Inov-8 Evoskin Review

As trail shoe companies clamor to create the most minimal barefoot shoe on the market, Inov-8 may have just trumped the whole gang by releasing a shoe which can barely be defined as a “shoe”. The Evoskin ($65), made entirely of 3.5 oz of silicone rubber, is by far the closest experience to pure barefooting that there is on the market today (that I have experienced).  Inov-8 clarifies to potential buyers that this shoe is a training tool designed to strengthen one’s feet and improve form, and not an overall trail running shoe. Other activities suggested for the Evoskin by the company include water sports, slack lining, and treadmill running.  I tried to keep this in mind as I put on the Evoskin for my first basically barefoot jaunt down a crushed gravel (road base) trail.

Inov-8 Evoskin

The Inov-8 Evoskin

First Impressions
The Evoskin is made of soft silicone rubber with a simple yet effective strap system over the foot allowing the wearer to adjust the tightness of the shoes from tight to tighter.  The idea being that these shoes fit absolutely like a glove.  Unfortunately, nothing fits over my unfortunately mangled last two toes which spent a significant portion of my life jammed into track spikes.  Pulling on the Evoskins and getting them situated takes a bit of time and patience.  Compounded by my deformed phalanges, I found considerable difficulty getting my last two toes pushed into the ample space provided.  I think that most runners will fare better than I have.  Despite this personal fit issue, the Evoskins are snug and comfortable.  To be fair, I also a difficult time getting into the Vibram Five Fingers (which fit me horribly), or Injinji toe socks.

Pulling on the Evoskins requires some shifting of the silicone over the foot to get the toes in correctly.  However, once this sticky rubber is locked in it does not require adjustment.  Small holes on the top of the toes provide drainage, ventilation, and reduce suction; however, the Evoskins do get warm on your feet after wearing them for over 30 minutes.

Putting on the Inov-8 Evoskin

Putting on the Inov-8 Evoskin

Performance
I should preface this section by stating that I rarely run barefoot and my favored trail shoes all have at least a 4mm heel to toe drop.  I spend a great deal of time at home barefoot, but otherwise I would not consider myself someone who is used to very little protection for their feet.

My first walk outside gave me a great idea of how much sensory feedback I would be receiving through this thin silicone skin.  I could feel absolutely everything.  My feet felt like they had thicker calluses on them, and, initially, I was timid to run in them.  However, after my feet got over the initial sensitivity and shock I ventured out on a grass field for some jogging.  Pure bliss!  For runners who enjoy doing a moderate amount of barefooting on grass, but might find the runs abrasive to the soles of their feet, the Evoskin is definitely the way to go.

Inov-8 Evoskin outsole

The outsole of the Inov-8 Evoskin.

On the aforementioned crushed gravel trail I enjoyed more sensitivity to be expected.  Sharp rocks, although small, were noticeable.  Sand squished underfoot and running into a river for a cool off was great fun.  The Evoskins drain fairly easily, but the tight rubber did leave my feet damp and I eventually developed a hot spot on one of my toes.  When I landed poorly on a stick I felt it just as one would barefooting to some degree.  Overall, throughout a four mile run on crushed gravel I experienced very little discomfort and the silicone “outsole” showed very little signs of wear.

Removing the Evoskins off sweaty feet can be a task.  I found the most effective method is to pull the toes off one by one and the take off the heel of the shoe.  Because I preferred to wear the Evoskins on the tightest adjustment some of the rubber nodules pulled out of the eyelets several times, but I didn’t have any trouble with this once I had them on.

