Inov-8 was the original CrossFit shoe before Reebok came in and took over. CrossFitters embraced the Inov-8s because of their minimalist design that provided a comfortable, lightweight feel. In the beginning of the sport these shoes may have been sufficient, but with the sport's growth and an exponential jump in strength numbers, a more specialized shoe became inevitable. Inov-8 definitely took note of this. The Inov-8 Bare XF 210s were designed specifically for the sport of CrossFit. They took the minimalist design to an extreme by lowering the sole of the shoe to a mere 3mm off the ground and providing a 0mm heel-to-toe drop.
nov-8 Bare-XF 210 ReviewPrice: $130 List | $42.99 at Amazon Pros: Support, protection.
Cons: Long-distance running.
Weight (oz/grams): 7.4oz/210g
Heel to toe drop (mm): 0mm
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Our Analysis and Test Results
There are various aspects of the shoe that are intended to make it more comfortable. The toe box, unlike the previous F-lite models, is designed to be wider to allow your toes to splay out more naturally. Actually, the main idea of the shoe is to make them feel as natural as possible. The flat, nearly non-existent sole of the shoe is supposed to make it feel as though you are moving around barefoot. However, in order to do so, Inov-8 eradicated the midsole of the shoe, leaving you with a thin outsole, and a footbed — providing minimal cushioning on the foot. While it is successful in providing you with a connection to the ground, the lack of cushioning takes away from comfort needed during high-intensity movements.
A big upside of the zero drop in the shoe's sole is its ability to provide your foot with natural support. It allows you to have full control over how you position your foot and how you feel and utilize the ground. The sole is both rigid and flexible, allowing it to contour to your foot, thus allowing it to move uniformly with your movements.
Inov-8 put a lot more focus into foot protection with these shoes. The Bare-XF 210s feature a much needed toe guard to shield your toes from potential impacts during box jumps, the continual pounding during toes-to-bars, and especially the thin, debilitating rope wire that you will unavoidably smack into the front of your shoe. Inov-8 also incorporated a thin layer of rubber to the medial side of the upper to help protect your foot from rope burn, and to keep your shoe from wearing down during rope climbs. Unfortunately, we consider this feature likely to break down rather quickly.
Having such a thin sole with no heel-to-toe drop means that these shoes are highly sensitive — maybe more so than you want. With these shoes you are able to feel everything your foot impacts, up to the smallest pebble on the ground. I suppose this means Inov-8 was successful in mimicking the feeling of being barefoot. The problem here is that a CrossFitter wants security in every movement, and not having that protection in your shoe's sole hinders that feeling of security.
I was pleased with the way the Bare-XF 210s functioned while performing weightlifting and Olympic lifting movements. The stiffness of the sole with its zero heel-to-toe drop helps you to know where you are asserting your most pressure. Generally speaking, I felt fairly comfortable dropping under heavy weights in these shoes. What I didn't like about the flat sole is that it could be somewhat limiting. If you lack mobility in your ankles, having no inclination in the heel impairs your ability to engage the ground at all times, particularly when you are sitting in the bottom of your squat. This, in turn, means you will have more of a tendency to move towards the ball of your feet and will lose the ability to drive your heels into the ground to get out of the hole. To sum it up, these shoes will offer you the support and comfort you need when performing lifts during a CrossFit "MetCon," but not so much during specific strength training.
Although this shoe isn't entirely geared towards running, the design of the sole, at a 0mm heel-to-toe drop, promotes proper form — forcing you to utilize the balls of your feet rather than pounding on your heels. I personally think the shoes are successful in short interval running (i.e. sprinting or short distance runs in WOD's). However, in long distance running, these shoes do not stand the test. I took these shoes on a half marathon run, some of which was on rough terrain, and I was left with very sore feet, due in part to the lack of cushioning and support in the sole of the shoe. Extended periods of time pounding on your feet with minimal to no support from the sole of your shoes can surely do some damage.
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