Inov-8 Trailtalon 290

The Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 is one in the line of many trail shoes that has just enough to pass as an okay shoe, but certainly not enough to ever be the star of the show. It performs exceptionally well on hard, dry surfaces and easier trails while offering medium cushioning and a lot of flexibility – which is great if you’re not aiming for long distance trail running and if you’re only starting to discover what you’re looking for in a trail shoe. While the price isn’t too high, there are other shoes of the same and better quality in the price range, making the competition that much harder for the Trailtalon 290.

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Where to Buy
Moosejaw Link
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Where to Buy
Moosejaw Link
See Deal
Pros & Cons
  • Lightweight for a trail shoe
  • Meta-Flex forefoot groove offers good sole flexibility
  • Breathable
  • Adapterfit midfoot cage
  • Good for short daily runs
  • Soft and Hard Sticky Rubber on the outsole offer good traction on dry, hard surfaces
  • Protective rubber toe bumper
  • Comfortable
  • Cons
    • Questionable heel cup durability
    • Unimpressive responsiveness
    • Not a versatile design
    • Traction on loose and hard wet terrain isn’t enviable
    • Key Features
      The Inov-8 Trailtalon 290’s outsole makes use of the tri-density rubber compounds, aptly called the Tri-C rubber. The Soft Sticky Rubber is in charge of providing a firm grip to various surfaces, especially on wet ones, while also adding a thin layer of cushion to increase the protectiveness of the midsole. The Hard Sticky Rubber comes after the soft one and its purpose is to effectively distribute traction in order to optimize the shoe’s performance. The outsole is equipped with robust multidirectional lugs that are 4mm high – or thick, depending on how you look at it. This design is called the Trailclaw, given the aggressive nature of the lugs. The forefoot section of the outsole sports a horizontal groove named Meta-Flex, which encourages a swift heel-to-toe transition by making the outsole more flexible.
      The 2-Arrow Shock Zone midsole of the Inov-8 Trailtalon 290is a moderately-cushioned one and features the Powerflow foam, which is said to provide 10% more shock absorption and 15% more responsiveness than other soles of the same category. The build of the Powerflow is what enables the increased performance, due to the fact that it’s built out of two separate pieces aimed at excelling in two separate functions – one is in charge of the cushioning, the other of energy return. Inside the two-piece midsole is the Dynamic Fascia Band, which is a firm lever that mimics the tendon and muscle movements in order to provide an energized toe-off.
      Like a lot of trail shoes, the Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 makes use of the breathable synthetic mesh in the upper’s construction. On top of the mesh are the TPU overlays which wrap the midfoot area and continue onto the traditional lacing system in order to provide a solid grip while dispersing any pressure points that could prove to be uncomfortable. A rubber bumper can be found on the vamp of the shoe, which protects for the toes from potential harm from hitting a hard object on the trail. True to its trail nature, the Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 features gaiter hooks, which increases the overall protectiveness of the shoe.
      The Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 weighs 290g or 10.2oz, which a lot of customers appreciated, even though this isn’t the lightest shoe around, but it’s more than enough for efficient trail performance. There are some trail shoes on the market that provide more possibilities for speed and trail racing when it comes to the weigh, but most trail runners will be more than satisfied with what the Trailtalon 290 has to offer.
      The synthetic mesh used in the upper construction is just dense enough to prevent small debris from entering the shoe box, but it’s breathable and lightweight enough so as to provide a ventilated experience full of airflow. While the toe bumper and the TPU overlays prevent the shoe from achieving the level of breathability that some road running shoes with sock-like upper construction have, the Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 will perform well even in warm conditions, without excess sweat that could cause blisters to form.
      One of the greatest things about the Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 trail running shoe is its comfort that doesn’t go unnoticed. The flexible, supple upper doesn’t constrict the foot, while the tongue and collar are padded just enough to provide a cushiony feel all-around. Another thing customers really liked is the roomy toe box which not only influences the overall comfort of the shoe but the stability it provides on the trail. The Trailtalon 290s fit true to size and are available in standard widths: B-Medium for women and D-Medium for men. The TPU overlays are designed to form a midfoot cage that the brand named Adapterfit, which differs from all other TPU cages in that it actually adapts to the foot’s swelling and expansions by offering a dynamic, yet snug fit throughout the run. This increases the level of comfort significantly, especially if you’re on the trail for hours.
      Trail running shoes are always tricky to nail style-wise, because a lot of brands try too hard or too little, and on top of that, they often can’t decide whether they want a straight-up trail shoe or a shoe that can be worn in casual occasions off-trail. However, this isn’t really the issue with the Inov-8 Trailtalon 290, as the shoe is clearly made only to be worn on the trail. In that category, the Trailtalon 290 doesn’t translate as bulky and robust as some other trail running shoes, which a lot of people can appreciate. The dual-toned design, while not exactly flashy, is still prominent, so if you’re a fan of more subdued, understated color choices, this shoe won’t score high on your favorites list. That being said, it looks efficient and durable, which is always a good look on a trail shoe.
      The durability of the Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 is a point of disagreement for some runners, given that some haven’t experienced any issues with the shoe and feel like the durability is more than satisfactory, while the others think that the heel TPU cup will only last for so long – long before the sole experiences significant wear and tear. However, the consensus can be made by stating that the shoe provides average durability that will greatly depend on your running style, trail choice and the frequency of trail running.
