Barefoot training/running had a huge surge at the start of the decade. The premise is simple enough, training barefoot should lead to stronger foot muscles, tendons and ligaments. Things like midsoles and insoles lead to power degradation and instability when lifting weights. Zero drop was ideal because it promoted better running technique versus having a cushy heel to strike. There’s was a lot of taboo behind the benefits and disadvantages, but it still managed to garner a cult following, especially in the world of CrossFit.
Before purchasing barefoot shoes, you should know what you’re getting into. Training in barefoot shoes is suppose to mimic exactly what the name says, being barefoot. If you’ve never done barefoot training before, it’s going to take a little bit of getting used to, especially if you’re coming from cushy running shoes. You might end up with sore feet for a little bit, but at the end of the day, your feet will be better off for it. The allure of having stronger feet, better balance, and more power output got me into barefoot training early on, long before I even started CrossFit.
One of the best options was Inov-8’s Bare XF 210, it had everything you would want in a barefoot shoe (nothing). Zero drop, no midsole, it was form fitting and extremely light, but best of all, didn’t have individual toes. Still, barefoot training isn’t for everyone and the durability of the shoe wasn’t as good as some of it’s in box competitors. Inov-8 has been going on a tirade releasing updated models for their training shoes in 2017, one of them being the beloved 210v2, now sporting heftier construction to keep up with the big dogs. Barefoot fans, rejoice.
Upon first glance, you probably wouldn’t be able to distinguish the newer model 210 from the previous; they look almost identical. Apart from differences in the Rope-Tec protection, lacing scheme and some material changes, the silhouette is basically the same exact thing. They’re not terrible looking shoes, but they’re definitely something you’d only want to be seen wearing in your athletic pursuits. Currently, the only colorway for men is black and grey with a touch of neon green (red for women), which will probably change but is pretty unoffensive for a single colorway option right now.
While extremely light, I remember the original 210’s also being a little bit on the flimsy side. The entire upper was mainly just fabric with a little bit of PU overlay on the middle part of the upper to give it a bit of structure, but otherwise it was basically a sock. The new 210 feels much more beefed up from the original, though that didn’t take much, but how they managed to keep the V2 at 210 grams is a mystery, The biggest changes to the construction of the shoe lie at the back and middle areas of the shoe. Where the previous model had the same mesh throughout the shoe, the new V2 has a tougher nylon ripstop fabric that extends from the heel to the beginning of the toebox. Rather than being just an overlay on the shoe, the new Rope-Tec is a piece of armor that protects the lateral and medial sides of the shoe on top of the ripstop fabric. At the heel of the shoe there is the new Y-Heel lock counter that Inov-8 has been using recently to keep your heel locked into place and does a rather good job doing so.
Since this is the Bare-XF line, there is really no midsole of which to speak. All you get between your foot and the ground is a combined 6mm between the insole and outsole combination. The latter sees really no change, same skeletal tread patern and 1.5mm lug depth. If you want barefoot shoes without having to wear Vibram’s, this is as good as you’re going to get.
Though the shoe feels more sturdy, it still retains it’s sock-like feel. The new lacing system is one of the best upgrades Inov-8 made on the 210v2. Rather than having to go under the upper to lace your shoes, there is a “Flywire” type lacing system that brings the new Rope-Tec cage together on top of the upper. Also gone are the flimsy rope laces, replaced with much beefier flat laces that do have some issues staying tied. With the new lacing system, you can get an even more locked down fit in the middle of the shoe, giving the 210v2’s a second skin like feel.
The mesh at the toebox is actually more plush and breathable than the original’s, not to mention extremely flexible and fairly wide. I’d love the new toebox if it weren’t for the unforgiving “Italian blown rubber toe bumper”, which my Morton’s toe just ends up jamming up into. This probably won’t happen to most people, but it’s worth noting. I made the mistake of getting a 9.5, where I should have gotten a 10 like all my other training shoes, so that’s what I’m going to recommend you do. Size like your normal training shoe size, you don’t want your toes anywhere close to the front of the shoe with these.
Here are mine for reference:.
- 235v2/215/195v2 – 10
- Nano – 10
- Metcon – 10
- NoBull – 10
- New Balance – 9.5
If you ever find yourself thinking that Nano’s or Metcon’s are too bulky, you’ll probably want to look into the 210v2’s. As barefoot shoes should be, the 210’s are as stripped back as possible as you can get, while not being a sock. The upper fits close to your foot and feels like a second skin. One of the first things you’ll notice is just how low you sit to the ground and how the outsole conforms to the bottom of your foot. You’ll be able to feel even the smallest of rocks through the bottom of the shoe. Which is great for power delivery inside the gym, but isn’t so good if you plan on taking these shoes up to the trails. Response is instant, when you push, you actually push; there is virtually nothing in the way of your foot to ground. Power delivery is limited to what your standing on top of instead of what you’re wearing.
