Inov-8's Bare-X line is enticing to those of us with an affinity for lightweight minimalist-ish running shoes. And, while I've already written about the Bare-X Lite 150 at great length, it seems appropriate to continue our observations of the product line with a brief comparison of the three Bare-X options currently available:
Why You'd Want Any or All of Them
One of the most attractive features that these three shoes share is the zero differential between the forefoot height and heel height, Inov-8's Zero Arrow Shoc-Zone. This zero drop element of the design is highly desirable in the minmalist and barefoot shoe market, and for good reason. Look it up if you don't believe me.
An equally awesome attribute of these shoes is the Anatomic Fit [last] on which they're built. As I mentioned in my 150 review, the Inov-8 Anatomic Fit offers more girth for a roomier forefoot area without being all loose and floppy.
Another reason you might be wondering whether the Bare-X shoes are the ones for you is because of their lightweight, no-nonsense construction. With the heaviest Bare-X option weighing in at just 6.7 oz (in a US men's size 9), the racers and minimalishists would be hard pressed to ignore this line of shoes. Sure, the 150, which weighs 6.1 oz (US men's size 9), isn't he lightest shoe out there. But, it's features and fit may outweigh the benefits of being the lightest on the market.
One of Them is Not Like the Others
It's fairly obvious that the Bare-X 180 and Bare-X 200 are pretty much the same shoe with minor differences between the two. And, those minor differences are really what inspired this comparison post. But, let's first point out the primary difference between the Bare-X Lite 150 and the heavier shoes in this comparison. (Hint: It's cushioning)
The Bare-X Lite 150 is the least heavy running shoe in Inov-8's lineup (not counting the Bare-X Lite 135 for the ladies). But, the 150 isn't Inov-8's most minimal shoe!
Yes, I know; it's counterintuitive to say that the lightest shoe is not the most minimal. But, through miracles of modern textile technology, the 150 has a cushioned midsole while the 180 and 200 do not. And, most minimalishists will likely agree that the cushioning in a shoe is inversely proportionate to that shoe's degree of minimalism.
So, that's the most notable difference between the Bare-X Lite 150 and its two non-Lite counterparts: The lighter one has more cushioning. Looking at the shoes in profile, you can see that the 150 appears to be thicker on the bottom than the 180 or 200.
And, that difference in cushioning should inspire the question: Do I want a cushioned shoe or one that's pretty much tantamount to running with a few millimeters of rubber between my feet and the street? Think about it, would-be-Bare-X wearer.
Now, let's make this non-review even more lengthy by nitpicking all of the other details.
The Sole of the Matter
Bare-X Lite 150 outsole
Bare-X 180 outsole
Bare-X 200 outsole
The Bare-X Lite 150's outsole is somewhat less groovy than the 180 and 200 outsole. The latter two are clearly the same aside from the color.
The 150's outsole is more or less a composite of the midsole "Fusion Sole" material. It's a surprisingly durable combination of injection-molded EVA and hard rubber, which means the shoe feels less flexible if you're bending the 180 or 200 with your other hand.
The 180 and 200 have no midsole, as I wrote earlier. And, their outsole rubber is a hard, durable type of some sort that does a good job of keeping pointy little rocks from hurting your feet. Big, pointy rocks are another matter, thought.
The tread pattern on all three is optimized for man-made terrain. And, of course, running on crushed gravel is fine, too. But, taking these shoes for a run over anything soft or technically trail-like would require you to expend a little more energy than necessary just to maintain balance.
If you had to pick one of these shoes for a run on varied terrain, I'd pick the 180 or 200, because they bring you closer to the ground with more flexibility; which, I think, allows for better stability.
It's important to keep in mind that, although I say the 150's outsole is less flexible than the 180 or 200, these are all very flexible shoes compared to other minimalish shoes on the market. None of them are especially rigid or cushy.
I can't believe I've managed to type so many paragraphs about this already. This was supposed to be a brief comparison with a few images. Sorry. Let's just start listing things:
The Differences Between the Bare-X 200 and Bare-X 180:
- The Bare-X 200 has more TPU (plastic lacing support) on the upper, which creates a different sort of fit. I opted for the 180 instead of the 200 due to this different sort of fit.
- The Bare-X 200 has a loop on the heel
- The Bare-X 200 is only available in white/silver at this time
Some Other Features Shared by All Three
- Flexible, well-ventilated mesh upper
- Comfortable heel cup
- Removable 3mm insole/footbed, which provides a bit of cushioning and a slight curve under the arch for a closer fit
- Seams on the interior so that runners who don't like wearing socks have something to complain about
Features of the Bare-X Lite 150 That I Wish Were on the 180 and 200
- The quick-lace system on the Bare-X Lite 150 is too awesome not to put on the other shoes.
- The Bare-X Lite seems to have a slightly different shape in the last. I like it slightly better than that of the 180 and 200.
Which One is for You?
- If you are a barefoot runner looking for some protection against sharp pointy things, like sweet gum balls or gravel, get the 180 or 200.
- If you're wanting a shoe that's really close to being barefoot, get the 180 or 200.
- If you're anyone else intent on trying one of these three shoes, get the Bare-X Lite 150.
- If you still can't decide, get the 150 and 180.
Okay, That's Enough
I'm sure I could find other differences to describe and analyze. But, this has gone on long enough. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask in the comments section. Thanks to RunningWarehouse for supplying such excellent pictures for this comparison.