Saturday, February 25, 2012

Let's Compare the Bare-X 180, Bare-X 200, and Bare-X 150

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.

Inov-8 Bare-X 200 logo side
Inov-8 Bare-X 180 logo side
Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 logo side

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

Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 Outsole
Bare-X Lite 150 outsole
Inov-8 Bare-X 180 Outsole
Bare-X 180 outsole
Inov-8 Bare-X 200 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.

Inov-8 Bare-X 180 after a muddy run

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.

Another Look

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
Inov-8 Bare-X 200
Inov-8 Bare-X 200
Inov-8 Bare-X 180

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
Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 in blue/red/white

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.


  1. Thanks Ash! I really appreciate the comparison for these. I decided to order the F-lite 195's this weekend as I want a little more cushion for those days when my feet are just sore and need a break. I am concerned about the width so if they are too narrow I guess I will send them back and try the bare-x lite 150. I had a hard time finding any reports about the differences between these three models you mention other than weight. I didn't realize that the lightest model was also the one with the most cushion. I've been battling what the dr labeled as achilles tendonitis, but I'm starting to think may be a deep bruise on my heel from mostly running barefoot. Shoes with padding seem to make my heel feel better, so... Kind of feel like a traitor though for having just ordered shoes when I've been barefoot mostly for the last year.

    1. I meant the bruised heel may be from walking and running barefoot most of the time. I don't heel strike when I run but my heel does touch down slightly and then when I walk I try to land midfoot but sometimes get lazy and it turns into a heel strike. I remember back when my heel started hurting that I had just started trying to walk with a heel first and I think that is when it started hurting and I've only aggravated it more since then by never wearing any cushioning and letting it heal.

    2. Hi Nick! From what I've read on other barefoot running blogs, there's no shame in using a pair of shoes now and thne. ;-)

      The f-lite 195 is a fantastic shoe! It's cushioning seems to be somewhat softer than that of the Bare-X Lite 150, at least to me. So, the 195 will probably offer just the kind of break you want when your feet are sore.

      If the 195's width turns out to be an issue for you, and increasing the size to remedy that issue would make the shoe too long, then you might want to try the Road-X 155 or Mizuno Universe 4 before the Bare-X Lite 150. The Road-X 155 is built on the wider last like the 150.

      I suggest those ones before the 150, because it sounds like you might want a bit of heel elevation to alleviate your heel soreness. And, wearing zero-drop shoes like the Bare-X Lite might not provide the extra little cushion that you want in that area. Just a thought. I'll be interested to know how it works out for you!

    3. Thanks for the advice Ash. I had tried on the Road-x 155 this weekend at a local store but they did not have my exact size. I think those would be fine width wise if they had them a half size smaller. They sure are an ugly yellow though. ick.

      Got to try on the NB Minimus Zero (Road and the Trail) this weekend. Really disappointed in their lack of consistency in their sizing. The regular "D" in the road was just slightly to narrow, the 2EE felt the exact same width, and the 4EE was absolutely ginormous. Was pretty bummed because the soles felt like the exact thickness that I wanted.

      Oh ya, I had thought about ordering the Mizuno Wave Universe 4 but I know they are pretty thick and I was afraid I might lose a lot of ground feel in them. Not sure that there's much to lose between the F-lite 195's and the Mizuno Universe's though.

      Anyhow, I should have the F-lite 195's on Wednesday so I'll keep you posted how they work. Thanks again for answering my questions!

      P.S. I know my fellow local BRS members are going to give me a ton of sh*t for buying shoes which makes me feel even more guilty. Lol :)

  2. Well Ash, I got the 195's today and they are perfect length wise but too narrow on the big toe side. It takes a pretty narrow shoe to be narrow on that side for me as my big toes curve slightly in towards the other toes already. Usually it's my pinky toes getting squished. These do have the amount of cushioning I was looking for though. They feel really nice on the heel when walking around on them and they feel flexible enough when jogging in the house. Well dang, I guess back to the drawing board.

    1. Ah, that's too bad, Nick! I really hoped that they'd work out for you.

      It's interesting that your big toes are the ones being squished. My feet are shaped in such a way that there's almost always lots of room on the outside of my big toe while my littlest toes are usually squished to some degree. It's like my feet curve the opposite direction that they're supposed to curve. Silly feet.

      Anyway, it's plausible that the anatomic last for shoes like the Bare-X Lite 150 and Bare-X 180/200 will be a better shape for your feet, because they definitely allow a lot of big-toe room for me. But, their cushioning is nothing like that of the f-lite 195, especially since the 180/200 have no cushioning.

      The Mizuno Universe might be worth your time if you get frustrated during your search. It's higher off the ground by a few millimeters. But, it's cushioning is on the soft side. And, it's toe box is roomy for everyone's toes, I'd say.

