Inov-8 X-Talon 210 Review
Part 2 – Road Test

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The 210’s Roots

A lot of Inov-8 fans will remember the X-Talon 190. This was the stripped down, lightweight version of the X-Talon 212. This shoe became the racing shoe of choice for lots of fell runners and a popular cross country racing shoe too. They where very flexible, which gave a real feel for the ground. However, this was a bit too much feel for some and the lightweight upper tended to get holes in it quite quickly. So, as the ‘trend’ in running shoes moved away from the more minimal shoes Inov-8 took the decision to shelve the X-Talon 190.

As many runners were still enjoying the more flexible shoes that Inov-8 make, like the TrailTalon 235, there was a large number of enquires for where the ‘new’ X-Talon 190 was. As a result the 190 went back onto the designers board.  The resulting ‘new version’ is actually the X-Talon 210.

The (Bright Orange) Upper

You certainly won’t miss the 210. It’s in keeping with the Inov-8 tradition of making the 190 in fantastic bright colours. The first improvement is this brightly coloured upper. The X-Talon 210 has a much more closed mesh upper that is much more abrasion proof and prickly briar proof than the X-Talon 190. The upper is very well finished, soft and supple. The heel counter is also soft and pliable, which will mould to those with heel spurs or lumpy heels but won’t offer any support to those that need it. That’s because the X-Talon 210, like it’s predecessor, has been designed to allow the foot to move as natural and unhindered as possible, with a true feel for the ground and your control over i

Feel The Terrain But Don’t Suffer It

Underfoot is an improved midsole made from injected EVA Fusion. This is very light and flexible and also offers more underfoot protection than the midsole of the X-Talon 190. It’s fair to say that sometimes the X-Talon 190 had a bit too much feel for the ground and this could be an issue if you had to run on firmer or more boulder covered ground for long sections in races or runs.

The outsole is still the X-Talon pattern, made up of well spaced out 8mm lugs. That are designed to give good grip on soft ground without clogging. The rubber the outsole is made from is now Inov-8’s Sticky Grip which is designed to give superior grip on both wet and dry rock.

To make the shoe as flexible as possible there is no shank. The X-Talon 210 is designed for those who appreciate a flexible shoe with plenty of feel for the ground. If you want a more supportive shoe then have a look at the X-Talon 230 which is slightly stiffer and has a meta plate shank.

A More Natural Drop

The heel to forefoot differential is 3mm. This again allows the foot to work more naturally promoting a more midfoot landing.

Setting all the Numbers and Fancy Names Aside.. What’s it Like to Run In?

The first thing to mention is the fit. The X-Talon 210 is made on Inov-8’s Precision Last or Precision Fit which has a narrower fit. This isn’t usually what I would want from a more minimal shoe as I like my toes to have room to spread out, but looks were deceptive with the X-Talon 210 and although the shoe felt snug at first, my toes do have a bit of room to spread and can move unhindered. This is probably helped by the incredible flexibility of the shoes.

I have even been wearing the X-Talon 210 with two pairs of socks due to the cold weather recently (I have had a few runs in minus 6) and haven’t felt restricted in the shoes.

The flexibility really is great. You can really feel the spring you get from your feet and on rough ground you don’t get thrown around like you do in stiffer shoes, making you a lot more nimble.

The grip is superb in muddy ground. It has been very sloppy out and I have deliberately run down steep hills covered in wet sloppy mud to see if I could stay up right. The shoe moulds to the ground really well so you get more surface area in contact with the floor than you would in stiffer shoes and this really helps in those conditions. On bridleways and firmer tracks you get some cushion from the studs and the new midsole gives more protection than the 190 did. However, you can still feel the ground.

If you’re not into more natural nimble running and are heavier on your feet then you would be better looking at the stiffer X-Talon 230 that has a bit more underfoot protection.

The outsole is made from Inov-8’s Sticky Grip rubber. You can fell it sticking to the road as you run and you get this same adhesion on dry rock too. However, the biggest issue is always wet rock or wet wood. I have been training through a section of forestry recently which has lots of logs to jump, wet styles to climb over, wet wooden bridges to cross and wet rock stepping stones. The adhesion on these wet wood and rock surfaces is very good. On the wet wooden bridges and styles I have got the confidence to not slow down and jump run over them. I am sure that the flexibility of the sole also helps with this as you get a greater surface area touching the wood than you would in a stiffer shoe.

On wet rock I wouldn’t push it, regardless! Take care and ensure you can keep running tomorrow!

Final Thoughts

I have been running in these shoes about six weeks now and have been deliberately driving out to get onto soft ground so I could run in them. This is because they feel great to me. The feedback you get helps me run with good form and the shoes are so light and flexible that it feels like you haven’t got any shoes on. I have been helped by the healthy amount of snow we have had which has meant I could run in the shoes from the door on a number of occasions and as you would expect they are great in soft snow. I have run just short of 200 miles in these shoes nearly all on soft ground in the forestry and muddy farmers fields. There is no abrasion to the upper and no sign of wear on the outsole. I haven’t noticed any compression in the midsole so when I am on boulder covered paths I don’t feel that there isn’t enough protection underfoot.

Who’s It For?

The X-Talon 210 is for those runners who like a more minimal, flexible fell shoe or runners looking for a more comfortable alternative to dedicated cross country spikes. Inov-8 also recommend them to those doing Swim/Run events as the upper is designed not to absorb any moisture and the flexibility of the shoes makes them easy to swim in.

Where I might normally give an alternative or two, there isn’t really an alternative shoe to the Inov-8 X-Talon 210. Everything else on the market is stiffer and more padded, compromising feel and flexibility.

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