is reinforced but still a little soft. The lightly padded tongue is gusseted in the lower half.
The sole is quite well-cushioned for an Inov-8 shoe, which usually have fairly minimalist midsoles. The triple compound tread has sticky rubber for the edges, harder, less sticky rubber in the centre and even harder rubber at the heel. This is designed to increase durability while maintaining good grip. There’s a shank inside the sole designed to provide protection but also align with the foot and not prevent the latter from moving naturally. This makes the sole fairly stiff side-to-side but very flexible at the forefoot. The soft insole is almost flat and pretty pointless.
The fit is quite wide for an Inov-8 shoe, to allow for the foot swelling on long days out, says Inov-8. On me they fit fine with thin socks at the start of the day but after many hours my toes do feel slightly squeezed, especially in warm weather when feet swell more. I’ve been using them for a year now and they have been fine on all types of terrain.
The Race Ultras are excellent for hillwalking and backpacking if you like light flexible shoes. They are expensive compared to other lightweight shoes like the Berghaus Vapour Claw and the Merrell All Out Charge though.