Late January was announced the Race Ultra 270 from british gear manufacturer Inov-8. We had the chance to get a pair to review and after 2 months of testing here is what Marie thinks about the shoe.
Inov-8 Race Ultra 270 overview
Designed specifically for long distance races, the Race Ultra 270 is a lighter version of the 290. The big difference being the 4mm drop versus 8mm on the Race Ultra 290. Another change is the foot protection going around the whole shoe on the 290 is now reduced to a toe cap on the 270. Obviously if you want to cut down weight, some things have to go. The Race Ultra 270 are available for both men and women in two colours each. I have to say, the pink/pale blue version I got are stunning.
The synthetic mesh upper is awesome at letting your feet breathe but not so much at keeping dust out. Be ready for dirt covered socks after long runs. But if you value comfort over cleanness, the almost seamless construction and freedom of movement win hands down. The ‘Standard’ fit of Inov-8’s shoes, with its wide toe box, as long been a favorite of mine. If you like being snug in your shoes this is probably not for you. Size wise I have the UK6.5 (EU 40), which is what I usually take for running shoes and the fit is as expected.
I am used to run in Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon which have a stack height of 6.5mm. The Inov-8 Race Ultra 270 felt a bit bulky at first with 17mm at the heel and 13mm at the forefoot. There is indeed a lot more protection, very welcome on rocky single tracks. It took me a bit to break them in, longer than my Trailroc 245 for example. All those millimeters do serve on longer runs. The small drop and the added protection and absorption mean better comfort and my feet weren’t as tired when running for more than a couple of hours.
The trade-off is of course proprioception, greatly diminished with the Race Ultra 270 compared to a pair of VFF. They are still very flexible though, you can bend than in half without much effort. I think it comes down to where and how long run for. Very hard, rocky and technical trails or long runs and the Race Ultra 270 will shine. If proprioception is your main concern and your don’t need the extra padding or drop then there are better, more minimal alternatives on the market.
Outsole, grip, balance
The Race Ultra outsole, used also on the 290, features the Tri-C compound. The central part, blue on the picture, is a medium density rubber built to last while soft enough to provide adequate traction in packed dirt, stones and root. The pink area is softer for added traction on technical terrain. The heel has the denser part of the three for optimal durability for heel strikers.
I have tried the Race Ultra 270 on as many different trails as possible and came out very happy. The different rubber density combined with a perfect balance in cleat depth and positioning allowed me to strike the ground with confidence at all time except very muddy or wet conditions. And after more than 200 km the sole still looks almost new so I have good faith that it will last for a lot more. As an added bonus, the Race Ultra 270 handles road and concrete OK. If your trail is not far, try leaving the car at home and start running from the door.
I think the Inov-8 Race Ultra 270 are definitely a step up from the 290. Lower drop, lighter, they take all the good from their bigger sisters, the Race Ultra 290, and turn it into a weapon for long runs and technical terrains. For my personal taste, I would still remove a few millimeters from the midsole to bring the foot even closer to the ground.
Prices are around 110€/100£/$120 at the moment. Check out Inov-8’s website for more great running shoes.