    2. I was really hoping that they would work too. Oh well I guess. It's pretty rare that a shoe hits my big toes. I usually have 3/4 of an inch or more of space on that side. These I could feel immediately. The pinky side was touching but it in no way was pushing on them, just kind of there. You had mentioned the 155's as a possible option as well so I may look into those. I just hate the ugly yellow color. ick. I tried on a pair in my local running store and something felt funny, not sure how to explain it. Almost like there was no feeling in my feet. Could have been the floor too (track type material so a little squishy underfoot). I do like the weight of the mizunos you mentioned too... Not an orange kind of guy but for the price I sure can't complain right?

    3. Hi again Ash! I ended up getting the Road-x Lite 155's and they arrived today and I took them out for a test run. They are exactly what I was looking for so I really appreciate your advice! They are just cushiony enough to give my feet a break but not so bad that I can't run with good natural running form. It will take some getting used to tying shoes again and not over tightening them. Had to stop and loosen them a couple times. So used to being barefoot or in huaraches. Anyhow just wanted to say thanks again!

    4. Nick, that's great! It's nice when you finally find a shoe that works for you, eh? 'Course, once that happens, you might find yourself being tempted by other shoes, over and over again. It happened to a friend of mine. ;-)

  3. thanks for the comparison as well as the bare-x 150 review on a separate entry. the roadx 155 are my all time favorite shoes (i just ran 21 miles in them today) so i really thought that the 150s would be better. unfortunately, i didn't find this to be the case. the quick lace system plus integrated tongue resulted in a very uncomfortable and loose fit for my feet (the laces dug in too hard when it's pulled tight and the fit was sloppy when i loosened them).

    the worst thing for me though are the two support posts (can't think of a better term) that extend upward from the sole on the midfoot. this caused blistering on both sides of my feet. i don't understand why inov8 chose to do this since all their other shoes have a flat and even sole.

    after reading this entry, i think the 180s would probably work better for me as the roadx 155 replacements. i own four pair of inov8 shoes and the 150s are the only ones that disappoint so far. maybe when i put on more mileage in them, they'll feel's hoping.

    1. Thanks for reading, Stan! The 150 is definitely a different kind of Inov-8 shoe. And, I'm surprised that the quick-lace system didn't work out for you. I guess that's definitely a love-it-or-hate-it feature. The blistering you mention is really unfortunate! I wonder if that's from the lacing system being too tight for your feet.

      I hope you like the 180s. They are quite minimal, though. I can't stress enough how little cushioning they have. And, note, too, that they're forefoot area has a slightly different curve in comparison to the 150, even though they're supposed to be made from the same last. I'm not sure how this compares to the 155.

    2. Thansk Ash :) I'm been looking for a 155 replacement for a while now. THe sole is almost worn down all teh way through. As well, I've been working my way towards the most minimal I can find. I love running in my VFFs but can't pull off very long runs in those yet.

      How do the 180s compare with the cushioning of, say, the Road Gloves? I love those shoes too but prefer the fit of the Inov8 (I have the 230, 195, 155, 150).

      And yes, I have a shoe problem. if you're interested.


    3. Great blog you've got there, Stan. I'm always interested in other running blogs!

      Anyway, the cushioning on the Road Gloves is conspicuously more substantial than that of the Bare-X 180s. RunningWarehouse indicates that the "stack height" of the Road Glove is 11mm while the 180's is 6mm. (I'm not sure if that 6mm includes the 3mm removable insole, though). So, you'll definitely be closer to the most minimal you can find with the 180s.

      I've not run in the VFFs before. But, I would guess that the 180s are a little bit more cushioned or protective than those, especially if you're using the removable insole.

  4. Hi Ash

    Thought you might enjoy reading this...after reading your review and comments, I went ahead and ordered the 180. It happened to be on sale so it all worked out perfectly. I'm loving the 180s.

  5. Thanks for this writeup. I was trying to figure out the difference between the three and this is exactly what I was looking for.

    1. Great! I'm glad this was helpful, James.
      Thanks for reading!

  6. Hey Ash, great review and it answers a lot of questions. I just went ahead and got the 150s. Why, cause I want the additional cushioning of my first 0mm drop road shoe. Your write up went a long way to helping make that decision. I've referenced your write up in my blog and review. I hope you dont mind, you write brilliantly.

    Please check it out and hopefully enjoy the read.

    Kind regards, Lachie

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Lachie! I definitely enjoyed your review!

  7. Hi there, do think It would be wise to get the 150. Never run in minimalst shoes. I currently run in the brooks ghost 7. I would like to make the change to minimalst running. I have a middfoot strike. So any thoughts would be most welcome! Cheers

  8. Hey, I've been running in the X-Lite 150s for years now, and I am incredibly dishearted to see that they look to be discontinued! I'm having a helluva time finding replacements for them. Do you have any advice? I can find Road-X 155s fairly easy - are they comparable? Is there any other brand of shoe that is similar to the Bare-X Lites? I hate that I have to go through the process of finding my perfect shoe again. Help would be much appreciated!



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