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Inov-8 Bare-X 180 Review: A Top Choice Among Ultraminimal, Barefoot-Style Shoes

Inov-8 Bare-X 180I 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).

Inov-8 Bare-X 180 sideInov-8 Bare-X 180 medial

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!

Inov-8 Bare-X 180 sole

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.Inov-8 Bare-X 180 top

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!

The Inov-8 Bare-X 180 is available for purchase in the gray/red colorway at Running Warehouse, and in a white/blue colorway at Zappos.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the review! What is the difference between the 180 and the 150? They seem to be near identical to me. I ended up choosing the 150. What are your thoughts on that shoe?

  2. Nick Eaton says:

    Not sure if anyone will get this question since this post is rather old, but I have a question I’m hoping someone can answer about the BareX-180 or BareX-200. I’m wondering if the toe-box is either wide or narrow, and how the fit is. I recently started running in a pair of New Balance Minimus MT10s, and I had to get a pair two sizes smaller than my normal shoe. Because there are no Inov-8 dealers nearby, I wondered how they fit.

  3. Ashwyn Gray says:

    Yes! This is such an underrated shoe. It’s definitely one of my favorites. And, the only reason I don’t wear it for every run is because the heightened proprioception seems to make me want to run faster than I should! (Also, as you mentioned, it’s not ideal for trail running. So, there’s that.)
    Great review, Pete!

  4. Benny Villasenor says:

    I’ve had the x-180 for 2 days,, my distance went from 6.6 approximately to 7.25 it’s amazing, but the feel was even better, I love the flexibility, I had the Saucony Hattori for 14 months and loved them too but this babies take the cake, theyre more comfortable and faster,,

  5. I agree with you on the Inov-8s. They make great no frills shoes that are focused on the intended purpose. However, the cost of these shoes really puts me off. I know they make niche shoes for a limited market, but considering the basic nature of their models, how do they dream up the price?

    Compared to say an XC spike or racing flat, the difference in price is staggering. There’s far less material and engineering in a Bare-x, it’s slipper made in the Far East!

  6. Jacky Ledeboer says:

    Awesome shoe! My favorite!

  7. Interestingly enough, I purchased these shoes about 6 weeks ago after failed attempts with the Hattori LC (sockless wear caused a laceration around my left ankle), then the Altra Samson, which was just too roomy through the mid foot, then this which is a perfect fit. I’ve put about 50 miles on them now but my longest runs are 4-5 miles and I feel like going longer is going to take some real careful planning extending further and have had more success with some old Adizero Pros… just went ahead and got the Saucony Grid Type 5As based on your recommendation. So now my rotation will be these probably once or twice a week and the Grids the rest.

  8. Steve Purcell says:

    I bought a pair of these a week before the UK’s toughest road marathon (the Snowdonia), and not only did they get me around in 3:30 without blisters, but they’ve become my favourite road-running footwear, taking the place of my trusty Luna sandals. The rocky sections of the marathon were challenging, though, so these shoes are definitely not a good trail option.

    I’m primarily a mountain runner and I’ve been tolerating Merrell and VivoBarefoot’s trail shoes for a couple of years, because Inov-8′s “performance last” trail shoes are stupidly narrow. Trail Gloves have too little tread, and the Vivos start falling apart within 100 miles; based on the Bare-X, I’m thinking the new TrailRoc 235 will be taking their place for the coming season.

  9. Cody R. says:

    i’m actually looking at getting these possibly….how has the sole held up over time? Anybody use these for trails as well?

    4mm is more than enough for me to handle stones, i run barefoot exclusively besides the few times i get a cut (though not deep enough to cut through my feet pads :D)

  10. nathan118 says:

    Agreed Pete! You recommended this shoe to me months ago, and I love it. I’ve replaced my Vibrams with them…much better feel in the toes.

    My only complaint is that the laces are about twice as long as they should be…had to buy a shorter pair.

  11. Claude Borg says:

    What’s everyones comments on the sizing please. It’s pretty much impossible to physically go to a retailer where I live as I would literally have to fly there, so i’ve decided to buy a pair online. I have heard however that they fit slightly large. Should I get them a size or a half smaller then my usual running shoe? Thanks :)

  12. Great shoe, runs large IMO. I much prefer them to the 5fingers Bikila that I have. Much more flexable and work better with my longer second toe.

  13. What’s your preference: the Inov-8s or the Skechers Go-Bionic?

  14. I own the 195(few pairs!) and the 150; prefer the 195. Just wore out one pair after 8 mos of near daily use, at >= 20mpw. Frankly, I have not found something that comes very close to the 195, but always looking!

    • Hi Indy. Have you tried the RoadX155? It sits right in between the 195 and the BareX180 in terms of firmness and thickness. It’s also a 1-arrow shoe (3mm lift). It’s superior to the 150 in that it doesn’t have the weird structure/bump under the arch. For those that find the 180 too thin or the 195 too soft, this might be the perfect shoe.

  15. Great review, I’m now looking to by a pair of these myself :)

    Thus I had a sizing question. How does the pair of Inov-8 Bare-X 180 compare with Merrell? I’m currently running in size 11 (US) of Merrell Road Glove 2. Would the same sized (11) Bare-X 180 be slightly bigger or would it be roughly the same?

  16. Looks like these are discontinued, replaced with the Bare-XF 210s. Anyone tried those?

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