inov-8 X-TALON 212 Review


If Wolverine™ were going to go running on the trails, he would pair up his incredible hands (and blades) with a pair of X-Talon 212’s.

Irrespective of what type of running you do; road, trail, mountain, fell or even treadmill, the X-Talon 212 has that distinctive look that not only sets it apart from the competition but also makes one take a second look and ask the question, “is that a run shoe or a football boot?”

It’s a winning shoe that combines minimal weight, low drop, stability and awesome grip for when conditions are muddy, boggy, slippery or basically just downright awful.

I doubt that inov-8 needs an introduction but let’s have a recap just in case.


The company is just 11-years old and the creation of South African, Wayne Edy. You can sum up inov-8’s growth in just one quote from Wayne, “I’m not a follower, I never will be. I like to carve a new way. I thrive to innovate.”

inov-8 shoes are all about being at one with the terrain and in the UK they have become the ‘go to’ shoe when you need grip.

inov-8 say, “We believe in natural running. Natural running involves taking running back to its most innate form, letting nothing alter the natural biomechanics of the foot and body. Natural running relies on the strength of the runner’s feet and legs rather than the cushioning or support of a shoe. The foot controls the shoe, not the other way around.”

inov-8 were very much at the forefront of minimalist running and right from the off the offered a very structured and methodical approach to getting ‘lower’ to the ground.

This system was a series of arrows (on the rear of the shoe) that signified the shoes drop in 3mm increments: 3 arrows = 9mm, 2 arrows = 6mm and so on. This arrow system informed runners immediately of what drop a shoe was and importantly allowed runners to make an informed and structured progression to get lower (if required). The shoe naming was also quite innovative. You had the model of shoe, for example: Trailroc, Roclite or X-Talon and then a number afterwards, so, in this scenario X-Talon 212. The ‘212’ refers to the weight of the shoe in grams.

Lightweight, minimal and functional, inov-8 have pioneered running shoes for trail, rock, fell or mountain and in simple terms have endeavoured to keep runners low to the ground (with grip) via a plethora of shoe models providing a selection of drops, cushioning and grip. The recent addition of the Race Ultra 290 (Review HERE) is a prime example of how the company are looking at the growing ultra market and the need for a more cushioned shoe but still with a low drop (6mm) and a flatter outsole for extended hours running.

2015 will see many new additions to the already expansive range. (*see below)



Firstly, big news! The X-Talon is now available in a standard fit in addition to the normal precision fit. This is important news for many a runner who would have loved to use the 212 but found the tight and narrow fit of the precision just too tight for their Hobbit like feet.

As mentioned previously, the 212 may well be one of the flagship shoes in the inov-8 range and you can expect to see the shoe in Trail, Mountain, Fell, Orienteering, Cross Country, Obstacle and Skyrunning races all over the world.

The 212 is an out and out off road shoe and as the name suggests, the grip is Talon like.

The Shoe 


I used the standard fit in my normal shoe size UK9.5 so it would be fair to say that the 212 is true to size. However, even though this shoe is standard fit it still fits super close in the toe box, you almost certainly would want to try this shoe on before purchasing. Please remember that the 212 are an out-and-out off road and soft ground shoe, so it is important that your foot has minimal movement within the shoe. This is why the shoe was originally designed in precision fit only. A close fitting shoe is ideal when climbing, descending or contouring when on soft or uneven ground. The lacing system allows you to pull the shoe tight to your foot and cradle it offering more support. Spend a little time tweaking the lacing and you will be rewarded with a wonderful close and natural contact to the ground.


First off, the shoe is super flexible. You can bend it anyway, fold it in half and the shoe does not resist. The shoe upper is tough and quite thick and I have heard criticism saying the upper is too thick! Of course this all comes down to personal preference but if you are bombing up and down wet and muddy terrain everyday, you need an upper that can withstand that sort of abuse… I have had my 212’s for 6-months (probably 3-runs a week) and I have well and truly abused them without failure. That’s a plus in my book.


The shoe has Meta-Flex™ and Meta-Cradle ™, which provide a flex groove and upper webbing support at the metatarsal heads. In all honesty I am not fully sure what that means but if that means good flex and support then I agree.


