Need a bad-ass shoe for bad-ass conditions? Inov-8′s Bare-Grip 200 fits the bill. This shoe is definitely the most aggressive minimalist shoe on the market today.
Based on my theory of using shoes as tools, the Bare-Grip 200 occupies a niche at the far end of the “gnarly” spectrum. This shoe is essentially a cleat, meaning it is not designed for roads, sidewalks, or even hard-packed trails. This shoe is designed for slop. I would like to see a few improvements, but it is definitely the best shoe on the market for adverse conditions.
The shoe is lightweight with a well-ventilated upper and soft rubber cleated sole. It is very similar to the X-Talon 190 only the Bare-Grip has larger cleats, a slightly more comfortable interior, and it is zero-dropped (heel same height as forefoot.) The mesh upper keeps your feet cool even in hot conditions. The sole is thin, which allows you to feel the cleats on the bottom of your feet. Of course, I removed the insoles. It’s a trade-off; the feeling of the cleats gives more accurate feedback about the terrain under foot. Leaving the insoles in pretty much eliminates this sensation.
The fit is very similar to the X-Talon 190. Both feel more like a traditional shoe versus the newer minimalist shoes on the market. The toe box is narrow much like a racing flat. The front of the shoe also comes to a point over the second toe, which has a tendency to crowd the big toe and leave unnecessary room at the front of the shoe. The narrowness limits toe splay, which is one of the shoe characteristics I need. This is my single biggest complaint about the shoe as it limits the time I could comfortably run. If Inov-8 used a different last shaped more like that used on the new Merrell line or the New Balance Minimus Trails, this shoe would be MUCH more comfortable. Anyone coming from traditional trainers wouldn’t likely notice the shape of the last.
The Bare-Grip is an improvement over the X-Talon. Thanks to my friends Jeremiah Cataldo and Jesse Scott, I have a difficult time tolerating socks. The X-Talon had several spots within the shoe that would rub and cause blisters. The Bare-Grip mostly eliminates this problem. I wore them for runs up to ten miles without incident.
This shoe is definitely designed for serious off-road use. The cleated sole provides excellent traction in mud, snow, and soft soil. This would be a perfect shoe for mud runs, mountain running on under-developed muddy trails, or any other conditions where there’s a need to dig in.
The Bare-Grip 200 is a shoe designed for a very specific purpose- extreme off-road conditions. The specialized nature of the shoe makes it impractical as an all-purpose trail shoe. The shoe is a niche tool for really, really slippery conditions. The shoe could also be used for sports that require cleats, like baseball, football, and the like. In these conditions, this shoe has no competition… it’s the best on the market. If you at least occasionally run in exceedingly muddy conditions or need a minimalist cleat, check out these shoes.
Note- before purchasing any minimalist shoe, read this post about choosing the best shoes for you.
Another note- BRU now has stickers! Check them out here: http://barefootrunninguniversity.com/decals/