In T3's Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 review, we spoke highly about these super-capable workout shoes, and although we haven't got a standalone Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III (opens in new tab) (retailer link) review, we also think they are great for both exercising and as everyday shoes.
The question is, which are the best workout shoes for people who prefer little to no cushioning between their feet and the ground?
Fewer people would 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 buying either (or both).
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 (opens in new tab), Inov-8 US (opens in new tab) and selected third-party retailers for a recommended retail price of £120 / $120.
The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III is available at Vivobarefoot UK (opens in new tab), Vivobarefoot US (opens in new tab) and selected third-party retailers for a recommended retail price of £115 / $145.
Both shoes can also be bought at SportsShoes.com (opens in new tab) in the UK.
Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III – 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 increase stability and grip further. 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. The Primus Lite III uses the Active Sole system that offers a 'sensory' underfoot experience and provides grip and durability on hard surfaces. The signature 4mm sole is 1mm thicker than the Inov-8 but feels pretty barefoot nevertheless. The Primus Lite III uses recycled materials free from animal products and meets the Vivobarefoot vegan definition.
Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III – Design and build quality
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 aren'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 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 nowadays 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: 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 – Workout performance
Airflow in the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 is excellent; you won't experience any swelling in the shoes, even after long workouts. The toebox is roomy, so even if your feet 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 grip, 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 minimum padding around the ankles provides just the right amount of support and comfort.
Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 vs Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III – Verdict
Purely from a workout performance point of view, you'll probably be better off getting the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 of the two. These workout shoes have excellent grip, a comfortable upper and are also durable: perfect for strength and CrossFit-style workouts.
The Primus Lite III is the better option from a versatility point of view: if you need shoes you can wear for workouts as well as on the street without looking like you're trying too hard, the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III is the best barefoot shoes you can get.