The sole of the 212 looks like a football boot with a series of spaced out rubber nodules that are made of soft ‘sticky’ compound rubber as one would see on some climbing shoes. What makes this shoe work so well off road is the fact that the grip is spaced out and this therefore stops soft ground filling and clogging up the grip of the shoe. The soft rubber works really well on rocks, gravel and other dry surfaces and should the rocks become wet, grip is still highly impressive allowing you to run with confidence. One downside of the soft rubber is that if you go on the road it will wear down. This is not a criticism of the shoe. It’s basically just a heads up to warn against excessive road use. I should point out that my everyday run requires at least a couple of miles on road or pavement to get to the trail and yes, my sole has started to show wear and tear but that is after 6-months of regular use.


Cushioning is minimal and the drop (2 arrows) is 6mm; this provides a great contact for the trail beneath your feet. Ironically, the shoe feels very comfortable on hard trail and even road. I would say it feels surprisingly cushioned despite its minimal looks. inov-8 do not use a rock plate to protect your foot against small and/ or sharp objects and therefore you can sometimes feel these objects when running.

Th front of the shoe has a rubber bumper but toe protection is minimal. The rear of the shoe holds the foot well and if you have the right size shoe and the laces adjusted correctly, you have have little or no movement when running.



The 212 are all about gaining grip on soft and boggy ground. If you use the shoe in these conditions you will be over the moon by the grip, feel and security offered. The upper is durable and the lacing perfect. The addition of a standard fit in addition to the long established precision fit now ensures that you can have comfort despite your shoe size or width. The combination of these elements makes the 212 my ‘go to’ shoe for anything that resembles fell running or soft ground running (including snow.) I have used the shoe for 6-months, accumulated 100’s of hilly miles and the shoes have performed perfectly. They have also been my preferred shoes when running Vertical Kilometres™ particularly when the terrain has been grassy and steep. The low drop allows great feel for the terrain below and although relatively minimalist from a cushioning perspective, they do offer great comfort for runs of 2 to 3-hours. This comfort is extended if the ground remains soft and boggy.


It’s a very specific shoe for a very specific use and therefore this would be an ‘addition’ to your shoe collection. It’s almost unfair to say this is a con but for some, they want a wonder shoe that does ‘all things,’ the 212 is NOT that shoe.

The lack of a rock plate does mean that you can feel small and sharp objects occasionally.

The shoe is very flexible with minimal cushioning and therefore one would need to be attentive to how long one runs in them. Of course this is very personal to the user… one person may find 60-mins enough, another 3-hours. Certainly, the more you use them, the more time you will be able to spend in them.


  • Weight 212g
  • Upper Synthetic, TPU
  • Lining Mesh
  • Drop 6mm (2 arrows)
  • Sole X-Talon (Sticky)
  • Midsole Injected eva
  • Fit Precision and now Standard


The X-Talon 212 really is a top quality shoe with a very specific use. If you are looking for a shoe to do several types of running (road and trail), the 212 is not for you. However, if you are looking for grip on off road terrain then you would be hard pressed to find a shoe that does the job better than the 212. The addition of a standard fit to the long established precision fit should mean that if you have tried the 212 in the past and found them too narrow, they may very well fit you now! Both models are unisex.



If you prefer a more minimalist shoe with lower drop, inov-8 make the X-Talon 190, which has 3mm drop, a stripped back upper and the same talon like grip.

*New for 2015


inov-8 are strengthening the  X_TALON off-road running shoe range (212 & 190) with the addition of the new X-TALON 200. Available in early 2015, the shoe looks set to be a huge hit with off-trail runners and obstacle racers.

Stuart Air heads to Honk Kong for the MSIG Sai Kung 50

Stuart Air at Ice Trail Tarentaise ©

Stuart Air at Ice Trail Tarentaise ©

Brit, Stuart Air (Scott Running) heads to Hong Kong this weekend to participate in the MSIG Sai Kung 50. Stuart had an incredible 2013, new to Skyrunning, he performed exceptionally well at the very tough Andorra Ultra Trail, Ronda dels Cims with a 13th place. Stuart then followed this up with a top placing at Ice Trail Tarentaise against world class competition.

Post Ronda dels Cims ≠©

Post Ronda dels Cims ≠©

Not content with two tough races, Stuart placed himself on the start line of Tor des Geants. Placing well overall, Stuart set a fastest time for any Brit at the event.

Stuart’s participation at MSIG Sai Kung 50 starts 2014 on the right foot, arguably, Stuart has an incredible year ahead. Hardrock 100 awaits… yes, Stuart was extremely fortunate to be drawn out of the hat and will now line up against one of the most competitive fields ever assembled at the race.

