INOV-8 Shoe Review X-TALON 225

‘What shoe shall I use for a muddy race or run?’

It’s a question I get asked a great deal and my answer is always the same –Have you considered inov-8?’

inov-8 has been making shoes for muddy conditions for over 10-years and as such they are my ‘go-to’ brand when I need something to handle ‘off-trail’ conditions such as fell, mountain, open fields, mountain terrain and so on.

I photograph, test and run in many many shoes and no shoes come close to handling thick, sloppy and unpredictable mud like inov-8.

A firm favourite is the Mudclaw 300 which has a 6mm drop. You can read a review from 2016 HERE.

In the last 12-months, inov-8 has tweaked its line of shoes once again and the popular Race Ultra has now become the Trail Talon (one of my favourite trail shoes for dry conditions HERE) and we have the X-Claw 275 (HERE) which is a favourite for me when I want to mix up good trails with mud and rock for longer duration, the 275 version with wider toe box and 8mm drop is perfect.

The X-Talon shoe has been around for sometime as an inov-8 classic and certainly the 212 (6mm drop) is a shoe that I have used time and time again. HERE 

Usually, I prefer 6-8mm drop shoes, however, if I am just running in soft mud, a lower drop of 4mm or 3mm is usually fine and providing I am not running for too long it is preferable as I feel lower to the ground and more connected.

The 225 is a 4mm drop shoe with a 3mm footbed and a stack of 19.5mm at the heel and 15.5mm at the forefoot. The lugs are the same as the Mudclaw 300 with 8mm depth. 

It’s easy to see from the off that the X-Talon 225 is designed for a more efficient runner and having switched between the Mudclaw 300 and the X-Talon 225 the main differences come with a touch more cushioning in the Mudclaw, otherwise, both shoes feel very similar as they have ‘precision’ fit, same lug depth, similar lacing and a similar feel when running. Obviously, the X-Talon is 25% lighter and that does feel different! 

Running off-trail in muddy and sloppy conditions requires control and precision, therefore, the X-Talon 225 is a precision fit shoe. You need your foot to feel controlled and yes, maybe a little tight in the shoe. This is what gives you the control and the security to let yourself go. The only time you would compromise on this precision feel is if you were running for hour upon hour or running a very long race where the fit may cause an issue. Therefore, I see the X-Talon as a perfect shoe for up to say marathon distance – it does depend on the runner?

They are feather light. You pick them up and you know straight away they will be a delight to wear. They are simple and no fuss. Good bumper around the toe with a reinforced section. The upper is durable, lightweight and designed to be breathable and protective. The tongue is lightweight and the laces almost feel inadequate but they really pull the shoe tight and give a wonderful secure feeling around the middle of the foot to offer that security and control that is so essential when running in the sloppy and unpredictable terrain that mountains or fells give us. The heel box is classic inov-8 and wraps around providing a comfortable and secure hold with no rubbing. 

The X-Talon is ultimately what is on the bottom of the shoe and as the name suggests, you have a plethora of 8mm talons to provide maximal grip. The compound is DUAL-C as seen in other inov-8 shoes and this works well in transitioning from mud to rock without a compromise on grip. The configuration is designed to shed mud and debris, however, I have yet to find a shoe that when it’s really muddy sheds the mud as I run. Certainly, transitioning from muddy terrain to harder, firmer or dry trail and the mud falls away quickly.

Another key feature is META-FLEX which allows the shoe to bend just in the correct place to facilitate the propulsive phase. One of the tings I love about inov-8 shoes is this really does work! It’s not some name jargon that doesn’t mean anything.

IN USE

My daily trail run requires me to run a 1-mile of road to the trail and 1-mile home. The X-Talon handles this well and just for kicks, try it yourself – you will here the outsole grip to the pavement and road. It’s quite a feeling! Of course, you want to keep road use to a minimum in a shoe like this – the outsole won’t thank you for rubbing it against such an abrasive surface. Ideally, this is a shoe that you will put on just before you start to run. Rest assured though, the shoe gives a wonderful feeling on hard pack. How wonderful depends on you, your efficiency and your need for cushioning. If you are looking for a shoe that can handle some road, some hardback trail, rocks and some mud – I recommend the X-Claw.

I mix between shoes with a wider toe box such as the Trail Talon and X-Claw and can quite happily use a shoe with a more precision or tighter toe box such as the Roclite, Mudclaw or the X-Talon, so, the precision fit is not a problem for me.

I prefer a higher drop shoe of 6-8mm but the 225 with 4mm felt really great on soft and muddy trails – I didn’t really notice the lower drop and the lightness/ flexibility is a real pleasure.

