Saturday 11 May 2013

Inov-8 X Talon 190 Review

Over the last few weeks I have tried and tested the Inov-8 X-Talon 190 fell and trail shoe. I have seriously put these shoes through their paces in a variety of conditions and terrains, from soppy mud in the East of England to the Scottish Highlands. Therefore I feel I stand in good stead to tell you all what I discovered to be the good, bad and the ugly of the super light light racing shoe from Inov-8.
A great looking and lightweight trail/fell shoe

So, as many of you will already be aware, I only run in bareform shoes. Otherwise known as minimalist shoes, they are shoes that allow the feel and biomechanics of being barefoot whilst providing some grip and protection for the foot. Straight away I hear some of you shouting "But these have a 3mm differential from heel to toe!". And you would be absolutely correct; they certainly do. What I have been looking for is a fell/trail shoe that has a huge amount of grip. Here in England it rains all the time and the ground on the trails is often half way to your ankle with mud, so you can begin to see why I am after the grip?! With this in mind, there really is not a huge choice to choose from in the minimalist market. I had already tried the Inov-8 Trailroc 235's, but the upper fell apart after only 150km, the Baregrip 200's were too narrow at the forefoot and the Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon LS wasn't quite enough grip in the more extreme conditions. So I popped out and decided to try the X-Talons to see if these could be the shoe for wet weather runs.

The X-Talons after a muddy run
Initial Impressions:

Immediately I loved the look and design. These shoes are super light and sexy straight out of the box. At just a tad over 200g for a size UK 9.5 they are extremely light and flexible. Slipping them on I did notice the 3mm differential and also the slightly narrow toe box which felt like it could restrict the toes movement slightly. The lacing held the foot in place well and the sole flexed with ease when bending the foot. It also felt very ventilated and there were no sore spots or points I was worried may cause a blister.

Fantastic grip of the X-Talon 190's
Running in the X-Talon 190's:

Once on the trail, the 3mm differential was not really noticable any longer. Only on flat, hard surfaces was it apparent. The studs held in almost everything but the most rediculously deep and sloppy mud in which no shoe would really hold. They performed well on mud, grass, stones, gravel and vegetation. The sticky rubber compound also held its own on rocks and tree stumps, preventing any slipping or sliding. The grip was ideal for wetter and off-road/off-trail conditions. Also, with minimal cushioning, you are still able to feel the ground quite well. This is very important to me as I feel it essential to avoid twisting your ankle or loosing your footing when you can immediately feel upon impact what the surface is like. As you may imagine, these shoes are not that great on paths or roads as the studs prevent 'feeling' the terrain. Even on harder packed trails I began to feel that I would like a little more ground feel as the studs essentially raised me up a few mm off the ground. Also, the performance fit was a little too narrow for my feet. I found that my toes did not have enough space to spread and be un-restricted. I would have liked to see the X-Talons in a wider option.


·         - Lightweight

·         - Great looking design

·         - Fantastic grip and sole in a variety of conditions

·         - Lacing very comfortable

·         - Ground feel was good for a shoe with such good grip


·         - Slightly too narrow fit

·         - 3mm differential needs lowering to 0mm to allow natural running gait

·         - Durability not good enough (read below)

After less than 100km the X-Talons developed a hole at the metertarsal flex point just as I had found a few months ago with the Trailroc 235's. I was horrified as I had really grown to love these shoes. The upper mesh-like material was just not strong or durable enough for trail conditions, let-alone off-trail fell running. What the shoe needs is a wrap-around durable band such as the X-Talon 212's have. This would prevent the lightweight material from ripping so soon.

I only used the shoes for what they are designed and marketed for. Yes I ran through mud and water, dusty trails and grassy tracks but surely a trail shoe should cope with this? With this in mind, I returned the shoes for a full refund, as I thought an exchange would leave me with the same problems a few weeks later. I will miss the feel and grip of these lightweight racers.

Inov-8 have created a fantastic and lightweight race shoe with superb grip and excellent ground feel. Sadly, the last is too narrow and the uppers are not durable enough to cope with trail or fell conditions. For me anyway, the search continues for the ideal minimalist/bareform trail and fell shoe.

Comments welcome everyone, and I will be back soon with more reviews. In the meantime, happy running :-)

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