Stuart very much considers himself an Alpinist; embracing the opportunity to go to the mountains, fast and light, Stuart loves vertical and technical terrain.

Coming from a relatively mild but wet UK winter, Stuart feels prepared for the challenge ahead, ‘Training has gone well in the Lake District and Wales’ Stuart said in an interview by Michael Maddess, ‘I have clocked up 60-70 miles and 4000m of vertical per week. The weather has been a challenge, but strong winds, rain and snow all help with the training.’



Mont Blanc Marathon and inov-8


Team inov-8 placed five athletes in the top-10 men and women at the 2013 Mont Blanc Marathon – a brutal Alpine route which included 2,511m of gruelling ascent and 1,490m of daredevil descent. Watch their story of exhaustion, elation and commitment.

Video by Dave MacFarlane (website)

on YouTube HERE

Read the Mont Blanc Marathon race report HERE

Read all about the inov-8 athlete retreat and apparel testing HERE

Images from Mont Blanc Marathon HERE

The Brits are coming…! Marathon des Sables 2013

You can read the full article and see images of Danny and Jo on RUN247 HERE

Patrick Bauer – The Interview


Patrick Bauer has a passion and a love for the Marathon des Sables that the passing of the years has not suppressed. Back in 1984 he ventured into the Algerian Sahara to cover 350km’s alone in a self sufficient manner. Little did he know that his journey would not only change his life but also so many lives of so many others…


Translation services provided by Niandi Carmont

IC Patrick, welcome. In 1984 you took a solo journey across the Algerian Sahara. Why, what inspired you?

PB In 1984 I decided to take a self-sufficient journey of 350km. It took me 12 days; because of my self-suffiency my pack weighed 35 kilos. I needed enough food water for the whole journey. I had no help. It was an incredible undertaking.

IC What was the motivation, It must have taken some planning?

PB I had lived in West Africa for two years. I was employed to sell Encyclopedias to teachers and books on medicine to doctors and pharmacists. Returning to France was difficult. I had no desire to stay… I just wanted to leave again. During my 2 years in Africa I had crossed the Sahara five to six times by car but I wanted to cross on my own, on foot. I remember it well, I had returned to France, I had no apartment so I returned to my parents. I was back sharing a room with my brother. I woke up one morning and said

“I am going to cross the Sahara on foot”

My brother said, “Ok, go to sleep… you had a nightmare”

I said to my brother you must help with a camera and sponsors. Just three weeks later I left to take the journey.

IC That journey influenced the rest of your life but importantly it changed your immediate life in the mid 80’s. In 1986 you decided to share that experience and create Marathon des Sables. What gave you the confidence to create such a race? How did you know you would have a market?

PB I realized when I did a presentation to my village. I had friends and sponsors present. It was a thank you but I had awoken curiosity and interest. Local runners did not want to make the journey alone, so, I decided to organize it. No other event compared, maybe Paris-Dakar. It was a ground breaking moment.


IC In the early years, was participation mainly French?

PB Yes, French with the exception of one Moroccan. We had 23 runners at the first edition. It took 24 months to plan and create. Little did those 24 know that they would be the pioneers of one of the most beautiful stories that will soon be 30 years old?

IC In the early 1990’s you contacted ‘The Best of Morocco’ to introduce British and Irish runners, was this a long term plan to expand the race?

PB We already had contact with this agency (Best of Morocco) but by 1990 I had already done 5 editions of the Marathon des Sables. I wanted to expand internationally and I wanted as many countries present as possible. We started in a tentative way and today we have as many English runners as French and potentially more in the future.

IC British entries have reached 250+. The race is known worldwide. Did you know it would become so big?

PB I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined it would be what it is today. When a race is over, I start immediately on the next year. I have a passion and I don’t think about it all the time.  I want to be more strategic with my long-term vision. 2015 is the 30th edition; I like to plan 3 years ahead so I already anticipate higher demand for 2015.

IC What is it that makes the race so special. You appeal to novices and experienced runners. It is a difficult balance but you do it so well.