Overall Summary
For the avid barefoot runner looking for the most authentic barefoot experience with a little added protection, the Evoskin is your shoe.  For the rest of us, I think that it is a valid training tool for running in the grass or at the beach, doing strides, or working on form drills.  I enjoyed wearing them to the grocery store and getting strange looks from the mostly cowboy boot clad populace.  But, my favorite place to wear the Evoskins was in the water.  Anytime I soaked my legs in the icy cold river I put the Evoskins on to give me a little protection from the rocky bottom and to insulate my toes a bit.  When you do this several times weekly it makes sense to have a pair of shoes that you can walk around in to protect your feet a bit.  I also think that any rafter, kayaker, or sailor would find the grippiness of these shoes during water sports to be invaluable.  Plus, these shoes are incredibly easy to clean and are light enough and packable enough to take with you anywhere.

Inov-8 Evoskin worn

The author wearing his Inov-8 Evoskins.

[Disclaimer: As is usual for iRunFar, the author received a sample of the tested product from the manufacturer.]

Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 31 comments

  1. footfeathers

    I'm usually fairly objective and give something a try first but based on the material, design (securing system), and price for what you get, I'm not impressed. Inov8 is one of the top shoe companies on the market, in my opinion, but these thing taint that image for me. $65 for rubber molded slippers. No thanks.

  2. Hone

    This whole "barefoot running while still wearing shoes" trend is getting lamer and lamer. Why not just buy a pair of xc racing flats? They are cheaper and will help you run faster.

    One a side note….I find it ironic that most of the "minimalist" runners also wear GPS watches, heart rate monitors, and pretty much every other non-minmalist product on the market today. Okay I am done ranting.

    Well written review.

    1. uh what

      You do realize that wearing a "minimalist" shoe doesn't instantly make you some hippie who isn't allow to wear a GPS watch. Some people just want less crap on their feet and don't care about "being one with nature" or whatever marketing crap is being sold with the shoe.

    2. Speedgoatkarl

      exactly, remember those Nike American Eagle XC shoes. They were 5oz. When I was in High School, they rocked. Why not wear those type of shoes instead of some silicone wannabees or shoes that don't protect your foot?

      Maybe some day there will be a gadget that tells us how many rocks we kicked, or when we get a blister.

      I'm done ranting too, put some shoes on people. :-)

      1. MikeC

        In high school I trained in racing flats frequently because I felt FAST with light shoes on. Not because I wanted to be 'one with nature'.

        I'm really glad some people have fixed their bad form through minimalist shoes, great!

        But stop being so Dogmatic about running people, it's not a religion, if you run completely naked, with bionic legs, on a treadmill, in a hamster ball, or on the mt. Everest….it doesn't make you a better, or more 'pure' runner than anyone else in my book.

        The best runner in the world is the one getting the most satisfaction, benefit and enjoyment out of it.

        1. David

          Great comment MikeC,totally agree – and this from a major fivefinger enthusiast :) Doc Martins or barefoot, whatever is fun and makes you happy. I do think Invo8 "jumped the shark" with this product though. You can get a sweet pair of aqua socks for < $30.

  3. Rob Youngren

    I've already got a pair on order. Very excited to try them out. While I'm mostly a minimalist runner (well not at the moment as I'm nursing a stress fracture to my heel sustained while off road unicycling in Moab, but that's a different story) who does appreciate some level of ground feel during training I know that I need more underfoot and full foot protection when I want to race long distances (over 50km). But I too see the Evo-Skin as another tool in my arsenal to help toughen up my feet and legs, plus it's just plain fun to run around barefoot on occasion like we did as children.

    1. Bryon Powell

      They really are designed and marketed for wearing around to strengthen one's feet and calves rather than running. They get rid of half the no shoes, no shirt, no service problem. :-)

  4. roger

    Wow – rushing water, sharp rocks, crushing sand and pointy sticks – you've totally sold me. I want the authentic barefoot experience so I can pull my Hokas on over it and go for a long run instead.

    : )

  5. roger

    messin' with ya ; )

    probably more tempted to get a pair of these than any of the other disgusting monkey feet and experiments in plastic molding. Simply for the ability to hit grass without getting spiked by weeds and the general convenience of foot protection that can easily be stashed and carried. Looking forward to seeing someone wear them in a race though. That will be funny.

