The Race Ultra when first released by inov-8 turned heads. It was certainly a departure for the brand who had built a history and reputation for out-and-out fell running shoes. For the brand to release a shoe that appealed specifically to the ‘ultra’ market was an interesting move.
I have to say, the first incarnation of the shoe was pleasing to look at and although it gained rave reviews, I didn’t like it. It felt sloppy, lacked feel and in all honesty, it was a shoe I didn’t want to use.
The second incarnation was a huge improvement and it has become a regular shoe for me when running long on flat, relatively un-technical and non-muddy trail. It was a shoe that proved hugely popular at races such as Marathon des Sables for example and the combination of two options, 4mm and 8mm drop; the Race Ultra suddenly became a really popular shoe.
I was therefore somewhat surprised when inov-8 told me that the Race Ultra 270 (4mm drop) and 290 (8mm drop) are no longer in the range as of AW16. Really?
I have had many emails from runners in the community expressing a concern about this. Yes, the Race Ultra really has become ‘that’ popular and as such, many are asking, but what shoe an I know going to wear?
Take a breath, take out your credit card and go and order yourself a pair of TRAIL TALON 275 (8mm drop) or TRAIL TALON 250 (4mm drop).
Yes, folks, stop worrying, the new TRAIL TALON is all that the Race Ultra was and so much more.
I could actually stop the review there as I have very little negatives to say about the shoes. Yes, both really are that good. But I know you have a need for more information so here goes.
In brief, the TRAIL TALON offering in either 275 or 250 versions directly relates to the 270 or 290 versions of the RACE ULTRA. So first off, think about if you need or prefer 4mm or 8mm drop shoes (or both). The plus side from the off, is the two new TRAIL TALONS are offering weight savings over the previous models: 15g +/- for the 8mm drop and 20g +/- for the 4mm drop. For reference, inov-8 always refers to the weight of the shoe in the name, so, a TRAIL TALON 250 will weight 250g+/- in a standard UK8.
Both the TRAIL TALON 275 and 250 shoes use the same standard fit last as the RACE ULTRA but they both offer improved grip with deeper cleats and better cleat configuration. It’s a marginal improvement and don’t start to think that the new shoe will now handle more mud – they won’t. The TRAIL TALON is very much a dry trail/ mountain shoe that can handle a little sloppy stuff if required.
Tthe TRAIL TALON has a wide ‘standard fit’ toe boxbut I don’t think it is as wide as the RACE ULTRA?. Don’t get me wrong, it has plenty of room and it allows the toes to move and splay just as in the previous model. When running long your toes have room to move and should you be prone to swelling, they have room to expand. This ‘standard fit’ is something that inov-8 have worked on and by contrast, some shoes in the inov-8 range can be purchased in ‘precision’ fit which offers a tighter and narrower toe box. For me, this can be where some compromise comes in with the TRAIL TALON, when running on long, flat and consistent terrain the shoes excel but if the terrain becomes technical and inconsistent, I find my foot moves a little within the shoe due to the wider fit. This is not a criticism of the shoe, what I am saying is (as I always say) is that it is rare that one shoe can do all things well. For technical running I prefer a precision fit.
A notable difference is the new POWERFLOW midsole for a more cushioned ride. Both the 250 and 275 feel more cushioned. In particular, the 275 feels super cushioned, almost a little ‘too’ cushioned at times and I think this is where the most notable difference will come for RACE ULTRA fans. You will either prefer the additional cushioning or not. On my first runs in the 275 I noticed the cushioning over the RACE ULTRA. To confirm my thoughts, I went back out for a run in the RACE ULTRA and yes, the new shoe has more cushioning and it feels that way too. This only adds to the thoughts of inov-8 that the TRAIL TALON is a long distance shoe. Of course it’s all relative, the 4mm drop 250 has less cushioning than the 8mm drop 275. For many of you this will not be an issue as you will either run in 4mm or 8mm drop shoes. This is not the case for me, I often and regularly switch between 4mm and 8mm drop shoes. If I am running for 30mins, 60mins or even 2-3 hours I can happily run in 4mm drop and still retain good form. However, if I am going out for a long session or a day in the mountains, I will always go 8mm drop. The higher drop allows more leeway and flexibility and I must add that the TRAIL TALON is a superb shoe to walk in. This is really important for those who are running long or doing multi-day races. Often, shoes are tested just running with no consideration of how the shoe transitions to a change of gait when walking. For me, the TRAIL TALON 275 is one of the best run shoes I have used when walking, the transition is seamless and comfortable no doubt attributable to the ADAPTERFIT met-cradle for better mid-foot comfort.
