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Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V2 Review

Tacky soles and a durable upper make this shoe an ideal barefoot gym trainer
Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V2
Photo: Amazon
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $115 List | $59.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Super tacky outsole, low profile, extra durable
Cons:  Oversized, not very versatile, outsole loses grip when dirty
Manufacturer:   Inov-8
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 1, 2020
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 9
  • Performance - 30% 9
  • Barefoot Accuracy - 25% 7
  • Weight - 15% 6
  • Traction - 15% 7
  • Versatility - 10% 6
  • Durability - 5% 8

Our Verdict

The inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V2 is an elegantly simple barefoot trainer with a complicated name. From Crossfit body work to max-power deadlift sessions, this shoe is stripped back to reveal your most powerful secret-weapon — your own two feet. The zero-drop design puts a mere 3mm of ultra-sticky rubber between your feet and the floor. For those extra-heavy lifts, an optional 3mm footbed adds an additional level of support to these impressively comfortable shoes. While the thin outsole provides raw feedback and natural stability, the mesh upper is padded to allow you to tightly wrap your foot for a quick-moving, nimble fit. An additional TPU-wrap reinforces the quarter panels, specifically designed to withstand the abrasions of rope climbing.

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Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V2
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Price $59.99 at Amazon$79.95 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Super tacky outsole, low profile, extra durableSuper lightweight, exceptional ground-feel, freedom of movementTough exterior, stable, snug lacing systemDurable, versatile, minimal stack heightUltra-lightweight, breathable, specialized toe/heel grips
Cons Oversized, not very versatile, outsole loses grip when dirtyInconsistent grip, short stock laces, potentially short lifetimeOdd flex pattern, decreased sensitivity, lack of dexterity in toesWeighty, bulky, overly padded upperOverly supportive, finicky to lace, lack of resilience
Bottom Line A true barefoot gym shoe designed with durability in mindA perfect mix of road and trail runner, our Editors' Choice for outstanding barefoot accuracyA FiveFinger shoe that earns our Top Pick for Adventure and Trail RunningMuch more impressive than it looks, this versatile trainer stays true to its barefoot designSomehow both ultralight and supportive, this racing flat is designed to go fast
Rating Categories Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V2 Merrell Vapor Glove 4 Vibram V-Trail 2.0 Xero Shoes Prio Altra Vanish R
Performance (30%)
9
7
8
8
8
Barefoot Accuracy (25%)
7
9
6
8
6
Weight (15%)
6
8
7
5
10
Traction (15%)
7
7
8
6
5
Versatility (10%)
6
7
6
7
6
Durability (5%)
8
6
9
8
5
Specs Inov-8 Bare-XF 210... Merrell Vapor... Vibram V-Trail 2.0 Xero Shoes Prio Altra Vanish R
Style Barefoot gym Barefoot road Barefoot trail Barefoot road Minimalist road
Weight (oz per shoe) 7.5 oz (size US 9.5) 5.4 oz (size EU 42) 6.9 oz (size EU 42) 8.4 oz (size US 9.5) 4.2 oz (size US 9)
Stack Height (mm) 4.5 mm 6.5 mm 3.7 mm 5.5 mm 14 mm
Heel to Toe drop (mm) 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm
Outsole (mm) 3 mm STICKY rubber 3.5 mm, Vibram TC5+ 3.7 mm, Megagrip Rubber 5.5 mm, FeelTrue Rubber <1mm laminated rubber pods
Midsole (mm) None None 2 mm EVA None 14mm exposed EVA with Propel Plate
Insole 3 mm Power Footbed None None Optional 2 mm Flat, or optional 5mm insole
Upper Material Lightweight mesh Cordura mesh and TPU 3D Cocoon Mesh Mesh with synthetic leather overlays Engineered mesh
Best For (running, hiking, etc.) Gym, running Running, gym Running, hiking Running, gym Running
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular

Our Analysis and Test Results

The inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V2 is a gym-specific shoe designed with indoor training in-mind. The highlight of this, and many of inov-8's shoes, is the incredibly sticky rubber compound used in the otherwise thin, 3mm outsole. Additionally, the "Rope-Tec" protective TPU-wrap beefs up the diamond ripstop quarter panels, and extra padding underlies the mesh toe box and tongue for added support and comfort.

