Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 Review

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Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 Review

Minimalist shoes are all the rage right now. It is tough to go to any local running store, running blog or website, race expo, or even the starting line of a race waiting for the gun to go off and not hear about letting your feet do the work. With all the talk around getting closer to the ground and removing the features in shoes that correct that wonky left foot of yours, how does a company like Inov-8 keep… well, innovating on a practice they have been preaching for years? Enter the Bare-Grip 200 ($110). A unisex, 7 ounce (200 gram), flexible, uber-grippy, zero-drop, trail runner.

Uppers
The uppers are made mostly of a lime green, open cell mesh with very little stitching. You can tell there was a fair amount of attention made to saving weight and keeping potential irritation to the foot at a minimum. However, that does not mean that this upper lack features. First up, there’s Inov-8’s Meta Cradle. The goal of the Meta Cradle is to create structure on the upper that holds the foot in place. This is done by running bands of material from the midsole (or, with the Bare-Grips, the midsole area… but more on that later) up to the eyelets on both the inner and outer sides of the shoe. The end result is when you tighten your shoes, by pulling on the laces, the bands wrap around your foot creating a cradle. This system can be found throughout a majority of the Inov-8 line. On the endurance line this feature is usually manufactured using bands of fabric sewn to the upper. The Bare-Grip and others found in the performance category use rubbery bands that appear to be laminated or glued on. The rubbery bands save weight and do not require stitching.

Next is the toe area. To add a bit of durability in the high wear areas there is a gritty feeling thin layer of rubber on top of the mesh. This section runs from the tip of the shoe to just behind where your toes start on both sides. After that we have a fairly solid toe cap that starts at the apex of the shoe and extends out to cover all of your toes. The toe cap is made from the same flexible, yet dense rubber that is used on the outsole. While this won’t save you from a major kick of a rock or root, it’s far more protective than most lightweight trail shoes out there.

The heel is very flexible as there is not a hard counter in it. While there is some flimsy plastic or something underneath the fabric to create the shape of the heel, with very little effort you can completely collapse it down. The collar of the shoe is lightly padded. The tongue is free floating and made of a soft-to-the-touch fabric that feels a lot like brushed suede. The tongue is made of two layers of this material to keep it from wrinkling up when you crank the laces down. The black heel fabric on the inside of the shoe extends down inside about a 1/4 of the way. While it does not make the inside seamless, I didn’t notice any irritation in the areas that were not covered by the black cloth when wearing the shoe without socks. Also, since the Bare-Grip has a normal toebox, you can wear socks with them. Lastly, we find a removable 3mm footbed. There is not much to it, but it will add a bit of extra cushioning. It is very thin and completely perforated to save weight and shed water.

Click to see “zero” on heel.

Midsole
To most people interested in this shoe, it is not going to be what the midsole has that is attractive but what it lacks. The Bare-Grip has no midsole. That’s right, none. Most Inov-8’s have an arrow system that indicates how much cushioning the shoe has in its midsole. Pick up the Bare-Grip and look for the arrows and you will find none, only the word “Zero.” In addition, there’s no heel-to-toe drop in the Bare-Grip. All this is where the “bare” in Bare-Grip comes from. Standing in these keeps your foot at the same angle as standing with no shoes on at all.

Outsole
To cut down on the medial and lateral movement, the outsole extends up just a bit around the arch and the outside of the foot. This is similar to some shoes where your foot sits down into the midsole. Same concept here, except since there is no midsole.

Now on to the “grip” portion of the name. This shoe has an aggressive tread pattern. Let me say that again with caps. AGGRESSIVE. This is one of the more grippy treads I have come across that does not have carbide tips in it. The bottom of the shoe is covered by lots of flexible, deep, well-spaced, medium-sized lugs. The pattern is similar to Inov-8’s Roclite outsole. Since the rubber used on the outsole is so flexible you can also incorporate the power of your foot to to really force the lugs to bite. You just feel like you have more control over what you are doing when you step. When you move or flex your foot in any direction with these on the shoe flexes, too. The Meta Flex crease is present here to make an overall already flexible shoe even more so in the toe off position.