      The Inov-8 Trailtalon 290’s midsole provides medium-level cushioning, which some runners deem just enough for a protective ride, while others would prefer the cushioning to be more prominent when it comes to the build of the midsole. It’s worth pointing out, however, that the same standards do not apply to trail and road running, and that trails require much more ground feel by definition, while road running shoe don’t have to try to achieve that balance between cushioning and ground feel. The Trailtalon 290 offers enough cushioning for short and mid-distance runs, while the overall lack of cushioning can lead to potential issues if you decide to take it on a long run. The protection features of this trail shoe are down to a minimum, but each and every one of them is effective. The durable toe bumper does offer substantial protection and is able to dampen the blow if you happen to hit a rock or tree root while running. Additionally, the tongue is padded enough so as to prevent debris and pebbles from going inside the shoe, and the upper even offers the option of attaching gaiters in order to increase the protection provided by the shoe.
      The sole of the Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 isn’t too thick or cushioned, but it offers a lot of shock-absorption, which isn’t always a good thing, especially if the absorbed shock doesn’t come back at you with the kinetic energy to be used for the next stride. While the midsole does include a harder layer of foam in its construction, this shoe ultimately isn’t suitable for a forefoot striker. This is due to the build of the midsole causing loss of momentum, instead of picking up the speed, despite the existence of the Meta-Flex outsole groove.
      The Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 is a neutral trail shoe made for runners who don’t need additional arch support and prefer a cushioned feel in their midsole. People with high, medium-high and normal arches all fall into the neutral pronation group that will find this trail shoe suitable. Aside from the neutral pronation, this shoe’s Adapterfit cage offers a lot of lateral support while performing various movements, which several runners who have tested the shoe found useful. The heel cup does a good job at offering rearfoot support, and the only issue with it is how long it will last. As the run starts to get longer and longer, the feeling of support diminishes and the muscle and joint fatigue steps in its place, due to the lack of cushioning in the midsole. However, if you cap your runs at 5 miles, you’ll be pleased with the overall support offered by the Trailtalon 290.
      The looks and build of the shoe clearly indicate that this is a trail running shoe best used on trails, mountains, and any other kind of off-trail running that doesn’t include bouldering, climbing and similar activities which require specific shoe build. The medium cushioning offered by the shoe makes the Trailtalon 290 a good everyday running shoe, provided you don’t take them on tricky surfaces for prolonged periods of time.
      While the quality of the Trailtalon 290 is satisfactory, a little more cushioning that would allow it to be a long-distance trail running shoe, essentially broadening its use, would be something that would make the shoe’s price rational. Also, the lack of durability concerning the heel cup makes us wonder if this shoe is really worth the money, with all the other trail shoes on the market that are in the same price range.
      The 4mm lugs that the outsole of the Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 boasts perform really well on hard, uneven surfaces due to their grippy nature. The traction on this trail shoe is good as long as the surface isn’t loose because the Soft Sticky Rubber isn’t equipped to grip well to softer surfaces. While the Trailtalon 290’s performance on wet sand is great, a number of runners have stated that it doesn’t hold its own on hard, wet surfaces, making this a decidedly summer shoe.
      Considering the thickness of the Trailtalon 290’s outsole, this trail shoe offers a significant amount of flexibility, and a lot of it stems not only from segmented heel groove but from the forefoot Meta-Flex groove as well. This deep, horizontal groove offers great performance, although it remains unclear why there’s a need for giving a deep forefoot groove a branded name. Be that how it may, the toe-off phase of the gait cycle is easy and encourages faster strides.
      The Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 is a trail shoe without any significant stability features to boast. The wider sole platform, especially in the forefoot area, increases the overall stability of the stride. This might not sound like much, but the difference in stability and confidence this build of the sole can give is often more valuable than most inexperienced runners would think. The heel cup and the adaptive midfoot wrap and lacing system ensure that the ride would go without the heel slipping outside of the shoe and without the instability regarding the twisting of the foot. For a slightly technical, hard surface trail, this is just enough stability, but it might be less than what’s expected from a serious trail shoe made for technical trails.
      The forefoot stack height of 11mm and the heel stack height of 19mm make for a heel-to-toe differential that measures 8mm for both men’s and women’s versions of the shoe. Much like the most often used 10mm drop, this drop will be suitable for both midfoot and heel strikers alike, with the midfoot strikers possibly feeling the heel more than they’d like – but that won’t happen often. The only group of runners that won’t find the 8mm drop appealing are the forefoot strikers, who usually tend to go for minimalist shoes precisely for their lower drop that prevents injuries.
      Key Features
      ● Tri-C rubber outsole
      ● Meta-Flex forefoot groove
      ● 2-Arrow Shock Zone midsole
      ● Dynamic Fascia Band
      ● Synthetic mesh upper with TPU and stitched overlays
      ● Adapterfit technology
      ● 290g or 10.2oz
      ● Breathable
      ● Comfortable
      ● Issue with heel cup durability
      ● Medium-level cushioning
      ● Neutral pronation
      ● Trail shoe
      ● Good flexibility
      ● Mediocre responsiveness
      ● 8mm drop
      Bottom Line
      The Inov-8 Trail Talon 290 is a trail shoe that comes with its share of pros and cons, but ultimately, it’s rather well accepted in the running community as a viable option for runners who don’t need anything special for their trail shoe and expect good performance on short to medium-length trails. The comfort, breathability, and grip on hard surfaces are the traits of the Trailtalon 290 that most people agree are great, while there are some mixed experiences concerning cushioning (or lack thereof), durability and responsiveness that this shoe offers. Had the sole been more versatile and the upper more durable, this review would be a lot more enthusiastic. However, this is still a solid choice, especially if you’re just entering the trail shoe waters, but in all reality, there are some better trail shoes around that will prove to be more versatile for the same or slightly higher amount of cash.
      Where to Buy
      Moosejaw Link
      See Deal
      By Lizzy Pavlovic
      Last updated:
      Where to buy
      Best offer on: Aug. 04. 2021

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