Inov-8 X-Talon 212 Review

Inov-8 logoA 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.

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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.

In this review, we’ll take a separate look at the X-Talon 212’s outsole, midsole, upper, and insole before wrapping up with a conclusion.

Inov-8 X-Talon 212
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 Conclusion
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!]

Bryon Powell Inov-8 X-Talon 212

iRunFar's Bryon Powell in Inov-8 X-Talon 212s atop one of Yosemite National Park's granite domes.

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, 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.]

Travis Liles

resides in Portland, Oregon where he is a husband, father, and a technical specialist for a software company. In his spare time, he is exploring his new home in the Pacific Northwest, getting more vertical but still not living in the thin air, while producing "Trail Trials with Travis Liles" video gear reviews for iRunFar.

There are 30 comments

  1. L3vi

    Hi Guys,

    I had my first ultra trail race 4 weeks ago, I decided to kick off with a new pair of X-Talon 212. I have read tons of reviews before I bought it. Actually I did not give a long break-in time. 3 long runs, a 24K 32K and a 40K. I was wearing toesocks with them.

    So the race was the Mourne way ultra marathon in Northern Ireland, 85K (52miles) with 2850m (approx.7000feet) elevation. Very technical trail, with a lot of loose rocks and slippery sand and roots, bushes with spikes … In the middle there was a part where the race was going without roads, just flags showed the way. Every 2-3 miles contained segments where the ground was wet underfoot or stream crossing. The down and uphills were not gradual, but steep.

    So as not doing another review, the shoes are perfect for me. I did not have any problems at all. It works together with your feet and the trail. Good ground contact, the sticky rubber sticks :D on slippery rocks.

    I did not have one blister.

    And suprisingly as I am not a big racer, and my preparation did not go well, I came 13th out of 58.

    All in all, absolutely satisfied with the X-talon, and would not chose other shoes for hard-packed trial race.

  2. Digger

    I have worn my X-Talons in training and racing on different kinds of trails with no problem.Other than the toe-box being a little narrow for me, I really like them. If they came in various widths, that would be great. I was happy just to find a pair up here in Canada.

    1. Digger

      I would also add that you shouldn't run with the X-talons too much right off the bat unless you are used to a shoe with a low heel profile. Break them in gradually,wear them around the house. The X-Talon can be very hard on your achilles if you aren't used to a low heel.

  3. Mike C

    I don't have experience with the X-talons, but I do a bit of running in the f-Lite 230. They are really good. Very similar to the New Balance T100, lower profile. Moral of the story, Inov8 is making some great products!

  4. Paul M

    Took them out for several training runs this past spring, including a day in Frozen Head Park, TN. About the only thing I don't care for is the non-gusseted tongue which lets in more debris, stones, etc. (Of course, with gaiters that'd be no problem, but I don't.) The lugs are high, almost like walking in rubbery cleats. But for the right trail they're great, light and grippy. The above review is accurate.

  5. dopesick

    Had these shoes for a few months now and they are pretty much amazing. Though what you have to remember is these shoes are designed for a sport that doesn't exist anywhere outside of the UK – fell running and that is where the excel. Here you need the low profile design and the very snug fitting upper. The grip is great in all but the muddiest of conditions when the mudclaw 270 just inspire more confidence when descending. All in great shoe for the right conditions – ie off trail, or very steep ascent/descent. Anything other than this and I'd be looking at f-lite 230/195 or Roc-lite 285 if you want a little more grip/protection.

  6. Mark Lundblad

    Hi Travis,

    Thanks for the excellent review, you really did your homework on the X-talon 212. I'd like to add that the arrow (cushioning) system will now be 1-4 arrows with 2 new arrivals this Fall. The X-talon 190 (6.7 oz) and the F-lite 195 (6.8 oz) both will be 1 arrow/3mm.

    Each arrow represents the difference in height between the heel and forefoot. 1-arrow = 3mm, 2-arrow = 6mm, 3 arrow = 9mm and 4-arrow is 12mm. As you reduce the level of cushioning you get closer to a natural running position and you obviously "feel" the trail a bit more. Thanks again for the great review!

    Both new 1-arrow shoes are being wear tested now by some on the runners on Team Inov-8 and so far nothing but positives.


    Mark Lundblad

    1. Travis

      Mark, thanks for the deeper explanation of the arrow system. I think that the geometry of a shoe is very important. The heel to forefoot drop is a measurement that I look for (or feel for if I can't find the actual number published) when trying out new trail shoes. To me a few MM up or down is the difference between stable running and a sprained ankle.

      Looking forward to seeing the 190's and 195's in action!

