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
I was into minimalist shoes long before I even knew I wanted to start CrossFit. At the time, the pickings were slim, but one shoe that I kept seeing pop up over and over again was the Inov-8 195’s. In everything I read about them, people swore by them, and they just so happened to be the unofficial shoe of CrossFit. Eventually, I picked up a pair after I found them on sale; this was at a time where there really were no sales on them and I never even spent over $100 on shoes. I remember putting them on for the first time and being floored by just how light, flexible, and how well they fit. Not long after getting my pair, I started CrossFit. I was spoiled since I already had “the” CrossFit shoe, never knowing what it was like to use clunky running shoes at the box. Even though I spent more money on them than I was used to spending at the time, I felt thoroughly satisfied with my purchase.
As time passed, I started sipping the Kool-Aid and gravitating more towards Reebok Nano’s and eventually Nike Metcon’s. I never stopped loving my Inov-8 or anything, but worries about durability made me use them less and less. I’ve seen CrossFit shoes over the years become more stiff for lifting and less well rounded overall; which in a sense, is backwards to the well roundedness that the CrossFit theology embodies. At this point, we’re seeing trainers that are as stiff as Olympic weightlifting shoes.
The original 195’s were favored by many because of just how adaptable they were in the CrossFit setting. Flexible with just enough cushioning to run in comfortably but not enough to make the shoe unstable, 3mm drop with a low midsole stack height, sock-like fit and incredibly lightweight. Durability of the fabric upper material was the only questionable area. After a slight hiatus, Inov-8 has refreshed their legendary shoe for 2017, retaining a lot of the features that made the shoe so popular, but now with an improved and hopefully more durable upper. 195 fans, rejoice.
The original 195 had a look that could only be described as “Inov-8”. Aside from some choice colorways, I don’t think Inov-8 makes bad looking shoes at all, they’re just shoes you’d only want to be caught wearing with athletic gear and not something you’d want to be wearing out with some jeans on. Though the more minimal look of the new 195’s is definitely a step in the right direction, I don’t forsee myself wearing these out to the club or anything. The new upper is structured internally, the Inov-8 “tiger stripes” are still there but they’re a little bit harder to see since they’re under the new translucent mesh-ish upper. The logo is still on the side of the shoe, but it’s a little more low key nowadays; I think Inov-8 would do well to swap it to some kind of emblem, maybe just the foot/eight.
While not quite a giant shoe brand, Inov-8 still manages to produce shoes that are built solid, at least when you first get them. The plush fabric upper material was always the Achilles heel of the 195, but has been upgraded to a flexible nylon mesh for the V2. It’s dropped a ton of cushioning that made the originals so comfortable, most notably around the ankle collar, but it’s still very flexible. The bends of the shoe are a little sharper feeling but it’s still a very comfortable shoe to wear. It is also noticeably much more breathable; I would not hesitate to wear these shoes without socks on if that’s your jam. As previously mentioned, the “tiger stripes” that give the shoe structure are located inside the shoe, the toe-cap returns in the form of a thin PU external version, and though not mentioned, there is a built in heel cup to give you a little more stability when lifting. In my opinion, the nicest upgrade to the shoe happens to be the new eyelets for the shoe laces; it’s a small detail but really cleans up the look of the shoe.
The biggest things left virtually unchanged from the previous 195 are the midsole and outsole combination. I say virtually because while the midsole looks identical to the originals, the drop has been changed from 3mm to 4mm and it’s picked up the name “Powerflow”. The sticky rubber treading, Meta-flex and dynamic fascia band technology remain the same and they still come with the RopePro that was added in somewhere in the later variants of the 195. I always loved the way the midsole of the 195 felt and the outsole never failed me , so I’m not bent out of shape to see it remain the same.
The 195’s fall into Inov-8’s “Precision” fit line, which are typically D width shoes with a more running shoe silhouette. The toe is pointier, which accommodates Morton’s toe very well; flatter toe shapes are an issue that plagues me with training shoes, making me have to size up just so my second toe doesn’t jam into the front of the shoe. Originally I had sized the 195v2’s in my normal training shoe size, 10, but they ended up fitting way too big. 9.5 ended up being right on the money, so I’m going to say go ahead and size down half a size for the 195v2’s. Also keep in mind that these are fairly narrow shoes and don’t accommodate wide feet at all. If you’ve got Flinstone feet, you’re going to want to go with the 235v2’s.
