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 TERRACLAW 220 and TERRACLAW 250 First Impressions

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inov-8 love bringing out new shoes. Not all of them are perfect. I think we can forgive them for that. It’s good to experiment and you can have shoes in a test scenario as much as you like but it’s only when people start paying for them do you really get the true feedback.

I am lucky, I have been fortunate to test many of inov-8’s new shoes. So receiving the latest invention (a shoe that I actually had a first look at in October 2014 at Limone Extreme) the TERRACLAW I was really interested to see what the brand had done with this shoe and what it offered.

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I have the TERRACLAW 220 and the TERRACLAW 250. This is a first impressions article, so don’t expect any great detail on what they are like to run in, that will come later.

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The TERRACLAW 220 is a UK7 so this shoe will be tested by my partner, Niandi. The TERRACLAW 250 is a UK9.5. For simplicity, the blue shoe is the 220 and the black shoe is the 250. They are ‘Standard Fit’ which offers a wide toe box. This allows the toes to splay when running naturally. It also is perfect if you have a wider foot or maybe when running long and you expect your feet to expand. I am usually a UK9.5 in inov-8 but I would be interested to try a size 9. I can definitely run in the UK9.5 but the shoe allows just  a little too much movement in the toes. So, if you are going to purchase online think about this.

They are light!

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inov-8 always name the shoe based on the weight, so a 220 weighs 220g and a 250 weighs 250g. In our scenario, the 220 in a UK7 weighed 219g/ 7oz and the 250 in a UK9.5 weighed 258g/ 9.1oz. Spot on!

The two shoes on face value look the same until you take a closer look. I will come on to that in a moment. A key factor is the drop, the 220 is 4mm and the 250 is 8mm. So before we go any further, the shoes will have a very different feel when running. In addition, cushioning in the 250 is noticeably different to the 220. It all comes down to personal preferences but one could arguably say that the 220 is an out-and-out faster trail shoe for shorter races and the 250 will be better suited to longer races.

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The outsole on both shoes is the same, so there is no compromise between the 220 and the 250. As you can see from the images, the sole is aggressive but not ‘too’ aggressive. Both these shoes sit somewhere between a RACEULTRA in the 270 (4mm drop) and 290 (8mm drop) versions and  a X-TALON and/ or MUDCLAW.

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I think it’s therefore safe to assume that the TERRACLAW 220 and 250 are designed at trail runners who require a shoe with comfort, cushioning and more importantly, grip. The RACEULTRA provides this already but with no grip and the X-TALON and MUDCLAW are out-and-out fell shoes or soft ground shoes. So, if the TERRACLAW performs I am pretty sure it’s going to be a popular shoe in the inov-8 line up.

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The grip on the outsole is really spaced out which will allow grip (similar to a football boot) but in theory will stop the sole clogging up with debris. Several buzzwords appear on the outsole:

  • META-FLEX
  • DYNAMIC FASCIA BAND
  • DUAL C
  • TERRADAPTER

Oh yes, just like many other shoe manufacturers, inov-8 have come up with a whole new wording system to describe some key features.

Meta-Flex allows the foot to bend across the metatarsals, an important feature in any shoe but especially useful for off road running, Many shoes that provide grip can be too inflexible. The Meta-Flex on the 220 and 250 does really add to the feel of the shoe based on just a couple of runs.

Dynamic Fascia Band is in the midsole and is designed to help maintain stride efficiency. The jury is out on this at the moment. It certainly doesn’t seem to harm or damage the feel of the shoe, but equally I am not sure at this stage I feel the benefit?

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Dual C represents the two compounds in the sole. Black and Yellow on the 220 and Black and Blue on the 250. The black area is made of a more durable material and increases protection, the coloured area is softer and stickier for increased grip. If you get a hold of the shoe and press the different compounds you can really feel the difference. I do wonder though if the coloured section is wide enough, only time will tell?

On speaking with inov-8, they say that Dual C compounds negate the need for a rock plate. I am not convinced, soon as you got on hard terrain you feel the ground beneath you. That’s a great thing, I love to feel the ground. But the odd sharp stone or pebble does make it’s presence felt.

The upper is where the two shoes differ quite considerably. Most notably, the lacing!

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The 250’s lace conventionally and the 220’s lace using inov-8’s new RAY-WRAP system which is designed to align with the first metatarsal. In principal this is designed to make a more secure, close and comfortable fit. I have witnessed this before in a pair of Brooks shoes and I enjoyed the comfort and reassurance it offered. However, this does feel quite unusual at first. Niandi has expressed similar concerns with the 220. But lets be clear, it’s too early to tell and and make a judgement on this. The tongue in both shoes is padded well and offers great comfort. The laces are thin but pull tight providing a secure foot hold and if tied in a double not they do not slip.

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The heel area on both shoes is roomy, plush and holds the foot firm. No issues here from just a couple of runs.

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The upper on both the 220 and the 250 is light and breathable and both shoes utilise inov-8’s new X-LOCK welded overlay Yes folks, can you see that big yellow X on the 220 and the big blue X on the 250? That is X-Lock!

