Well, I’d been looking forward to sinking the new X-Talon‘s aggressive outsole into winter’s variety of terrain conditions, but the truth is, I’ve had two crazy temperatures which have knocked me for six! I’ve been off running and when well, have stuck to the road for maximum miles returned.
What frustrated me more, was when I unboxed the Talon’s from the cardboard aviary, my nostrils were instantly overpowered by a recognisable scent. No, not new shoe smell, which is a good’un. No, RUBBER.As someone who has toured a cycle tyre factory more than once, the smell of rubber is unique and these shoes delivered a sucker punch when I flipped the lid. My brain immediately thought one thing only, compound. This isn’t a scientific fact by any means, but sticky rubber often is pretty pungent and given inov-8 have launched their new X-Talon 230 with their new compound Sticky Grip, it was a promising start. I’m sure there’s a breaking bad analogy in their somewhere, but we’ll keep moving on….
Now came the tricky part, getting well enough to run in them. Every time I got comfortable and started to rack miles up, my health seemed to have other ideas; it was as if I was being followed by the broom wagon at a race…. it’s only a matter of time till you’ll end up in there if not firing on all cylinders.
Thankfully I never have in a race, but my health had other ideas.
And yet, at the height of the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, I’m firing on all cylinders! Thank you immune system for nothing. I set out to give the X-Talon’s my initial test, before a more comprehensive breakdown later this year, after I’ve had time to get close and personal with all manner of rocky surfaces, boggy ground and open mountain.So off I set to discover the winter wonderland of Woburn Sands, well known for usually having no snow, lacking any elevation and consisting generally of sand, mud and roots. I may slate it, but it’s where I call home and the trails I run every week.
So with an aggressive outsole, constructed from Sticky Grip rubber, its supposed to offer greater traction that it’s predecessor in both wet and dry conditions. My run was on thaw day, which delivered 2.5 miles of paths in various states of snow/ice/melt/slush/exposed pavement and 15 miles of trails which started as you can see above and ended up in a brown sludge that resembled GI issues (no, I won’t elaborate). Throw into the mix; off camber sections, saturated roots, ankle deep obstacles and 100 other people churning up the trails in an orienteering race (had no idea it was on) and there was quiet a bit to contend with for their maiden outing.The lugs are 8mm deep and they locked onto what ever I chose to stand on. Despite their length and soft compound, they don’t flex around and leave you unstable on harder surfaces, or indeed paths. Being nimble is key to pushing through unforgiving terrain and X-Talon’s have a fair bit of flex, due to the Metaflex groove.Who knew inov-8 made furry cuffed gloves 😉
So despite conditions which only got wetter the longer I ran, I didn’t find myself slipping or taking a fall, and on the odd occasion when one foot slid out, it was controllable due to the lugs and I was able to keep moving forward, barely breaking step. Now, I know there are a lot of people out there that are protesting that inov-8 aren’t as minimal as they once were. In part you could be true, but in many ways there are more options for the end user than there have ever been. And comfort is something that has benefitted as a result. The Powerflow+ midsole is good, I’ve reviewed it previously and it delivers enough cushion on the trail or mountain, without killing any sensation of what lies beneath your foot. For example, on the 230, I was running a loop that in summer is bone dry and can be run in the lightest of trail shoes, in fact a road shoe would be adequate.
If I’d used the same shoe on this run, i’d have been slipping and sliding like a cartoon villain on a banana skin and this is where the Powerflow+ came into its own. Trail shoe comfort, but with fell shoe grip. This could well be of benefit on longer fell races, recce runs, long runs, or for those that like a little more cushion. There is also a 2nd generation MET-PLATE for protection against all things sharp, jagged and generally painful.One area I wasn’t able to test out was the protection and the X-Talon 230 is built for war. Rather than a simple toe guard, the X-Talon has a rand which almost wraps round the entire shoe. It wants you to take the extreme route and challenge yourself. This one will have to wait till later in the year to test….What I can say is the toe box allows enough wiggle room, even with the body armour wrapping around your toes and it is supple enough that even with runners toe nails (those who suffer too, I feel your pain) they don’t create any hot spots or pain.As you would expect for a shoe aimed to take on open mountain and fell, disregarding the established path, the upper materials are designed to keep crap out and also feature a gusseted tongue. These materials are also designed to not absorb water. Now, they did take on some water, my feet were saturated by the end of 3 hours in melting snow, however, they didn’t get heavy and dried out much quicker than expected. Don’t go expecting them to bead like a waterproof jacket though. The laces are flat and tiny compared to some of the other models and they do require a little more manipulation to get the right fit straight out of the box. That said, once secured, they didn’t slip during the run and were as tight at the end. I can vouch the Met-Cradle and welded overlays held my foot firmly and was as happy come the end of the run as at the start for fit and comfort.All in all I was very pleased for my first 17 miles in inov-8’s new X-Talon 230, it had been worth the wait. The X-Talons were not put to the ultimate test or a trial by fire, but they stood up to everything that lay before them and left me wanting to take them to more extreme areas.
I’ll be posting a more comprehensive review taking into account wear, comfort and grip later this year once I get a chance to take the Talon’s on varied and steeper terrain.
For more information on the X-Talon 230 click HERE