Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 Review
Cons: Tapered toe box is a bit restrictive, traction is compromised by dirt, lack of versatility
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Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3
|Price||$120.00 at Amazon||$124.99 at Amazon||$80 List|
Check Price at Backcountry
|$119.95 at Amazon||$84.95 at Amazon|
|Pros||Super low-profile sole, comfortably padded, designed for durability||Super flexible, amazing feedback, spacious fit, breathable, optional insole||Superlight, exceptional natural feel, flexible, affordable||Tough exterior, stable, snug lacing system||Flexible, breathable, surprisingly durable, great price|
|Cons||Tapered toe box is a bit restrictive, traction is compromised by dirt, lack of versatility||Heavier than most, potential durability issues, short laces||Diminished grip off-road, confining stretch collar, bulky laces||Odd flex pattern, decreased sensitivity, lack of dexterity in toes||Very 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 trainer||From its airy fit to its free range of motion, this barefoot shoe offers the best in lightweight running performance||A barefoot trainer that continues to define the category, this shoe’s ultra-thin outsole helps deliver superior natural feel||Run in comfort and confidence in this tank of a FiveFinger shoe||For 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%)|
|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|
|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
|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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
— Aaron Rice