The inov 8 X-TALON range for 2018 has had a reworking. Always a tricky subject, especially with such a classic shoe in the inov 8 line-up. But as history shows, this shoe is 10-years old and has had many incarnations.
So, what is different for 2018?
Well, first and foremost, STICKY GRIP. This new outsole compound is inov 8’s new secret weapon for holding a runner on the ground when conditions are challenging, in particular, wet and slippery rocks.
The second key aspect is the reworking of the shoes upper. Now depending which X-TALON you have, the upper will be different. For example, I have just reviewed the X-TALON 230 HERE and the upper on the 230 is a world away from the upper on the 210.
So, here goes!
Orange! Whoa, yep, you are going to be seen coming in these babies on your first outing. I strongly suggest, going in the garden and rubbing them in the soil before venturing out. I wore sunglasses for the first day of testing. I joke obviously, but the 210 is a bright shoe, one could easily be put off by the colour, but let’s face it, if you are using the shoe in the place it is intended for, they are only bright for one outing!
In comparison to the X-TALON 230 (here) the 210 appears super light and airy – funny as there is only 20g difference between the shoes. The upper is light, very breathable and has the now traditional inov 8 overlays that gives the upper its structure. They are light and fast and gladly they have a gusseted tongue to give a slipper like feel. They feel very different to the 230’s – I would go as far to say that they are not comparable. They are completely two different shoes. So, whereas in the past you may have two pairs of X-Talon’s with different drops and have a similar feel between the two, now that is not the case. So, if you fancy 230’s with more cushioning, 6mm drop and a tough upper, make sure you try them first.
The 210 is 1 arrow, so, 3mm drop. Fit is scaled as 2, so, they are at the narrow end of inov 8’s fit gauge but not as narrow as the 230’s which scale as 1. Have to say, I prefer the fit of the 2.
The outsole, like the 230’s, is STICKY GRIP with classic 8mm lugs – a winning combo!
Cushioning is pretty minimal with 6mm at the front and 9mm at the rear.
This is a shoe that has racing written all over it.
The fit is slipper like and the 2-grade fit is pretty sweet allowing a little room for toe splay but not at the loss of control or precision when running. Of course, fit is all relative and based on an individual’s foot. However, I keep saying this, if you want a shoe for fast and technical running, it can’t be sloppy. It must fit and hold the foot – the 210’s does this perfectly.
The upper is very soft and flexible. The fit and security all comes from the overlays and in particular the 5 that lead to the lace eyelets.
The overlay extends round to the front of the shoe and the outsole extends up to provide a little toe protection. Toe protection is minimal, especially when one compares to the 230’s!
The upper is very breathable and there is method to this! inov 8 are recommending this shoe for the obvious fell, mountain, trail, obstacle course running but with the new addition of swim/run – a fast growing sport! Cleverly, the upper does not absorb or retain water and it has been Designed to actively encourage water (or sweat even) to escape. Obviously, this is key for swim/run but I can also see this being a great feature for any races or courses where one may be in and out of water. For example, the 210 would be a great shoe for the multi-stage race in Costa Rica, The Coastal Challenge – here participants on certain stages are in and out of water all the time. The heal box is snug, comfortable, holds the foot perfectly and caused no issues .
The outsole is a key feature of the 210 just as in the 230. STICKY GRIP is the new secret weapon. Basically, it’s a new compound of outsole that is softer and stickier than previous inov 8 outsoles. In mud, on trails, on fells etc there is little noticeable difference as the 8mm lugs do the job they have all done. What is noticeable is the additional grip on rock, particularly when wet. This is a great USP and maybe even more so for this shoe with a possible swim/run audience.
Unlike the 230, I slipped the 210 on and they immediately felt great – slipper like and definitely no breaking in required. I wore them around my home and soon didn’t notice them.
