Even though the X-Talon 190 and 212s are arguably the perfect OCR shoes, at the beginning of next year inov-8 will be releasing their first model that's designed specifically to handle obstacle racing - the X-Talon 200.
inov-8 are the dominant supplier of footwear in the obstacle racing market for three very good reasons: their grip, their minimal weight and their grip. The X-Talon's magical grip comes from the 43 deep multi directional lugs on the sole, which are great at digging into mud, grass, soil, sludge and slime.
Like the X-Talon 190s, the 200s have a 3mm drop, which makes them much more of a minimalist / barefoot trainer. So please beware before going straight into using shoes of this kind, make sure you have acclimatised yourself to minimalist running.
What’s new with the 200s?
Tougher upper mesh
The new tougher mesh is designed to improve the longevity of the trainer against rocks, ropes, sand, brambles and all of the other obstacles that we face. This is coupled with a tough rubberised toe guard to protect your little piggies and make it an all-around more protective shoe.
Gilly lace ups
This is a really cool new design. This lacing system allows you to customise the tightness along the length of the shoe. I spent my first trail run tweaking the laces until I got a firm comfortable fitting. This design also makes the laces flatter against the shoe which will help avoid getting them snagged in the undergrowth
Personally I’m not a fan of the retro 1980’s look of the shoe, and much prefer the style of the X-Talon 212, but who cares, they all look the same after the first mud patch.
Testing, testing 1,2,3
Right lets get to the part that matters. I’ve tested them out on my local trails for a 8km run on grass, compacted limestone trails, sandstone rocks, slick ankle deep mud, and a little bit on tarmac roads. They were lovely and comfortable and the grip was worthy of its legendary status.
They then got their racing medals at Endurer Dash 14km and the Red Bull Steeplechase. Both the races involved some super steep hills and the X-Talon 200s dug in and never failed both on the way up and the way down. Endurer Dash was a great testing ground with every type of mud from thin layers of slick mud to thigh deep and the X-Talons gripped and stayed firmly in place. I do highly recommend utilising the extra eyelets at the top of the trainer for added security.
Red Bull certainly tested the grip to the maximum with a opening hill at roughly 45 degrees, it was a full-on scramble on hands and feet. The trainers were flexible enough across the sole to bend allowing the lugs on the toes to get maximum penetration.
The X-Talon 200s are a wickedly grippy shoe and really comfortable, and after 35km of usage they are still looking like new with no signs of wear or tear. These are definitely going to be my premier race shoe of choice, even though I'll avoid using them to train. The only reason being that fair chunks of my training runs are on roads and I think those large soft lugs may wear down pretty quick on the tarmac.
The X-Talon 200s will be released at the beginning of 2015. Keep an eye on www.inov-8.com for more details.