A few months back Inov8 released an update to the much loved X-Talon 212, a shoe that is worn by many off road runners and it’s starting to make a name for itself within the obstacle race community. Top Obstacle Course Racer and runner Jon Albon took the shoe through its paces to see if it’s worth your hard earned cash.
Review by Jon Albon, talking to Rob Foulkes
I shouldn’t have to stress the importance of wearing a decent pair of shoes for an Obstacle Course Race. Having the correct pair of shoes for the job will allow you to cover the same distance in less time and with less wasted energy. For me this can mean the difference between winning an OCR and not, but more importantly it maintains stability when it’s really muddy therefore reducing the chance of injury.
The 212’s are, in my opinion, the most durable and best performing off road trail shoe around
When it comes to the muddier OCR I have been using the old version of the Inov-8 X-Talon 212’s for 3 years now. I have tried other Inov-8 off trail shoes but I always found myself returning to the old faithful X-Talons, when I heard about the new updated version I couldn’t wait to see how they would stack up.
Inov8 have two versions of the X-Talon; the 190’s and the 212’s. Although the X190’s are 22 grams lighter than the 212’s, Inov8 have retained some of the features of the old X-Talons I really liked and I feel are more durable than the 190’s.
Lightweight and Minimal
The X-Talon 212 is a minimalist shoe. What does this mean? A lot of this is down to the ‘drop’ which is the essentially the height of the heel (from the heel to the ground). The 212’s drop is 6mm. Traditional running shoes may have up to 15mm heel drop, however in recent times evidence suggests that by having a lower drop, a more ‘natural’ running style comes as a result. For example, the BareGrip’s have a 0mm drop, which means there is absolutely no heel on them. So the 212’s are a good introduction into minimalist shoes for those that want to run more freely.
Durability is especially important to me. The continual abuse of uneven terrain and the shoes getting wet can end up weakening the shoe before you have had a chance to really to rack up some miles. Let’s be honest they’re not a cheap shoe, so we want these to last.
The 212’s feature a material surrounding the base of the shoe which adds extra protection. I have found one of the first places to break in many ‘off road shoes’ is where the main lining meets the sole. This is something Inov8 have worked on with the X-Talons featuring this double layered material protecting a naturally weaker area. So when paired with Inov8’s excellent build quality they are, in my opinion, the most durable and best performing off road trail shoes on the market at the moment.
The design of the sole with teeth like studs allows maximum grip in the mud, which is where you will experience the best of these shoes. The design, I found, also helped to reduce the amount of mud clogging up the sole, which can add extra weight when running. Of the off road range from Inov8, the X Talon range are most suited to harder terrain, and although they are at their best in the mud or on the trail, the use of them has never just been limited to OCRs for me.
Built For Speed
I have always preferred Inov8’s to other brands as you get the feeling like you are wearing the shoes as opposed to them wearing you. This is probably down to the fact that they only weigh 212gs and what Inov8 call ‘Precision Fit’ or I call a ‘snug fit’. The new X-Talons are no exception and even though my second run was a two-day mountain marathon I didn’t have any problem with rubbing or blisters. The material of the shoe allows for them to stretch to the foot, as those with wider feet may initially worry about the tight fitting but this shouldn’t be a problem.
Low Water Retention
It’s likely that you are going to experience water with these, and the water retention in these shoes is extremely low. The lack of excess cushioning and use of specially designed mesh lining with synthetic upper means water isn’t retained within the shoe. The water is allowed to drain away leaving the shoe exceptionally light even when wet. Another big plus.
Loved by World Champions
It seems I am not the only one loving the X-Talon’s, and according to Inov8 the 212’s are winners of more world championships than any other off roader, which overall I think is down to three key things – their durability, their weight and their grip.
Through the years I have used the older version of these shoes for Orienteering, Mountain Marathons, Adventure Races, BMF, Cross-Country and even with my snow shoes in Norway. I have won many races this year in these shoes and wouldn’t hesitate to give some of my credit to having the best footwear. The previous X-Talon’s carried me through gruelling endurance events such as the Spartan Death Race and came out the other end still intact.
Obstacle Course Race Approved
Many Obstacle Course Races involve a lot of mud and water, others are more urban with a mixture of tarmac and trail running. But whatever the conditions Inov8 have a shoe for the job, in fact they have more than one ( see the reviews of X-Talon’s 190’s, BareGrip and the Mudclaw). However, I wouldn’t promote these if I wasn’t confident in their abilities.
Overall a big thumbs up to these shoes, so try out a pair if you want some grip at your next obstacle race.
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