Final Thoughts
The options just keep increasing for the runner wanting a full-time minimal racer or the person looking to use minimal shoes as a training tool. Inov-8 is offering what has been the short fall of most of the market to date. The Bare-Grip 200 is a full on zero drop shoe that can handle the poor footing of a sloppy trail, so your minimalist pursuits don’t have to stop just because the off a little… or a lot of mud.

Call for Comments and Questions
Are you excited about the shoe? If you’ve had a chance to wear it, what did you think? If you’ve got any questions, ask away and we’ll do our best to answer it.

[Disclosure: Inov-8 provided the shoes used in this review.]

Travis Liles: resides in Portland, Oregon where he is a husband, father, and a technical specialist for a software company. In his spare time, he is exploring his new home in the Pacific Northwest, getting more vertical but still not living in the thin air, while producing "Trail Trials with Travis Liles" video gear reviews for iRunFar.

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  • I am incredibly excited for these shoes. I've been waiting for them to come out for a few months now. Thanks for the review!

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  • I have been running in various models of VFF's for over a year now and am quite comfortable running 20+ miles in them. However, when I run my local trails or longer road runs in them, my feet become quite fatigued. So I'm looking for a minimalist shoe that will handle a combination of road and trail running. I'm trying to decide between the INOV8 F-lite 195 and the New Balance Minimus. Does anyone have some advice, pro's/con's? I'm running American River 50M in April which is 50% paved bike path and 50% trail.

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    • Hey TB,

      I am a minimalist runner myself and also work in a shoe store. For the most part I do all of my training in the New Balance 101's. I've been running in the trail minimus for a week now and it's exactly what I wanted. Much less shoe than the 101 but quite a bit more substantial than VFF's. I could see myself logging some serious miles in them and given your background I'm sure you could too. I feel totally natural in them and in no way do I feel a controlled gait. So far my longest run to date in them has only been 13 miles but in that 13 miles I ran through mud, snow, ice, trail and road and they handled all the conditions beautifully. Whoever came up with that universal lug pattern is genius. Protection plus ground feel isn't easy to pull off but they sure did. I think the trail Minimus would be right up your alley both in general but especially for American River. I would stay away from the road version though. Too much shoe for me so undoubtedly too much for you. Good luck with your training/racing.

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    • TB, I am a "minimalist" who has run in VFF in a limited fashion. For racing, I've used Inov-8 Talon 212 for several 50s and the Rocky Raccoon 100 last month. The Talon 212s have been close to a perfect shoe for me--and in no way have my feet felt "hammered" the way another poster suggests, even after 100. I'd love to compare this new show, the BG 200, with my 212s.

      Matt

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  • Unisex? I assume that means they have a shoe width appropriate for men because they couldn't be bothered to make a women's shoe.

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  • Excellent review, Travis. I can't wait to try these things!

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  • Nice! I've been eying these for months now, have got a pair on order. Can't wait to try them out. Right now my favorite trail shoe is the Inov-8 X-Talon 212 that I've run several 50k races in and the infamous San Juan Solstice 50 mile (a.k.a. Lake City 50). I don't know that I'd want to run any ultras in much less shoe that the 212, but the BareGrip 200 will be fun for more of my mid range trail races/runs.

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  • all the rage eh? I'll take comfort in the Hoka's any day. Looks like these minimalistic shoes are as popular as the book, but haven't seen many runner finish long ultras without hammered feet. Looks like the Inov8 is great for short muddy "fell" runs, but that's about it. Nice review though,

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  • Thanks for the great overview of the Bare-Grip! I'm definitely intrigued by the Bare-Grips since I love running in my Roclite 285s whenever I have the opportunity. So, I'm curious about the fit of these shoes. Since they seem to be based on Inov-8's performance last, is it reasonable to assume that the sizing and feel would be similar to the f-lite 230 or Roclite 285? Or, is it an entirely different sort of fit?