The shoes are really comfortable and secure. The heel box really grips and the lacing really holds the foot secure. I had no movement or sloppiness.

Toe protection is good. I’ve had a few toe collisions with rocks and had not problems. The 3mm footbed and 15.5/19.5 cushioning is certainly on the minimal side and when running on rocky, dry or stony trails I could certainly feel the ground beneath me. Again, this comes down to choosing a shoe that is fit for purpose and fit for the duration you are running. Again, need more shoe? Look at the Mudclaw 300 or X-Claw 275.

Grip is awesome and few shoes in the marketplace can compare to the grip offered by the 8mm lugs. The compound also works great when transitions from mud to rock – a real winner.

SUMMARY

If you need a low drop, lightweight shoe with loads of grip and a precision fit, look no further than the X-Talon 225. This shoe has very little not to like and actually the negatives for some are what make this shoe great:

  • Low drop
  • Light
  • Minimal
  • Deep lugs

If all of the above is ‘too’ minimal for you, look at the Mudclaw 300 and if you need a higher drop (8mm), a little more toe width, good lugs but not as aggressive and more cushioning, you can’t go wrong with the X-Claw 275. If I was only going to have one pair of shoes for trail, mud and rock then I would go for the X-Claw. However, if I can pick and choose and use shoes shoes like weapons, the X-Talon 225 would be fast and light shoes for racing a fast and furious fell race, Skyrunning race or even a VK.

SPECS

  • Fit
  • Precision
  • Drop
  • 4mm
  • Footbed
  • 3mm
  • Lug Depth
  • 8mm
  • Midsole
  • Injected EVA
  • Midsole Stack
  • Heel 19.5mm / Forefoot 15.5mm
  • Shank
  • DFB™
  • Product Weight
  • 225g / 7.9oz

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inov-8 X-CLAW 275 Shoe Review

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The inov-8 Mudclaw 300 has long been a favorite shoe of mine when I need a shoe with grip and secure feel. It’s a ‘go-to’ shoe for a couple of hours on muddy trails. (Review Here). However, the precision fit (which I love) and less cushioning has often left me wanting a shoe with a little more cushioning, a more relaxed drop and maybe a little more room in the toes for my feet to splay. Step in (pun intended) the X-CLAW 275.

In the past 12-months, inov-8 as a brand has looked at its shoe range and started to streamline the shoes on offer. For some, that may well be a bad thing, for me, it’s a positive! I seem to remember a couple of years back that the brand had over 90 shoes on offer.

The company that pioneered the arrow system to define drop, has stuck with its heritage and now 1 arrow (4mm drop) and 2 arrow (8mm drop) are the norm. The purists may well complain but 4mm and 8mm drop are for sure the most popular.

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For me, I switch between the two drops constantly, happily running shorter and faster sessions in the lower 4mm drop but when I go longer, I prefer the relaxed and more forgiving drop of 8mm. The X-CLAW 275 has been a long time coming, but now it has arrived, I have a big smile on my face:

8mm drop

Standard fit

Cushioning

Grip

In brief, the shoe is a winner.

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The X-CLAW 275 has the usual distinctive inov-8 styling and colours, I keep saying it but the brand always (nearly always) make good looking shoes with great colours. The lacing is standard and secure, the heel box is plush, holds firm and is comfortable. The tongue is secured into the upper on the left and right sides (thank goodness) and holds the foot firm, secure and in comfort. The toe box has standard fit and therefore there is more room for toes to splay and move around a little. The toe box also has great protection with some good rubber on the front of the shoe to protect against rock impact. The shoe is cushioned for longer runs and has protection from underfoot obstacles but without loosing a feel for the ground. Lastly, the grip is as one would expect, claw like.

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The X-CLAW has been put through its paces on a multitude of terrain and in all scenarios it has been a winner. Several recent outings in the Mourne Mountains in Ireland really did provide an all-in-one mixed terrain circuit allowing for: road, stone steps, loose rock, gravel, scree, bog, water crossings, fell, fire trail and all with a mix of wet and dry weather. The X-CLAW just performed never causing me to question of grip would be compromised at any time. I had wondered if the standard fit would leave me feeling less secure and precise on technical trail – no so! I was able to compensate by pulling my laces a little tighter and the addition of the gusseted tongue held my foot secure and firm giving me 100% confidence. On a 3.5hr run, we finished off with a 5km stretch of stony fire trail that zig-zagged 600m downhill. It was the type of terrain in the past where I would have been wishing for a shoe with a little more comfort and protection… not so with the X-CLAW.

