Inov-8 X-Talon 212

Inov-8 is a fairly new company in the running shoe game. Founded in 2008, Inov-8 has quickly become one of the best producers of all-terrain running shoes, designing their shoes the athlete’s foot--and the foot’s interaction with the environment--in mind. Under the ownership of Descente, a Japanese apparel company with an 80-year history, Inov-8  hopes to continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in running shoe technology. The Inov-8 X-Talon 212 is marketed as, “a flexible, lightweight racing shoe that delivers unrivaled grip over soft or extreme terrain,” and it’s clear that Inov-8 is shooting for the moon with the X-Talon 212.

The -Talon 212 is a dynamic running shoe that offers a lightweight trainer and a natural running experience. Designed to maximize speed for a variety of running distances, the upper has a durable water repellent (DWR) coating that keeps water from entering the shoe while not interfering with its overall breathability. A versatile racing shoe that can tread both soft and hard terrain, this mid-range racing shoe can be used for walking, hiking, or obstacle running. With its great combination of speed, protection, and durability, the Inov-8 X-Talon 212 offers runners a reliable trainer that won’t let them down in a clutch.

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Pros & Cons
  • Some of the best flexibility and responsiveness on the market
  • Versatile outsole features excellent grip on all terrains
  • Water-repellent upper keeps foot dry
  • Lightweight but still offers solid protection, especially on the upper
  • Cons
    • Durability not ideal
    • Single layer midsole hinders cushioning a bit
    • Due to the lack of density in the midsole, runners may feel the ground a bit more than they would like.
    • Key Features
      A trail running shoe starts with its outsole: specifically, one that is designed to grip the environment and varied terrain found in the great outdoors. Fortunately, Inov-8 has put plenty of thought and effort into the outsole of the X-Talon 212, equipping it with excellent grip. This outsole is made up of a series of deep and aggressive lugs, and their placement gives the outsole plenty of open areas, which allows the lugs to grip all terrains.

      The rubber on the outsole is a sticky rubber that gives the shoe strong traction on wet surfaces. The outsole is fairly soft, providing the shoe a bit of extra cushioning, which is needed due to the X-Talon 212’s minimal midsole. There is no rock plate on the outsole, but given the shoe’s overall 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 will protect a runner’s feet without the plate.
      The midsole features a 6mm heel to toe drop and is made up of a single layer of density, which gives the shoe plenty of flexibility without sacrificing too much cushioning. Inov-8 uses Dynamic Fascia Band technology that helps provide great energy return with every step. Basically, this technology helps a runner run faster and more efficiently. Obviously, a lot of that depends on how light your stride is when you run. Due to the lack of density in the midsole, runners may feel the ground a bit more than you would like—but again, this is not a universally bad thing depending on a runner’s style and need to feel the ground as they run. Overall, for 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 a 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 the foot dry during runs through the water-logged terrain.

      The upper features a TPU Lacing System, which is a pretty standard lacing system with an extra hole at the top for a more secure fit. There is no plastic heel counter on the back, which is also typical of a lot of trail shoes. Inov-8 seemed set on not only designing the lightest trail shoe on the market but a shoe that still provides good protection and durability.
      The X-Talon weighs in at 7.5 ounces/213 grams. With a sticky rubber outsole, a single-layer midsole, extreme flexibility throughout the entire shoe, and a minimal upper, it’s no surprise that this shoe is one of the lightest trail shoes on the market.
      With a mesh lining, a synthetic upper, and an overall lightweight feel, the breathability of the X-Talon 212 is very good. The only thing that would prevent the X-Talon from breathing a little easier would be the water repellent coating--but Inov-8 did a nice job adding the water repellant coating without taking away from the overall breathability of the upper. In fact, it enhances the breathability as it keeps the foot dry throughout a run, which means runners won’t have to worry about the foot drowning in water with these shoes.
      Despite the light weight of this trail runner, its overall comfort level remains strong. The outsole provides just enough cushioning during a run to keep the foot feeling comfortable on the ground, while the midsole--despite being only a single layer--provides just enough cushioning on a run. However, due to the lack of midsole cushioning, some runners have complained that the shoe is uncomfortable for long runs.

      One could argue that the X-Talon 212 isn’t meant for long runs, just quick speed runs. After all, the upper fits nicely around the top of the foot without smothering it. But others have stated that the shoe is a bit too narrow, causing a bit discomfort in the middle of the foot. However, its lacing system allows for the runner to make the shoes as tight or as loose as needed, depending on specific running conditions and type.
      The X-Talon is available in two different colors: a snazzy black and red combo and a more muted gray and black combo. If looking for a shoe that has a ton of different style options, the X-Talon isn’t it. This is not to say that the shoes don’t look nice, because they do. Sleek and stylish like a sports car, a pair of Inov-8 X-Talon 212’s look built for performance and spend.
      One aspect of the X-Talon 212 that has been called into question is its overall durability. It’s a trail shoe, so durability is a must, and indeed for a lightweight trail shoe it performs and holds up admirably to the rigors of the open trail. However, some runners have noted it doesn’t hold up particularly well after heavy usage. Having said that, this may vary from runner to runner depending on the activity, the intensity of their workout, and running style.