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  • TL- Great Review. I can't wait to try these out, and compare them to the NB Minimus and the GoLite Tara Lite.

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  • looks very much like my son's latest soccer shoe by Adidas! me, I am happy , again, in the new Cascadia, in the long run...Namasté

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  • So if the F-Lite 230 and RocLite made a baby, it'd be the Baregrip. Great review Travis.

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  • I've run in INOV8 and burned through many pairs of the NB (101s and previous models including the spikeless NB XC shoes) and have finally come to the conclusion that my feet can't take it. Anything over 4-5 hours on rocky, technical trail (VT/NH) in the minimal shoes leaves me with feet that look and feel like hamburg. Obviously there are people who can make these things work, just not in the cards for me.

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  • God I would have loved these on my recent race in the UK. As usual for the UK, it had rained all week and the course was a mix of ankle deep mud and steep wet grassy slopes. And I wore the NB 101. MISTAKE! I might as well have been in socks on an ice skating rink. I have yet to see races here in the states that compare to the slippery slop of the UK. I'm sure they're out there, but it's pretty standard in the UK.

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    • Just finished a very sloppy 10 mile trail race in Virginia today. Heavy rain on the second loop turned parts of the already fairly challenging course to pure slosh. We also had plenty of slippery rocks along the river. The Inov-8 212's were brilliant throughout. Gosh I love those "aggressive lugs." My only difficulty was dodging the bodies going down in front of me (none seriously hurt, just muddy).

      Trying to find out what the heel drop is on the 212s & how they compare in that respect to the BareGrips. Does anyone know?

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      • I'm pretty sure that the 212's are a two arrow or 6mm drop shoe.

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        • That's correct.

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  • Looks like that would be a good spikless shoe for a high school cross country course, but man, i can't imagine running a marathon or 50 miler or 100 miler in it!

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  • Anyone else notice that the bones of the foot are imprinted on the sole of the shoe? Pretty nifty.

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    • the outsole!

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  • I’d like to throw my 2 cents out there since we have so much debate (both positive and

    negative) these days about minimalist shoe wear.

    First off the Bare Grip 200 has had some very positive reviews thus far. Can you run

    ultras in them? Some runners could but most probably could not. Inov-8 does not market

    it as a shoe for ultra running. That leads me to my take on all the chatter out there about

    minimalist or barefoot running. Really 2 different disciplines in my book but I’ll stick

    with minimalist footwear.

    There is a ton of running shoe info out there now, thanks to such great sites like Irunfar.

    What you do with this info is up to you. Minimalist footwear choices are not for everyone

    and it seems that we are getting away from the point that these choices should be made

    by each individual runner through trial and error. Not because for example, Mark

    Lundblad races ultras in Inov-8’s, Jason Bryant in LaSportiva’s or Karl Meltzer races in

    the Hoka’s.

    There are so many different types of minimalist footwear and non-minimalist footwear

    out there now that I truly believe there is not one brand that has all the answers. I wear

    our mostly 3-4 arrow shoes (9mm to 12mm drop) for ultras. Lately I’ve moved down to

    the X-talon 212 (6 mm) for trail 50k to 40 mile. It has taken me almost 2 years to get

    comfortable from a 9mm Inov-8 shoe to a 6mm shoe in ultra distances. I’ve taken my

    time so I do not get injured, something I’ve not always been good at in my running

    career. I urge most of you out there to do the same. There are runners who can jump right

    into a 0mm-6mm drop running shoe for long distances, while for most of us we should

    “transition” slowly into minimalist footwear if you so choose. For me the 9mm/12mm

    models of Inov-8’s are not really “minimalist” shoes but it depends upon what you have

    been wearing prior. Every runner’s definition or interpretation of minimalist shoes can

    and should be different. What I think is minimalist vs. another runner varies widely.