PB I think it is the concept. The cocktail of the desert, running and the self-sufficiency. Nobody at the beginning thought it would be possible to run with a pack. The expedition was an extra bonus…. You need to manage everything; calories, water, clothing, rest etc. All these elements combine to create the ultimate experience. It was new! Today we have additional security. Runners tell us that the safety element is key. Believe it or not, the average age is 40yrs+. These participants have families and children so risk is not negotiable. We want to offer security and safety for all these participants. We have helicopters, planes and insurance to make sure everyone is protected. Finally, it is about testing your limits; in our busy lives we find going back to basics a wonderful experience. Under the stars with friends, sat around a campfire, simple conversation and no luxuries. It is primal. It brings out true values that we may have forgotten. Because the desert facilitates all that is around us, the stars, the universe, you don’t need a book to tell you that ultimately we are all insignificant.


IC What is it that makes runners that go back year after year?

PB Yes, we have some people returning for the 22nd or 23rd time. But it is not the same for all. If everyone came back we would have the same race, this would not be good. But we have a faithful family that we have created from the start. We have affinity and we love to find each other in the desert. We are also happy to find new friends. Maybe we have people return years later to celebrate a key moment such as a 50th birthday. We have a fraternity side, we share values. We have a respect for difference and other countries. All the languages that are spoken. These are the experiences that make the event. It is the combination of so many elements that make it great. We have an edge I think and that brings people back.

IC What is the future of the race? Will the race become bigger with more runners?

PB Yes, I think we will have more participants in 2013. We will have 350 from the UK. We had a meeting with worldwide representatives some time ago and it was decided that we would all work together on a communication strategy and we discussed the 30th edition. We have had great demand; we have refused more than 2,000 entries. I get messages about the 30th edition asking if it will be 300km as the 25th edition was 250km. Because of the worldwide economic crisis we may need to take more entries so that we can ensure the quality of the race such as safety. This is why we prepare 3 years ahead.


IC As a race director can you give us an insight into the Marathon des Sables?

PB The advise to the runners is repeated every morning, like, hydration, protecting your head, sun block and more specific advice concerning the course. Storms can just arrive and then last a half-day or even 4-5 days. A few years ago we had floods… that year we had to plan from day-to-day. It wasn’t easy. The biggest problems are usually weather related. For the rest of us, it is a safe country. We have government backing should we have a problem, for example we have military assistance. We have trucks and soldiers who transport the tents everyday and we have 400 people who work on the event. If you add journalists, drivers, volunteers etc. then we have more like 450 people.  I have 110 people who directly report to me.


IC It is so impressive, the tents, the staff, and the helicopters. A circus!

PB It is a little like the circus. Up and down, load up and move. I am always impressed. It is fantastic.

IC Since the beginning can you pinpoint any highlights?

PB The feeling you get from every event. We have an extraordinary experience. We share values with participants and it creates a bond. Some say ‘never again’ and then two years later we see them again. We all strive for equilibrium to balance the experience and we all strive for positive thoughts. If we have them then we can share beautiful things.

IC In 2005 you had an Opera singer to sing before the start. A magical experience.

PB Yes, for the 20th anniversary we had a spectacular start with an Opera singer and musicians. She was Japanese. It was a moving experience. Classical music is in harmony with the desert. At the beginning the runners are still fresh so they can enjoy the experience.

IC What do you think of Olympian James Cracknells performance at Marathon des Sables, he is not your ‘typical’ desert runner?

PB He was an excellent champion, a top-level athlete who understood how to test the limits. So I think he had a new experience in the Sahara. He asked himself what he was doing at the race several times I think. Discovery Channel did a documentary on him. He demanded respect as an athlete. As a man I did not get to know him but as a sportsman I am sure he has great values.

IC Has the race become easier over time or have you made adjustments to make the experience more challenging?

PB The race is not easier. The distance has increased over the years but water can be a key issue and we now have great water supplies which was not so in the past. In the past water was an issue. But we all have short memories. We forget the hardships. Every year has new demands. We now have more positive incline. We used to spend time in the valleys.


IC True, we all forget hard times very quickly. We always remember the good times and they are our memories.

PB At the end you have sore feet and blisters… but your mind is selective. We filter the negative to retain the good. The human and sport experiences. We forget the soreness and remember the positive.

IC Do you still run, do you have the time?

PB Yes, I run after the sponsors, I run after my planes, I run after my trains… I started cycling a little and I do a little running. It’s not a good time for me. But then again, I always have an excuse. It is difficult but I am motivated to try to be more regular with my own exercise.

IC Patrick, it really has been excellent to get an insight into such an iconic race. Thank you so much.

PB Merci beaucoup


Patrick Bauer, Marathon des Sables copyright

Patrick Bauer, Marathon des Sables copyright