Conventional deadlifting is probably the best movement you could do in the 210v2’s, just grip it and rip it. Sumo is slightly a different story, depending on how mobile you are. These shoes were made for free movement, so laterally they might not as stable as something with a flatter base (i.e. Chucks), but that depends on how strong your glutes and hamstrings are. The 210’s could easily be your squatting shoe of choice, but that once again depends on mobility. I think zero drop shoes favor low bar squatting, though I personally squat high bar just fine in these shoes. If you get your feet planted, these shoes are solid as a rock.
For the fast Olympic Weightlifting movements in a CrossFit WOD, I think the 210’s are excellent. Power delivery is snappy and your feet move extremely well. That being said, there’s a level of lateral stability that I’d want if I were to go for 1 rep max that I don’t quite trust the 210’s for. I was still able to lift fairly confidently but if it came down to it, I’d rather do my Oly in shoes that have a bit more width. While the material of the outsole grips rougher surfaces well, it doesn’t do so great on smooth rubber flooring. There are virtually no lugs, so smooth on top of smooth doesn’t work so well. I’ve had a few close incidents where my feet have slid catching a lift, another reason to stick to shoes with more structure for Oly.
When it comes to rope climbs, the 210v2’s do fairly decent job holding the rope despite the slick outsole. The added Rope-Tec protection shields your feet from getting too beat up from the rope, but due to the thin upper, you’re still going to feel it. Durability is yet to be determined, unless you plan on doing rope climbs every day, they seem like they’ll hold up just fine.
The area the 210’s most excel at are during lighter metcons. Your feet are free to move as you do – Movement feels unhindered and transitioning between movements feels like you don’t even have anything on your feet. The feather light 210v2’s are flexible for plyometrics and gymnastics but stable kettlebells and most weightlifting you’ll find in a WOD. Running is a matter of preference, you’ll either love or hate it in the 210’s. Like previously mentioned, there’s nothing between your feet and the ground, so everything is a little bit more high impact. Things like arch support or midsole cushioning are no where to be found, forcing you into better running technique. If you’re a heel striker, you’ll quickly find out why it’s discouraged to do so. Also, if you’re new to the barefoot thing, you’re going to end up with sore feet for a few weeks. Make sure you ease yourself into running distances in the 210v2’s, but like I said earlier, I believe you’ll be better off for learning how to run in barefoot shoes.
The Bare-XF 210v2’s retail at $110 and while I don’t think they’re going to pull the masses away from the big names, they’ll definitely entice seasoned barefoot enthusiasts. If you’re looking to take the plunge into barefoot training, I can’t think of any better shoes to do it with. Are the 210v2’s going to be for everyone? Nope, that’s what the 195’s or 235’s are for. They definitely have their pro’s and con’s but at the end of the day, they’re the best you’re gonna find in barefoot training shoes and most of the cons just come down to barefoot training as a whole, not necessarily this particular shoe.
Having spent a long time away from barefoot training, it feels nice to go back to it, and at the end of the day I feel more comfortable training in minimalist shoes, but not exactly barefoot. I’ve come to like certain aspects of how training shoes are made and while I respect barefoot shoes, they’re just not for me anymore. That’s not to take anything away from the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210v2’s though, they’re excellent shoes, just as long as you know what you’re getting into.
- Extremely responsive
- Lightweight & Flexible
- Increased durability
- Grip isn’t great on rubber flooring
- Toe cap is too stiff
- Barefoot might not be for everyone
- Only one colorway for now
Earlier today the highly requested black and gum Reebok Nano 7.0 Weave and Speed 2.0 went live for early access orders…luckily I’ve got the link for you guys to cop these beauts. As a bonus, they come with some fresh Caffeine and Kilos laces! The actual name for the pack is “Reflect Your Strength”, for the reflective Reebok delta logos on the shoes.
I’m not long how long this promo or early access sale is going to last, so if you wanted a pair, make sure you cop early!
