The Race Ultra range was introduced by inov-8 in 2015 to cater to athletes running long distances on trails. There are two models, the 270 being touted as “the lighter, racing version” of its bigger brother the 290. inov-8 know their stuff when it comes to light, agile racing shoes; their X-Talon 190 are my go-to choice for racing on soft terrain. Let’s see if the Race Ultra 270 deliver the goods!
First, a few stats:
- Weight: 270g in size US9
- Drop: 4mm
- Wide Standard Fit for more comfort
Reduced weight, 4mm drop, responsiveness… my kind of shoe! The Race Ultra 270, being designed for a wide range of terrain, should be a good option for long runs, from your front door to the trails. If, like me, you live a few kilometers from the trails, why drive there when you can simply make the run a little longer by starting from home?
A very versatile tread pattern design is needed to achieve this, performing well on trails, gravel or asphalt. It is the case with the Race Ultra’s tread pattern, which also uses three types of rubber to ally grip and durability. The front of the shoe is also reinforced, which helps with wear resistance and protection of the toes. The rest of the shoe is fairly standard, except for the notches specially designed to house the compatible inov-8 gaiters’ hooks.
I personally think the yellow and blue color combination is spectacular and certainly does not go unnoticed. Dirt, however, shows right away on the yellow parts, and once they get really dirty, it’s very hard to get back to the original color, even after a thorough cleaning. inov-8 are gaining experience all the time, and it show in multiple little design details that make this shoe look like a more expensive, quality products than earlier generations. Alright, let’s stop talking about how they look, and let’s see how they perform! I covered 150 to 200 km hiking and running on all types of terrain during a memorable trip to the Western USA so I could deliver a proper verdict.
During my first outing, I was extremely surprised to discover a dead-feeling sole and footbed combination, which does absorb impact forces well, but without giving back the energy on rebound, which felt a little like when shoes are soggy with water or mud. I tried a bunch of different shoes, including during that same run, to make sure this wasn’t a perception issue, but the phenomenon is real. There is indeed a good amount of cushioning, justified by the “ultra” mandate of the shoe, but that comfort is gained at the expense of significant energy loss compared to real minimal shoes.
Other than that, I suffered no discomfort or abrasion, the flat laces don’t untie, the tongue doesn’t move around and there’s plenty of room in the front. I feel a little high up despite the absence of big lugs, and people tell me it looks like the shoes are too big for me. That being said, ground feel remains good, not as direct and detailed as I like it but still allowing one to react properly to different surface types.
The real strength of this shoe is definitely its outsole. Allowing for good grip on soft ground or slippery surfaces, it is also at home on the hard stuff, such as Yosemite’s granite, Zion’s sandstone… or Montreal’s asphalt. One can’t expect the same claw-like hold the X-Talon provide when getting off trail or in deep mud, but on 90% of terrains, the Race Ultra tread pattern feels totally at home. Durability is also excellent; the shoes barely show any signs of wear after all these kilometers.
inov-8’s description leads one to think that the Race Ultra 270 are minimal racing shoes, but runners used to “barely-there” shoes will be disappointed by the very noticeable cushioning. If on the other hand you’re planning to run on multiple surface types, you don’t want to worry about wearing out your precious lugs when running on roads, and you’re looking for cushioning but without too much drop in order to favor a more natural running technique, they are an excellent option.
Written by : Sébastien David
The shoes featured in this review were supplied by inov-8, which didn’t influence its contents.