Inov-8 Bare-X 180

These are the most minimal of the Inov-8 shoes and will be an excellent shoe for the right person. They are my favorite running shoe.


Fit

The Inov-8 line was the first I tried several years ago when I wanted more minimalist shoes. I loved wearing the Inov-8 around town but couldn’t run in them. I clomped and stomped and ended up with shin splints and all sorts of pain. That’s because I didn’t know yet that if I want to learn how to run barefoot, I actually had to run barefoot. 

After running barefoot for a while, those same Inov-8 shoes (the F- lite) felt like too much structure. I didn't like the heel on them, which was stiff, and they weren't wide enough for me. 

I decided to give the Bare-X 180 a try based on other reviews. Of the several Inov-8 styles I’ve tried, this is the most minimal. They’re not quite as wide as I’d like, but they almost are and I can spread my toes naturally. They are the widest and most flexible of the Inov-8 shoes. The sole is roll them up flexible, which makes them more responsive and less restrictive. They feel pretty darn good on my feet.  

 From what I can tell, these run true to size, which means get your usual size running shoe and remember a running shoe may require your getting a larger size as your feet swell when you run. 

These are wider than the Merrel barefoot line and they allow for a better, more natural toe spread. They are more responsive and lighterthan the Nike Free and much more minimalist than the Brooks’ Pure line. If you’re looking for a very minimalist, zero drop (no difference in height between the heel and ball of the shoe) running or work out shoe, the Bare-X 180 is an excellent option.


Function

I bought them thinking that I might need something with more protection and warmth for hiking. When I took them out for a spin, I liked the feel (good grip, fair ground feel). Compared to other minimalist running or hiking shoes I’ve worn in the past 4 months, these felt pretty good. 

I have been running in these for the past few months (since January 2014). They offer more warmth than my other minimalist shoes and they have a bit more protection. I don’t feel the stones under my feet as much as I do when I run in the UnShoes sandal or the New Balance Hi-Rez. They’re great for running on the road, though I get enough ground feel running on light trail. There’s just a tiny bit more protection at the heel than in the Hi-Rez. As I get back into running shape, after taking time off for my achilles heel, these shoes have been a perfect way for me to get a bit more protection while still being able to feel the ground and land lightly. 

Inov-8 Bare-X 150 d

My teen daughter likes to hike and run in Vibrams Five Fingers. When she slipped into some cactus on our hike and got a bunch of tiny spikes in her Five Fingers, I slipped on my UnShoes and handed the Inov-8s off to her. She wore them without socks and said she probably would have felt better with socks on. We were scrambling through gravel and cactus downhill at that point, and she felt fine about the grip and responsiveness. She and I sprinted the last, level bit and that felt okay to her, too. She liked the Inov-8s fine, though not better than the Five Fingers. (She inherited my F-lites -- her foot isn't as wide -- and enjoys them for hiking.)  My son is lifting and running in F-lites from REI. 


Fun

I kind of couldn’t resist these. I like the way they look and just bought a second pair in flashier colors. The sole shows the skeleton of the foot. As they get  dirty, the print stands out. The fun factor here is huge. 

I bought my pair on sale at www.derailed.com. I recommend www.zappos.com when you’re trying several pairs and several sizes. Zappos has free shipping and returns as well as 365 days to return unworn pairs of shoes.  Once you know your size, try Zappos' sister site, 6pm.com, for pairs on sale.