Thursday, 23 June 2016

Review: Inov-8 X-Talon 200

If you've read my post "Have you read 'Born to Run'...?" then you'll know that I'm a bit of an Inov-8 fanboy, though perhaps less so since they discontinued the excellent Road-X 155s (the Road X-Treme 220s just aren't as good, but more on that another time).

My first Inov-8 trail shoes were the X-Talon 190s and, whilst I liked them initially, I couldn't seem to wear them beyond 6 miles or so. Something about the precision fit meant I would get a nasty blister if I tried to go any further. The X-Talon 212s came in standard fit, but that had a 6mm drop and, as I was happy with a 3mm, I didn't want to go there. So, I picked up some now-discontinued Trailroc 245 and did basically all of my trail running in them, up to and including the Kielder 50k.

The Trailroc 245 was a decent enough trail shoe, but it just didn't handle mud well enough. The week before Kielder saw lots of rain, and then the night before there was a couple of inches of snow. By the time the 50k set off this had mostly melted, which turned large amounts of the course into a quagmire. Feeling that discretion was the better part of valour, I didn't even try and run for large amounts of time, figuring that a slower finish was preferable to a DNF with a broken ankle. I finished 15/90, in 5hrs 32mins, which I was quite happy with for a debut at the distance; I was pretty far back the field at CP1, and I think at CP2, so I made up a lot of ground in the final 20k or so, which was along well groomed trails (where the Trailroc excelled). I reckon I might have stood a chance of a top 10 finish if I had been more secure on my feet in the first half of the race. Then again, maybe starting conservatively and then running down the competition at the end was just good tactics. Who knows...

Post-Kielder, I was in the market for a new pair of trail shoes, as I'd more than got my money's worth from the Trailrocs (I have noooooooo idea how many miles I put on them, but they're even now still going strong; they've actually become my daily trainer). Imagine my excitement when I saw that Inov-8 were releasing a X-Talon 200. 3mm drop and a standard fit, with what is in my opinion, and that of a fair number of other people, the best grip available for sloppy muddy trails the likes of which I frequently run on.

The verdict

I love them. I mean, I really really love them. So far they have just over 70 miles on them, which I think is enough to have a fair idea how they work for me. I'm the most sure-footed in mud that I think I've ever been. Yes, there are some conditions that they can't handle, but I doubt anything would; I've looked at other shoes and there's nothing that seems to even come close to that sole, even more so factoring in a low drop/low stack. No one-trick pony these, however; they handled the well-groomed trail that is the Kielder Lakeside Way admirably as well.

They're also not really showing any sign of wear at all, which is good. I'm pretty confident that I'll get a good amount of use from them before needing to replace them. I'm in a size 10, which is what I normally wear for Inov-8s. Maybe a 10.5 would be better, as I have Morton's toe ("well, give it back!" I hear you say...), which means my second toe is longer than my big toe and therefore my foot isn't the classic shape; after the Kielder 50k I had large bloodblisters on the end of both second toes. Nice. However, I've had Inov-8s in a 10.5 previously, and they flapped around like clown shoes on descents, so it's probably just something I have to deal with.

I plan on running the Ingram Half in them next month, and then my leg of the Kielder Run Bike Run in October, as well as the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double in November. I also plan on using them for the Kielder 80k next year and, possibly, the Ultimate Trails 110k, though I'm also considering a pair of Race Ultra 270 for that. I have reservations about the grip though. That said, a low drop/low stack shoe geared for ultras with a grip that even comes close to the X-Talon appears to be unicorn poop. so I'm going to need to compromise somewhere I'm sure, and grip may be it; over 110k I'm sure there will be enough sections where grip isn't an issue to make up any time I might lose slopping through mud, whereas over shorter distances seconds and minutes really do count.

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