I have to admit that I’ve been very impressed by Inov-8 lately. So far I have only reviewed one of their shoes (Road-X 233), but I now own 4 additional pairs of Inov-8’s – the F-Lite 195, Bare-X Lite 150, Trailroc 135, and the Bare-X 180 (most purchased at steep discount via The Clymb). Of the shoes mentioned, I have spent the most time in the Bare-X 180, and it’s quite frankly a phenomenal shoe for anyone looking for a non-Fivefingers, minimally cushioned shoe.
Lately I haven’t been running all that often in minimally cushioned footwear (I tend to prefer a small amount of cushion underfoot), but I still find value in doing some amount of barefoot or minimally cushioned running on a reasonably regular basis. I view these runs as form workouts, and I feel like they help to reset my system and force me to concentrate a bit more on my movement. The Bare-X 180 is a near ideal shoe for this purpose.
In contrast to my running preferences, for most of my non-running time I prefer shoes that are flat and that have as little cushion as possible. I have been zero-drop nearly full time outside of running for quite a long time now, and the Bare-X 180 is one of my top choices for casual wear – I’ve even worn it to work on a few occasions (like today – being a professor has its perks, and one is a tolerance for casual attire).
What I love about the Bare-X 180, and about most Inov-8 shoes for that matter, is that it’s a no frills shoe that serves its intended purpose very well. Inov-8 has done a fantastic job avoiding the whole “pronation control” model of footwear production, and instead makes a variety of shoes that vary in weight, last shape, cushioning, heel-toe drop, etc. There are combos suited to nearly every preference along the minimal spectrum, and the Bare-X 180 fills the ultraminimal, barefoot-style niche.
Weighing in at just over 7oz, the 180’s are lightweight, zero drop, and have zero cushion beyond the approximately 4mm thick insole. If you take the insole out, the only thing between your foot and the ground is a 4mm thick piece of firm rubber. Without the insole, ground feel is thus about as good as you will get with any shoe currently on the market. This is good if you like minimal material between you foot and the ground, but not so good if you plan to run anywhere near rocks or gravel – you will feel every stone!
The upper of the 180 is a fabric mesh that seems plenty durable, and the fit is fantastic. Sockless wear is no problem. The 180 is on Inov-8’s anatomical last, so it fits snug through the heel and midfoot, and has a very roomy forefoot. There is no arch support to speak of beyond the curling of the insole up the medial side of the midfoot – remove it and the shoe is flat internally. Flexibility is outstanding – this is a shoe that can be rolled up into a ball.
There’s really not much else to say about this shoe – it’s designed to be simple and minimal, and it achieves these goals perfectly. If I have one complaint, it’s that the rubber outsole gets a bit slick as it ages, so traction is not great, but then it’s not designed to be a trail shoe (and Inov-8 makes some awesome trail shoes – I’m absolutely loving the Trailroc 235). If you’re looking for an ultraminimal shoe, you can’t go wrong with this one, I’d put it right at the top of my list in the category, rivaled only perhaps by the Merrell Barefoot Flux Glove. Huge thumbs up for the Inov-8 Bare-X 180!