There are minimal shoes, and there are barefoot shoes. Runningwarehouse.com describes the Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 as; “a near-barefoot shoe for trail runners seeking unrelenting traction, with no cushioning and a firm ride.”
Shoe review by respected ultra athlete TY DRANEY (Patagonia)
I have been wearing minimal shoes for years, eschewing trail shoes for flats because I enjoyed the lighter weight and most of the time here in the west I run on dry trails. I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with inov-8 having spent some time in their X-talon models when they first came out. The BareGrip 200 as it turns out is a completely different animal. They look a lot like a football boot. When I wore them they usually elicited two different responses-“What are you wearing?” and “Wow. Cool shoes.”
The first thing I noticed was how light and flexible they are. There is absolutely no support or structure, none of the traditional EVA for cushion. The thin rubber twists and stretches as far (or farther) than your foot can. Luckily the lugs supply a big of lift and some give to extend the range of this shoe. I found that I could run as far as 10k before my feet felt too fatigued or beat up. The added flexibility was great running uphill, but running rocky downhill caused me to slow down considerably to keep from hurting my feet.
The upper is also study and flexible. After nearly a hundred miles in the shoe, there is absolutely no wear or snags. The tight weave has a downside. I found that the shoe didn’t drain particularly well after being fully submerged. There are light overlays extending from the outsole to the laces that supply structure to the shoe. They are medium, to narrow in width and have a solid toe bumper for its weight. I found the heel cup particularly comfortable on my bony heels. It has “just enough” structure to keep the heel firmly planted in the shoe, even on steep uphill slopes.
The Bare-grip has outstanding traction. A wet fall has provided ample opportunity to take these shoes on a variety of muddy trails. I was pleasantly surprised how well they shed the mud and helped me keep my footing, and again, the lugs provided a little cushion to help extend their range. I am looking forward to using these as a winter shoe when the rocks are covered with snow and I need the extra traction.
This is not a shoe for everyone. The barefoot feel and zero mm drop automatically excludes many runners. It does however do what it was designed for very well, “give natural feel, maximum grip, and proprioception.” (inov-8.com) I see this shoe as a great vertical-k-type shoe in adverse conditions or for racing muddy fells where there are few rocks.
Check out inov-8 HERE
Check out Ty Draney HERE