    Would have been cool of you to include photo of mangled toes but thanks for the review.

  6. Doug

    Has anyone tried these off road in really wet and muddy conditions. Wondering how well they grip and how tough the sole is. I'm worried they might puncture to easily. Really tempted to try a pair however.

    1. Bryon Powell

      NO, there are not trail shoes! They are primarily target for wearing around to strengthen your feet when society or laws dictate you wear shoes. Inov-8 would explicitly say these are not trail running shoes. These are a tool.

  7. Jack

    Flip-flops are also more than adequate in these situations, "when society or laws dictate you wear shoes."

    The problem I've experienced with toe shoes is that the manufacturers are assuming a lot about how people's feet are shaped when they churn these things out. I have very narrow feet, and my vibrams (on the few occasions that I was able to wear them before donating them to a friend) would pull my pinky toes outward very uncomfortably. I'm guessing other people have had other similar experiences where so-called minimal shoes have compromised the natural movement of their feet. Granted they may be light and flexible and have < 4mm differential, but if they are altering the way your foot would otherwise move without any shoe, how on earth could you argue on behalf of the 'minimalist' nature of the shoes, or the efficacy of them when put into practice. Wouldn't one be better off to find a roomy toe-boxed, relatively flat, breathable, thinly soled shoe/moccasin/aquasock to do your minimalist running in?

    When did it become necessary to have separate toe pockets in order to legitimize the minimalism of a shoe?

    PLUS.. $65 is absurd for these inov-8s. Minimal shoes should be made from minimal materials and have minimal price tags.

  8. Aaron M.

    Hey guys, why is everyone so judgemental of "natural" runners? I'm a barefoot runner, and to me these Evoskins are a perfect training tool. I can use them to keep the road grime off my feet without having to put a slab of polypropyline under my foot. I don't want to run the way Nike (or any major brand) wants me to run; I want to run the way I run…barefoot. I'm a former powerlifting champion, and paratrooper. I'm a clydesdale in every sense of the word (225#, 6-02), but I dont submit to the idea that I need this huge chunk of synthetic material under my heel to run. I agree that the retail cost is pretty steep, but I got mine online for $25 shipped.

  9. Jake

    I love my Vibrams (IE, I'm not too worried about wearing odd looking shoes) … but these are a bit too odd for me. Like little foot condoms.

  10. Jacob

    All the reviews of Evoskin's that I've seen have said how difficult they are to get on.

    I just thought I'd pass my technique along as I find them incredibly easy to get on. Every time :D

    Quite simply apply a bit of foot lotion/moisturiser to your toes. A tiny amount will do, and a good one that will be absorbed quickly. This has several benefits and the biggest of all is that the Evoskin slips on like a dream!

    Just make sure it is like a pea sized amount, greasy silicon footwear is bad juju :D

    Those of you complaining about barefoot running and this 'fad'..

    For me its because there are 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons in my foot, and I like to use them as much as possible. A shoe inhibits the natural movement of the human foot. My foot is my shock absorber.

    These are just extra protection, and I imagine its like what a dog paw feels like to a dog. Feel every lump, bump and pebble but with no flinch.

    On a side note I do have hobbit feet.

  11. Max

    As someone who wears these (and thin cotton shorts, a vest, a snood thingy to keep my hair in and carrying a water bottle – for those of you who think we’re just silly about our feet but otherwise high tech) I would like to point out that some of us like being barefoot but need something over them for city runs, so these are perfect. Also, they come off best if you grab the tab on the back of the heel, pull the heel off then just keep pulling until the shoe toes pop off your toes. Works even when wet. And putting them on is just a case of a bit of wiggling. I personally do all my running in these and find them just fine (having moved into the city and finding that idiots smash glass all over the place – I used to run barefoot in the woods).

    1. Greg

      Hey Max, I have been searching for these shoes for a long time now. Every provider I come across only has the smallest sizes. Do you know somewhere that has the large or even extra large size? Any help will be greatly appreciated.

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