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

inov-8 TERRACLAW 250 Shoe Review

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Niandi Carmont gets her claws out and test the new inov-8 Terraclaw 250. A shoe that offers a wide toe box, grip, cushioning and an 8mm drop for longer days on mixed terrain.

Please note all photographs in this review are the male colour ways . The ladies version as reviewed is below.

TC250W-BLACKBERRY

TC250W-BLACKBERRY_1

REVIEW

The Terraclaw is a great dual purpose trail shoe for “earthy” mostly dry trail as well as offering enough grip to be used on trail with moderately grassy/ muddy sections. As I’m not an aficionado of technical slippery and extremely boggy terrain, this is definitely the shoe to fit my foot in more ways than one.

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What definitely makes this trail shoe even more attractive for me is the wide toe box or in inov-8 jargon “standard fit” as opposed to the “precision fit”. The roomy toe box allows my toes to splay comfortably as I’m running irrespective of any swelling in hot weather over long distances. This is an absolute must for me as like with many ultra-runners who have been in the sport for some time, I have an issue with a collapsing right arch and thus a wider right foot.  In my case narrower trail shoes usually lead to chafing in between the toes and ensuing blisters.

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Another interesting key feature of this model which attracted me is inov-8’s innovative patented Dynamic Fascia Band™ (DFB) technology. What this means in layman’s terms is that the anatomical position of the plantar fascia ligament is replicated and the function of the human foot’s ability to utilize the “windlass effect” is duplicated. As body weight moves forward onto the metatarsal heads and the toes begin to extend, tension on the inov-8 fascia band™ increases. When the heel leaves the ground, the inov-8 fascia band™ resists elongation of the medial arch and carries the entire body weight of the runner converting the shoe into a rigid propulsive lever. This helps the athlete to run more efficiently, more economically and thus a tad faster. How cool is that for an injured right-foot heel striker with a collapsing arch like me? I certainly feel I’m dragging my right foot less.

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In addition to this the shoe is very breathable with a soft with a slipper-like feel. In fact this model is almost too comfy for a trail shoe! At 250G it is a relatively light shoe yet lightness is not sacrificed at the expense of cushioning. There is enough cushioning in this trail shoe to run on rock, gravel or stony terrain and inov-8 have got the balance just right and so if like me you still like to feel the ground underfoot you won’t be disappointed. The shoe sticks to inov-8 heritage of getting you low to the ground but the lack of a rockplate will allow more irregular rocks or sharper rocks be felt in the foot. It’s no great issue but one you should be aware of.

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If you take a peek at the sole of the shoe, you’ll quickly understand why this shoe offers good grip on most terrain.  Inov-8 have developed 5 distinct outsole compounds to deliver maximum grip on a wide variety of terrains and in changeable weather conditions. The Terraclaw outsole is composed of Dual-C, in other words a mix of medium sticky and hard sticky compound.  This particular technology uses rock climbing rubber technology.

In principle the shoe should therefore also offer a reasonable amount of grip on wet rock. However, I was not convinced after having tested it on the initial section of the Garmin Mourne Skyline race course. Running down the wet stone steps was tricky and a shoe like the inov-8 Mudclaw 300 (HERE) would be more suited to that terrain despite the aggressive outsole.  Personally from having tested the shoe on various terrains and in different seasons and weather conditions, I would say it is more suited to dry trail and trail with short road sections. The shoe transitions well from one to the other. It would perform less well on extremely boggy terrain, very steep and slippery grassy climbs/ descents (fells), stony river and waterfall sections.  I also found the cleats wore away quite rapidly with over-use. I’m on my second pair in the space of 3 months as there is noticeable cleat wear where I heel strike and on the forefoot where the foot lifts off. Of course, if you use the shoe on just soft ground or trail, the outsole will last longer! However, I believe that inov-8 are trying to find a shoe here that does all jobs? The rise of ‘city-trail’ a key indicator why this move from inov-8 makes sense. But whenever you make a compromise, you very often end up with something that does nothing well. Certainly, if you want an out-and-out shoe for wet, muddy and slippery trail this is not the shoe for you: look at the 212 (HERE) or 300 (HERE). Equally, if you want a shoe for just road, this is not the shoe for you. But if you want a shoe that enables you to run road, run trail, have comfort and all with a pleasing drop of 8mm this is definitely worth considering.