    My main point here is, do what works for you not because the shoe looks cool and you

    want to tell your friends you ran 100 miles in a pair of sandals. Footwear choices are like

    racing/running plans. Do what works best for you through trial and error. Not everyone

    can run the same distances in the same model of shoes, much like you should pay

    attention to your own physiology when laying out a training plan for a race. If you want

    to try minimalist footwear and you have flat feet and over pronate I suggest you do it

    slowly and don’t start with a pair of Baregrips. Then when it does not work out you say

    Inov-8’s are awful running shoes. The same holds true for all the other running shoe brands as well.

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    • Where's the like button on this darn website!

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  • It would be nice if the Bare-Grip had a little bit less grip in my book. If you cut those lugs down to half their height, there would still be plenty of grip and it would put you a bit closer to the ground. As well, there might be an added loss of weight. A simple mod like that to this shoe might make it closer to 6.5 ounces! Lighter is better in my book.

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  • They are much narrower than the Roclites and the last they are built on is not very foot shaped.

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  • Thanks for the great review.

    What is forefoot width like? Still rather narrow like most Inov-8? How does it compare to the NB Minimus Trail?

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  • Most Inov-8's are really not narrow. In fact I get equal feedback these days with some models being too wide. The original performance lasted Inov-8's yes were on the narrow side but that has changed over the last few years especially with so many new models from Inov-8. There are lots of choices. With the precision lasted shoes (more minimal shoes) you need a more precise fit to reduce movement although I agree some toe room is nice. I have a high volume foot and I have no issues with any of the performance lasts fitting my foot except the Mudrocs, Mudclaw and Roclite 285 (too narrow for me).

    Here is a rough breakdown on most of the shoes that I've either worn or had direct feedback from Inov-8 team members. In descending order from widest to narrowest toebox. This is just my opinion and other runners may see it differently. Some of the models have the same last but the uppers wrap around the foot more/less changing the fit slightly. Perhaps this will help some.

    1. F-lite 311 and Roclite 319 (comfort/endurance last - very roomy)

    2. all Terroc & Flyroc models plus the Roclite 295/268 model (comfort/endurance last)

    3. Roclite 315 (comfort/endurance last), Roclite 312/275 GTX, Roclite 318 GTX (all comfort/endurance lasts)

    4. X-talon 190 and F-lite 230, F-lite 195 (performance lasts)

    5. F-lite 220 and Bare-Grip 200 (performance lasts)

    6. X-talon 212, Oroc 280 (performance lasts)

    7. Mudroc & Mudclaw models (performance lasts)

    8. Roclite 285 (performance last)

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    • Thanks, that's very helpful. I've mostly run in the Mudclaw and Roclite 285's, the narrowest on your list. I did try the Roclite 319 on Ben Newphew's suggestion, and they are definitely wider, but they're a bit too much like a boot (great for hiking and bushwacking though). The F-lite 311 looks a little too beefy too.

      Another important factor for running on the slippery rocks of Vermont and and New Hampshire is the type of rubber on the sole. The Inov-8 "sticky rubber" seems unmatched in this regard, but is only found on certain models. I have a steeply sloping rock in my front yard that provides a great test when it's wet. With the Inov-8 sticky rubber I can stand on the rock no problem, while shoes with the endurance rubber slide right off. The New Balance Minimus with its Vibram sole doesn't stick either. Do you know if the Bare Grip 200's come with the sticky rubber?

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      • Yes the Baregrip has sticky rubber. All the performance lasted shoes by Inov-8 have sticky rubber and so does the endurance lasted Roclite 295 (one of our most poular shoes). The GTX endurance lasted models no longer have sticky rubber.

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  • Dave James did Nueces in the F Lite 195s I'm pretty sure and Anton wears pretty minimal shoes even at Rocky Raccoon.

    I planned on wearing the MT101s this weekend until I left them on the side of a road!

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