I recently posted a review of Inov-8’s new Bare-Grip 200™. I had just received the shoes from Inov-8 and only wore them for three runs between 1-2 hours before I submitted my initial review. The question most people would ask is “can you really review a shoe after only a couple of runs”? Well…the simple answer is no, not really. I could talk about the fit, the sole, insole, upper material, flexibility etc, but that’s it. Not now! I believe that I’ve put the Bare-Grip 200 through the ultimate test! I’m not talking about anything silly like driving a car over them or seeing how long it takes to melt the sole in a microwave. And I not talking about “scientific” experiments with stats and charts developed in the lab. I’m talking about sticking the Bare-Grip 200 on my feet and running 103 miles, with over 20’700 feet of ascent on some of the gnarliest, vicious and most technical terrain out there in just over 27 hours! I’m talking about taking the Bare-Grip 200 for a ride at the Lakeland 100, described as the “toughest ultra in the UK”!
First things first…I only started incorporating barefoot training and wearing minimalist shoes just over a year ago. It took me 12 months to go from wearing cushioned shoes with custom orthotics, to running 30 yards down the road barefoot, to running 44 miles in racing flats. Could I really run over 100 miles in a shoe with zero cushioning, zero differential and zero midsole on such difficult terrain? It was a risk, but one I was ready for………………………
Inov-8 Bare-Grip™ 200 review
The Bare-Grip 200 comes with a thin 3mm insole. Taking into account the type of terrain and underfoot conditions, plus the fact that my previous runs in them had been less than 2 hours, I decided to add an extra 3mm insole (making 6mm in total). Some may argue that this contradicts minimalist principles, but I’m not a masochist and I made a decision to be sensible. Choices are good and the option to personalise the fit or feel of the shoe is welcomed.
I was a little concerned that the deep lugs may be too aggressive for the underfoot conditions. The mix of loose rock, scree, hard pack trail, mud, grass and tarmac would probably suit Inov-8’s Roclite sole. I’m happy to report that they preformed extremely well. I was sure that my feet would dread the road sections and the harder trail, but I can genuinely say that I didn’t really notice the lugs. Part of this may be due to my running technique, but it’s hard to retain good technique over 100 miles.
The traction of the Bare-Grip 200 is simply awesome! I only fell over once, and that was at the beginning and down to my own fault. I took my eyes of the path for a split second and tripped over a rock. I lost a little traction on wet rock and slipped a few times, but I don’t know of any shoe that can stick like glue to greasy slate!
The Bare-Grip 200 has Inov-8’s sticky rubber compound so there was some wear and I did loose three lugs on the left heel. I believe I caught these on the top edge of a sharp rock, slipped and ripped them off. I didn’t notice they were missing until the next day, probably because I land on my forefoot.
The flexibility and responsiveness of the shoe is truly amazing. I could really feel the ground beneath my feet, but there was enough protection to prevent any potential damage from sharp edges such as rocks or brambles.
As mentioned on my previous post, the Bare-Grip™ 200 has NO midsole, NO cushioning and NO differential! This means that the Bare-Grip™ 200 is extremely low profile and flexible, allowing maximum proprioception feedback and a great range of foot movement. It’s a damn good feeling!
The upper is super-soft woven mesh allowing the shoe to be ultra-flexible, breathe very well, and allowed water to drain very well. It’s also extremely comfortable! I had a little concern that the upper wouldn’t be able to hold up the harsh conditions of the route but the only sign of wear and tear is a little scuff near the outside top of my left foot. I also had a concern that the lack of rand would mean that my feet would not be protected. I only felt a stab of pain a couple of times, and that was near the end of the race when I was extremely tired and lost some of my concentration and technique.
One of my bug bears with Inov-8 used to be the shoe last as I always found them too narrow. The soft upper allows a little more room and I’ve come to realize over time that the snug fit you get in Inov-8’s is needed for really technical terrain. The support you get from them cradling your foot prevents your foot from sliding and rolling and I never got near to twisting my ankle.
The Bare-Grip™ 200 really is a fantastic shoe. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but that’s the great thing about Inov-8, you have choice. The biggest surprise was when I took off my shoes at the end of the race. My feet looked in fantastic condition and not one single blister. I think this was also part due to the Injinji socks I use (I swear by these socks. I’m not sure how or why they work, they just do). There’s not really anything I would change about the shoe but I would like Inov-8 to develop a range of shoes based on the Bare-Grip 200 concept but with a variety of different outsoles to cater for the varying terrains around the world (I’ve have suggested it to them).
A couple of days later and my ankles are a little swollen. I not sure if that’s due to using minimalist shoes for 100 miles before my ligaments and muscles were ready, or because my ankles were ripped to shreds by the bracken that attacked me (see race report). I’m thinking the later (there are some nasty gashes).
Run wild and free!