Performance Comparison


Our lead reviewer loves running curbs as a way to train focus...
Our lead reviewer loves running curbs as a way to train focus, balance, and stability through motion.
Photo: Aaron Rice

Performance


As a gym — and more specifically, Crossfit-designed trainer — the Bare-XF incorporates design features that are functional for this purpose and otherwise omitted from other barefoot running shoes we tested. Most of the upper, and particularly the tongue, includes padding sandwiched in between two layers of mesh. Not only does this extra loft improve thermoregulation and breathability, but it allows you to really cinch these shoes down to aid in agility.


Stay tuned for an update:


Our reviewer is testing these shoes in New Mexico, where as a result of the current spike in COVID-19 cases, gyms have been required to close. We're just as excited to get back in the gym as you are, and as soon as it is safe to do so, we'll be updating this review after we get a few weight sessions under our belt.

Unlike practically all of the other barefoot shoes in this review...
Unlike practically all of the other barefoot shoes in this review, the Bare-XF doesn't shy away from extra padding to create a more comfortable foot wrap.
Photo: Aaron Rice

The thin outsole allows for flexibility of the foot but doesn't quite provide the ideal natural feel. While the Meta-Flex design uses specialized cuts in the rubber to improve upward and torsional flexion, the Bare-XF does not as readily flex downward. This translates to enhanced dexterity and stability in off-balance situations, but not necessarily a powerful toe-spring.

The outsoles are unbelievably tacky, but the flex pattern through...
The outsoles are unbelievably tacky, but the flex pattern through the toes isn't quite what we expected from this otherwise very flexible shoe.
Photo: Aaron Rice

Barefoot Accuracy


Please don't be thrown off by the overbuilt appearance of the Bare-XF — this is through-and-through a barefoot shoe. At a mere 4.5mm, this beefy-looking shoe surprisingly has one of the lowest stack heights of any we tested. The outsole is only supported by a 3mm footbed — if you decide to remove that, you have a sheer 1.5mm of flexible rubber between your feet and the ground. The zero-drop design better suits wide feet, with both a toe box and midfoot that allow for plenty of splay (and increased stability) under weight.


When directly compared to other barefoot shoes we tested, the only place we could really find fault is in the beefier design of the upper. Extra padding across the entire upper adds a few extra ounces, and the bulk created by the padding is certainly noticeable. inov-8 made its name on creating Crossfit-specific shoes, and the seemingly superfluous design features of the Bare-XF do exist for a reason.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The thick, double-layer padded mesh on the tongue means you can really cinch down the cradled lacing system, holding this shoe tight to your foot. Combined with the uber-thin, ultra-flexible outsole, you can jump, climb, push, and lift your way through any workout without being even slightly hindered by this shoe.

Sizing


Even though we ordered based on the typically more consistent EU sizing, the Bare-XF runs a bit large — by about ½-size (for both EU and US sizes). We always suggest that you visit your local shop and try these shoes in-person to find your perfect fit.

It really only took us one trail run to recognize that these soles...
It really only took us one trail run to recognize that these soles are thin, and that the outsole design is not very grippy on trails.
Photo: Aaron Rice

Weight


Tipping the scales at 7.5 ounces per shoe, this is not the lightest barefoot trainer we tested. But then again, the Bare-XF is not intended to be a nimble running shoe. We appreciate the sacrifice of a few ounces for extra foot protection, including a padded tongue, rubber toe rand, and abrasion-resistant quarter panels.


Particularly after lacing up, we certainly did not notice any appreciable differences between these and other lightweight, barefoot runners. In fact, we found them quite nimble for box jumps and for running sprints. While you may notice the extra volume, we doubt that you'll notice any extra weight on your feet.

