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Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 Review

An incredibly thin outsole, supportive padding, and reinforced sidewalls make this an ideal barefoot gym trainer
Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3
Photo: Inov-8
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $120 List | $120.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Super low-profile sole, comfortably padded, designed for durability
Cons:  Tapered toe box is a bit restrictive, traction is compromised by dirt, lack of versatility
Manufacturer:   Inov-8
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 23, 2021
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 8
  • Natural Feel - 40% 8
  • Weight - 20% 7
  • Traction - 15% 6
  • Versatility - 15% 7
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

Continuing upon the success of previous versions, the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 has been redesigned and stripped down to highlight your most powerful weapon — your own two feet. From Crossfit and other HIIT workouts to dynamic body work and max-power weight lifting sessions, this shoe provides direct feedback to improve proprioception and athletic performance from the ground up. An ultra-thin, 1.5mm outsole on this zero-drop shoe is all that stands between your feet and the floor. An optional 3mm footbed adds a bit of comfort and support, and TPU-wrapped quarter panels are specifically designed to withstand abrasions and improve durability. Otherwise minimal in design, these shoes are incredibly comfortable, with an extra padded double-mesh upper that improves breathability.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  
Price $120.00 at Amazon$115 ListCheck Price at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$119.95 at Amazon$84.95 at Amazon
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Pros Super low-profile sole, comfortably padded, designed for durabilitySuper flexible, amazing feedback, spacious fit, breathable, optional insoleSuperlight, exceptional natural feel, flexible, affordableTough exterior, stable, snug lacing systemFlexible, breathable, surprisingly durable, great price
Cons Tapered toe box is a bit restrictive, traction is compromised by dirt, lack of versatilityHeavier than most, potential durability issues, short lacesDiminished grip off-road, confining stretch collar, bulky lacesOdd flex pattern, decreased sensitivity, lack of dexterity in toesVery particular sizing, lengthy break-in time, goofy looking
Bottom Line An incredibly thin outsole, supportive padding, and reinforced sidewalls make this an ideal barefoot gym trainerFrom its airy fit to its free range of motion, this barefoot shoe offers the best in lightweight running performanceA barefoot trainer that continues to define the category, this shoe’s ultra-thin outsole helps deliver superior natural feelRun in comfort and confidence in this tank of a FiveFinger shoeFor those who fully embrace the barefoot lifestyle, this shoe performs well on the road and in the gym
Rating Categories Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 Xero Shoes HFS Merrell Vapor Glove 5 Vibram V-Trail 2.0 Vibram FiveFingers KSO
Natural Feel (40%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Weight (20%)
7.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
Traction (15%)
6.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
5.0
Versatility (15%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Durability (10%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
Specs Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 Xero Shoes HFS Merrell Vapor Glove 5 Vibram V-Trail 2.0 Vibram FiveFingers KSO
Style Barefoot road Barefoot road Barefoot road Barefoot trail Barefoot road
Weight (per shoe) 6.8 oz (size US 9) 7.9 oz (size US 9.5) 5.8 oz (size US 8.5) 6.9 oz (size EU 42) 5.5 oz (size EU 42)
Stack Height 1.5 mm (w/o insole) 5.5 mm (w/o insole) 6.5 mm 5.7 mm 3.5 mm
Heel to Toe drop 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm
Outsole 1.5 mm,
Inov-8 rubber
5.5mm FeelTrue 2 mm, Vibram Ecostep 3.7 mm, Megagrip Rubber 3.5 mm, XS Trek Performance Rubber
Midsole None None None 2 mm EVA None
Insole 3 mm Power Footbed 3 mm High Density EVA Integrated
4 mm EVA
None None
Upper Material Mesh and Rope-Tec TPU Mesh and TPU Mesh and TPU 3D Cocoon Mesh Stretch polyamide, polyester, Hypalon
Best For (running, gym, etc.) Gym Running Running Running Gym
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 is a redesigned version of its award-winning predecessor. All of the key features are still in place, including the "Rope-Tec" protective TPU-wrap that protects sidewalls against abrasion. The upper maintains supportive padding but is re-worked with an all-mesh design to improve breathability and reduce weight. Designers have significantly reduced the stack height of this shoe by seating the insole directly into the outsole — the height of the outsole constitutes the extent of the stack height.