I am always wary of buzz words like ‘Powerflow’ and ‘Adapterfit’ as in real terms they can mean nothing. Breaking the words down, the TRAIL TALON has more cushioning and better mid-foot comfort.
When running, the feel of the shoe and the comfort level is high. In the 275 I had less ‘feel’ for the ground due to the additional cushioning but this proved a real bonus for longer sessions and when the ground became more irregular. The 250 version with lower drop and less cushioning in comparison to the 8mm drop version felt really sweet on all runs.
Both shoes, 4mm or 8mm drop definitely provided more feel, better cushioning and more ‘return’ when running than the RACE ULTRA.
Like the 290 and 270 RACE ULTRA’s the TRAIL TALON will also incorporate the unique on-the-shoe gaiter attachment so that should you require a Gaiter you can purchase the item separately and attach/ de-attach with ease.
Two huge improvements for me come with the lacing system on the 275 and a gusseted tongue on both the 250 and 275. I have been saying this for ages, but a gusseted tongue just makes sense. I don’t know why it isn’t standard on all run shoes. It helps hold the foot in place, it stops the tongue moving and sliding to the left or right as you run and maybe most importantly it adds an additional protection to stop debris entering the shoe.
The lacing on the TRAIL TALON is added ‘on to’ the shoe by what effectively is a folded plastic layer. This works so well as it allows the shoes to be laced tightly or loosely as required but it also allows the font to swell within the shoe. In the past, I have had issues with inov-8 lacing and I have had to use a ‘lock lacing’ technique to feel secure in the shoe. Not know, this lacing method works.
Toe protection on the shoe is good but not ridiculous. Keeping in mind the intended use of the shoe, it’s fit for purpose. The heel box is snug, cushioned, holds the foot well and caused no rubbing on long sessions, even when walking.
Grip is compromised on any muddy trails but then again, the TRAIL TALON is not intended for this type of terrain. The 4mm deep studs work great on all dry trail, rocks and yes road. When wet, the grip is also good. Ultimately, the TRAIL TALON would be a great ‘all-rounder’ for most runs. If you are heading to the fells, a muddy trail run, or mountains with mixed/wet trail then choose a different shoe.
Finally, RACE ULTRA fans are going to be really happy with the TRAIL TALON. I have found it difficult to really find any negatives. The only negative (and it’s not really a negative) is that some of you may find the new incarnation a little ‘too’ cushioned. Sizing is true to size and relates directly to the Race Ultra.
As per usual, inov-8 have created two ‘visually’ appealing shoes with great colours and styling.
Drop is personal and for me, 8mm drop is the sweet spot in run shoes and is my ‘go to’ drop for any run. If you prefer a lower drop, then you will be happy with the 250 and 4mm version. If you can afford two pairs of shoes, I really recommend the 250 for shorter and/ or faster runs.
This TRAIL TALON is a winner and is now one of three shoes that I choose on a daily basis, the other two shoes for comparison are The North Face Ultra Endurance and the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac.
Specs from inov-8
The patented Dynamic Fascia Band™ (DFB) mimics the ‘Windlass Effect’ delivering a kick of energy with each step, helping the athlete to move faster and more efficiently
Our standard fit offers a close-fitting heel that locks the shoe in position, while a wider toe box allows the toes to splay when running naturally or lifting weights. Standard fit suits those with wider feet and athletes using the product for long sessions.