Considering the additional material incorporated into this shoe&#039;s...
Considering the additional material incorporated into this shoe's design, is is surprising that it lands in the middle-weight class of shoes in this review.
Photo: Aaron Rice

Traction


Besides the wild appearance, the first thing that we really noticed about the Bare-XF was the exceptional traction of the outsole. inov-8 markets their patented compound as STICKY rubber, and it is in fact super sticky — the first time we put these on indoors, they actually stuck to our tiled kitchen floor.


Very slight, 1.5mm lugs are more like slight grooves intended to increase flexibility — for all intents and purposes, the 3mm outsole of the Bare-XF is completely flat. Additionally, the wide stance of this shoe allows your toes to splay out naturally, improving control and stability. Sticking to its barefoot design (pun-intended), the zero-drop stack outsole offers the ultimate in natural grip.

The patented STICKY rubber compound is indeed super sticky. But...
The patented STICKY rubber compound is indeed super sticky. But without any real lugs to speak of, this shoe performs best indoors.
Photo: Aaron Rice

Versatility


First and foremost, this shoe is designed as a gym-specific trainer. Typically, gym shoes are supposed to deliver support and stability. Conceptually, barefoot trainers aim to allow you to develop that support and stability within the musculature of your foot, rather than relying on the structure of a shoe. The Bare-XF does just that, providing the support structure for you to become a stronger athlete.


But beyond the gym, the Bare-XF will likely leave you wanting for the same performance you experienced in your last training session. As a road runner, this shoe performs admirably in delivering the expected feedback directly from the ground. But the grip we revere on the parquet panels of a gym floor vanishes completely at the first sign of dirt or debris — we didn't dare to take these out on more than one trail run. If you plan on running in these to the gym, just make sure you give the outsoles a good wipe-down before stepping up to your first box jump.

As a lightweight trainer, these shoes were fast road runners.
As a lightweight trainer, these shoes were fast road runners.
Photo: Aaron Rice

Durability


Aside from its exceptionally flexible barefoot structure, the Bare-XF is designed to be a nearly indestructible trainer. At every turn of the shoe, there is supportive padding, abrasion-resistant fabric, or redundant reinforcement.


The outsole extends forward to meet an additional rubber rand that serves to protect both your toes and the front of the shoe. While the toe box is primarily mesh (albeit thick multi-layer mesh), the rest of the upper is wrapped in a diamond ripstop fabric. Since there is no midsole in the picture, the entire upper is set into and glued directly to the outsole, eliminating any seams that could potentially split or fray.

Designed with a rand like a climbing or approach shoe, you can go...
Designed with a rand like a climbing or approach shoe, you can go about your training without fear of shredding the toe box.
Photo: Aaron Rice

If the 1000-denier fabric of the upper didn't already provide enough durability, the quarter panels are reinforced with a thin TPU wrap. Dubbed Rope-Tec, this extra layer of protection is designed for increased durability on rope climbs. All of this adds up to a bomber shoe ready to tackle the toughest workouts.

The flexible TPU wrap is specifically designed to be tough, adding...
The flexible TPU wrap is specifically designed to be tough, adding an additional level of protection to the already abrasion-resistant diamond ripstop of the collar.
Photo: Aaron Rice

Value


As one of the more expensive shoes in this review, you can expect to pay the price up-front for the Bare-XF. But unlike many other barefoot shoes we tested, we have no doubts that with its extra-durable design, this shoe will stand up to the test of time. If the majority of your training takes place in the gym, consider these shoes to be a worthy investment in your performance.

Without a doubt, these shoes will help you stand out in your next...
Without a doubt, these shoes will help you stand out in your next Crossfit class, both in looks and the performance they allow.
Photo: Aaron Rice

Conclusion


Foot strength is directly related to overall athletic performance. The inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V2 is only padded where it counts, providing you raw feedback to help you work directly on full-body strength, starting with your feet. Designed specifically for the gym but suitable for road running, this outstanding barefoot shoe is sure to help you train to your full potential.

Aaron Rice