Part 2 of our test focuses on one of the more glamorous shoes in Inov-8's range, the Xtalon 190.If you'd like to start from the beginning have a quick read of part 1, where I put the Roclite 295s through their paces.
Straight out of the box these guys look pretty sweet. If we were basing this test on looks alone, the X-Talons would win the golden rosette! The next thing that strikes me is the weight. At 190g, I don’t think I’ve ever felt a lighter pair of trail shoes. By the way, it’s just dawned on me that the numbers of Inov-8s shoe models refer to their weight. So with the X-Talon 190s you get a minimal 3mm footbed and 3mm drop, but if you want to increase that, you can go for the slightly heavier X-Talon 212s with a 6mm footbed and 6mm drop. Either way, they’re going to feel as light as a feather!
True fit to size
A big tick here, at least for those who normally take a UK12! These were the perfect fit for me and were extremely comfortable with well ventilated uppers.
Performance on all terrain
On my first outing the first thing I did with these was run on concrete, which is like the equivalent of riding a downhill mountainbike around a velodrome. It’s definitely not what the X-Talon range are made for. I wouldn’t say it was unpleasant but I could feel the individual rubbery studs wiggling around as I ran, in fact they kind-of massaged the bottoms of my feet, so I can’t complain too much!
They started to feel far more normal when I headed into the fields. They held the grassland like glue and as I started to head up hill the grip just kept on giving! I could feel the larger or sharper rocks through the soles, but not uncomfortably so. Although they’re a minimal shoe, the stud-like grip offers far better protection against rocks than a barefoot shoe would.
I’ve had a fair few problems with twisted ankles in my days and stability is important to me over uneven terrain, so I took the risky move of dropping down a long steep uneven decent at full throttle. Without a word of a lie, I have never run in a more stable shoe. I was locked in and feeling safe at all times. Turning an ankle just felt like an impossibility!
The real test would be in the mud and they continued to pass with flying colours. In the shallow slippy mud the “Talons” dug deep and continued to hold fast. Then, when it came to the knee-deep mud, they stayed securely on my feet on extraction. You can’t expect any shoe to completely clear out thick mud without washing them off, but the wide grip did allow the large chunks of mud to de-clog swiftly.
The minimal mesh uppers allowed water and mud to drain away quickly, so they never felt like they were carrying excess weight around.
As you can tell from the above, I was rather smitten by my shiney new pair of X-Talons and they became my favored race-day shoes for this month’s Tough Mudder and Rat Race Dirty Weekend. They continued to perform well, especially through the extremely slippery muddy woodland of Tough Mudder. Where other people could barely run in a straight line, I just glided past.
I wouldn’t say that I’m 100% adjusted to minimal soles, so choosing to wear them on 20km and 30km race maybe wasn’t the smartest idea and my legs felt quite beaten up towards the ends of both races. I’d advise building up to longer runs.
In terms of the “lastability”, I’ve got a feeling that could be the X-Talons only downside. These are very much pitched as a super-fast race day shoe. Their stripped-back design make the shoe light and nimble but long-term I can’t see the fabric and build holding up to all of that grit, sand and rock abuse, like it’s tougher skinned cousins might. So, in that respect, I’m thinking that maybe this is the shoe to save for those special occasions, rather than for everyday training.