My sizes for reference:
- 235v2/250/215/210 – 10
- OG 195/240 – 9.5
- Nano – 10
- Metcon – 10
- WL Shoes – 9.5
- Converse – 9.5
- NoBull – 10
Well rounded AF.
195’s are legendary for a reason. Even if you’ve never owned a pair, you’ve probably heard people rave about them in your box. Usually people that never switch over to Nano’s or Metcon’s, love their 195’s because they’re so lightweight and flexible. I can’t blame them, coming back from foot purgatory that is the current state of training shoes, putting my feet in the 195v2’s felt like heaven; I feel like I can move again! Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but it almost feels like you’re not wearing shoes with how freely the 195v2’s let your feet move.
Running is always a taboo area for training shoes. Comfort usually takes a dig at stability, but not so much in the case of the 195v2’s. The midsole stack is short so there isn’t a ton of material between your foot and the ground, but it’s just enough to cushion your feet from being demolished by whatever you’re running on. The 195v2 uses an injection molded insole called “Powerflow”, that gives you better energy return than it’s compression molded counterparts, but still manages to be just as responsive. The heel area absorbs shock better while the forefoot has better energy return. They surprisingly have a good amount of “bounce” when you move around. From box jumps to double unders, I could not think of a better shoe to do a bodyweight metcon in than these shoes.
The “weak” area of the 195’s is their overall stability that they sacrifice for mobility. The 195v2’s have a more narrow platform compared to the other heavy hitters on the market and even Inov-8’s own 235v2, but they let you move more naturally so you have to rely on your own balance versus stability created by a wide outsole. Part of the reason people swear by minimalist shoes is that they don’t create a false sense of security when it comes to balance. It might take a little bit to transition to lifting in the 195’s if you’re accustomed to using Metcon’s or Nano’s, but at the end of the day, it’ll be worth it. You shouldn’t have any issues with slow lifts being unstable, but Oly might take some balance adjustments if you’re not used to more minimal shoes. Power delivery however, is excellent despite the 195’s having a “soft” injection molded insole (it’s not that soft). Once again, it doesn’t really get in the way since the stack height is so short. Would I be going for PR weight in the 195v2’s – probably not, but the 195v2’s should handle most of the weight you’re going to find on a daily basis.
Interestingly enough, though the midsole of the 195v2’s is supposed to be higher and the drop is supposed to be greater, the new models feel lower to the ground and flatter than the old models. Finally, the 195v2’s are excellent rope climbing shoes! I have no idea how that little Ropetec guard manages to hold on to the rope so well, but climbing the rope in the new 195’s is as effortless as could be. Durability is still a wildcard, but the new upper doesn’t show wear from the rope as of yet.
Now that the market has so many options, Inov-8 is often overlooked just because it’s not Nike or Reebok, which is a true shame because people don’t even know what they’re missing out on. The 195v2’s pricing falls directly in line with the more popular Metcon and Nano at the standard $130. Not that the 195’s aren’t worth the price tag, they 110% are, but people are easily enticed by brand names. OG’s will have no problem dishing out the cash for the ever so excellent 195v2’s. If you’re not familiar with the name Inov-8, I’ll put my name on the line for them, they’re one of the best shoe manufacturers around and their shoes stay true to who they are as a company.
“The athletes’ interaction with the environment is the single most important factor when designing products.”
Training in the 195v2’s again feels like coming home after a long vacation. There were a lot of good times while you were away, but there’s nothing like the comfort of being at home. If what you want is an ultimately stable weightlifting shoe that you don’t care to run in or do any other variety of movements in, there might be better options out there in the form of Nike or Reebok. If you’re’ looking for one of the most capable all around training shoes on the market, you need to give the 195v2 a shot. They’re currently in my top 5 training shoes, I promise you won’t be disappointed in them.
- Great cushion and energy return for running.
- Stable enough to lift most weights in.
- Flexible and lightweight frame allows the foot to move naturally.
- Won’t fit everyone because they’re narrow.
- Styling is still ho-hum.
- People might overlook them!
- Durability of the new up is yet to be determined.
- They run really long.
Not a full review, but just a first impressions and what I’ve noticed about the changes between the original Nano 7.0 and the new Weave. Full performance review is coming, but for now this will probably answer most of your questions on this shoe!