  7. Matt

    I have owned these shoes for a few months. I primarily train in them and and usually don't race with them for a couple of reasons: in the northeast the trails can get nasty and if you want to blast downhill over the loose rocks, roots and steep grades, these shoes don't offer the the ankle/foot support or puncture resistance you need. Also, not much in the way of cushioning, so the legs may get bitten if you are hammering. However, I love the grip and the barefoot feel for training. I am a forefoot/midfoot stiker on most terrain, so I busted them out for a single track 50k this weekend and they were stellar. The downhills were moderate and these shoes proved to be excellent at this distance. I love these shoes. I still won't race in them under 20 miles (fast races with technical terrain/footing). Stressed to many tendons hammering downhill.

    I purchased the NB MT100s to get around the x-talon flaws and truly dislike them. They are light, but nothing more. MT 100 are now my bang around shoes.

    1. dopesick

      Steep nasty trails with loose rock? Blasting down hill? These shoes were designed by fell runners for fell runners and you don't get much steeper, nastier or looser than the descent from scafell in in the borrowdale race

      As for ankle support this in my opinion just causes problems when descending at speed. And for what these shoes are designed for you don't want much cushioning.

      1. Mark Lundblad

        The Mudroc and Muclaw models with the bi-planar heel are actually more of a true "fell racing" type shoe but still can work well on our trails here in the US. The contoured heel is perfect for fast descending and turning/contouring. The X-talon while a fine fell racing shoe as well, is marketed as an off-road running shoe which can of course include many surfaces. It excels at XC and mountain type courses and so will the new X-talon 190. We have athletes on the team who have raced up to 100 miles in the X-talon 212, not for everybody for sure. Just like any shoe model some work well for certain foot types some don't. I personally have a higher volume foot so the X-talon fits like a glove and I don't have any issues descending in them.

        1. dopesick

          I'm sure there are applications for the talon in the U.S, and at the minute I too trail run in mine as everything else feels like bricks on my feet (until the 195 and 190 :). I was just questioning Matt's comments that the shoe isn't for the terrain in the northeast, and "if you want to blast downhill over the loose rocks, roots and steep grades, these shoes don’t offer the the ankle/foot support or puncture resistance you need" That is simply not true. As an Inov-8 sponsored athlete I'm sure you'll have either witness in person or seen footage of a certain Ian Holmes and others storming down the scariest descents at speeds that others simply can't comprehend. I have nothing but praise for this shoe, both in my own experiences and what I have seen others do in it including the infamous Bob Graham round. While Matt gives them the thumbs of for what he uses his for, I just don't agree with his comments about what they aren't suitable for. I'm just writing this as I hope his comments don't put anyone off buying a shoe that is pretty much the best thing on the market at present "if you want to blast downhill over the loose rocks, roots and steep grade."

          1. Matt

            No offense to the youbube poster, but while that terrain is as bad as it gets, and that runner is technically got his hands full, he aint hammering, due to the terrain. By hammering, i mean maintaining a very fast pace over the duration of the course lasting over 25k. That is far worse footing than what I am talking about. When I talk about support, it is more about the stiffness of the shoe and what is underfoot.

            Well, it is my opinion, but when you are running at a very fast clip down steep and nasty terrain, these shoes are just too minimal for me. I don't see many ballers wearing these at any technical races here in the northeast, including the four or so sponsored inov8ers, when it comes to tough terrain. I train with one of the sponsored runners and we have had this conversation and we agree. No harm intended by my post. Again, I love these shoes.

            1. Ben Nephew

              This is very interesting, and underscores how seemingly minor differences in terrain can make a big difference in shoe preference. I thought the same thing when I saw the video, that pace makes a big difference. The force of the impact between a sharp rock and the bottom of your shoe is much greater at 5 minute mile pace than 10 minute mile pace, or even 7 minute mile pace, and the rocky terrain in the northeast of the U.S. tends to be quite solid, which is rougher on the feet. I'll go out on a limb and say we probably have a few more roots as well.

              The mountain races in New England are probably more similar to Fell racing, than many northeastern trail races. The 212's are very popular at mountain races, which involve uneven footing, loose dirt, very steep uphills and downhills, tight turns, but few rocks or roots.

            2. dopesick

              No offense taken at all Matt, the video was just to show some very steep and very rocky terrain that gets regularly run down in Talons. I have no experience of trails in the northwest US or seen any footage or pictures of such. From what you describe they may be similar to the terrain found on the Kilsney race in Yorkshire. I guess the point I was trying to make is that the talon can be very good for that terrain for many people, maybe just not yourself. For many "ballers" as you put it (love that term) in the UK this is there go to shoe (unless your a Walsh person, the two tend not to mix!). Sorry if I have come across as argumentative.

              Just roll on 2011 with the Evo Skin, Road-X's and Bare Grip 200!!!!!!!

