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Inov8 Bare-XF Review

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I know I’m not alone in saying that I have longed for the day of the Inov8 Bare-XF’s release. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the Inov8 Bare-XF 210 V3, but there were little things that I thought could have been improved in that shoe.

For example, the toe box in the Bare-XF 210 V3 always felt a smidge snug at times, and its super minimalist feel was an acquired taste, especially in the context of explosive training and all-day wear.

In the Bare-XF, we now have a reworked toe box, which has been widened, and the use of Inov8’s BOOMERANG Footbed is also a nice perk. It feels like Inov8 is finally back in the barefoot shoe game with this one.

Show Me the Pros & Cons

Logo

Pros

  • Strong performance for lifting.
  • Good upper security for cross-training.
  • Wide toe box is great for toe splay.

Cons

  • Rounded sole may be a miss for some.
  • Outsole lip over toe box could be wider.
  • Laces run a little long.

For the record, y’all. I buy the shoes I review here on That Fit Friend and this review is built independently through my own means without any form of say from Inov8.

What I Like About Them

  1. The wider toe box feels awesome. For all of my wide-footed friends, let’s shout and rejoice because this shoe’s wider toe box has been a very welcomed change. I have plenty of width in this shoe with my E/EE-width foot. It should work for wider feet as well.
  2. Strong performance for everything in the gym. This model has been well-rounded across all of my barefoot shoe tests and workouts. I’ve power cleaned 235 lbs, deadlifted 475 lbs, and have used these for countless cross-training sessions with zero issues.
  3. BOOMERANG Footbed gives this shoe more versatility. I personally love the Inov8 BOOMERANG Footbed and it gives this shoe a little more cushion and bounce. For beginners, this is awesome because it gives you a little cushion when training and acclimating to barefoot shoes. You get more range with this shoe than the prior model regarding comfort.

Inov8 Bare XF Barefoot Shoes Review

What I Don’t Like About Them

  1. The rounded sole may not be for everyone. This shoe’s rubber outsole has been solid in the gym, don’t get me wrong, but I could see it bothering some who want a fully flat sole. FYI, I’ll discuss this in more depth in my performance section below. This shoe’s sole somewhat reminds me of the rounded soles used in Lems shoes.
  2. It’s not the best-looking barefoot shoe for casual use. In the gym, the Bare-XF is wicked well-rounded, but in the context of casual use, its appearance somewhat holds it back. This would not be a model that I’d rock in business casual settings than to train in, and if you need that shoe, then you’ll want to look for that all-in-one barefoot shoe.
  3. I wish the internal construction were finished. If Inov8 would have finished the internal footbed of this shoe then we’d be cooking with gas. If you want an uber minimalist-feel and to train without the BOOMERANG Footbed, then you’ll want to use a thinner insole from a different model to avoid breaking down this shoe’s footbed.

Specs to Know

  • Price: $120
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 11.15 oz (size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Width: Wide
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Notorious Lift Radix: Comparable Alternative

Inov8 Bare-XF

$120

Inov8 Bare XF Product Shot
4.7
Stability
4.6
Versatility
4.8
Durability
4.5
Quality
4.6

Best For

  • Strength Training
  • Cross-Training and CrossFit
  • Walking and Barefoot Beginners
  • Short Runs

Falls Short

  • For Casual Daily Wear
  • For Outdoor Runs On Rough Terrains

How I Tested This Shoe

  • Lifting: 4.6/5. This shoe’s sole should work plenty fine for most lifters even though it is a little rounded. The grip, articulation, and ground feel in this model are all hits for lifting sessions.
  • Versatility: 4.7/5. I’ve enjoyed this shoe’s versatile performance and think the lightweight yet secure upper and BOOMERANG Footbed help contribute to this shoe’s overall feel and “responsiveness” when cross-training.
  • Running: 4.5/5. This model should work fine for short runs and interval workouts. I’ve used this model for 400 and 800-meter intervals and a few 2-mile cooldowns and they’ve performed well.
  • Daily Wear: 4.5/5. I’ve used this model for all-day wear, dog walks up to 3-4 miles, and a few days of running errands, and they’ve been okay. I like their comfort and feel for day-to-day stuff, but they have a more “gymmy” look for business casual settings.

Testing Inov8 Bare XF for Deadlifts

For Lifting, This Shoe’s Grip Is Great

Regarding strength training, the Bare-XF has been a solid shoe. The rubber outsole has provided more than enough grip on every surface I’ve lifted on, and I don’t think you’ll need to stress traction if you vary for your lifting on machines, wooden platforms, and rubber gym floors.

I know I had some asks on my YouTube channel about grip when deadlifting, but I have yet to have issues with this shoe. Now, that said, if you’re a powerlifter or someone who wants MAXIMAL grip with your shoes, then you’d probably be better off in models like the AVANCUS Apex Power 1.5 or Notorious Lift Radix.

Testing Inov8 Bare XF for Power Cleans

Those models are both solely built with strength training and powerlifting in mind, as their outsoles are flatter with more aggressive lugs. Another thing that I’ve enjoyed with this shoe for lifting is how flexible this model is, even with the BOOMERANG Footbed left in.

