A few weeks ago I kicked off Trail Trials with Travis Liles by reviewing the New Balance MT100/WT100. I’ll stick with the lightweight, minimalist theme by reviewing the Inov-8 X-Talon 212. (Per then annotation in the video, the shoe is pronounced “Cross Talon.”) In the following video review, I discuss all the major components of the X-Talon 212 before providing an overall take on the shoe.
If you prefer to read reviews rather than watch them, jump ahead for a text summary.
Inov-8 X-Talon 212 Review
Inov-8’s naming convention tells you a great deal about their shoes. The name is always the type of outsole followed by the weight. In accordance, this shoe features an X-Talon outsole and weighs in at a slight 212 grams. For you Americans, that’s less than 7.5 ounces for a US men’s size 9.
Outsole (and lack of rockplate)
This shoe, which is geared for cross country and fell running, features deep, aggressive lugs. Sticky rubber gives the X-Talon outsole even more traction that you’d expect from the lugs. The tradeoff of the soft rubber’s awesome traction is that it will wear down more quickly than harder, more endurance-focused outsoles that Inov-8 offers.
The entire outsole and shoe is extremely flexible. There’s no single resistance point that acts as a pivot point. A good deal of that flexibility comes from absence of a rockplate in the X-Talon 212. The outsole rubber is somewhat dense and provides a decent amount of push-through protection. For better and worse, you get a good feel for the trail.
Inov-8 denotes the level of cushioning in its various models by the number of arrows on the heel of the midsoles. The more arrows, the more cushioning. The X-Talon 212 has 2 out of 4 possible arrows, which is actually the lowest level of cushioning currently available in Inov-8 shoes and is intended for racing. However, for the minimal amount of weight, there is some cushioning. Be forewarned, the shoe is definitely not “mushy” or “pillowy” as you’d find in some road shoes.
The X-Talon 212 has a single density foam midsole all the way around the shoe. The black line on the outside of the midsole is purely cosmetic and does not represent a dual density midsole. This means that there is no posting and that the midsole is not designed for pronation control.
The entire shoe, including the heel, has a very low profile.
The upper is primarily a very tightly woven mesh. This allows the shoe to breathe pretty well, while allowing water to drain. On the flip side, the mesh is tight enough that it keeps out most dust and debris.
The tongue, while not overly padded, is very wide inside the shoe The sides of the tongue are not attached to the inside of the upper (i.e., it is not a gusseted tongue).
There is an minimal “suede-like” bumper all the way around the bottom of the upper. This appears to be there as much for blowup protection as for protecting your feet. There is an additional protective toe bumper.
As with many Inov-8 shoes, the X-Talon 212 includes a Met Cradle, webbing on the upper that locks down the foot behind the metatarsal heads. Unlike the New Balance MT100/WT100, this shoe is very stable.
The fit is narrow through the toe, but the tall toe box provides your toes with ample space. Again, the upper is very secure. I’ve not noticed my foot sliding around at all when bombing steep descents or on tight switchbacks.
There is no heel counter. There is no plastic and the heel is fully collapsible. However, a foam material and a suede-like overlay does provide some decent structure to the heel.
There is a removable insole. It is very thin and relatively flat, so it doesn’t provide a great deal of support. If there is too much volume in the X-Talon 212, you can use thicker Inov-8 insoles (or a second set of insoles) to fill some of that volume and provide a more snug fit.
It appears that the shoe will accept aftermarket insoles… even if that does go away from the idea of Inov-8 shoes, which is to let your foot do the work.
The Inov-8 X-Talon 212 is very lightweight and extremely grippy. It securely holds the foot in place on a very low platform. It’s a great shoe for going out there and going fast, although some ultrarunners use this model for all of their training and racing.
[Trail Goat Note: I tried this shoe a few times last spring and wish I still had a pair. The X-Talon 212 is SICK on rock and it hardly weighs a thing. Living outside Yosemite National Park and its granite domes, I itch for the day when I again have a pair of X-Talons and can rocket skyward with no fear of slipping and little to weigh me down!]
Call for Comments/Questions
If you’ve worn the shoe, let us know what you think in a comment. If you’ve got any questions, ask away and we’ll do our best to answer it.
[Video by Travis Liles, who also publishes RunTheUltras.com, with text adaptation by Bryon Powell.]
[Disclosure: The Amazon link in this article is part of an affiliate program that helps support iRunFar. Inov-8 did not provide the shoes used in this review, but did previously supply iRunFar with a pair.]