Gear: Inov-8 X-Talon 200
As soon as I opened the shoe box and picked up the X-Talon 200's, I knew this is a beast of trail run shoe...
Just holding them, my first impressions were: super super lightweight (only 200g), a sabre-tooth sole growling back at you and insane flexibility (the toe can bend backwards to the heel). Overall, a beautiful specimen. This shoe means business right from the start.
OK, before you get too excited here is the standard specifications on the X-Talon 200:
Fit : Standard Fit
Gender : Unisex
Drop : 3mm
Grip : 8mm sticky rubber studs
Arrow: 1 Arrow (high responsive)
Midsole: Injected EVA
Weight: 200g / 7oz
"A flexible, lightweight racing shoe that delivers unrivalled grip over soft or extreme terrain and is super-fast on dry trails too."
The first fit feels like a glove around your foot. Cinderella would've been impressed! I was a bit worried at the start that the shoes might be too small, but after some walking around the wider toe box becomes apparent and provides enough movement due to the new Standard Fit which Inov-8 have introduced lately. Standard fit suits those with wider feet and runners who enjoy longer treks on an all terrain area. It also has a narrow lacing system for a more secure and snug fit if you prefer the support around the ankle area.
Test 1: Jeep Track
Damn! These shoes are so light... it felt like I was running on top of the clouds! An absolutely insane natural feeling and perfect absorption on the flat ground. I immediately got into my rhythm and with some cross and side steps could feel that my ankle is so secure due to the narrow ankle fit and wider toe box style.
Test 2: Wet Grass
Soon after the jeep track, I turned towards the wet grass section to test the grip. Sorry but did someone mention wet grass?? It felt like dry dirt. I went a couple of times up and down this section, even adding more weight to the front and then leaning more back in order to try and 'slip'.. but alas, all attempts at looking like an idiot was in vain! Another bonus is the breathable mesh forefoot allowing for quick water drainage. If I had a chance to swim in these, I would have had no second thoughts.
Test 3: Rock Garden
The moment I was waiting for.. testing these 8mm lugs running up and down some rocky sections. The grip on these shoes is certainly the best feature. There is no room for slippage other than bad judgement calls, which, I'm afraid, no shoe in the world can help you with! Even on the loose rocks and ground, the shoes offer exceptional grip all round. The only critism I could offer at this stage is the rubber toe bumper. As mentioned earlier, the shoe felt a bit too tight and my big toes (yeah, I have huge toes!) where right against the toe bumper when running down the steep technical rocky sections. However, most other Inov-8 fan reviews suggest to hold out for a few rounds as the shoes do stretch and mould around your foot shape.
Test 4: All Terrain
After some technical running, I decided to hit the rest of the test trail. Cruising through the forest single track on hard ground, loose rocks, soft sand and mud pools, I managed to get some kilometres on my legs. This led to my final conclusion that the shoes are definitely an all surface master of grip combined with lightweight flexibility. I hope the following summary helps your with your final decision at purchase:
The ultimate rubber sole for grip on all terrains and surfaces (soft or hard)
Flexible, lightweight and natural minimalist feel when running
Wider toe box for increased comfort
Secured narrow lace system for mid-foot support
Increased protection around the rubber toe bumper
For your technical ascents & descents type of races
Size and foot shape specific, I suggest you try them on at a store first and have a test trot
Side protection is minimal (sneaky sticks and sharp rocks could surprise you...)
Long distance... not sure, as I still need to go for a +18km run in them
Not ideal for the flat fun runs / jeep only tracks
Overall: I personally love these shoes and feel like I could take them anywhere with me, whether it's a technical trail run race, individual adventure or just exploring the mountain ranges on my own. A 'must have' if you like collecting trail shoes!