The inov 8 X-TALON 230 may well be the most interesting shoe the UK based brand has released in many year’s. That is not to say that they have had dull shoes for the last 24-months, on the contrary, however, the X-TALON 230 feels like the next step!
The X-TALON is well established in the inov-8 line-up, as inov 8 say, it’s the ‘original!’ So, what is difference?
Well, two things stand out!
Inov 8 may not me like me mentioning the VJ Sport IRock 2 but last year, that shoe stepped up the mark and blew my socks off in terms of upper, outsole, comfort and grip.
The X-TALON 230 is now a rival.
The upper is unlike any other shoe in the inov 8 range – it is bullet proof! This will be music to the ears of many inov 8 users who have wanted a shoe that is more durable to the rigours of fell, mountain, trail, obstacle racing and orienteering. At first glance, the shoe looks heavy and then you pick it up and suddenly you realise it is not!
The toe area is well protected with a good solid bumper but it’s the upper material and the overlays that stand out. There is a great deal of protection going on here. It has the Met-Cradle as seen on other inov shoes, this version is beefier.
The heal box is classic inov 8 providing a snug and secure hold. The upper is non-water absorbing which combined with the fitted gusset tongue should mean dry socks providing you don’t go ankle deep in mud or water.
A reinforced area goes all the way around the shoe and above this, reinforced sections lead to the lace loops which again, add more security and hold to the shoe.
At the rear, the shoes have the inov 8 gaiter loop and the All-Terrain Gaiter can be added to add to the overall protection and comfort of the shoe.
It is a precision fit shoe classed as scale 1* – this means the narrowest shoe that inov 8 do. For example, a 5 is wide (2E fit). So, if you are a Hobbit, this is not for you! To clarify though, when one is running on challenging, muddy and technical trail, a shoe should be close fitting with a precision feel. I don’t consider myself to be a ‘1’ fit but the control a tight-fitting shoe is worth it. For me, the comports would come with how long I could run in such a precision shoe before having any discomfort, for others this is not a problem. I certainly had no issue with the X-Talon 230 for 4 hours on the trails. Drop is ‘2 arrow’ which is 6mm and the cushioning is 7mm at the front and 13mm at the rear. So, for many, this is not a shoe for ultras – again though, this is so dependent on experience and conditioning.
There is certainly enough cushioning for many hours. Comfort comes from POWERFLOW+ which has better shock absorption and energy return.
The STICKY GRIP is arguably the second big talking point on the shoe. The classic 8mm lug has been retained and as we all know, the X-Talon grip has long excelled in the mud or on fells. However, grip has been compromised in the past on wet rock…
Now inov 8 have a compound that sticks and grabs rock like a good climbing shoe. It’s a huge improvement and one that increases confidence dramatically. It’s a winner over the old outsole.
The usual Meta Flex is present at the front which allows the foot to bend easily, aiding the propulsive phase of the run. A Fascia Band and Meta Plate add protection from rocks and harder objects – something that inov 8 users have been asking for some time.
Slipping the 230 on it felt different. I have to say, I have been using inov 8 shoes for years and in any model, I am a UK9.5, in the 230 I questioned if I had the correct size? They somehow felt too long?
I held them against the new X-Talon 210 (review *HERE *to follow) and they may be just a ‘little’ larger – nothing to worry about. I walked around in them looking for them to settle.
The shoe has a gusseted tongue so holding the foot is really secure and the heal box has the usual comfort and feel I would expect. But something was niggling me?
I left the shoes on all day and as the time past and the more I flexed and moved my foot, the better the 230 started to feel. I concluded it was all down to the new upper being considerably more durable and less flexible than other models I have used before. So, keep this in mind. I have never had to break an inov 8 shoe in before, but I did with the 230.
I wore the shoes for a good 8 hours before going for a run – an 8-mile loop that includes a little of everything. A 1-mile road start, canal towpath and then open fields, fell, and rocky sections before returning back to the road for a finishing 1.5 mile of the hard stuff.
Grip was noticeable on the road with the 230 making that classic sucking noise as I lifted each foot – reassuring! Think it’s fair to say, you want to avoid roads and tarmac in these shoes if you can, they are for off-road and while they handle the hard stuff well, that new STICKY GRIP will soon start to wear away.
Off road they had classic X-TALON feel with the 8mm lugs gripping just as my favourite X-Talon 212’s had done in the past. The noticeable difference came from the additional protection – I was feeling less stones digging into my foot and when I went on wet rocks, the grip continued to hold. The STICKY GRIP is a big improvement.
The upper will be a winner in the long-term but does feel different and I have to say, makes the shoe feel more inflexible. Less slipper like. But it will mean that the upper will last for considerably longer. The question will be, can the STICKY GRIP last as long as the upper? It’s too early to say.
Providing you don’t get mud or water coming over the top of the shoe, your feet will remain dry. The new upper along with the gusseted tongue certainly keeps everything out. To be honest, I only think this becomes really important on long runs when you may be worried about looking after your feet. For runs of 1-2 hours I am more than happy if my feet get wet. I did notice my feet got hotter than normal when running in Lanzarote, so, I would say the upper is less breathable.
I now have 164 miles in the 230’s and I would say that they are now feeling really great. They definitely need breaking in and getting wet, covered in mud multiple times to ‘soften’ up. The support, hold and security is excellent. You feel really safe in the 230’s especially on wet rock, a place I felt compromised before, say in the 212.
The X-Talon 230 as I said at the start, is a new venture for inov 8. They are bullet proof shoes that should last-and-last providing the STICKY GRIP has long life? Certainly, based on my use up to know, the upper will keep going long after the outer sole gives out… But I don’t know when that is yet? With 6mm drop, a little more cushioning and the durable upper, I see the 230’s being the perfect long-distance race shoe or training shoe. As the name suggests, at 230g (for a standard size) they are light shoes but they don’t necessarily feel light and I think that is quite simply down to the durability of the new upper. So, for shorter sessions the new X-Talon 210 may well be a better option. I have a review to follow on these so please be patient.
The X-Talon 230 is narrow but after say 6-8 runs I didn’t think about this anymore. My foot never felt stifled by the shoe so that is a good thing.
The new added protection and STICKY GRIP is most certainly a winner – extra grip is always good, especially on wet rock.
I need to come back with a follow-on review of the 230’s as they reach their last days of use. Currently I feel I have unanswered questions that can only truly be answered with the passing of time.
The X-Talon 230 on inov 8 website HERE
*inov 8 shoe grading:
We have graded the fit of all our shoes from 1 to 5 to make it easy for you to find the perfect fitting shoe. All our shoes are designed with Met-Cradle technology to lock down the mid-foot for a stable hold. Where they differ is in the toe box. Grade 1 represents our closest, most precise fit. At the other end of the scale, Grade 5 has the widest fitting toe box.
We have meticulously studied the foot and its function during the gait cycle and also the interaction between the foot and the terrain. We have used this knowledge to develop our fitting scale. For technical footwear a good fit is essential to enhance your performance.
The lower the number on our scale, the narrower the fit, which ensures minimal internal movement of the foot when running fast on technical terrain. Shoes with the higher numbers on our scale will suit athletes with a wider foot and those wanting that extra comfort in the toe box. This wider toe box allows the toes to splay for increased stability when lifting heavy weights. It’s also perfect for longer runs and races when toes begin to swell.
As a rough guide, Grade 1 represents an industry B fit, while Grade 5 equates to a 2E fit in the forefoot.