I’ve had these shoes for 14 months now and subjected them to dozens and dozens of Cross Training workouts. In short these CrossFit inspired treads from Inov8 are awesome. For a barely there zero-drop shoe they are as comfortable as it gets with 2mm of rubber between you and the ground. While I have seen some negative reviews concerning these shoes and arch/heel pain coming from mostly older inexperienced runners (these are NOT running shoes); I feel confident that those with minimal shoe experience looking for a truly dedicated workout shoe will have no issues here.
I bought my Bare XF’s after shredding a fairly new pair of Inov8 F-lite 230’s on the climbing rope. I’ve loved my 230’s since the day I bought them and they have been excellent workout and lifting shoes, but when it came to arresting my decent on a rope they were simply over-matched. The XF- 210’s are built with a patented rope guard on both sides which has become a standard feature of Inov8 shoes. The sole while sticky like a rock climbing shoe, has no issues standing up to the heat and friction of a rope. If anything climbing a rope with these shoes on is like equipping your feet with disc brakes; they work that good.
Surprisingly for a minimal shoe, the Bare XF’s are quite comfortable for short runs of 400m or less. It goes without saying, heel striking is a definite no-no, but experienced fore and mid-foot runners should have no problems. I keep my F-lite’s in the car in case a workout calls for longer distances.
The other area where these new shoes shine is in power lifting. Next to being barefoot there is no better connection to the ground. Lifts feel planted and secure and you can really activate your legs and push through your heels to power through tough movements. I often have problems with more cushioned shoes collapsing under heavy weight loads. There’s nothing to collapse here, just a rock solid platform.
The Bare XF’s are manufactured like many of Inov8’s shoes; with a tough mesh weave that is both thick but light and allows for great air circulation and cooling. You definitely don’t want to wear these shoes if you’re averse to getting your feet wet. The same features that keep you cool drench you in puddles. On the upside though they dry quick and don’t hold sweat like many shoes, making them less likely to become bunkers for funk and fungus. The sticky rubber sole reminds me of a performance tire. It has fine grooves to aid in traction on sweaty floors but looks smooth and slick. Inside a gym they offer great traction, but be sure to wipe them off before trying floor moves if you’ve been outside in gravel or old pavement as they do collect fine dirt and dust on the underside.
The final analysis; these are great shoes for those that are looking for a dedicated Cross Training shoe. They can be found on sale at Zappos and 6pm.com for under $100, and compared to some other name brands; offer twice the durability and function at 50 dollars less. That being said these shoes are not for novices. If you’ve not spent at least six months becoming accustomed to minimalist shoes then I’d steer towards a more cushioned product.