Seems like everyone nowadays is trying to get in on the training shoe market Not that you can blame them though, training in general is more popular right now than it’s ever been all 32 years I’ve been alive; or at least I think it has. Barefoot/minimalist shoes aren’t exactly new things anymore, but they have been increasing in popularity due to the training craze. Altra is a fairly young company with a big cult following, which was founded on the premise of wide, neutral, minimalist running shoes; all characteristics you’d want in a competent training shoe. Everyone I know that runs in Altra’s, swears by them. So why not just use the shoes on hand to train in? I’ve never owned another pair of Altra’s, but I’m going to assume it’s because of midsole cushioning. If they specialize in minimalist shoes, why has it taken them so long to come out with a training shoe? Well, that’s anybody’s guess, but let’s just say they’re coming to the party fashionably late.
2017 has already been a big year for training shoes, one could assume that Altra held off the release of the HIIT XT until the shoe was just right, or maybe until it was after the rush of early year training shoes. Either way, this has been the most hyped shoe that no one had seen coming. It’s pretty clear that Altra can make some competent running shoes, but how will they fare on the training shoe front?
Another shoe that I hope to check out from Altra are the Escalante’s, I was sold on them just by the looks alone. I can’t say the same about the HIIT XT’s, while they’re not the worst looking shoes I’ve seen and pictures online definitely make them look a lot worse than they do in person, but they won’t be winning any beauty contests any time soon. Unlike the Escalante’s, I feel like there’s just way too many lines here and crosshatches there on the upper of the HIIT XT’s, giving them way too busy of a look. Altra’s logo isn’t bad at all, but the material they used for it is stiff to the point where I can feel it from inside the shoe. I hope to see this just printed on in the future. The most ridiculous claim I’ve heard is that these shoes look like Metcon’s; my response to that is that you probably need to get your eyes checked.
On the flip side, the shoe feels extremely well built. From the “Powersole” platform to the not so great looking upper, everything at least feels like it’s meant to take a beating. The upper is a combination of mesh materials with PU overlay’s on top of it; there are reinforced areas of PU at the front of the toe box and a built in heel counter at the rear of the shoe. The tongue is well padded, the ankle collar even more so, making you feel like there may be a little too much to the upper to the HIIT’s. Since pretty much the whole upper is mesh, your feet never really overheat.
A nice little touch that Altra included is the “stitch ‘n’ turn stitching underfoot”, so that you can use the HIIT XT’s with or without the included 5mm insoles. I was surprised to find that the stack height was a fairly tall 24mm, but removing the insoles drops it down to 18mm. The problem here is that unless you have a beefy foot, you’re going to end up with an excess of space inside the shoe. In my testing, I didn’t really notice any response differences anyways so you’re better off just keeping the insoles in.
The drop, like all Altra shoes, is 0mm. For a men’s 10, I weighed the left shoe at 12.3oz and the right at 11.8oz, close enough to the 11.2oz listed weight. They’re on the heavier side of training shoes, but fall in line with the the more popular Nano and Metcon’s.
One reason people love Altra’s so much is because they’re wide shoes, and the HIIT XT’s are no different. Altra’s technology behind this is called the FootShape toe box, in which their lasts are 360 molded around actual feet, rather than a sleeker shape to increase appearance. I have to be honest, this took a little bit of getting used to since the toe box was a lot bigger than what I’m used to, but it’s a welcome change overall and I ended up really liking the extra space.
Though the HIIT XT’s are wide shoes, they run on the small side length wise. Honestly, I don’t think the shoes actually run small, but the unnecessarily stiff front toe box cap gives it the illusion that they are. I ordered my normal size 10 and my toes eventually end up running into the front of the shoes. It’s not so bad before a workout, but at the end of the workout I have to end up switching my shoes or altering the way I walk. I recommend that you go with half a size up from your normal training shoe.
My sizes for reference:
- Nano – 10
- Metcon – 10
- Speed TR – 9.5
- Inov-8 195 – 9.5
- Oly shoes – 9.5
- NoBull – 10
To say I was excited for my first pair of Altra’s would be an understatement, but I’ve got to be honest, when I received the HIIT XT’s, I wasn’t super impressed by them. First off, I felt like they were really bulky and clunky, a huge departure from the 195’s I had just reviewed. Secondly, they ran small, my toes pressed slightly up into the front of the shoes. Finally, for a “minimal” shoe, they’re fairly tall with a thick insole. Still, with all that, I kept an open mind and wore them day and night hoping something would change – It did.
The first workout I did in the HIIT XT’s was a combination of running and clean and jerks, where I basically found myself tripping over my own feet because I wasn’t used to the wide platform of the HIIT’s. Having just reviewed the 195’s, I wasn’t used to the platform for running either, the shoes just felt really clunky to me. I didn’t make it throughout that workout without switching my shoes. Afterwards, I did some squats to check the stability of the HIIT’s, to where the wide platform really shined. Like I mentioned before, I didn’t really notice any stability or power differences with or without the insoles, but overall, squatting with the ultra wide zero drop platform felt great. The gum sole on mine also did an amazing job keeping my feet from shifting around.
