Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 review TL;DR: your new favourite cross-training shoes, the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 provides the best minimalist workout shoe experience yet.
Similar to Salomon, Inov-8 is mostly known for being the manufacturer of the best trail running shoes, but as it turns out, the company is also more than capable of producing workout shoes – and especially cross-training shoes – too. And to my surprise, it's not a recent thing either: apparently, Inov-8 has been churning out workout shoes way before Reebok jumped on the CrossFit bandwagon.
Being completely oblivious to its illustrious past, I was genuinely surprised by how well the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 performed during my workouts. I'm a big sucker for barefoot shoes – I wear the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite II (retailer link) for walking almost all the time – so wearing the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 for workouts was an experience right up my street. But even if you aren't used to barefoot shoes, the BARE-XF 210 V3 is worth a look.
Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3: Price and availability
The Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 is available to buy now at Inov-8 for a recommended retail price of $120 / £120.
Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 review: Tech
The Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 is a zero drop shoe: there is no midsole here, just a 3 mm thick insole resting on a rubber outsole compound. The 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 1.5 mm lugs to further increase stability and grip.
The upper has been improved since the V2 version of the shoes and now provides more airflow in the shoes. The 360-degree Rope Tec protects and adds durability to the shoes during rope climbs. The Meta-Flex technology enables the shoes to be ultra-flexible so your feet can move naturally.
Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 review: Ergonomics and grip
The Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 has a very low profile and the midsole is extremely thin too: these shoes are so flexible that you can roll them up into a ball. The minimalist approach here is similar to Vivobarefoot shoes and feels completely unobtrusive, which might take some getting used to if you haven't tried such shoes before.
Walking in these types of shoes is quite literally like walking barefoot: you will feel your sole touching the ground at every step. If you don't often walk barefoot, you will have to adjust your stride not to hit the ground too hard with your heels. This is especially apparent when you try to run/jump down in the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 and I would strongly recommend not trying to run in them straight away.
Ideally, you want to land on the balls of your feet and mitigate the impact force by lowering the heels down to the ground gradually. Not too slow but also not slamming them down at each step either. There is no need to tiptoe around but give it a session or two to get used to.
I was super impressed with the grip of the outsole, it sticks to almost any surface. I tested them by doing inverted rows at home using the combination of a pull-up bar and the TRX Home2 and resting my feet on the wall. My body was parallel to the ground and I did eight reps before my feet slipped. Truly amazing stuff.
Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 review: Workout performance
As someone who loves barefoot shoes, I loved working out in the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3. Not only I controlled every step, but thanks to the amazing grip, every turn was sharp and precise. I would expect the shoes to work really well for stuff like deadlifts and heavy squats, although I haven't tried these exercises due to the limitations of my home gym setup.
Due to the barefoot nature of the shoes, they are probably not as ideal for jumpy HIIT workouts as the Nike Air Zoom SuperRep: there is no bounce here and the landing is also firmer than in more cushioned shoes. On the flip side, because there is no cushioning, the calves are used way more for both jumping and landing, which might make them put on extra mass eventually. And who doesn't want bigger calves?
Although the weather is rather cold at the moment, airflow in the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 is excellent and I didn't experience any swelling either in the shoes even after working out for over an hour in them. The toe box is roomy so even if your feet decided to swell up a bit due to all the extra heat in the shoes, I would imagine there is enough space for the expansion.
Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 review: Aesthetics
The tested olive green version of the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 is not an eyesore for sure. After all the super colourful running and workout shoes I tested recently, it was refreshing to wear shoes that don't try too hard to look cool. Personally, I find the shoes attractive for the same reason, and apart from some glue overspill around the edge of the sole, the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 generally has a good build quality.
Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 review: Verdict
I fell in love with the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 while testing them and they will be my go-to workout shoes going forward, mainly because I tend to do more resistance training and less jumpy HIIT workouts. For the latter, I would still opt-in to use the Under Armour UA TriBase Reign 2 which is a great all-around workout shoe, albeit geared at cross-fitters, just like the Nike Metcon 6.
Is the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 for everyone? I wouldn't think so. It's great for workouts that don't involve a lot of moving around (e.g. running/jogging) and/or jumping around. For box jumps, these shoes are great but for boxing workouts, maybe not so much, especially if you aren't used to barefoot shoes, as I mentioned before. It doesn't take long to get used to the BARE-XF 210 V3, and once you did, you won't want to take them off again.