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X-Lock is designed to hold the foot firm within the shoe. It differs greatly between the 250 and the 220. Just look above. The pattern is completely different. We will feedback on this more with more use. You will also notice in the above image how the 250 (left) has considerably more toe protection than the 220. The 220 has a yellow reinforced soft band, to be honest it offers no protection against rocks. Whereas the 250 has a tougher fabric and just a fraction more protection against rock impact.

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Let’s be clear, this is a first impressions look at the TERRACLAW and our verdict is impressed! As I have stated on many occasions recently, 8mm drop is for sure a sweet spot in the trail running shoe market and nov-8’s addition of a trail shoe with cushioning and grip is welcome.

For faster and more minimalist runners, they too will have a smile on their faces knowing that they have also been looked after with a 4mm drop.

Time to hit the trails and we will feed back on how these shoes perform, what the comfort is like and importantly do all these new features -‘X’ this, ‘RAY WRAP’ that and ‘DYNAMIC FACIA’ this really work?

The 220 in Images:

The 250 in Images:

220 v 250

The TERRACLAW shoes will be available in September 2015. Check out inov-8 HERE

inov-8 BareGrip 200 Review by Ty Draney

 

Baregrip

There are minimal shoes, and there are barefoot shoes. Runningwarehouse.com describes the Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 as; “a near-barefoot shoe for trail runners seeking unrelenting traction, with no cushioning and a firm ride.”

 Shoe review by respected ultra athlete TY DRANEY (Patagonia)

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I have been wearing minimal shoes for years, eschewing trail shoes for flats because I enjoyed the lighter weight and most of the time here in the west I run on dry trails. I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with inov-8 having spent some time in their X-talon models when they first came out. The BareGrip 200 as it turns out is a completely different animal. They look a lot like a football boot. When I wore them they usually elicited two different responses-“What are you wearing?” and “Wow. Cool shoes.”

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The first thing I noticed was how light and flexible they are. There is absolutely no support or structure, none of the traditional EVA for cushion. The thin rubber twists and stretches as far (or farther) than your foot can. Luckily the lugs supply a big of lift and some give to extend the range of this shoe. I found that I could run as far as 10k before my feet felt too fatigued or beat up. The added flexibility was great running uphill, but running rocky downhill caused me to slow down considerably to keep from hurting my feet.

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The upper is also study and flexible. After nearly a hundred miles in the shoe, there is absolutely no wear or snags. The tight weave has a downside. I found that the shoe didn’t drain particularly well after being fully submerged. There are light overlays extending from the outsole to the laces that supply structure to the shoe. They are medium, to narrow in width and have a solid toe bumper for its weight. I found the heel cup particularly comfortable on my bony heels. It has “just enough” structure to keep the heel firmly planted in the shoe, even on steep uphill slopes.

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The Bare-grip has outstanding traction. A wet fall has provided ample opportunity to take these shoes on a variety of muddy trails. I was pleasantly surprised how well they shed the mud and helped me keep my footing, and again, the lugs provided a little cushion to help extend their range. I am looking forward to using these as a winter shoe when the rocks are covered with snow and I need the extra traction.

This is not a shoe for everyone. The barefoot feel and zero mm drop automatically excludes many runners. It does however do what it was designed for very well, “give natural feel, maximum grip, and proprioception.” (inov-8.com) I see this shoe as a great vertical-k-type shoe in adverse conditions or for racing muddy fells where there are few rocks.

Specs:

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Check out inov-8 HERE

Check out Ty Draney HERE

Salomon Fellraiser

Andy Symonds and Ricky Lightfoot very much pioneered the Salomon Fellcross, as the inside of the shoe says ‘Designed in the Alps‘. They tested the shoe and made tweaks to the design that would ensure that a shoe came to the market that was perfect for the job!

Salomon Fellraiser

In 2013, a Fellcross 2 is certainly on the cards but fresh from the Outdoor Retail Show in the US the Salomon Fellraiser has emerged. Due SS 13?

Low to the ground? The Fellraiser is lower to the ground and apparently more flexible than previous models in the Salomon range. A 7mm drop (tbc) with a supposed12mm of cushioning at the front and 19mm at the back, this shoe will certainly become popular on muddy and gnarly trail. It has aggressive traction and a contragrip outsole with a fast drying and lightweight upper.An EVA midsole should provide great feel and enhance quick transition from one foot to the other.

UPDATE 1st Feb

Many thanks to Gripmaster who has been testing these shoes, he has confirmed the ‘drop’ at 6mm with forefoot cushioning at 6mm and rear cushioning at 12mm. He says “the new profile is quite cool, better on rock than the fellcross 1, so more usable in the alps that way..”

Is this ‘the new‘ Speedcross? Who knows… it certanly seems as though it is an offering in the ‘Speedcross’ arena. Certainly, the lower drop, if confirmed, will be appealing. But I have already seen new colourways of the Speecdross 3 for 2013 so this almost certainly will be an addition to the Salomon range.

It’s also lightweight, current stats are showing 230g for a UK8.5 (tbc)

Of course until I get my hands on a pair of shoes, look at them and test them, I can provide no more information. Rest assured, news will soon follow.

Salomon Website HERE