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The triangular spaced out lug design of the shoe is interesting too.  The purpose of this is to release debris, grit and small stones. However I found that it was not effective in releasing big clumps of muddy grass which got entangled in the lugs.  On the plus side because of the lug design the shoe is easy to rinse off after muddy trail runs.

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The Terraclaw offers good toe and foot protection in spite of its light weight with a full rand and higher stack height. Like other inov-8 models the 2 Meta-flex grooves on the outsole (pinky-red color on the Ladies shoe) at the forefoot and the heel allow for natural foot flexing making for a smoother run.

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It’s a neutral shoe that fits true to size but be warned, the roomier toe box may make the shoe feel a little ‘sloppy.’ If so, try lacing the shoe using this method HERE, it will hold your foot tight but still allow the freedom for your toes.

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Last but not least – the color is great! Nice and sober – black with a hint of pink and blue. Personally I’m not one for garish bright run shoes which quickly look muddy.

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TESTING

I have tested this shoe on several types of terrain and in various weather conditions:

  • A 2-day ultra around the Isle of Wight with a total mileage of 117km in hot weather and on dry trail, road sections, grassy coastal trail and some short technical ascents. My conclusion: this shoe is very versatile – I had no issue moving from trail to road sections. The grip on dusty trail is very good.
  • A one-day 42km trail in Lanzarote running on dust roads, through very rocky lava fields, on beach sections in soft sand, on pebbles, on stones, gravel and up and down slippery dusty mountain sections in hot weather. My conclusion: the shoe offered great grip in dry conditions. I tend to be too careful and overly think technical descents but found that I had more confidence with the Terraclaw.
  • Wet muddy trail training runs in the Midlands in rainy cold weather. My conclusion: If the terrain is not too muddy the Terraclaw offers sufficient grip. However, I felt it lacked grip in extreme boggy conditions.
  • Training runs on the West Highland Way. My conclusion: Good shoe for this type of terrain which is not extremely technical and very runnable.
  • Wet training runs on the fells in the Lakelands. My conclusion: Again I feel the shoe does not offer sufficient grip on really boggy and slippery terrain.
  • Training in the Mourne mountains in Northern Ireland. My conclusion: The shoe was great on forest path and trail sections but lacked grip on wet rocky sections on descents and steep grassy descents. The Mudclaw 300 would probably be more suitable for this kind of terrain.
  • Training runs on forest path near Paris. My conclusion: The shoe is very versatile and transitions comfortably from hard road surfaces to softer forest terrain.

CONCLUSION:

PROS:

  • I like it – I’m already on my second pair.
  • The patented Dynamic Fascia Band™ technology favors a more economical and thus more efficient run style.
  • The Dual-C grip is sufficient for moderately wet conditions.
  • This model is extremely comfortable.
  • It is lightweight shoe with ample protection and great cushioning.
  • I love the roomy toe box.
  • Great color
  • Very versatile shoe – an all-rounder

CONS:

  • I’m on my second pair. It lacks durability mainly due to lug wear.
  • It doesn’t offer sufficient grip in more extreme conditions

If you’d prefer the same show with a lower drop (4mm) the 220 version is available with a unique lacing style.

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TECHNICAL SPECS

Weight: 250G / 9OZ

Fit: STANDARD

Footbed: 6MM

Midsole: COMPRESSED EVA

Shank: DFB™

Drop: 8MM

Sole: TERRACLAW™

Compound:DUAL-C

Running a mult-day race? Check out our training camp http://d.pr/f/18cqZ

inov-8 website HERE

Inov8 say:

From single track to steep descents, the TERRACLAW™ performs on the widest range of trails imaginable. Our unique lug design releases debris and grit like no other, delivering optimum grip with every foot strike. The higher mileage version of the TERRACLAW™ range, this shoe delivers extra protection and comfort courtesy of a full rand and higher stack height.