Inov-8 is fairly new to the running game. Founded in 2008 and designed with the athlete’s foot and the foot’s interaction with the environment in mind, Inov-8 has quickly become one of the best when it comes to all terrain running shoes. Under the ownership of Descente, a Japanese apparel company with an 80-year history, Inov-8 (that’s innovate, in case you didn’t know) hopes to continue to push the boundaries of what is possible when it comes to running. The Inov-8 X-Talon 212 marketed as, “a flexible, lightweight racing shoe that delivers unrivaled grip over soft or extreme terrain.” It’s clear that Inov-8 is shooting for the moon with the X-Talon 212. Do they succeed?
If you’re going to make a trail running shoe that is designed to grip the environment
, that starts with the outsole. Fortunately, Inov-8 put plenty of thought into effort into the outsole and equipped the X-Talon 212 with excellent grip. The outsole is made up of a series of deep and aggressive lugs. Their placement gives the outsole plenty of open area, which allows the lugs to grip all terrains.
The rubber on the outsole is a sort of “sticky rubber” that gives the shoe strong traction on wet surfaces. The outsole is fairly soft, which gives the shoe a bit of extra cushion. This is definitely needed in light of the minimal midsole. There is no rock plate on the outsole, which is fairly standard on a lot of trail shoes, but given the shoes lightweight design, it’s not a huge surprise that Inov-8 decided to forgo the rock plate. The outsole is durable enough to where it’ll protect your feet without the plate, but those looking for extra protection may want to look elsewhere.
The midsole features a 6mm heel to toe drop. The midsole is made up of a single layer of density, which gives the shoe plenty of flexibility without sacrificing much cushion. Inov-8 uses Dynamic Fascia Band technology that helps your foot release energy into every step. Basically, this technology helps you run faster and more efficiently. At least, that’s what the advertise. Obviously a lot of that depends on how light your stride is when you run. Due to the lack of density in the midsole, you may feel the ground a bit more than you would like. However, if you want a well-cushioned shoe that provides excellent flexibility, it’s tough to go wrong with the X-Talon 212.
Even though the shoe is very lightweight
, many runners have commented on the durability of the upper. The X-Talon features specially designed mesh lining with a synthetic upper that gives the shoe fantastic breathability and comfort without sacrificing protection. The upper uses water repellant coating, which helps keep your foot dry during your runs through water areas.
The upper features a TPU Lacing System. It’s a pretty standard lacing system with an extra hole at the top if you want a more secure fit. There is no plastic heel counter on the back, which is typical of a lot of trail shoes. Inov-8 seemed set on designing the lightest weight shoe on the market, but a shoe that still provides good protection and durability.
The X-Talon weighs in at 7.5 ounces. With a sticky rubber outsole, a single layer of density in the midsole, extreme flexibility throughout the entire shoe, and a minimal upper; it’s no surprise that this shoe is one of the lightest shoes you’ll come across.
With mesh lining, a synthetic upper, and an overall lightweight feel, the breathability of the shoe is very good. The only thing that would prevent the X-Talon from breathing a little easier would be the water repellant coating. But Inov-8 did a nice job adding the water repellant
coating without taking away from the breathability of the shoe. In fact, it enhances the breathability as it keeps your foot dry throughout your run. You won’t have to worry about your foot drowning in water with these shoes.
Despite the lightweight of the shoe, the comfort remains strong. The outsole provides just enough cushion when you run to keep your foot feeling comfortable on the ground. The midsole, while only a single layer, provides just enough cushion when you run. However, due to the lack of midsole cushioning, some runners have complained that the shoe is uncomfortable for long runs.
I would argue that the X-Talon isn’t meant for long runs, just quick speed runs
in any condition. The upper fits nicely around the top of your foot without smothering it. Others have said that the shoe is a bit too narrow, causing a bit discomfort in the middle of your foot. The lacing system allows you to make the shoes as tight or as loose as you would like them.
The X-Talon is available in two different colors through the Inov-8 website. There is a black and red combo and a grey and black combo. If you’re looking for a shoe that’s going to give you a ton of different style options, the X-Talon isn’t it. That’s not to say that the shoe’s don’t look nice, because I believe that they do.
