Inov-8 X-Talon 212 - Lighter, faster...
(I get the feeling I may be preaching to the converted. But here goes!) It’s fair to say that in the last year or so the Inov-8 X-Talon 212 has become the ‘shoe of choice’ for many a fell runner in the UK…
…and now with the 2009 WMRC winner Geoffrey Kusuro and Commonwealth champ Wilson Chenweno also sporting them, these shoes are becoming ubiquitous. Oh, did I mention that they are the “the world’s lightest xc/fell racer” too? At 212 grams nothing else comes close…
Of course, with their stealth-like appearance and lightweight nature they wont be the weapon of choice for all, however for me (an 11st skinny man) they were faultless on almost all terrain over 4 weeks (and about 60 miles) of trail, forest tracks and heavy mud.
Built for speed
The construction of the X-Talons is high quality (what you would expect for a £75 racer) and at least as comparable in its build as the benchmark shoe of the last 30 years the Walsh PB. Uppers are durable, and have some nice features such as non-slip side patches and grippy laces. Did I mention laces?
One of my gripes about running shoes has always been the mile after mile of laces that accompany them out of the box. Almost all manufacturers who use laces, use too much lace. Why do I need enough to do 4 double knots?? Grrr. Anyway back to the X-Talon. Number 1 – The laces are just the right length, so saving you time in tying them and saving on wastage and therefore making the shoe greener in a round-about way. Number 2 – the laces have little nobbles on them, meaning that there is less likelihood of loosening – clever.
The uppers are one piece, meaning less opportunity for ingress of water, but also leaving for a highly comfortably inner, with less stitching. (More about that later). The midsole on these is pretty minimal, as you would expect from a lightweight ‘racer’, however the shoe is surprisingly cushioned on harder terrain when coupled with the forgiving studded outsole.
That outsole grips. These shoes aren’t called the X Talon for nowt. On cambers, bends and in a straight line, the shoe grips, and grips good. The studs are nicely spaced giving good mud-evacuation too, something which mountain bikers will appreciate. There is nothing worse that your 212’s becoming 512’s with half a field stuck to the bottom of your shoes whilst negotiating muck and bogs, however it’s all about how quickly the stuff is thrown out of those nobbles (same can be said of an MTB tyre), once you are free of the gloopy stuff in the X Talons the build-up of mud clears pretty quickly.
One area of concern that I have about this shoe is the grip on tarmac and concrete, in the wet. Granted, I realise that in wet conditions most shoes struggle a bit, however my advice to those good guys at inov-8 would be to have a look at the rubber compound that is used on the 212’s outsole, it seems a little ‘shiny’ to me (sorry about the technical term!) and at times had me nervous.
NB Since posting this Steve Wales at www.run4it.com pointed me towards the Traction section on the inov-8 site, I stand corrected on the shiny sole, as far as compounds goes – thanks Steve! I will still need a few more runs on wet rocks to completely put my mind at ease, however…
On the run the shoe takes a bit of getting used to out of the box. You feel very, how can I put it, in-touch with the terrain underfoot. The philosophy of barefoot running is entering into the spotlight evermore and the neutral freedom of these shoes give that feeling of barefoot running. This in-touch feeling is especially good on tricky ground though, with the precise nature of the shoe leaving you confident, especially on steep descents.
The other aspect when first donning these shoes is the snug fit that you get when pulling them on. I thought that I had a narrow foot, so I feel for Mr. and Mrs. Fatfoot when attempting to put the 212s on. But fear not. Once you have got the shoes on and become accustomed to that tight feeling in the toe-box, the shoe almost molds to your foot as the run goes on. I am not sure if this is a design feature, but it certainly works for me, and the lack of internal snagging from stitching and the like means that the X Talon achieves high marks on the comfort front.
Thousands can’t be wrong
Although I can only speak objectively about this shoe, (and only offer my views after a month or so of running in them) but I am obviously amongst a large band of happy customers! Looking at most fell race image sets these days the front half of the field will see many a punter in inov-8 shoes, it will also see lots of those runners in X-Talon 212s.
Why? Well I suspect it’s a number of factors. One, outside of Walsh’s benchmark there has never really been a serious competitor to the ‘king of the fells’ PB. Two, inov-8 have taken the philosophy of Walsh (neutral shoe, built for the hills, light in weight and works!) and, in my opinion, improved on it. And three, they have tapped into the psyche of the fell runner, they are in the community and know what works and what doesn’t – for this, they are respected.
Go see for yourself…