Probably the most notable area that the HIIT XT’s perform best at is Olympic weightlifting. The supremely wide base and outsole material make for the most stable of landings, just so long as your mobility can match up to the zero drop of the shoes. Keeping your toes or heels down might also be an issue for some people, but personally I do better lifting in flat shoes so I felt right at home in the HIIT XT’s, and soon I found myself maxing out my clean and jerk without any kind of second thought – something I hadn’t done since February. With a little bit of practice, going for reps started to feel better as well. My main issue on day one is that I wasn’t moving my feet enough (a bad habit) to compensate for the bulk and grip of the shoes, causing me to trip up on the ground when going for reps. Once I figured that out, repeatedly picking the bar up became an almost mindless task where I could just hold on, push my feet down and the bar would fly up. I could see definitely see myself reaching for these shoes not only for heavy oly days, but also for “grip it and rip it” workouts like “Grace” or “Isabel”.
The biggest movement that I needed to adjust to was running. Initially, I thought these shoes were going to be thin and lightweight, but they’re the opposite, wide and a little heavy. I’ve had plenty of experience with zero drop shoes, but never any that had quite as much cushioning as the HIIT XT’s. The first day I ran in them was the fist day I got them in and they felt clunky, kind of like I was running in Oly shoes. Still afterwards, my feet/calves felt great, like I hadn’t run at all. With a little bit of break in, the shoes eventually got to the point where you’d be pretty surprised they were that flexible, given the way they look. The platform is a little bulky, but the PowerSole midsole allows for a more powerful stride, though there’s not a ton of bounce. The width in turn makes the shoes very stable so you don’t have to think about where drop your foot down, which is nice to have one less thing to worry about when running. I was able to pretty consistently sprint 100m at around the 17 second mark (with a turn) and also keep my mile pace sub-8 mins. I’m not a great runner (I suck), so that’s pretty good by my standards. I still think the shoes could be lighter, but I think the width actually ended up helping out my running.
Where the Altra’s aren’t spectacular, are burpees. No one likes them, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to do them. Once again, the Altra’s are a big shoe with a stiff toe cap, making getting down and up somewhat uncomfortable. Sounds silly, but burpees are just as important as running or weightlifting. The HIIT XT’s are responsive enough for rebounding box jumps, but I wouldn’t be going for any max height work. Overall, they’re a little clunky for plyometric movements and wouldn’t be my shoe of choice to do any kind of agility work in. You can’t have it all, but keep in mind that there’s worse out there too.
The HIIT XT’s retail for a little bit less than normal at $99. I think Altra made a very good decision in selling the HIIT XT’s at a lower MSRP than their competitors. As far as I know, the HIIT XT’s are Altra’s first training shoe, so having a slightly lower price point makes people a little less wary to try out a new shoe that they’re buying based solely on the brand’s reputation. To further ease your shopping experience, Altra has a 30-day satisfaction guarantee where you can return or exchange the shoes no matter what. You can at least try them out without repercussions. I expect the price to go up incrementally as Altra gains more training shoe experience and releases more models, but a bill is a an excellent place to start for their rookie debut.
Nothing that comes easy in life is worth it.
This review would have looked a lot different if I had just used these shoes for a day. While they might take some time to break in and get used to, I ended up really liking the HIIT XT’s. No shoes are without their faults – I still think the shoes could be lightened up, slimmed down, lose the toe cap and are in need of a facelift. But what the HIIT XT’s do right, they do really well, and not to mention do it at a significantly lower price point. It’s easy to forgive them for what they don’t get perfect and considering that these are Altra’s first training shoe, I’d say they have a really solid foundation to build upon.
These are my very first pair of Altra’s, so I don’t have anything besides other training shoes to compare them to – but overall, I think the HIIT XT’s are an extremely well built, excellent performing pair of trainers, especially for $100. They’re not going to be for everyone, but if you’ve got a wide foot, have the mobility, and are into supporting a smaller brand (which would mean furthering their training shoe development), I think you should definitely check out the Altra HIIT XT’s.
- Extremely stable shoes with good grip.
- Zero drop promotes better bio-mechanics.
- They only cost $99
- A little heavier and bulkier than one would expect from a minimalist shoe.
- Wide platform might take some getting used to.
- Narrow feet won’t do very well in these shoes.
- They run small, size them up compared to your normal training shoes.
- Not immediately comfortable shoes and require some breaking in.
- Appearance won’t be for everyone.