As a fan of neutral colors, I like the color choices of the shoe, but I’m not overly excited about the overall design. The medial protection that goes around the bottom of the upper covers up the logo on the side and despite the minimalist approach of the shoe, it just comes across as being a bit too busy with how its set-up. It’s not an ugly shoe by any means, it just don’t catch anyone’s attention during your run.
The overall durability of the shoe is questionable depending on how you plan on using it. It’s a trail shoe. It’s not going to perform well on the road and one shouldn’t expect it to perform well on the road. Due to the lightweight of the shoe, it’s not going to have to hold up over heavy usage or long runs. Runners said that the shoes wore down quickly, especially if they used them for longer runs.
The Inov-8 website says that the shoe is versatile and can be used in all distances, but testers seem to disagree. That said, it is great for just about any terrain and obstacle courses. The minimalist approach
and grippy outsole does give the shoe a chance to shine in any condition or environment. It may not perform well on the road and it may wear down quickly due to the sticky rubber outsole and single layer midsole, but when you’re using it, you’ll find great durability, especially in the upper area.
A shoe that only boasts a 7.5oz weight probably lacks protection. Inov-8 does the best they can in protecting your foot with as little material as possible. The shoe fits nicely around your foot and doesn’t sway your foot one way or another when you run. The water repellent coating keeps your foot dry, which helps with the protection. The medial strip along the bottom of the upper and into the toe box protects the upper portion of your foot to a good a degree.
Where the shoe falls a bit short in the protection area is the protection of the bottom of your foot. With a single layer midsole, a sticky rubber midsole with a lot of open area, and the lack of a rock protection plate; the X-Talon leaves itself open for criticism when it comes to protecting the bottom of your foot. Some runners have said that they feel the ground a bit too much when they’re running. If you like to feel the ground under you, then you’ll have no problems with the X-Talon. But if you want to feel like you have a little more protection under your foot, the X-Talon’s may not be for you.
The Inov-8 X-Talon 212 might be the most flexible shoe on the market. Not only does it flex when you run, but some have twisted and turned it in all different directions just to prove the flexibility of the shoe. It’s designed for speed and it responds in kind. Even though the midsole is only a single layer, it provides a responsive cushion that you can feel under your foot. The Dynamic Fascia Band helps with the responsiveness of the midsole as it disperses your energy and allows you to run more efficiently.
The shoe features neutral arch support. For a lightweight shoe, the X-Talon 212 provides good support. Some runners have commented that, even though the shoe is lightweight and doesn’t offer much protection under your foot, it’s still a supportive and stable shoe, with runners saying that they’ve had no issues with the support over long runs. The upper keeps your foot in place, but you won’t find a ton of support throughout the midsole. The removable insole is small and flat, which doesn’t help with the support of the shoe.
This is where the shoe earns its money. The X-Talon is built of any and all terrains with the lone exception being the road. You can still use them as road shoes, but you probably won’t feel too much comfort or support, especially if it’s a long run. Aside from the road, the shoe holds up well on every other terrain. Dirt, grass, rocks, mud, dry, wet. It doesn’t matter. The X-Talon outsole has a great grip that prevents you from slipping or sliding as you run. Whether you’re just out for a casual trail run with your friends or you’re competing in an obstacle course event, the X-Talon is ready for any and all conditions.
The price of the shoe varies depending on where you get them from as they are not sold through Inov-8’s website. The highest price you’ll find will be $120, which is a bit too much given the questionable durability and long term use of the shoe. If you’re looking for a good speed shoe that offers supreme grip, you can’t go wrong with the X-Talon 212’s, but I don’t know if I would pay over $100 for them. Shop around and find the best deal.
•Sticky rubber outsole that provides excellent grip on just about any terrain
• Lightweight and meant for speed running
• Extreme flexibility and responsiveness
• Synthetic upper with a water repellent feature that keeps your foot dry
• Dynamic Fascia Band helps with the responsiveness of the midsole
The Inov-8 X-Talon 212 is a bit of a mixed bag. If you’re looking for a lightweight shoe that is responsive, has great grip, and makes it feel like you’re running without shoes on, then you can’t go wrong with the X-Talon 212’s. But if you’re looking for something a bit more durable and that offers more protection, especially for the soles of your feet, then there are better shoes on the market.