Performance Comparison


Ultra-minimal without sacrificing comfort and support, the 210 V3 is...
Ultra-minimal without sacrificing comfort and support, the 210 V3 is a nearly perfect gym trainer for the barefoot crowd.
Photo: Jill Rice

Natural Feel


Compared directly to its predecessor, the 210 V3 is slightly slimmed down, and this shines through in terms of its natural feeling. Most notable is the difference in the stack height of this new version — while the V2 measures a respectable 4.5mm, the V3 measures a nearly unbelievable 1.5mm.


There is no midsole stack and only 1.5mm of rubber for an outsole, so if you choose to remove the optional 3mm Power Footbed, you have very little between your foot and the ground. As a result, this shoe offers superior proprioception that is well-appreciated when performing dynamic exercises.

It doesn't get much thinner than that... behind the insole is really...
It doesn't get much thinner than that... behind the insole is really just a reinforcement so that your foot doesn't rub through the thin rubber of the outsole.
Photo: Jill Rice

This shoe is specifically designed as a gym trainer — it works well as a cross-trainer but excels in terms of functional training and floor work. The upper has been upgraded to a majority mesh construction, which improves thermoregulation and breathability, as well as overall shoe flexibility. While previous versions tended to move along particular angles, the 210 V3 is free to flex however your foot naturally needs to move.

Even the outsole design is all-natural. Notice how the design...
Even the outsole design is all-natural. Notice how the design pattern draws from the bone structure of the foot.
Photo: Jill Rice

Our complaints with this shoe as a cross-trainer — both for running and gym workouts — have nothing to do with its barefoot accuracy. The zero-drop platform, combined with an ultra-thin outsole and improved flexibility, provides an ideal level of dexterity and stability for off-balance movement, as well as running. While the toe box has been tapered a bit compared to previous models, it still allows for plenty of toe splay, which is a critical component of natural stability when weight lifting.

The flexibility and feedback of this shoe makes it perfect for...
The flexibility and feedback of this shoe makes it perfect for highly dynamic workouts where strength and stability are the keys to success.
Photo: Jill Rice

Weight


Compared to other barefoot trainers, the 210 V3 sports a much more substantial upper than most. The thick, double-layer padded mesh across the extent of the upper may add a few extra ounces, but for a gym-specific trainer, this provides additional comfort and stability without diminishing the barefoot feel. Considering the addition of a rubber toe rand and TPU sidewalls for added abrasion resistance, the 6.8-ounce weight per shoe is both impressive and respectable.


Despite feeling ever so slightly bulkier due to the extra padding, it is difficult to notice any appreciable difference in functional weight between these and other sub-seven-ounce barefoot trainers. The 210 V3 is padded in all the right places — their remarkable comfort doesn't negatively impact their agility. An impressively light swing weight makes these shoes plenty nimble for box jumps, ladders, and wind sprints.

Considering its build, weighing in at well-under 7-ounces is an...
Considering its build, weighing in at well-under 7-ounces is an incredible feat for this barefoot trainer. One of the many reasons it excels in this category.
Photo: Jill Rice

Traction


The profile of the 210 V3 stands entirely flat. Rather than traditional lugs, the designers opted for a series of grooves and cut-outs — if you look closely, the embossed design recreates the skeletal structure of the foot (it doesn't get much more natural than that!) The wide tox box and ultra-thin outsole allow your toes to splay out naturally, providing the natural grip our unshod feet are accustomed to.


While the STICKY rubber of the V2 was, in fact, exceptionally sticky, the proprietary Inov-8 rubber used on the 210 V3 is conspicuously less so. However, the flat, un-lugged design of the outsole, combined with the natural anchor of your foot, still results in a shoe that seems to stick to the ground, particularly the rubberized or parquet floors of many gym spaces.

