Inov-8 is a shoe manufacturer from the UK that has been very supportive of the minimalist running movement. In an article on their website, Inov-8 states the following:
“Barefoot and minimalist running certainly isn’t for everyone and inov-8 believes that there is a middle ground. As a specialist off road running brand, inov-8 recognises that runners need some protection from the terrain underfoot and offers a range of shoes with different levels of under foot protection (Shoc-Zone™ 1 to 4 Arrow), varying differential (0-9mm – the difference in height between the heel and forefoot) and different outsoles to cope with different terrains. As you reduce the level of cushioning and differential, the foot gets ever closer to its optimum natural running position.
Whether you are an elite athlete or a recreational user, the inov-8 footwear range allows your foot the freedom to move and function as nature intended, without interference from the structure of the shoe.“
In support of this mission, Inov-8 is set to release several new shoe models that push the envelope toward greater minimalism. One of these, the Inov-8 Baregrip 200, recently won the Gold Award at the OutDoor Industry show – here’s a picture of the shoe:
The Baregrip 200 is described as “…an off-road running shoe that gives you the feel of running barefoot, but provides very solid support and protection for the foot at the same time. Because it has no midsole, the natural speed and power of your foot is transferred directly through the shoe. Your foot is closer to the ground and has a stable, low profile in a natural position – this reduces the danger of injury and the runner can actually feel the ground below.“
Judges from the OutDoor Industry Show had this to say about the Baregrip 200: “It combines all the characteristics that you could want in a good shoe. It is comfortable, fits perfectly, gives great support, dries quickly and is very lightweight – that’s running pleasure at its finest.“
On his running blog, Ultrarunner Terry Conway indicates that this shoe has “NO midsole, NO cushioning and NO differential,” and concludes the following in a first look review of the Inov-8 Baregrip 200: “The Bare-Grip™ 200 is very lightweight, extremely flexible and extremely grippy. If you’re looking for the ultimate off trail shoe, this is it! If you’re into barefoot/minimalist running, but need grip and a little protection for running in a harsh trail environment, this is the shoe for you! This is the shoe that I’ve been searching for, for the last 2 years and I can’t wait to hit the trail again as soon as possible!“
Update 8/2/2010: Terry recently ran the Lakeland 100 Ultramarathon in the Baregrip 200’s and posted a more detailed review of their performance: http://terryconway.blogspot.com/2010/07/inov-8-bare-grip-200-ultimate-test.html
My Thoughts: With its knobby sole, the Baregrip 200 is clearly designed as an off-road shoe. I’ve heard many good things about other Inov-8 trail shoes, particularly the Inov-8 X-Talon 212. The Baregrip 200 is even more minimal than the X-Talon, and should appeal to trail runners looking to run in as little shoe as possible. Looks like it will be a solid competitor to shoes like the New Balance MT100 (and it’s soon to arrive successor, the MT101), which is a current favorite among minimalist trail runners – it will be interesting to see additional reviews come in once the Baregrip 200 officially hits the market in early 2011.
This is the first of several new minimalist models from Ivov-8 – for more details on some of the others, check out this thread on the Runner’s World Barefoot Running forum.