For those familiar with the X-Talon range there's instantly noticeable differences with the 230, particularly extra heel and toe protection and the much talked about "Sticky Grip".
What the manufacturers say:
The original just got better. The new STICKY GRIP rubber outsole provides better traction than its predecessor, while improved underfoot protection ensures more comfort and stability. Discover a new level of confidence and the ability to run faster than you ever thought possible over all soft and extreme terrain. This update of a classic offers more comfort with the POWERFLOW+ midsole which delivers increased shock absorption and energy return when compared to standard midsoles. The precision fit women's X-TALON 230 is perfect for fell, mountain, trail and cross-country running as well as obstacle course racing. This shoe takes the inov-8 ALL TERRAIN GAITER, sold separately.
- Synthetic Upper Materials - Non-water absorbing.
- Tough Mesh Upper - Provides durability as well as a constant supply of fresh, cool air.
- Outer Material: Synthetic
- Closure: Lace-Up
- Heel Height: 9 millimetres
- Material Composition: Synthetic
- Overlays - Provide structure and support to the construction.
- Protective rand - provides protection against the tricky terrain
- Gusseted Tongue - Prevents debris from getting into the shoes
Inov8 X Talon on test with Jon Barton:
In a very crowded market place a trail/mountain running shoe manufacturer must be doing something right to achieve anything any sort of sales traction. Inov8 are one such brand, with a range of shoes, male and female fit, to cover all sorts of terrain, distance, fit and pace.
The Inov8 X-Talon feels like a top-end mountain running/racing shoe, a sort of anecdote to their all be it brilliant Parkclaw, which is just a bit gentler with its naming but performs superbly off-road. By reviewing this shoe I hoped to discover whether it was A) all action and going to make me a competitor, and B) whether a serious non-competitor like myself would get something out of the shoe. What I have also done, because I was asked to review this shoe to destruction, is used it from January to June to cover every single environment possible.
The shoe fits, at first I thought it was overly narrow, and wasn’t going to bed in at all to my certainly not narrow size 10 paws, and there was a frisson of panic after an initial run in them that they were indeed just too narrow, but it soon became apparent that they simply fitted, or wrapped my feet. Quite a revelation to finally wear a shoe that could almost look dainty, until I covered them in mud of course.
Inov8 describe this shoe as having phenomenal grip, and next bullet point down they come back with renowned grip. This claim comes from their use of sticky rubber. My first experience was on a few metres of tarmac, the shoe really did ‘stick’, so much so I felt I was peeling them off the pavement with every stride. Off-road they certainly felt more secure than any other fell shoe I have worn especially on rocky terrain; wet or dry, gritstones, slippy limestones and volcanic.
The grip is delivered courtesy of the sticky rubber arranged into lovely 8mm rubber spikes, well enough spaced to keep up the bold marketing claims through six months of use, snow and ice were surprisingly secure, while the shoe worked as it should along all your bread and butter mud, gravel, hardpack and vegetated (rooty) trails.
But what of the wear and tear, always difficult to tell in a test. I like to use a shoe for about 600km, by which time a road shoe is well and truly gone, sole smooth and cushioning like some 12-stone heel striker has been jumping up and down in them for a couple of months. I’m only 300km into that and would be fairly confident I’m not going to make it to 600, maybe 400km for competitive running at the most, some of the heel lugs were ground down to nothing by 200km.
Technical details; I wont comment on. Inov8 detail these admirably on their website and I tend to agree with everything they have to say. The shoes were comfortable, survived full immersion without losing any performance or getting waterlogged, my toes and sole never got stubbed or pinged, although the fitting would remind one to keep toe nails well-trimmed.
What do they actually feel like to run in? Certainly ‘fitted’ is a word I will over use, grip is sure, flexible and fast, as a closet heel striker there was a good degree of stiffness as my not insignificant weight (I prefer potential energy) rolled over the shoe, which felt reassuring.
What about the long run, I tend not to do super long runs in all out aggrsssive fell shoes, and while I did survive a few three hour jaunts in these I would be slow to grab them for longer runs, but that may be a personal preference thing, and during the test period I was carrying a good stone of extra weight while returning from injury.
The bottom line
My guilty pleasure is the Inov8 Parkclaw, and it really does need to be proper off-road before I can be persuaded out of this fine shoe, but for mountain running and racing then The X-Talon has one hell of a lot going for it. Obviously the answer is, have a pair of each.