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Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 Review

Posted by on Apr 14, 2011 | 14 Comments

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

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.

Fit

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.

Socklessness

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.

Tread

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.

Conclusion

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.

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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/

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14 Comments

  1. Charlie
    April 20, 2011

    I think you will find guy’s, that the toe box is as so for UK fell running conditions. With a widened toe box the shoe would be far too sloppy to traverse steep sided mountains, giving a dangerous roll and not allowing the sole to give proper traction. Inov-8 are designing shoe’s predominatly for the UK market and then expanding from there. Although I have not seen further plans from Inov-8 I do know there is more in the pipeline.
    I have been running in the Bare Grip for a few weeks now & they perform like a dream on the Fells of the English Lake District, gripping like no other footwear i have used, but there are slight teething troubles even for the UK market, such are the problems of market pressure to bring things out too soon, before testing properly.
    If you are looking for a close fitting minimalist shoe with outstanding grip, then the Bre Grip fits the bill.

  2. Jeremy Gustafson
    April 15, 2011

    I’ve worn these on short hard runs through snowy, wet, muddy conditions the last 3 weekends and the traction is excellent.

    I have experimented with liner in with thin socks, liner out with thin socks and liner out with thick socks. The last one I started getting a hot spot under the edge of the forefoot where it was going over the edge of the shoe. The fabric is stretchy enough that when my toes were trying to splay, my forefoot was finding itself over the edge of the shoe. I think for me the ideal combination is the liner with a thin sock as the liner softens this edge.

    I’ll report back if I find anything different in my experimenting. The snow is gone, but there is plenty of muddy wet conditions around with a chance of snow tonight and tomorrow.

    I can tell you that I will only be wearing these is slushy, snowy, or muddy conditions. Too many better options for other conditions.

  3. Andrew
    April 15, 2011

    The off-trail range of shoes from inov-8 have a narrower fit to allow the foot to sit more securely in the the shoe when running in the roughest of conditions. A wider anatomical last is used in the minimal road shoes that they have just launched.

  4. Janice Nicholls
    April 14, 2011

    I like the colour and look, but now that it’s spring, I’m not even thinking about shoes. I’m eager for the temperature to be high enough in the morning to walk the dog barefoot as well as run:)

  5. Running links for your enjoyment | The Running Bran
    April 14, 2011

    [...] Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 Review [Barefoot Running University] – In case you were looking for some minimalist running shoes for some serious mud [...]

  6. jracecar
    April 14, 2011

    I’ve been pretty frustrated with Inov-8 for their continued decision to produce zero-drop shoes aimed at minimalist runners without expanding and rounding-out the toe boxes. I would already own a pair of the X-Talon 212′s if the front half of the shoe didn’t fit like a cowboy boot. My local trails are still covered in snow, slush and mud and I really want to wear this tread on my feet, but I just can’t cram my toes into that shoe. I don’t understand the thought process of leaving the angled, diminishing toe box in an otherwise minimalist shoe. I write this comment in the hopes that someone from Inov-8 is checking your site, as I don’t know how to contact them directly.

    • Jason
      April 15, 2011

      I agree- this should would be a contender as my pick for a top minimalist shoe if only the last were more anatomically correct. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Inov-8 follow the example of Merrell, NB, and Terra Plana in regards to shoe shape.

      • John
        April 15, 2011

        Haven’t they just done this with their new road shoes? I assume (and hope) trail shoes with this last are just around the corner.

        • Zak Branigan
          April 15, 2011

          Yes, they have…and straight from Inov-8 head designer (via a message to me on Twitter after I asked) they are rolling out their anatomical last (the road one) in their trail shoes this coming season. First in the next version of the Terrafly, which is a 3-arrow heavy duty shoe, then eventually on through the line, lost likely. The Road version has two shoes out today, the heavier-cushion versions, but the 3mm and TWO different 0mm drop shoes are coming in the next couple months. I think they are taking their long-standing commitment to natural running and finding themselves at the right place at the right time. After all the mixed reviews about companies trying to rush something to market to cash in on minimalist shoes, Inov-8 has been quietly making shoes for those who were listening for years now.

          • John R.
            April 15, 2011

            Sweet! And thanks, I can’t wait.

  7. Patton Gleason
    April 14, 2011

    Great post Jason. Do you think that skipping the first two eyelets would create any additional room in the toe box? I have tried this with most of the shoes that allow it and it seems to help me feet spread out just a bit more upon ground contact.

    • Jason
      April 15, 2011

      Patton- yes, that does help a little bit. The shape of the toe box is really the limiting factor, but loosening the lacing can help.

  8. adam
    April 14, 2011

    Nice review. I’ve got a pair too but they’re way too narrow. I’ve worn them on two different 7-8 mile muddy runs and they’ve torn the hell out of the inside of my fore foot.

    I’ll keep them around for the sloppy stuff and hope that I just get some tougher feet….

  9. Josh
    April 14, 2011

    I bought a pair. I compare the sole to a mountain bike tire. I really like them, but don’t love them. They are great on dirt, but not quite there on the slickrock surfaces (too soft).