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The cushioning was superb allowing me to run with protection while still feeling the ground beneath. The outsole handled the mixed terrain so well and I am always amazed how shoes with so much grip can feel so good on the road. Obviously, the Dual-C compound used will have less life if too much road is run on, but that is not the point, the combination of elements that are packaged in the X-CLAW 275 make it a real winner. Finally, despite running through wet ground, mud and small water crossings my foot actually only got wet in the final couple of miles of my run when I placed my foot in a puddle that was ankle deep, prior to that the water repellant upper had done a great job keeping my feet dry.

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As the UK heads into winter, the trails will become muddier, the rocks wetter and I am convinced that the X-CLAW 275 is going to be one of my ‘go-to’ shoes – It delivers outstanding grip, comfort and protection while still remaining lightweight, flexible with great energy return from the Powerflow midsole technology that really does keep you on your toes with better shock protection. The toe bumper and full rand are also great additions that make the shoe really feel as though it’s up for some hard and challenging terrain.

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The shoe fit as ‘true,’ I regularly use a size 9.5 and my X-TALON is a 9.5. However, if you are used to a tighter toe box (precision) you may well feel that the standard fit of this shoe makes it feel a little larger? My advice would be to lace up the shoe correctly and tighten the laces so your foot feels secure. Remember, the toe box is designed to allow for some movement and splay.

In summary, the X-CLAW is an excellent shoe for those who need a little more comfort, a relaxed drop and a roomier toe box. The shoes perform exceptionally well on all terrain (even road) and if you are out for longer days on the hills, mountains or fells, the 8mm drop and cushioning will make your legs and feet happier.

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Finally, for all you precision fit, less-cushioning and lower drop fans (4mm) don’t worry… the X-TALON is available in a 225 version. Review to follow.

What inov-8 say:

For all extreme terrain running, including off-trail conditions encountered on mountains and fells.

Phenomenal grip: New X-CLAW outsole features DUAL-C compound (a mix of medium and hard sticky rubbers) for improved durability and stability. Refined claw cleat stud configuration ensures quick release of mud and debris.

Increased comfort on long runs: Unique POWERFLOW midsole technology delivers 10% better shock absorption and 15% better energy return than standard midsoles. Wider to box allows toes to splay.

Enjoy more protection: Super-durable, yet lightweight, upper material, full rand, toe bumper and internal gusset offer protection on descents and from debris. Water repelled by durable water resistant coating.

Does it all: Equally adaptable to training or faster running. Cutaways on the outsole increase flexibility and reduce weight. Dynamic Fascia Band delivers kick of energy with every stride.

  • Colour: BLACK/BLUE/RED
  • Weight: 275g / 9.7oz
  • Fit: Standard Fit
  • Gender: MENS
  • Footbed: 6mm
  • Midsole: POWER FLOW
  • Drop: 8mm

New Shoes from INOV-8 2016

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It’s been a while since we have posted a shoe review and we have good reason, we have been testing and trying out shoes on the trails and mountains. Coming up over the next few weeks we will be posting reviews of new shoes in the inov-8 line up and I am pleased to say, there are some real quality products to look at!

TRAIL TALON 275 (click on images to view larger)

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Perfect for long miles on hard-packed trails, the TRAIL TALON 275 delivers the perfect fit and unrivalled comfort with next generation ADAPTERFIT technology. A two-piece Powerflow midsole delivers optimum levels of shock absorption and energy return. Standard fit and 8mm drop.

X-CLAW 275
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The ultimate shoe for running long distances over extreme terrain. Delivers outstanding claw cleat grip, comfort and protection while retaining lightweight flexibility. Ideal for high mileage training in the mountains and fells.  Standard fit and 8mm drop.

X-TALON 225

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Designed for running fast over extreme terrain, the newest addition to the legendary X-TALON range offers increased durability and improved grip in a perfect lightweight, agile package. Ideal for fell and mountain racing. Precision fit and 4mm drop.

TRAIL TALON 250

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The lighter version in the series, the TRAILTALON 250 has been designed for speed and delivering the best grip possible on hard-packed trails. A two-piece Powerflow midsole delivers optimum levels of shock absorption and energy return. Standard fit and 4mm drop.

All shoes available in men’s and ladies sizes

Detailed reviews of the following shoes will follow in the coming weeks

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https://www.inov-8.com

inov-8 ROADCLAW 275 – New road shoe for 2016: First look and photos

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Trail and fell running fans need no introduction to inov-8, for just over 10-years the brand has been very much pioneering the way for the off road market. In recent years the brand has tweaked and launched new models and currently the Mudclaw 300 (Review HERE) , X-Talon 212 (Review HERE) and Terraclaw are my favourite shoes.

