Check out the video review of Trail Talon 275s above, or if you're more of a reader, I've written my main points below.
As I’ve mentioned before, I find inov-8s range of shoes a little more confusing than it needs to be. Particularly with their naming. For me “Talons” have always been associated with Xtalons - and deep lugs that dig into mud. That’s not something that can be used to describe these Trail Talons. In fact, these are inov-8s latest incarnation of the discontinued Race Ultras.
To be honest I was really disappointed that the Race Ultras were discontinued, as I wore them more than any other shoe last year. They’ve had a good life but they’ve been ready for the bin for some time. So I was really keen to see how Trail Talons compared. There are clear similarities between the two:
- They have a similar shape. Both have inov-8’s standard fit, rather than the narrower, more locked in, “precision fit”, that we see in the Xtalons.
- They have similar lug depth (4mm), although the shaping of the new Trail Talons is slightly different and claim to have better multi-directional grip.
- Both have a similar amount of padding. The 275 has a 6mm footbed and 8mm drop. Alternatively you can go for the 250 model, which has a 4mm drop.
Although there’s a similar amount of padding, it here that the noticeable difference lies. The old Race Ultras, although padded, still had a familiar solid trail shoe feel when you put them on, however the Trail Talons feel unlike any invo-8s I’ve ever tried. They have a far softer feel to the inner-sole, like road running shoes, and have a more instant comfort.
There’s also another, slightly less significant, difference in feel around the toe box. The Trail Talons don’t have such an airy feel as the Race Ultras. But they’re by no means cramped.
The most noticeable visual differences is the lacing system. The Trail Talons have a tough plastic skeleton running from the heel cup to the laces, which seems to lock everything in nicely. The laces themselves are a new wider and flatter shape, which secured nicely, even with a single knot.
My favourite new addition is the gusset tongue, which helps to prevent debris dropping beside the laces but, more importantly keeps the tongue in position.
As well as drop options, there are now also different upper options. As well as the standard Trail Talon, there is a Gortex waterproof version and the “Cool” version (tested here), with more ventilation for warm weather running. Of course, I haven’t really had the chance to test these in very warm conditions yet, but with the frosty weather we had a few weeks ago I can confirm that they definitely let a good breeze through the upper!
I’ve given them a good testing on all kinds of terrain. For me, they perform equally to the old Ultras, with the bonus of extra comfort. They're built for dry trails, and that’s where they really excel but they feel great on roads, in fact they could easily double as a road shoe. They can handle mud to an extent and grip onto a surface layer quite nicely, but as soon as things get particularly deep or slippery, these do get very unstable. That’s what Mudclaws and Xtalons are for though, right?
I guess the question you’ve got to ask yourself is do you need a shoe like this on top of your more traditional deep-lugged obstacle racing shoe? For me, the answer is most definitely yes, given how much time I ended up wearing my Ultras. For training, if anything else, do you really find yourself running through deep mud all of the time, particularly through the summer? Also, for those looking to do longer trail runs - half marathons, marathons and ultras, the kind of experience you’ll have in these is a world apart from a more minimal but deeper lugged shoe.
I've actually ended up buying a second pair, in a size larger, to take to Marathon Des Sables. I went larger to allow for foot swelling and toe-taping but, surprising, they seem just as locked-in and comfortable. So, as always, it might be worth you trying out a couple of sizes to see what works best for you.