Race Ultra 290 is first trail shoe by Inov-8 designed specifically for the ultra running events. It’s not a new shoe, the first iteration was introduced in 2014, while an updated one was in the stores in 2015. Meanwhile, Inov-8 introduced Race Ultra 270, a lighter racing version that delivers increased speed and responsiveness. I am still using a pair from the first iteration, with a total mileage of over 800 km (500 miles) and decided to share my opinion on Race Ultra 290.
The upper is comfortable and breathable thanks to the soft mesh and some synthetic materials. I ran with this pair on a variety of terrain and conditions – dry rocks, mud, rain, snow, the mesh is torn by roots, but the synthetic overlay is strong and wraps around the shoe. The toe box is not very wide, but it’s OK for me. Race Ultra 290 drains water well.
The outsole is solid and durable with good but not perfect traction. The lug pattern has forefoot lugs for improved climbing and reverse lugs for improved traction on descending. At the heel, the outsole material is most dense to improve durability in the high-wear area for heel strikers.
The midsole of the Race Ultra 290 is a single density injected EVA, the front stands at 10 mm while the rear is at 18 mm, offering a heel to toe drop of 8 mm. The 8-10 drop is standard for long runs like ultramarathons where the legs need constant support. More drop is for most perceived as more comfortable. Less drop is more like the natural position of the foot, but it also puts more strain on the muscles and tendons of the foot. I ran few ultras with this pair and the main drawback is the comfort. The ride of Race Ultra 290 is firm, it’s not soft and cushy like other shoes in its class. In fact, this is the hardest shoe I’ve ever run (except X-Talon 212 which is a racing trail shoe). Another irritating drawback is the shoelaces – they are loosening nonstop.
Inov-8 Race Ultra 290 is an all round shoe ready for trail and road runs. The durability for an ultramarathon shoe is important and good in Race Ultra 290. Although the shoe is an old model, it is still available in some stores. It is OK for a back up shoe, for a drop bag during an ultramarathon or for training but I would rely on something else for a main shoe.