      The Inov-8 website says that the shoe is versatile and can be used in all distances, and they seem well-suited for just about any terrain and obstacle courses. Its minimalist approach to a trail shoe and grippy outsole gives the shoe a chance to shine in any condition or environment. While it may not perform well on the road and it may wear down somewhat quickly due to it sticky rubber outsole and single layer midsole, on a run it provides great performance and durability, especially in its upper.
      A shoe that only boasts a 7.5 ounce/213 gram weight will most likely lack in the protection department. That said, Inov-8 does the best they can in protecting the foot with as little material as possible. This shoe fits nicely around the foot after lace-up and doesn’t cause the foot to wobble one direction or another on a run. Its water-repellent coating helps keep the foot dry, which helps with overall protection. The medial strip along the bottom of the upper and into the toe box also protects the upper portion of the foot a good deal.

      Where the shoe falls a bit short in the protection area is in the bottom of the foot. With a single layer midsole, a sticky rubber midsole with a lot of open areas, and the lack of a rock protection plate, the X-Talon 212 leaves itself vulnerable when it comes to protecting the bottom of the foot. Some runners have stated that they feel the ground a bit too much when they’re running. However, some runners prefer to feel the ground under them, and as such, they will have no problems with the X-Talon 212.
      The Inov-8 X-Talon 212 might be the most flexible lightweight trail shoe on the market. Not only does it flex on a run but some testers have twisted and turned it in all different directions just to prove the flexibility of the shoe. It’s designed for speed and responds in kind. Even though the midsole is only a single layer, it provides a responsive cushion that can be felt underfoot. The Dynamic Fascia Band also helps with the responsiveness of the midsole, as it disperses energy with each step and allows for a more efficient run.
      The X-Talon 212 features neutral arch 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 stating that they have experienced had no issues with the support over long runs. The upper keeps the foot in place, but runners 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.
      Being a highly versatile all-terrain trainer is where the X-Talon 212 earns its money. The X-Talon is built to tackle all terrains, with the lone exception being the asphalt road. Runners can still use them as road shoes, but they probably won’t feel too much comfort or support, especially on a long run. Aside from the road, the shoe holds up well on every other terrain. Dirt, grass, rocks, mud, dry, wet, it simply doesn’t matter. The X-Talon 212 outsole has a great grip that prevents slipping or sliding on a run. Whether out for a casual trail run with friends or 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 they’re being purchased from. If a runner is in the market for an ultra-lightweight trail shoe that offers supreme grip, the X-Talon 212 is hard to beat, especially since trail shoes are relatively expensive, to begin with.
      With its sticky rubber and grippy flex grooves, the outsole of the X-Talon 212 offers a great amount of traction over a variety of terrains and topographies. Although these are not the best running shoes for asphalt, runners looking to take their ride off-road will find the traction provided by this trainer to be exemplary.
      The X-Talon 212 is one of the most flexible trail shoes on the market today. Its extremely flexible upper, pliable outsole, and overall comfortable fit guarantee a versatile run after lace-up each time out. Simply put, this lightweight trail shoe is one of the best available in this regard.
      Trail shoes are known for their relatively standard drop, which can sometimes lead to a loss in stability. However, since the X-Talon 212 is a minimalist trail shoe, some millimeters have been shaven off its drop for maximum stability. Due to this, the X-Talon 212 is an incredibly stable, lightweight trail shoe. However, this is not specifically a stability shoe meant to correct pronation issues.
      At 6mm, the heel to toe drop of the X-Talon 212 is lower than many comparable trail shoes. This guarantees more stability during a run. However, this slightly lower than standard drop may necessitate some period of adjustment for some runners.
      Key Features
      • Sticky rubber outsole 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 the foot dry

      • Dynamic Fascia Band helps with the responsiveness of the midsole
      Bottom Line
      If you’re looking for a lightweight all-terrain 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 Inov-8 X-Talon 212. Delivering speed, versatility, and great traction, this trainer is ready to go off-road and anywhere else you may imagine. While it may have some durability issues, there is little else to criticize about its abilities. For those looking for a lightweight option to go off-road, the X-Talon 212 is tough to beat.
      Where to Buy
      Backcountry Link
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      Moosejaw Link
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      Road Runner Sports Link
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      By Jeremy Lambert
      Last updated:
      Where to buy
      Best offer on: Jul. 29. 2021

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