The 2 fit is as mentioned is narrow/ precision but not super narrow and I really liked the feel – this was helped by the soft upper and the gusseted tongue. The shoes upper combination works really well and once I adjusted the laces to personal feel and preference, I just knew that I was going to be happy in them.
With minimal cushioning and 3mm drop, this is not a shoe for everyone, or maybe I should clarify and say, that for some people, it is a shoe they should use sparingly. It’s a fast and light shoe designed for an efficient runner. The shoe is very flexible and just urges you to push on with the META FLEX on the outsole really helping with the propulsive phase.
Although cushioning is relatively minimal, the EVA FUSION works really well and providing excellent comfort. The shoes are so low to the ground, they are a little like taking a F1 car out for a drive. Hoka One One shoes for example would be a double decker bus.
A mile of road had me clipping along, right on my toes and then I suddenly realized I didn’t have the fitness for the pace the shoes made me want to run. So, racers out there are going to love this feel! On a muddy tow path, the 8mm studs gripped as they have always done and I had 100% confidence, the low-drop adding to that secure feel.
The 210 certainly gets you on your toes. I purposely tried to run slower and heal strike to get a feel of how the shoe would respond – it just felt all wrong. So, I speeded back up and got back on my toes.
On a wet grassy bank, the outsole gripped away and in the really thick mud that followed, I was over my ankles with soft, wet, brown stuff. Here I noticed two things, the 8mm lugs were trying to gain purchase in the harder ground below, at times they did, at times they didn’t – that is the nature of thick mud. One thing is for sure, in most other shoes I would have hit the deck! The second thing I noticed was how the shoes filled with mud but noticeably on the harder trail that followed, the shoes squelched and squelched, and I could see the mud escape from the uppers! I normally miss a small river on my run, yes, to avoid getting my feet wet, but I had to test the swim/ run capability. Apart from the water being bloody freezing, the shoes and uppers worked a treat. I was really impressed to see the water escape as I ran down the follow-on trails.
Wet rocks have been a hit and miss affair with inov 8 in the past but I can confirm, just as I found in the 230’s (here) that the new STICKY GRIP is a huge step forward for the inov 8 outsole. It is definitely getting more purchase and thus providing more security which in turn allows one the confidence to run at speed.
Most of my runs in the 210 have been between 5-12 miles. I haven’t gone past 100 minutes in any one run and in all honesty, for me, I would probably say 2-hours would be the max I would want to run in such a light, minimal and low-drop shoe. But that is me! My preferred drop is 6 or 8mm and most scenarios I prefer a little more cushioning. A light, fast and efficient runner I am sure could run longer in them!
Nearly all my runs have 1 mile of road at the start and end. With 108 miles in the 210 I can see the impact of the road sections, but it is not worrying. In all honesty, the 210 should only be used off-road and if I could, that is what I would do. The reality for most of us though is that a little road will always appear in our runs, so it is good to get a feel of the durability of the new STICKY GRIP. It’s still too early to say what that life is.
With extensive experience in Skyrunning races, I see the 210 being a perfect match for VK’s and SKY races (typically 20-30km) – in particular, the STICKY GRIP outsole would be most welcome on the technical, rocky and often wet ridges that can be encountered say in the Dolomites or the Alps.
The 210 is a winning shoe for efficient runners who want to be low to the ground feeling the terrain as though running barefoot without the discomfort. The combination of the light upper, precision fit and new sticky outsole makes them really stand out as a shoe distance racing shoe for fell, mountain and OC races. The upper certainly works really well at expelling water, so, if swim/run is your thing, they will be worth a look.
At 3mm drop and minimal cushioning, the 210 is definitely not for everyone. Certainly, I could not run in a shoe like this every day, but I think it’s fair to say that inov 8 don’t intent that to be the case. By way of clarity, the 210’s are a 2-seater car that sits in the garage, only to be used every now and again, whereas normally every day you drive around, say in a Ford Focus. Maybe the X-Talon 230’s are the Ford Focus and the X-Talon 210 is the Porsche 911?