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You’ll be squatting like a master squatsman.

Everyone around here likes Inov-8.  We’ve never met anybody who works there, and we probably don’t have any stock in their company, but we’ve seen their shoes, either on our own feet or on others at the gym.  We’ve seen the peppy little F-Lite’s with their black and white tiger stripes and their pert little heels.  We’ve seen the Vader-black Bare XF-210‘s flashing beside us up onto a box, then back down under some deadlifts.  Maybe we’ve even gone to their website, seen the logo with it’s jagged font and 8-shaped foot in simple black and white.

This is a company, we say, that uses its products to sell its products.  Their shoes don’t just transform people into athletes; they change them into walking advertisements.  Just go up to somebody with Inov-8’s and say Nice shoes.  You won’t get a single-word response.  You won’t leave without learning about deep feelings between human and shoe.

Everybody expects greatness when they buy Inov-8’s, which is why they give a great amount in exchange.  Almost all their “Elite-Fitness” shoes cost over $100.  The ones I am reviewing today cost $140.  But shoes are your foundation.  Do you want to build your house on a mushy checkmarked foundation created by 20 layers of minds in a multi-billion dollar corporation?  Or will you build it on a solid, light, fast, and stable platform made by people who are following the “Elite-Fitness”-style building plan?

Yes, my friends, Inov-8’s are worth the money.  But what about the Bare-XF 260’s, you might ask?  Are they worth more than the 210’s, really? or less?  Should I really get them to climb ropes, or not?  Hold on, my friends, I am about to send the answers that will bind to the questions that are floating around in your head and cause them to crash down onto the do or don’t sides of your purchasing scale.

 The Bare-XF Line is Truly Elite

First I will explain what is common amongst the Bare-XF shoes.  If you already know about the snazzy, attention-stealing features of the Bare-XF shoes, and you just want to read about the velcro strap on the 260s, you might want to skip to the next section.

First of all, the Bare-XF shoes are designed for “Elite-Fitness” or other elite and intense workouts.  They are made for olympic lifts, kettlebells, sprinting, box jumps, jump-roping, pull-ups, wall-climbs, rope climbs, etc.  They have great support and protect your toes.

They are minimalistic in that they take away as much from their design as is possible to still maintain foot support yet provide you the feeling of being barefoot.  You’ll feel sort of like you’re running without shoes, except the hot pavement won’t burn you and the shards of glass won’t make a home inside your foot.  You’ll still be able to use your toes to get some extra spring while you jump rope, but you won’t have to worry about your ultra-razor-wire turning your toenails blue.

The Bare-XF line of shoes have a 0mm differential between heal and toe.  Their toe box is very large to allow for ample spread (great for absorbing impact).  Their rubber sole is divided by grooves that allow it to bend in all the places where your foot would bend.  They have all the typical features of a minimalistic shoe and offer great protection, style, and lateral movement support.

The Bare-XF 210s came out first.  They have shoelaces.  They also have some little rubbery squares along the side of the upper to protect the shoe from rope burns.  The little rubber squares put up a pretty good defense, but can’t handle a full-scale, sustained assault by an avid rope climber.

That’s why the Bare-XF 260‘s were designed.

 The Bare-XF 260’s are Not Afraid

Can you see the little ribbed rope guard? I can.

Can you see the little ribbed rope guard? I can.

If you dangle one of those thick, rough, “Elite-Fitness” ropes next to almost any other shoe, you will notice the poor foot-holder will begin to tremble.  If you actually climb a rope with the shoe, it’s little nerves along the edges will get all frayed, and someday it will break your laces out of rebellion.

But if you bring the Bare-XF 260’s near a rope, they’ll stay solid.  That’s because they have some really thick protective rubber strips along the sides that are made to hold the rope.  The 260s are like little knights that show up to battle against the angry friction-breathing rope, but unlike other shoes, they actually bring their shields.

Sounds like a great idea, eh?  But how do they hold onto their little shields?

Velcro — a.k.a, hook and loop.  Perhaps it has not been since childhood that you heard the crisp slurp of velcro coming from your shoes. But then, laces usually tie tighter and last longer, so why switch back to the latch of childhood?

Because, my friends, it is with three of these latches that you will secure, more tightly than you ever could with shoe laces, the bottom, middle, and top of the Bare XF 260s to your foot.  It is with the thick, ribbed, middle latch that you will press into the rope and support yourself as your arms move up higher on the rope.

That’s right, there are three velcro straps on the 260s.  You can get these shoes very tight and secure on your foot.  Imagine the security you will feel knowing that there will be absolutely no inner-shoe slippage as you slap down your feet into a split jerk, beneath 150% of your body weight!  You will be able to climb the rope again and again, sliding back down each time, knowing that your shoes will show no structural wear.  Inov-8 even guarantees the 260s for rope-climbing for 6 months after your purchase.

 Are there No Problems?

A pert little shoe.

A pert little shoe.

Well, my friends, aren’t there problems with everything in this life?  Every product decays a little over time, or does not meet the needs of every user.  Even the internal parts of the very atoms of this universe may be slowing down at some imperceptible rate.  We’ve come to expect something wrong with every pair of shoes, and, sadly, the Bare-XF 260 does not destroy that expectation.

The biggest problem with the 260’s is that the middle velcro strap comes off sometimes.  Some people complain that it comes off whenever they move and others that it just comes off when rope climbing.  For the majority of people the middle strap stays put until the sweaty hand pulls it up.

Whether or not the middle strap stays put for you, I believe, will depend on the shape of your foot and on the style you use to climb rope.  There’s really no way to tell until you get the shoes and the velcro gives you a unique response.

If the strap only comes off while you are rope-climbing, then your rope-climbing technique may be off.  Do you really think Inov-8 would release a shoe without testing it?  They designed it to work with the proper rope climbing technique, so just try holding your feet in different positions.

The Purchase Scales are Even

You probably are still indecisive about these shoes.  You were hoping I would say “They are great all the time for everyone,” but I didn’t.  You still don’t know what to do.

Fortunately, if you order these shoes from Zappos, they will ship them for free.  Even more fortunately, you can wear them around your house to test them out, and if you don’t like them for any reason, Zappos will pay for you to ship them back, no questions asked.  I know, it’s a strange world we live in.

If you don’t really climb ropes very often, you might want to just get the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210s, which are perfect for everything in “Elite-Fitness” + occasional rope climbs.