Flexibility is of the utmost importance relative to the gripping...
Flexibility is of the utmost importance relative to the gripping ability of barefoot shoes, and this trainer allows your foot to flex and grip as naturally as possible.
Photo: Jill Rice

This is also true of their traction on paved roads. On hard surfaces, the shoe seems to remind you if you aren't flexing your toes through the push-off with an audible "slap!" But if you are running with proper form, your foot will grip the ground easily. However, this natural grip doesn't translate well to trails — particularly dry, dusty ones — where the 210 V3 tends to slip-and-slide with each stride. It is obvious that this shoe is not designed to handle anything other than human-made surfaces.

The lack of traditional lugs makes this shoe much more suitable for...
The lack of traditional lugs makes this shoe much more suitable for paved surfaces rather than trail running.
Photo: Jill Rice

Versatility


First and foremost, this shoe is designed with the type of support and stability expected of a gym-specific shoe — just with a barefoot twist. Barefoot trainers give you the ability to naturally develop support structure and stability within the musculature of your foot, rather than relying on the structure of a shoe. The ultra-thin outsole of the 210 V3 provides direct feedback, helping improve proprioception, and helping you become a stronger athlete. But despite an optional 3mm insole, we still would only recommend this shoe to those with a history of barefoot training.


As described above, the 210 V3 has an incredible crossover capability from road-to-gym — so if you enjoy running as a warm-up for your workout, this is a fantastic option for a cross-trainer. But if you are seeking a shoe that will seamlessly transition between road and trail, we suggest looking elsewhere. Perhaps if you're running softer, loamy trails it would perform better, but our lead tester found it frustrating on the dry dirt of the desert Southwest.

However, if you have your running form dialed, it is certainly...
However, if you have your running form dialed, it is certainly possible to tackle all but the roughest trails in this fairly versatile barefoot shoe.
Photo: Jill Rice

Durability


Aside from its ultra-thin outsole, the 210 V3 is specifically designed with durability in mind. Though not quite as reinforced as its predecessor, thin layers of TPU are employed at critical points to protect the upper from common damage caused by abrasion. Notably, the quarter panels along the shoe's sidewall are fortified with a thin TPU wrap — dubbed Rope-Tec — which is specifically designed to improve durability when rope climbing.


Though the 210 V3 ditches diamond ripstop in favor of weight savings and improved breathability, the thick multi-layer mesh is padded to protect both your foot and the shoe itself. While some shoes are sewn together, without a midsole, the upper on this shoe is set and glued directly into the outsole. This eliminates any seams that tend to split or fray over time.

The Rope-Tec TPU reinforcements are specially designed to protect...
The Rope-Tec TPU reinforcements are specially designed to protect the mesh quarter panels against abrasion on rope climbs but it also works well to improve the overall durability of this shoe.
Photo: Jill Rice

The outsole's rubber wraps to a front-point on the toe box, where it meets a welded TPU rand which helps protect the forefoot. A minor weight gain is well worth the additional protection afforded by this design and will likely improve the longevity of this shoe, particularly if it is used primarily in a gym setting.

Even though the upper is mostly mesh, small points of reinforcement...
Even though the upper is mostly mesh, small points of reinforcement help tie this shoe together in order to survive even the toughest workout regimen.
Photo: Jill Rice

Value


While you may pay up-front for all of the performance afforded by the 210 V3, this investment will likely pay off in the long run. Comparatively, this shoe is reasonably priced alongside the competition. Considering its durable design, it is likely that this shoe will stand up to the test of time, especially if most of your training takes place in a gym. But even if you plan on using it for cross-training, the benefits of cost should be weighed against the opportunities in athletic advancement a barefoot trainer like this one affords.

Conclusion


If foot strength is directly related to overall athletic performance, then the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 is full of exciting potential to improve your training experience. This revamped shoe builds on the success of its predecessor, slimming down and improving upon flexibility, breathability, and natural ground feel. While it is designed specifically for the gym, its crossover potential as a road runner make it an outstanding barefoot option.

Whether on the road or in the gym, the Bare-XF 210 V3 is a...
Whether on the road or in the gym, the Bare-XF 210 V3 is a comfortable, barely-there barefoot trainer to help you build upon your athleticism from the ground up.
Photo: Jill Rice

Aaron Rice