If you are runner of any distance from 1500-m to ultra marathons, on any terrain, and is looking for an incredibly durable, extremely lightweight racer built on a low profile, you’ll love the Inov 8 210! They’re truly one of the best barefoot shoes for working out, running and much more!
Essentially, the Inov 8 210, also known as the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210, is a more stripped down version of a racing flat that promotes efficient running form at any pace, on any terrain, and is actually one of the most top rated barefoot running shoes, especially for obstacle course races! Why? Because the 210’s is incredibly robust, yet nimble, agile, moves smoothly with your foot and can impressively handle high mileage, lasting well over 600 miles AND the soft, flexible sticky rubberized outsole and grippy inner sidewalls are designed for rope-climbing! The Inov 8 210 is built not only for versatility and functionality, but definitely built to last!
Another powerful highlight of the 210’s is that its zero-drop construction provides a level, natural interaction between your foot and the ground during running, complimenting a forefoot strike landing style, which is a powerful intervention that results in less stress on the joints, particularly the knees and hips!
Inov 8 210 Review for Forefoot Running
One of the 210’s biggest assets is its thin sliver of an outsole that almost makes you feel like you are running barefoot! The outsole thinness acts as a proprioceptive aid that lets in strong currents of ground-feel, helping get your forefoot strike more on target which is the type of foot strike you want during running to advantage your performance and injury prevention efforts.
If you are an ORC (obstacle course race) warrior, the structure and materials of the Inov 8 210 really do square with helping you excel at your next event!
The Inov 8 210 can play a big part of your OCR performance progress thanks to its innovative upper materials, particularly the inner sidewalls which are made of RopeTec rugged, grippy materials intended to provide sure, solid grip for rope-climbing and other climbing-related obstacles –this is what sets the 210s apart from most barefoot-style trail running shoes in that the 210s can help you use your feet more effectively when rope-climbing, which can have an out-sized influence on your performance.
The mesh-lining coupled with synthetic overlays throughout the upper not only sheds weight off the shoe for a feather-lightweight fit, but ensures large air-intake volume to keep your feet cool! Not to mention, the upper completely moves fluidly with your feet, enabling your feet to strength and condition naturally and gives the flexibility to move with more agility, giving you more main levers of balance control.
The reinforced materials around the toes offers increased rock and trail debris-protection and is strong and protective enough to handle off-road running.
Overall, the external framework of the Inov 8 210 has a record of success in providing high quality, reliable grip for obstacle climbing and has a real role to play in making your run experience more productive and enjoyable.
The 3-mm outsole is sufficiently thin enough to create the sensory condition that enables your forefoot strike to become more easily sustained during running, giving runners confidence that when their foot strikes the ground, their forefoot strike is done properly, making the Inov 8 210 a terrific choice for those who want to learn forefoot running, but opt of out running barefoot.
One of the novel components to the 210s is the stunning versatility of the outsole which is made of the same sticky rubber compound as most climbing shoes, affording total enhanced grip and traction on ANY surface, even wet surfaces.
I really appreciate that Invo-8 didn’t use studded, protruding, knobby, clunky lugs for traction, but rather a flat, smooth outsole with a series of indented grooves was used to help optimize traction without compromising ground-feel, thus replicating the barefoot-condition more effectively. This is one of the elements that makes the Inov 8 210 so appealing as a multi-terrain, multi-purpose minimalist running shoe that delivers on all fronts, yet barely feels like you are wearing anything on your feet.
All in all, if you do some serious off-road running, at any distance, including off-road marathons and ultra marathons, the sensory-activating thin outsole of the inov 8 210 will give you more ultimate levers of balance control on any surface, especially with steep climbs and descents AND its also a reliably durable and functional outsole for OCRs!
Conversely, traditional clunky, heavy lugged trail running shoes creates a huge disconnect between you and the ground and may spark some mechanical entanglements when running on crazy, uneven technical surfaces. A destabilized landing surface is that LAST thing you want while running. Traditional running shoes can be a mechanical disruptor. This is why the Inov 8 210 is definitely a more practical option because of the barefoot-comparable outsole helps get your mechanics to work the way they should on a mix of surfaces, from easy dirt roads to steep uneven terrain where a good grip and balanced, well-control mechanics are much needed.
