Inov-8 Race Ultra 290 ReviewJuly 8, 2014
- Naturally stable, low-profile ride
- Rugged full-length outsole offers excellent traction and protection
- Somewhat firm feel underfoot
- Wide fit
The Inov-8 Race Ultra 290 is a mid-weight long-distance shoe with a firm feel that will appeal to runners with wide and/or high volume feet. The Inov-8 Race Ultra 290 is a fairly typical mid-weight long distance shoe, though I found it too roomy. The cross-sectional profile of the Race Ultra simply does not taper down enough between the forefoot and midfoot. On the other hand, wide-footed runners who have struggled to find a suitable long distance shoe might find the Race Ultra to their liking.
The Inov-8 Race Ultra 290 is a fairly typical mid-weight long distance shoe. The cushioning, protection, and ruggedness are definitely all there. The outsole in particular is a simple but highly effective design, and a refreshing change from the gimmicky and overly complicated lug patterns that seem to be so prevalent. The Race Ultra has a naturally stable ride as a result of the low forefoot and wide ground contact area. The low stack height up front however also means that forefoot cushioning is reduced, which certainly contributes to a firmer feel than many shoes in this category.
The main drawback with the Race Ultra is the overall width and volume of the shoe, particularly in the midfoot and heel area. While a roomy toe box is always appreciated in a long distance platform, the cross-sectional profile of the Race Ultra simply does not taper down enough between the forefoot and midfoot. On the other hand, wide-footed runners who have struggled to find a suitable long distance shoe might find the Race Ultra to their liking.
Comfort & Protection
The Race Ultra offers the comfort and protection one would expect in this class of shoe. The materials are soft to the touch and non-irritating; the toe bumper stood up to numerous impacts, and the full-length outsole provides the required push-through protection. The feel of the shoe is definitely on the firm side, however, which is something to keep in mind for runners who prefer a softer ride.
Security of Fit
As noted the overall width of the Race Ultra really made a secure fit difficult to achieve. Even with the laces cinched way down, there was a lot of movement. This shoe is simply going to be a difficult match for runners without wide or high volume feet.
Speed & Energy Efficiency
The Race Ultra scores a little better than average here due to the slightly firm midsole material and the overall balance of the shoe. The outsole material also adds some stiffness and hence reduces energy loss. Although some will be turned off by the 9mm heel-to-toe drop, it does give the shoe a somewhat faster feel and enhances turnover on runnable climbs.
Agility and Traction
Traction was generally excellent on a wide variety of surfaces. The outsole material also gripped well on wet rock. Agility on the other hand was really hard to evaluate given the fit issues. The low overall forefoot height did lend some natural stability, but as soon as the trail became technical the fit was just too loose to really run with any confidence.
The MSRP of $130 is definitely on the high end for this category of shoe.