I’ve said this before, I always have respected inov-8’s very logical approach in not only providing a shoe design in different drops but also making it very easy, at first glance, to see what drop the shoes are. The arrows on the back clearly signify with 1, 2 or 3 arrows. In simple terms, 1 is low, 2 is medium and 3 is higher; typically 3, 6, 9mm drop.

In the last 18-24 months, the launch firstly of the RACEULTRA (Review HERE) in 4mm (270) and 8mm (290) drops and most recently the TERRACLAW (Review HERE) in 4mm (220) and 8mm (250) drops have certainly revived that ‘middle’ ground for the ions-8 brand.

I have been very much on the middle ground with the RACEULTRA despite it’s incredible popularity. For example, at the 2015 Marathon des Sables, I saw many people using the shoe because it neither had too much or too little tread and most importantly it has a wide toe box. I find the shoe just lacked feel, it lacked responsiveness.

The TERRACLAW followed suit and for me is a far better shoe than the RACEULTRA, it has a more aggressive outsole that is great for off road (when not too muddy) but it equally handles hard trail and rocks well and some road. It’s a responsive shoe, lightweight, comfortable and gives great feel for the ground. If you like a wide toe box too, the shoe has loads of room, even for a Hobbit’s foot… maybe too much room for some. I find the additional room great when it’s flat but less so when going up or downhill. But hey, this is all personal. Ultimately a good shoe.

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So now for 2016, inov-8 are looking to get their claws back into the road market with the ROADCLAW 275.

inov-8 have made road shoes before currently on the website they have the ROAD-X-XETREME 220 and 250. These shoes most definitely appealed to the out-and-out road runner. The imminent launch of the ROADCLAW 275 signifies a departure for the brand in terms of road shoe as it obviously has a very similar look and feel to the RACEULTRA.

For clarification, the colour way is for ladies.

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On first impressions, the shoe looks and feels very much like the RACEULTRA, maybe too similar? However, as you look closely you start to notice the differences.

  • The upper is a more open mesh to allow the foot to breathe.
  • The toe box although still wide narrows a little quicker.
  • Toe protection from the bumper is less.
  • The lacing is wider.
  • Support on the upper both on the left and right side is a little more substantial.
  • Although a neutral shoe it feels as though there is a little support for the arc – just a little?
  • The heel box is a touch wider but still offers a snug fit.
  • The outsole is completely redesigned, as you would expect and uses 2 different compounds, in this shoe, black and pink to offer grip where required.
  • The shoe has ‘META-FLEX’ at the fore of the shoe a DYNAMIC FASCIA BAND both present in the RACEULTRA.
  • Drop is 8mm which for me is perfect.
  • Weight 275g as the name suggests for sample size UK8

It’s early days running in the shoe and currently it’s being tested on road, dry trails and treadmill. Initial feedback is good and certainly if you are a RACE ULTRA fan and need a road shoe, this is one for you.

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We have to say, on first impressions we thought the outsole looked a little aggressive for a road shoe but hey, I guess that is why it’s called ‘ROADCLAW.’. However, when running all feels good, particularly on the current wet and mildly slippery roads and pavements.

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As we get more miles in the shoe, we will come back and provide a detailed report on the pros and cons of this new inov-8 shoe. It’s certainly an interesting step for the brand and it makes one question, what else have they got up their sleeves for 2016?

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You can read more and find out about inov-8 HERE

INOV-8 ROADCLAW 275
New for 2016, the ROADCLAW brings together all inov-8 has learned in the mountains to deliver an ultra-smooth ride with the company’s iconic grip in a road shoe. No matter how rugged the road, the ROADCLAW is the master of its terrain.
ULTRA SMOOTH RIDE: Run effortlessly over any road conditions with inov-8’s unique POWERFLOW midsole technology. POWERFLOW delivers 10 per cent better shock absorption and 15 per cent better energy return than standard midsoles.
MAXIMUM POWER TRANSFER: inov-8’s iconic grip has now been optimised for road running. This means every ounce of energy generated by the body is transferred to the road through the outsole. With inov-8’s three-rubber TRI-C compound delivering industry-leading traction throughout the gait cycle.
ULTIMATE SECURITY: Feel 100 per cent sure footed on any road with grip and stability delivered through an inversion of our claw cleat lug design.
Suggested retail price: £110 (110 UK pounds)