Thursday, 16 June 2011

Full review of Inov8 Baregrips

So, I've had the Baregrips for a while now, and been out in them in a fair few conditions and over some interesting terrain.
They are still bright green- which is awesome and the grip is still totally and utterly bomb proof.

The first thing you notice about the Baregrips (apart from the colour) is the lack of any kind of stiffness in the sole. This is due to the Zero arrow sole- which basically means your foot is as close to the ground as they can make it without actually being completely bare. Its like the lugs on the soles are attached to your skin, which is, as you can imagine, pretty amazing in terms of grip.
Putting them on and wandering about in them is an experience all in itself, and if you haven't tried inov8s before, and more importantly, if you haven't tried barefoot running before, the feeling is going to be a little wierd. You can feel the floor, you can feel the pebbles. All the contours of the ground come up to meet the feet.
I find the shoe to be a little long in the toe box- certainly more so than my roclites- and are a bit slimmer right the way down the foot than a number of the other inov8s that I own.
roclite 268, flite 220, baregrip and mudroc280. They all fit me in a slightly different way.
The proprioceptive feel of the shoes is unprecedented, and this continues as you go from a walk to a jog, to proper running on decent tracks.

As I open up the power and wander over the hills, the lugs dig in like claws. Not as closely spaced as the mudclaws- but just wide enough that as you climb up a muddy peaty surface, they provide excellent grip and then shed the clag before the next step. I haven't had any issues with slip-slidy grip due to excess clag on the sole yet- (I haven't run in any clay yet- but when I get back down to the Isle of Wight, I shall certainly be trying them out in some of the delightful "Blue Slipper" on the Eastern coast... that'll be a real test.

On another note to do with the grip- they don't seem to have lost any of the lugs or have had any kind of degradation to the bottom at all. Ok, so I haven't trashed them for a year yet, no-where near, but unlike the mudrocs which were beginning to degrade after only a couple of months, these bad boys are still crisp.

So... they grip like a gecko to a wall on all types of surface (I must add a slight disclaimer here, wet rock. I still haven't found ANYTHING that grips to wet gritstone), you can feel the ground under your feet as if you aren't wearing shoes, and are marvellous if you're into forefoot running.

Seriously, heel strike in these shoes would not be a good thing- certainly not in the long run anyway. To be honest, I'm not so much of a forefoot striker that I would wear these on a longer run either. After about 6-7 miles I can really feel it in my bones and joints- I suspect this is generally because of the way in which I run. Any distance over that and I will certainly go back to wearing my Roclites- they provide just that bit more support throughout the foot for me when I get tired. The same goes for runs which take place over harder terrain- along the Pennine way, trail runs on hard pack, and general more solid terrain. I can cope with it for a time, but as I get tired, my form starts to waiver and then it gets painful- again, this is more to do with my form than the design of the shoes, were I a more efficient runner- I'm sure they would be fine. But I fatigue, and thats where injury will happen if I continue to pound on through a massive run in shoes like this.
As my feet get stronger, I suspect that I will be using Baregrips more, but for the moment, they have their place.

Something I have noticed, is that they take a longer time to dry out between runs than any of my other inov8s. This appears to be because of the material that is used on the tongue- it seems to be slightly more neoprene-y type material than my roclites or mudrocs. Despite stuffing them with newspaper, at normal room temperature, they take a remarkably long time to dry out.
The Zero Arrow sole

As a first pair of fell running shoes- if you are just starting out- don't be seduced by the fact these are amazing. They are. But if you're not used to running in a shoe like this, I think its fair to say that you may end up injured- you'd be best off plumping for something a little less radical, learning the ropes and buying them at some point down the line. You'll have a lot more enjoyment, and a longer, healthier running life because of it.

If you're used to fellrunning, but are a heelstriker, these will certainly teach you how not to be one, but I'd use them with caution. It might be best to get a pair of X-talons or something intermediate before going to the total Zero shock sole. I know a few people using X-talons, and they comment that they can feel the stones under their feet- these seem even thinner.

If you are into chi running/pose running/forefoot running or whatever fad you wish to call it, and you want something that is going to grip on nigh on everything and feel like you literally aren't wearing anything on your feet. This is the shoe for you.
Depending on your needs, and your experience, this is either the best thing in the world, or the worst thing you could possibly buy.
Think about your needs, be honest about your experience and then go buy them. The price may make you gasp, but so will the performance.

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