Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III: which are the best barefoot workout shoes?

It's decision time: Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
(Image credit: INOV-8 / Vivobarefoot)

Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 versus Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III: it's a workout shoe clash with a difference. Both of these 'barefoot'-style shoes favour light weight over support, and if that's what you favour too, you should be interested in both of them.

In T3's Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 review I rated them highly, but the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III: have also impressed me a lot. Question is, which are the best workout shoes for people who prefer little-to-no cushioning between their feet and the ground? 

There are probably fewer people who'd buy minimalist shoes than athletes who prefer 'standard' workout trainers such as the excellent Under Armour TriBase Reign 2 or the Nike Metcon 6, but should these people know all the benefits of minimalist footwear, they might change their minds.

In this comparison, I'll be focusing on probably the two best barefoot workout shoes on the market today and try to provide you with all the pros and cons you might need to make an informed decision before you commit to buy either (or both).

Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III: the tech

The Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3's Power Footbed technology provides "a barefoot feel without compromise on comfort", as Inov-8 puts it, while the Inov 8 Sticky Grip outsole is equipped with 1.5mm lugs to further increase stability and grip. The V3's improved upper provides more airflow in the shoes and the 360 degree Rope Tec feature protects the shoes from abrasion during rope climbs. The Meta-Flex technology allows the foot to expand to avoid discomfort during longer workout sessions.

The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III is foot-shaped (not shoe-shaped) allowing the foot to expand into how it's supposed to look like. The Primus Lite III uses the Active Sole system that offers a 'sensory' underfoot experience and also provides grip and durability on hard surfaces. The signature 4mm sole is actually 1mm thicker than the on the Inov-8 but feels pretty barefoot nevertheless. The Primus Lite III uses recycled materials that are free from animal products and meet the Vivobarefoot vegan definition.

Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

(Image credit: Vivobarefoot)

Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III: design and build

Both shoes feature a stripped back, minimalist design with muted colours and subtle design elements. The Inov-8 shoes offer a couple of colour options that isn't black or white; as a matter of fact, you can't get the shoes in any of those colours. The BARE-XF 210 V3 look unmistakably like a workout shoes: the brownish-yellow outsole, the mesh-like upper, the whole lot.

The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III looks a bit more sophisticated: the shoes are sleek and leather-like, classy AF, as kids these days would say. You can just as easily wear the Primus Lite III for workouts as part of smart-casual attire. Cleaning the shoes is also effortless: just wipe them clean with a microfibre cloth and they will look good as new.

Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III: Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3

(Image credit: Inov-8)

Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III: workout performance

Airflow in the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 is excellent: you won't experience any swelling in the shoes, even after working out for hours on end. The toebox is roomy so even if your feet decided to swell up a bit due to all the extra heat in the shoes, there will be enough space for the expansion. Best of all, the grip of the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 is sublime: you'll feel like Spiderman when wearing them, sticking to any surface imaginable.

Thanks to the flexible nature of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III, we can wholeheartedly recommend the shoes for heavy lifts and stuff like CrossFit. The Primus Lite II has a good frip, maybe not as sticky as the Inov-8 but it works well in 99% of the cases. The mesh upper allows air to enter the shoes while the minimal amount padding around the ankles provides just the right amount of support and comfort.

Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III: Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 review

(Image credit: Inov-8)

Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III: price and availability

The Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V is available at Inov-8 UK, Inov-8 US and selected third party retailers for a recommended retail price of £120 / $120.

The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III is available at Vivobarefoot UK, Vivobarefoot US and selected third party retailers for a recommended retail price of £115 / $145.

Both shoes can also be bought at sportshoes.com in the UK.