This shoe’s articulation is awesome for split squats and lunges, and it easily lets the feet move freely when training. It feels very “sock-like” on the feet, and I think this model will hit those who like to do a lot of functional training every week.

For example, if your lifting sessions typically look like a core strength exercise followed by more functional movement patterns such as sled work, lateral lunges, and kettlebell circuits then you’ll like this shoe.

Testing Inov8 Bare XF for lunges

This Shoe Feels Dynamic for Jumping and Cross-Training

This shoe has held its own exceptionally well when jumping, doing HIIT, and other athletic-focused work. For longer sessions where I was doing more sled pushes and pulls with conditioning work, I liked how well this shoe’s mesh upper breathed.

I think if you’re training in hotter gyms like myself (I train at Onnit in Austin, TX), you’ll enjoy the breathability of this shoe, especially for dynamic work. On top of this, I like to train with and without socks when cross-training in barefoot shoes, and in both situations, this shoe has fared well.

I never felt like I was swimming in this shoe when training and the spillover was minimal when doing lateral cuts and jumps. I credit this to the TPU covering the toe box material and how the reinforced upper material around the midfoot locks the foot down well.

Testing Inov8 Bare XF for Sled Drags

All that said, I’ve been happy with the Bare-XF’s performance for versatile workouts. It’s a barefoot shoe that I would comfortably recommend for most athletes and lifters who consider themselves “hybrid” or cross-train often.

They’re Okay for Running and Daily Wear

Despite not being an “overly” running-focused barefoot shoe, I’ve been surprised with how much I’ve enjoyed a few quick jaunts in this shoe. Historically speaking, my favorite barefoot shoes for strength work are rarely also a go-to or preferred option for me running.

Testing Inov8 Bare XF for walking

However, this model has been a nice surprise — and once again — I think their ability to perform strongly for short runs and sprints adds to the well-rounded nature of them in the gym.

I’ve used this shoe for a few workouts where I was doing conditioning circuits with 400 and 800-meter intervals, and they felt solid. For longer outdoor runs, this shoe can also work; however — I’d suggest potentially exploring other models with outsoles that can grip better across different surfaces.

For walking and general comfort, I like this model, and I don’t want you to think my gripe above has anything to do with the physical comfort of this shoe in this context.

Testing Inov8 Bare XF width

My only complaint from a day-to-day use context is that these won’t be your go-to options for business casual use, but then again, they’re not marketed for that, so it’s not a true dig on the shoe. It’s a more so a note from someone who constantly answers questions from folks who only want to invest in a single shoe for legit everything.

Construction Details

Outsole

  • This model has a full rubber outsole that wraps upwards around the toe box, midfoot, and heel, giving it its rounded construction. This helps give this shoe additional bite and grip when training.
  • There’s a meta-flex split in the forefoot which is a construction feature Inov8 uses in a lot of their models.
  • My only pause with this model’s outsole long-term is the lip around the toe box. I worry that it could breakdown fast for some since it has a limited surface area.

Inov8 Bare XF Outsole Construction

Upper

  • There’s a breathable mesh material that composes the brunt of this shoe’s upper from the forefoot to the midfoot and heel. The forefoot has more ventilation.
  • There are TPU overlays around the toe box and midfoot to help promote security and long-term durability. The boot doesn’t have a ton of structure to it.

Inov8 Bare XF Upper Construction

Laces, Tongue, and Insole

  • The tongue is built with a padded mesh material, and it’s gusseted with an additional loop for security purposes. I find that the tongue stays in place pretty well in training.
  • There are five core eyelets on this shoe’s midfoot, and there’s a sixth eyelet for lace-locking purposes. The laces run somewhat long which can be annoying at times. I tuck mine when training.
  • The BOOMERANG Footbed has a nice bounce to it, and its bumpy texture feels good on the feet.

Inov8 Bare XF Laces and Midfoot Construction

Final Verdict, Would I Buy These Again?

I would.

This model feels like the Bare-XF 210 V3’s big brother, and I’m happy he finally came home from college. There are a lot of construction tweaks to this shoe that make it a strong performer in the gym.

The widened toe box, grippy outsole, and breathable yet secure upper are a few of these tweaks. For lifting and cross-training, I think you’ll enjoy the Bare-XF.

As always, if you have additional questions on this shoe, drop a comment below or reach out to me via Instagram!

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of That Fit Friend. He's often regarded to as a go-to resource in various performance shoe communities. He’s been formally reviewing shoes and training gear for over 7 years and has hand-tested over 400 pairs of shoes. Jake is known on the internet and YouTube for blending his review process with his educational, strength sports, and personal training background.

Jake has a Masters in Sports Science, a Bachelors in Exercise Science, a CSCS, and he's been personal training for over 10 years helping hundreds of clients get stronger, lose weight, and accomplish their goals. He uses his exercise science brain and personal training background to make curated and thoughtful review content on the fitness gear he's testing.

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