  8. Ben Nephew

    Hi Matt,

    I share your concerns with the puncture resistance of the 212's on the more rocky northeast trails. Other Inov-8 options for technical terrain are the F-lite 230's, the Mudroc 290's, and the Oroc 280's. The Oroc's have forefoot and heel plates to secure the low profile metal dobs, and these plates naturally provide substantial puncture resistance. The F-lites have a surprising amount of protection due to the outsole construction, and are road-style sole is excellent in anything but long stretches of mud, which I don't find that common at northeastern trail races. I do everything from road 5k's to XC workouts to trail marathons in the 230's. The 290's have almost as much puncture resistance as the Orocs without the metal dobs.

    I am one of the lucky Team Inov-8 members with a pair of X-talon 190's. Due to a different midsole material, they are actually more protective than the 212's despite the thinner midsole.

    Ben Nephew

  9. Dave

    I just ran the Leadville Marathon in the F-230s – which are good for the rocky, harder surfaces. Haven't tried the 212s – but from what I read, the 212s are better for "real" trails; the 230s are better for road-type surfaces.

  10. Adam Sullivan

    Thanks for the review! I'm thinking I need a new pair of shoes and am very unsure what to do. I was going to buy the X-Talon 190s which were supposed to first come out this week, but now that they won't be out until the fall (after all my big races) I'm trying to decide if I should buy these or just keep running in my current MT100s and wait for the 190s to come out.


  11. L3vi

    Well, I don't know what could be better 212s or 190s. 2arrrow vs 1arrow cushy feeling. But is that system true on the foreoot as well ? I mean if they will take out more material from the forefoot too, it is going to be brutal thin, even like this there are some (manageable)issues in the 212, in case of very rocky/stoney terrain, till now nothing went through, possibly won't, but the feet are working a lot, what is not bad though.

    212s are excelent, am cuorious about the 190s

    1. Ben Nephew

      The protection in the 212's and 190's is similar, and my opinion is that the 190's are a bit more protective. Although it's only 1 arrow, the midsole is made of a new material, similar to what is in the Recolites. This material seems to have more impact resistance. One key difference between the two shoes is the upper. The rand on the 212's is going to offer more protection to the sides of your feet. The mesh of the 190's makes for an upper that has almost a custom fit, and will be more forgiving to those with wider forefeet.

  12. Tobias

    I just acquired a pair of f-lite 230s and love the fit of them! Is the fit of the x-talons pretty much the same as that of the f-lites? I think I read somewhere that the x-talon 212x are basically f-lite 230s with a different tread.

    (I ask because I was struck by how different the fit of my f-lites is in comparison to my flyroc-310s.)


    1. Ben Nephew

      That's a good question. The X-talon 190's have basically the same fit as the 230's, rather than the 212's, due to similar uppers in the the 190's and 230's. The 212's have a more durable material on the upper which doesn't stretch as much as the mesh on the 230's and 190's.

      1. Tobias

        Ah, that's good to know, Ben. I'm sure the stretch-capacity of the material on the 230's is significant to their marvelous fit. I'll keep an eye out for the 190's when they're available. I probably won't be "allowed" to buy any more shoes until late this year anyway. ;-)

        Thanks for the response!

  13. MarkC

    This is an amazing shoe. There's no way a shoe this light, flimsy and packable should work, but it does. I've used it on a couple of mountain marathons in the UK, desert runs in the Joshua tree national park and round Mount Rainier in the Pacific Northwest. This may sound decadent, this is now the shoe I take on business trips. It packs down very light to fit in hand luggage, and is ideal for sneaking in the odd trail run. It does wear quickly, and I wish it didn't cost £80. Every time I look at them, I have no idea how they are as good as they are.

  14. Rory

    Hi Travis

    Have you had a look at the 190s yet? I am doing a trail race in the Yorkshire dales in 6 weeks and was thinking of trying them out. Thanks for a great review of the 212's

  15. Jermster

    Just thought I'd post from the UK and I'm used to a slightly more sloshy terrain than you lucky people in the US. For me the X-Talon came via a progression. Funny enough I went from the Mudroc 290 to the F-Lite 195, then decided I loved the flexibility of the latter but it just wasn't durable enough on the toe box for trail/rocky terrains where I live in the North East of England, Coastal, Hills and Woods. I've had to repair them more than once with blister gel plasters, super glue gel and an permanent black marker pen, don't does work! Of course in the UK nearly every day is wet so hense… buckets full of mud, which is fun! This is where you need the lugs of the Mudroc. Naturaly the X-Talon 212 came next on my list of Inov8 shoes, yet I still wish I had opted for the X-Talon 190 version for the fit and comfort. The 212 is tight on the toe box and you do squeeze into them like a glove. Once your in… perfect. Inov8 need to look againat the 190 and add a lite weight rubber compound for the protection of the toes that is durable to scuffs and scrapes, doesn't peel away with dampness over time and doesn't ruin the shoes asthetic appearance. Salomon's S-LAB sense is a good example of this so long as any changes do not increase the price tag on the shoe as Inov8 do tend to keep the runners wallet in mind.

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