Arrows refer to drop, 1 arrow = 4mm, 2 arrow – 8mm
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Ian Corless: Great review. What are your thoughts on the comparison between Trail Talon 250 and Inov-8´s (now out of date) Trailroc 245 (if you ever tried them)? I love the 245 and tried Ultra Race 270 but found them too “bulky”. Now I am clueless on what to get when I run on dry (hard) trails (I use Inov-8 X-talon 200 on muddier runs). Any thought on this matter? Greatful for answer. /Peter
Well for me the Trail Talon is a better shoe by a long way. I think you’ll like the 250. It’s slipper like.
Thanks for the reply. I might have to give them a try,
Thanks for the info as well. I, too, am looking for a Trailroc replacement and you’ve helped me decide. Definitely going to pick up the TrailTalon 250s.
Great review. I have the race ultra 290s but find the grip inadequate for my local conditions – usually wet. I thought the new show might help in that regard but it seems not. What is your recommendation for mixed/wet/muddy trails where comfort is a factor? Btw I also have the roclites which have all the grip but not enough cushioning!
Having few pairs of inov-8 shoes myself, I would recommend x-claw 275 or terraclaw 250. Terraclaw is good all-rounder trail show, however I have some problem in technical terrain when the shoe is wet (my foot is sliding in the shoe a bit) and some people can feel a bit weird as the shoe has higher lacing. The x-claw is good training wet terrain shoe.
I’ve just seen a interview with Jasmin Paris and Nicky Spinks who both used this in the UTMB and said it was superb even post thunderstorm and wet rock (and in JP case a quick mid race lake dip), so I’m sold as my issue with the race ultra was the grip.
I’d like to follow up on the Trailroc 245 question, but because while I agree that that shoe has been my go-to (and I bought up extra pairs once they started going away), I have generally limited myself to the 1.5-2 hour range, so the fact that I started getting uncomfortable towards the tail end of that range if it was too hard out wasn’t a big deal to me. Now, however, I am going to prep for a ~ 30 mile mountain obstacle course race, and so plan on much longer outings. My question, as someone who generally does a low footbed shoe, is what your guess would be for which I should choose first, the 250 or 275? On the one hand I’m concerned the 275 would be too much of a leap in feel, but I appreciate that you will use different heights and am open to that thought, and if you think the 250s will not help much more than the Trailroc 245s once I started going much past 2 hours, I’ll try the cushier ones.
At any rate, thanks for the review, and for the reply in advance. I just don’t have tons of money to try one shoe and find that I either hate it (my worry about the 275) or doesn’t offer anything different for my desire to go longer (250)… and hope one or the other will work out.
A mountain obstacle race? Mud? Grip required? I’d probably use a Mudclaw 300 or the X talon 212
Thanks, for the reply, though I should have been clearer that I meant for training (I’m still using a reserve pair of Trailroc 245’s for the actual racing) when I’m more focused on going really long than going really muddy.
How flexible are these as I need lots of cushioning but very flexible- like a nike free for trails.
For me they are a great shoe, flexible, light and easy and with great feel. I haven’t tried the Nike Free as I don’t believe they make a trail shoe.
thanks for the great review. I don’t own a Race Ultra but the Trail Talon and all the reviews make me wanna buy one :).
I love the TerraClaws 220, it’s definitely one of my fav. shoe. Can you tell me how’s the Trail Talon 250 is compared to the Terra Claw 220?
would be nice, thank in advice and greetings from switzerland!
Completely different shoes, different feel, different grip – not comparable IMO
What kind of differences you mean? Can you explain it please? I also love the 220, but interested in to the 250. Thanx!
Hmmm I reckon the 275s come up a fraction smaller in size compared to the race ultra, worth trying on half a size up if you get the chance. I’ve done two runs in my UK 10.5s and my big toe knows all about it having found the 270 and 290 Race Ultras the perfect fit.
