New Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 Review

The Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 update was a hotly anticipated one. The previous version was the first of its kind but concerns had been raised that put the durability into question, particularly on a shoe built for the mountains and off…

By Rob Foulkes
on 24th March 2014
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The Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 update was a hotly anticipated one. The previous version was the first of its kind but concerns had been raised that put the durability into question, particularly on a shoe built for the mountains and off trail. So what have Inov-8 been up to the improve them?

The Bare-Grip is no doubt a great racing shoe due to its light weight, grip and speed. It weighs in at just 200g and has no midsole, with a 0mm toe to heel (zero drop). Inov-8 have listened and made a few tweaks on the design based on athlete feedback.

They’ve paired the flexibility of a Yoga teacher and the grip of a crocodile to create an off road king that will rival a Land Rover

As well as some key design changes and managing to curb any extra weight they’ve also given them a makeover that Gok Wan would be proud of. We took the shoe through its paces to see how much has changed…

Ultimate off-road pure minimalist running?

The Bare-Grip’s name says it all really – barefoot running with grip like a crocodile. The grip comes in the form of thick cleats on the sole – 42 to be exact. These provide the traction we need in mud, something we’ve come to be associated with in the growth of Obstacle Racing. If you’re wanting to get up or down a muddy hill in an efficient way then you’re going to need something more suitable than your average trail shoes.

The sticky compound rubber used for the sole utilises rock climbing technology to optimise grip in wet conditions by literally excavating mud in its way. In the fight for the best grip, it’s a close call between these and the Mudclaw from their off trail range.

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The cleats on the sole provide the grip they’re famous for

The Bare-Grip’s were designed with Fell Running in mind but this crosses over into Obstacle Racing quite nicely. The very nature of off trail running is not knowing what you’ll face next, so grip and balance is imperative.  It all sounds a little over the top really but the Bare-Grip’s were built with Proprioception in mind.

Proprioception is the latin word for “the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement”. What, I hear you ask? It basically means that you will be able to feel the ground you’re running on with your toes, therefore adjust your balance and weight correctly. This reduces falls, improves ankle strength and promotes a better style of running.

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You’ll see the benefit getting up hill

The trademarked ‘Meta Flex’ on the sole of the shoe allows the foot to function naturally when running. That and the fact there there’s a zero heel drop gives it the flexibility of a Yoga teacher on an energy gel, something that will help with the off trail activity that you’re going to be getting up to.

Looking for a suitable owner

Let’s be clear though, these aren’t for everyone. They are the only shoe in the Inov-8 Off Trail range with a zero heel drop. Don’t expect a nice cushioned fall or heel strike because you’ll be bitterly disappointed by the result. Absolutely nothing is added to the heel – you’ll find them in the organic range of the shoe aisle. You’ll have no cushioning for your heels or feet, but give it a go and you’ll feel the difference.

Absolutely nothing is added to the heel – you’ll find them in the organic range of the shoe aisle

Beginners might want to consider something like the Mudclaw or X Talon 212 to help the transition period, but if you’re ready for a bit of minimalist action and care about your race time then these are for you.

And then there’s the price. These have a hefty price tag on them (RRP at around £95) so you’ve got to be serious about your running to even begin to entertain buying a pair.

The Durability Update

Some neat additions have been included this time around. The outer mesh layer has had a complete revamp for this edition based on the athlete feedback that the previous versions would ‘disintergrate’ or rip easily. Inov-8 have taken the mesh material from the popular X Talon 212 (a shoe that delivered over $1m sales in 2013) and applied this to the outer shoe in a bid to improve the durability, a smart move we think.

Another feature that has seen a revamp is the toe box, which has been strengthened and extended according to Inov-8. This is pretty cool, and perfect for Obstacle Racing which for me gives it one over the X Talon’s.

The thick rubber toe box adds protection to the shoe against scrapes and knocks against walls, fences or anything else you’ll be getting up to at the weekend. In addition, the stronger and larger cleats at the front help the shoe to grip onto vertical walls for climbing, something that other shoes aren’t as good at doing.

Other tweaks

In our last review we complained that the laces didn’t tie too well, and had the tendancy to harden with mud as well as come undone upon action. Out with the old laces and in with the new standard laces. Another box ticked.

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The improved toe box and new mesh outer layer, matching the X Talon 212

The heel seems to have had a little tweak as well making it more comfortable around the ankle with a softer material.

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The heel view which seems to be a little thinner and more comfortable

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 The Bare-Grip’s react well with water and the new laces

 The quick drying feature is apparent across most of the Inov-8 range and the new material hasn’t changed this.

Verdict

Overall an excellent update to an already great shoe in my opinion. Given the price tag Inov-8 had to react to the negative remarks on durability – the improved toe box and the new material should hopefully eliminate this.

If you’re want minimal support and superior grip then these have to be on your shopping list. Obstacle Race, Trail Run and Muddy Race approved.

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Key Stats

Weight: 200g, Footbed: 3mm, Drop: 0mm, Mesh lining, Synthetic, DWR coated TPU upper, Precision fit, Unisex.

Find out more at Inov-8.com

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Where to buy

Amazon for £85

Obstaclekit.co.uk for £95 with free delivery. Get 10% off with our discount code. Sign up for free with us here.

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The Clean Photos…

BARE-GRIP 200

BARE-GRIP 200 sole