The original Baregrip 200 was a shoe that I had a love / hate relationship with. There were times when I really enjoyed running in them but my pair developed holes in the upper at the metatarsal flex-point after less than 50 miles of running.
I was not the only person to have problems with durability and I was excited to hear that Inov-8 have sought to rectify the issue by making a number of changes to the design for 2014.
First things first, I think the new colour scheme is awesome and a big improvement over the already-funky 2011 version!
I’m not sure if my shoes were incorrectly labelled but I found that the Baregrips were very short compared to other Inov-8 shoes. I’ve tried to demonstrate this in the picture above which isn’t terribly scientific but it gives a genuine representation of the difference between two shoes of the same size. Unfortunately, I binned my old pair of green baregrips so I can’t compare them with the new ones but I don’t recall having the issue previously. This may be an isolated incident that is specific to my pair of shoes but I’ll update the post if I find evidence of other people having the same problem. Fortunately, I still had just enough room to run in them without discomfort but they feel more like a 9 than a 9 1/2.
As you can see above, these things are pretty darn narrow. I think that the toe box shape may be a little less pointy on the medial side than the original shoes and I’m waiting for Inov-8 to come back to me on this but either way, it’s still very snug. Salomon have proven with the Sense that it is possible to create a highly secure fit that still offers a relatively roomy toe box and Inov-8 have done almost as-good-a-job with the Mudclaw 265 (see picture) so it’s strange the baregrip doesn’t follow this formula. It’s something I can live with but I’m not crazy about it.
There is no other shoe on the market that can match the baregrip for traction in muddy or loose conditions without having a midsole and this has helped them generate a passionate following among hardcore minimalist fans. Traction on wet grass is better than any other shoe I have worn and the small angular lugs seem to bite into soft ground with incredible ferocity. Mud grip and clearance is also very good although not quite as impressive as mudclaws when things get really deep. I have a theory that super-flexible soles like this generally offer better traction than stiffer shoes because of the way that they mold to the terrain and the contours of your foot and the baregrips are no exception.
Running on hard, dry surfaces is an unforgiving experience as the lugs can often be felt through the sole (especially on asphalt). The lack of protection also leaves your feet rather vulnerable when running over rocks or sharp objects and this occasionally causes me to slow down whilst descending. The Baregrip’s were not devoloped for hard conditions and I see these characteristics as inevitable consequences of the design rather than flaws. You have to take the rough with the smooth when wearing the BG 200’s and I think that most people who are looking to buy a shoe like this will expect and even embrace occasional discomfort (we carry an underlying hint of sadism).
As with the original version, I had mixed feelings about the fit during the test-runs. It provides incredible confidence when descending steep terrain but I’d be happy to sacrifice some of this for a bit more wiggle room around the toes and I think this will discourage me from using them for longer runs. On the other hand, it feels amazing to have such incredible grip, proprioception and flexibility whilst being so close to the ground. Toe box aside, they are a joy to run in. They make me feel fast, agile and I’m sure that the lack of protection helps me to improve technique over technical terrain.
I haven’t put enough miles on the shoes to get a full picture of durability but early indications are very good. I can see no signs of tears or abrasions and this is a clear improvement over the originals which were already showing the early signs of problems at this stage of use. I will keep the post updated if I have any issues but things are looking good so far.
These Baregrips have a very distinct ‘character’ that I’m really rather fond of. They feel incredibly light and nimble whilst offering wet weather performance that is unmatched in the ultra-minimalist sector. The new upper appears to have resolved the durability issues and it’s great that Inov-8 have responded to customer feedback and refined the design. They won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I get excited every time I lace them up.
The new baregrip 200 is available now from Amazon and will arrive with other retailers soon.
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Got any questions or comments about the new bare grips? Please leave your thoughts below!