I just wish that they made them in the precision fit. Apart from the X-talon and mudclaw the entire Inov-8 range is too wide for technical trails. The standard fit is fine for padding along well manicured trails but when things get a little technical then you start sliding about. Where is the shoe for rocky technical ground? I used to go for the Roclite 243 but that has gone… Is this market forces? Am I the only one who wants them in a narrower fit? Don’t make me buy the Salomons…!
How is the underfoot protection as it has no Metashank like the RU’s or the Trailroc 255 ?
I went out in mine today for a 10mile trail run and i felt every rock and stone. Was the first thing i noticed. Compared to the RU275 but other than that i loved it and yes very slipper like.
Nice review, of a nice looking shoe.
I notice the 250 doesn’t have a continuous rand round the little toe – what are you’re thoughts on the mesh blowing out here?
I have 250 miles on them and no issue. Ian
I just tried the Trail Talon 225 on and it felt like a really nice shoe – nice amount of cushioning and they seem to have achieved a good hold of the foot while still giving the toes room. BUT the shape seems bizzare to me – the upper in the rear half of the shoe seems to hold the foot at a slightly outward facing angle such that the big toe almost in the centre of the toebox with oodles of space on the inside edge while the pinkie toes are crammed into the outer edge. I’m having this issue with a lot of Inov-8s new shoes… Anyone else have this experience or do I have wobbly heels? I’d buy them in a flash if I had feet shaped like bananas!
275, not 225
It’s that curved last – many companies use lasts that are anything but foot “aligned” – they may be more anatomical in overall shape but that curve eliminates many of the benefits of a anatomically shaped last/toebox. It’s a shame they can’t learn something from lems/vivobarefoot etc and translate that to trail/running shoes, even if they are working with a narrower last at times. A neater/narrower fit is highly doable if you get the alignment right. That allows for that real neatness but with adequate space too.
For me this (and the x claw) are the first inov8 shoe shapes that fit me really well. Before these, my big toe rubs. Some brands are worse – adidas seem to think people’s big toes are in the centre! Altra are great too. Basically my feet are very foot-shaped, I’ve never worn leather office shoes that might have pushed my big toe over.
For added detail, if my heals are touching, my ball joints AND my big toes touch each other at the same time.
Inov8 have one precision last and two standard lasts, this shape (that suits me and not you) is only on a few models at the moment – the ones mentioned and I think parkclaw too.
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The following might be a slightly unconventional question. I am looking for a shoe to use for swim/run purposes. Simply put I will be transitioning back and forth from swimming to running over a certain course.
The two Inov-8 shoes I have narrowed my selection to are the Trail talon 250 and the Terra claw 220. The trails I will be running on will usually be dry, rocky and averagely technical.
Some of the aspects I would need is a shoe that :
Sheds water well after being soaked from the swim
Keeps a minimum amount of water in the material afterwards
Retains its shape well enough after having been soaked
Given these criterias, which model would you consider more appropriate ?
One slight fear I have is the standard fit and how that will turn our once wet with my foot potentially starting to slip around in the shoe.
Any thoughts or feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you very much and all the best,
Noa look at the Trail Talon 275 which they have released with a new breathable upper. It had a production name called ‘chill’. However, the best shoe maybe the Scott Kinabalu as this shoe has 4 water drainage holes per shoe. I use this in Costa Rica as there are lots of rivers and water crossings.
Thank you very much for your reply.
I would wish for a 4mm drop and associated thinner sole, so the Trail Talon 275 would not suit me.
I’m not at all familiar with Scott, and although it could be great I would in this instance stick to the two brand I know fairly well, being Inov-8 and Salomon.
Speaking of, Salomon have this year released the Amphib, their first specific swimrun shoe (perhaps an idea for a review ?).
It is one option I’m looking at, but an Inov-8 would be fairly cheaper. Hence my trying to find which shoe might work best between the two models mentioned.
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Old post, but have you tried new TrailTalon 290?
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