Review: F-Lite 195 & F-Lite 230

by Charles Wednesday, October 19th 2011

I really enjoyed doing some trail running and hiking in the TrekSport, Bikila and Trail Glove during the first part of this year - even trails that I have been on for a decade were a new experience in 'barefoot' footwear. But lately I have been looking for a different compromise - something with a bit more protection, even if it means that it is slightly heavier. Two of the models that I have been trying are the Inov-8 f-lite 195 and f-lite 230.

NOTE: The pictures with this review shoe the f-lite 230 in Blue – but we decided to carry the f-lite 230 in black at the Summit Hut.


Fit: These shoes are slightly narrow in the front of the shoe - but a very soft/forgiving upper means that - depending on the shape of your foot - they should accommodate a D width foot like mine (wider and you may have problems). The TPU overlays that connect with the laces do a decent job of holding your foot in place during technical and downhill trail sections, especially considering how lightweight the shoes are.


Mesh Upper: The mesh upper is quite breathable and dries quickly. The openness of the material does mean that it is quite easy for thorns, cactus needles and other plants to come thru the material, on a recent run on miles of overgrown trail I found myself stopping several times to clear off/out my shoes – but overall the breathability of the upper may be worth it. I have not tested these long enough to report about the durability - but so far (about 2 months) I have not had any problems.

Outsole: The outsole design has fairly flat lugs of sticky rubber. The rubber seems sticker than many other trail running shoes I have tried - but it does not feel as sticky as the rubber on approach shoes such as the Five.Ten Guide Tennie. There are situations where a deeper, more aggressive, lug pattern can help with grip - but I found that for both on and off trail in the Santa Catalina Mountains the lug pattern/depth worked well.

The fit, upper and outsole are very similar between the 195 and 230. The most important differences between these two shoes are the amount of cushion and forefoot to heel differential. Inov-8 uses a 0 to 4 'arrow' system to describe the cushioning and protection in their footwear - a higher number means more cushioning and protection.


f-lite 195: The 195 is a 1 arrow shoe - minimal cushioning/protection and a 3mm differential between the heel and forefoot. These shoes have a feel that is just one step above 'barefoot' footwear like the Vibram FiveFingers. Footwear as minimal as the 195 is certainly not for everyone, especially on rugged trails! But if you are looking for something one step 'more' than Vibram FiveFingers or Merrell Trail Glove this may be a great option.


f-lite 230: Blindfolded there is a good chance that you would have trouble telling the weight difference between the 230 and 195 (Inov-8's names refer to the weight, in grams, of the shoe) - but the 230 is a 2 arrow shoe (6mm differential and slightly more cushioning) and the difference is immediately evident on the trail. The 230 feels noticeably firmer and more protective than the 195s and, while still very light, provides a different class of protection and support on the trail.

I like both of these shoes - the 195s for their minimalism, the 230s for the combination of weight and protection. I think I am likely to use the 230s more this fall, for long day hikes I am in love with the compromise between weight, support and protection that they offer!


First Impressions - Inov-8 Men's Evoskin™

by Charles Thursday, October 6th 2011

The number of footwear choices for minimal footwear - spurred in large part by the success of Vibram FiveFingers - has increased in the past few years. The latest offering at the Summit Hut is Inov-8's Evoskin - which are essentially a silicon glove for your feet!

Inov-8 Evoskin

The stretchy medical grade silicon is a bit tricky to get on the first time - but the reward for for your effort is a second skin of thin, flexible material wrapped around your feet. The first thing I did with the Evoskin on was walk out the front door of the Summit Hut - I could immediately tell the difference between the inside carpet, the cement sidewalk (and between the cooler shaded cement and sun warmed cement!) and the paved parking lot black top - the Evoskin offers more feeling for the ground under your feet than I have experienced in any other footwear! 

Inov-8 Evoskin

The strength of the Evoskin is their incredible sensitivity. It was fun testing these outside and having such a great connection to, and feel for, the ground under your feet. But on technical terrain and steep uphills the silicon, even with the internal texture, slipped disconcertingly around my feet. While I may still need to dial in the sizing and top strap my initial impression is that I will limit my use to easier terrain. My feet do get damp fairly quickly from sweat when I wear the Evoskin - I have certainly worn more breathable footwear. Breathability and slippage seem to be issues for some reviewers - but not for others, so your experience may be different.

Inov-8 estimates that - depending usage - that the Evoskin will last about 150 miles.

All footwear offers different trade-offs, if sensitivity is your primary concern these are definitely worth trying! And don't be surprised by the smell of these when you come in to try them - the blue color that we are carrying has a berry smell out of the box...


Imlay Canyon Gear Kolob

by Charles Thursday, September 29th 2011

As a Summit Hut employee since the early 2000s I have had the chance to use and abuse a number of packs from a variety of different brands. While no pack is going to work for every activity/situation my favorite all around pack has become the Imlay Canyon Gear Kolob. Imlay Canyon gear is based in Southern Utah and is run by avid canyoneer and canyon guide Tom Jones (check out his online canyon guide and Zion Canyoneering book) - these packs have been designed specifically for canyoneering, but the features make it a great pack for general use.