How the Inov 8 210 Compares to Other Barefoot Running Shoes
The 210 has a wider toe-box than the New Balance Miminus and offers slightly more protection against trail debris than most Vibram FiveFingers, but the added protection doesn’t compromise ground-feel.
The Invo 8 210 has more structure than the Merrell Vapor Glove 2, making the Inov 8 210 feel a little more sturdy, more robust and more long-lasting in terms of outsole-life.
What’s the 210 Good for?
The Bare XF 210 is an extremely versatile running shoe that is supremely useful for long and short distance runs, short sprints on ANY surface. As I stated earlier, the super sticky rubber rope climbing-specific outsole makes the 210 a smart choice for Tough Mudders, Spartan Races and other obstacle course events of that nature!
The 210s can also be used for hiking, cross-fit, power-lifting, weight-lifting, box jumps, jump rope, agility workouts and are incredibly comfortable for every day wear! But, what I appreciate most about the shoe is that the Inov 8 210 allows one to develop a very strong sensory connection with the ground, which can be a source of positive change to your biomechanics and sustained foot functional strength.
Other Notable Features of the Inov 8 210:
- Made with high-quality materials that lasts well beyond 600 miles!
- Has become the preferred cross-fit shoe by many!
- Comes with a 3-mm removable insole. I removed the insole to optimize ground-feel, buts its nice to have the cushy-option if you enjoy a more plush ride for the long haul
- Machine washable
- 3 mm foot-bed thinness, feels like you’re wearing practically nothing on your feet
- Feels great without socks; the upper seamlessly wraps the foot like a sock
- Perfect alternative to the Vibram FiveFingers; keeps the foot in close contact with the ground and promotes muscle activation, improves balance and provides excellent ground-feel, similar to the Vibrams
- Highly responsive, nimble and fast-feeling; adaptable fit across the entire shoe
- Contoured collar around the ankle and thicker padding behind the tongue for added comfort
- Enhanced flexibility in the forefoot for limitless proactive engagement of the toes
- No midsole which matters because less support in a shoe is the main source of continued muscular engagement within the foot, making you well on your way to develop functionally strong, resilient feet
- Grippy outsole makes for a more secured platform for weight-lifting. No slip to it; stable instep feel
For a sizing tip, get the shoe a half-a-size, or even one size larger than your regular size.
I really love how the Inov 8 210 conforms to the contours of your foot, giving a customized fit, but more importantly, the shoe really makes it possible to enjoy all the benefits of forefoot running by enabling enhanced sensory communication between the feet and the motor areas in the brain which can contribute to a major reorganization in running form, leading to mechanical changes that result in lighter footsteps and a more responsive stride, giving you the best possible start at becoming a stronger, more resilient runner.
Last but not least, the Invo 8 210 minimalist design can be used as a foot strength developmental tool to help prepare your feet for if you want to run barefoot full-time.
For an even more detailed look at the Invo 8 Bare XF 210, I did a YouTube video review on them here!
Where to get the Invo 8 210?
Amazon – https://amzn.to/2LLnwha
As of now, the Bare-XF 210 has been upgraded to the Bare-XF 210 V2, which is a lighter, more nimble, more breathable, more wide variant. The Bare-XF 210 V2 is still the same lightweight, super thin performance racer than the original, but one of the more appealing, more beneficial aspects about the the V2 is that it’s constructed with a wider-toe box that offers up plenty of room for toe-splay and thus, enhanced balance stability. You can learn more about the Bare-XF 210 V2 here!
The 210 isn’t the only barefoot minimalist shoe Invo-8 offers, you may also be interested in the Bare-XF 260, too!
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you’ll love my other reviews, here, on other barefoot-inspired running shoes that’ll help bring out the best in your forefoot running form.
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BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
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