Why do I love it?

Durability: PVC panels protect the sides and bottom of the pack and other external areas are 1000 denier cordura. Until this pack I never had a pack that lasted more than 2 years (often developing huge holes it the bottom of the pack) - my packs has some wear but is going strong after 5 years!


(Deceptively) Simple, (highly) Effective Suspension: I was initially suspicious about such a simple looking system - but I have to say that this pack carries really well! The combination of aluminum tubing, plastics sheet and closed cell foam turns out to be incredibly effective at transferring weight to the simple but effective hip belt.

Bottom Cut: The squared off bottom you will find on some larger packs tends to 'catch' as you try to scoot off a ledge and can be awkward when scrambling. The angled cut of the bottom of the Kolob prevents the 'catching' - a great detail when off-trail and when scrambling.


Canyoneering Details: If you have gone for a swim with your pack you will know that most packs hold water just as well as they hold your gear - the Kolob has mesh behind most areas of the pack body that allows the pack to drain very quickly (key in a wet canyon). Rack strap on the inside to keep your gear easy to get to. The foam back  panel comes out and unfolds - nice detail in an unexpected bivy. Quick release shoulder strap buckles - a great just-in-case feature to make it easier to get out of the pack in an awkward situation.


The Kolob is not an ultra-light pack, comes in only one size and is a on the large size for a day hike (if you love the idea of the Kolob but it is too big check out the Imlay Canyon gear Spry) - but for me it fits great and it has become my most used pack because it is incredibly durable, carries great and has enough size to swallow technical gear (or your friend's lunch) but is small enough not to get in the way while scrambling off trail.


New Balance 110 – Preview

by Charles Wednesday, September 14th 2011

Editors Note (1/10/12): The MT110 and WT110 are now in stock!

The New Balance MT110 and WT110 are great choices if you are interested in a light weight (we're talking 7.75 oz for the men's and 6.2 oz for the women's!) low to the ground footwear with more protection and structure than you will get from the New Balance Minimus MT10 and WT10. The 110 has a a flexible Rock Stop plate in the forefoot to give you the protection you need to tear through trails without feeling every rock in your mid-foot, durable synthetic upper, Acteva foam to keep the shoe light and an internal shank for support. The lugged sole is great on trail and this could be a great choice for rugged trails - like many of the trails in the mountains around Tucson!

Summit Hut was able to get our hands on three pairs of 110’s to preview. Three staff members have done a great job of putting this shoe through the ringer – gym workouts, hiking and everyday use. Here are their first impressions:

Traci – Speedway Store Manager

tracis 110 photo 

The first thing that grabbed me about the WT110’s are the fast flashy colors and the unique lug concepts on the bottom. Being a lover of footwear, especially those with a technical edge I was game to take them for a spin. I have used many variations of the more minimalistic types of shoes and I was interested to see how the 110’s were going to be different. The beauty of a minimalistic shoe for me is the freedom feeling of the ground without the danger of the elements.

Anything I would do with a typical  gym shoe, Stair stepper, elliptical, row machine, weight machines, (and even a skydiving adventure) I did with the 110’s. I wanted to put them to the test. They performed so well and I am super stoked to wear them. They are grippy when I need them to be and I still have the feeling of being grounded. The voluminous toe box lets me wiggle my toes and feel that I am getting a good workout. The rounded up toe took a little bit of adjustment, but now I love the feel of my 110’s!

Richard – Equipment Buyer

I tried the New Balance MT110’s on a hike of Mt Wrightson.   I had recently done the same hike in my New Balance MT10 so I was eager to see the difference.  The 110’s felt a little heavier but gave much more cushion and protection.  Going uphill, the additional depth in the midsole felt great and the upper was breathable enough for me not to notice a difference from the MT10’s.  I also really appreciated the forefoot rock plate.  It allowed me to move faster over the rocky parts of the trail and have an overall faster speed going downhill.  I was wearing the same size in the 110 as I have in the MT10 and they may have been ½ a size too big but without one to try I can’t say for sure.  Overall I like the 110 and I’m looking forward to putting more miles on them soon. 

Frank – Marketing Manager

NB 110

I have worn the MT110’s as an around-town shoe. I haven’t taken much advantage of any of the awesome grippy-ness, trail-prowess or really many of the technical advantages of the 110…but I still think they’re an amazing shoe! I’ve tried several of the minimal products out there – some don’t fit my ridiculously long toes, some don’t have enough cushion for my tastes and others just don’t look cool. The 110’s pass with flying colors on all of these fronts! The forefoot is plenty spacious and lets your toes move freely. I’ve been equally comfortable in these shoes sitting at my desk as I have been on a full day running errands. The very little bit of time I spent on the trail with these shoes did offer a glimpse into their potential. They did offer more cushion than other minimal footwear while still giving that closer-to-the-ground sensation. And let’s be honest, the look of this shoe is awesome enough to warrant getting a pair as soon as you can!

So there you have it, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive, and this shoe is sure to be a popular one. Keep your eye out for them in January of 2012!


The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!