As winter has been melting away in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and the mud is emerging, the Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 ($160) has risen to the top of the shoe pile, having proven to be a superb choice for muddy spring runs.
With an actual weight of 9.7 ounces (276 grams) for a men’s size 9 and an 8-millimeter drop, they look and feel sleeker than most of my running shoes while also providing a confidence-inspiring level of stability. Caution can be thrown to the wind in the Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 as you rip around on soft, slick, and hilly terrain.
I tested a women’s 9, and this model has proven to be true to size.
Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 Upper
I have been very impressed with the ballistic nylon used in the Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2’s upper. The material is resilient to the accumulation of mud and keeps your feet protected from moisture all while maintaining adequate breathability.
On a run with consistent rain and several intentional leaps into unusually large puddles, my socks were wet by the time we wrapped things up, however. Thus, the uppers are reasonably equipped to protect from moisture but not if you’re going to challenge them to an unreasonable degree.
Gore-Tex-coated trail shoes could likely better contend with rain, but they also make my feet hot. Having had no temperature control issues to speak of in the X-Talon Ultra 260 V2s is a nod to their breathability.
My least favorite aspect of the upper is the lace system. While I can appreciate the simplicity in the old-school style, the laces are stiff to adjust. Since the hard tip of one lace came off, rethreading through the eyelets is also a bit of a feat on that side.
Underneath the laces rests a remarkably low-profile, gusseted tongue. The tongue of the shoe is composed of similarly resilient material to that of the upper, which can make it slightly abrasive if not appropriately positioned. However, since becoming more attentive to getting the tongue situated, my chafing experience has not exceeded a count of one.
I’ve truly benefited from efforts made by Inov-8 to improve fit and create a locked-in feel. The fit and feel of the X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 reminds me of a past love affair I had with the Salomon Cross /Pro — here’s my 2020 Salomon Cross /Pro review. The shoe caters well to my narrow forefoot while preserving plenty of room in the toebox for toe splay and, in my case, rather unfortunate bunions.
I’ve historically been prone to overpronate; the structure of the upper has no doubt aided in providing a perfectly stable ride.
Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 Midsole
The midsole of the Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 is composed of POWERFLOW MAX cushioning, intended to result in a fast-feel shoe with adequate comfort for tough trails. Relatively new to this brand, I have been pleasantly surprised to experience precisely that. With a stack height of 16 millimeters at the heel and 8 millimeters at the forefoot, these keep you close to the ground while maintaining an 8-millimeter drop.
Inov-8’s website rates cushioning highest among the shoe’s various attributes, which I honestly found surprising. While the shoe is plenty comfortable, I don’t think the shoe has maximal cushioning. However, marketed as the perfect shoe for long runs over wet terrain, I gladly echo these claims after numerous two- to three-hour runs in them. I would trust the cushioning for longer efforts, but I haven’t had reason to exceed three-hour adventures yet this spring!
Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 Outsole
Designed to provide excellent grip while running soft, muddy trails, the Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 has given me extra motivation to head for the hills on the soggiest of days. My out-the-back-door mud is primarily decomposed granite, which drains relatively well and isn’t especially sticky.
On a particularly drippy morning where mud was in abundance, I was running jeep roads alongside a good pal wearing road shoes. While her road shoes haven’t been a bad choice on dry days, the contrast in our ability to stay upright that morning was obvious and really highlighted the benefit of Inov-8’s STICKYGRIP rubber and very deep 8-millimeter lugs in wet conditions. I find myself becoming much more cavalier with my foot placement in these shoes; no need to dodge the slippery spots when you just don’t slip.
To determine how well the X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 could handle quite possibly the worst mud in my region — that sticky, clay-rich kind of mud that can layer itself inches deep on the bottom of your shoes — I took them to contend with Roxy Ann Peak here in Medford, Oregon. After a morning of rain, the trails were in just the state of disarray I had hoped they might be.
I paint this picture to illustrate that as great as the X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 has been on my relatively respectable out-the-back-door mud, once the space between the lugs fills with clay, it’s game over. Clay is where even these mud-loving shoes draw the line. But I honestly can’t hold it against them, and I don’t mind drawing the line there either.
As advertised, snow and ice are not where the grip technology of this shoe shines. I wore these on a few climbs where I had anticipated mud but ran into snow and didn’t feel like the outsole provided much in the way of traction; stick with your traction devices and screws for snow and ice!
Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 Overall Impressions
I have loved having the Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 as my go-to spring trail shoe.
I think of memorably muddy experiences in places like Wyoming, Minnesota, and Washington state, and I wonder just how much time could have been shaved off my slip-and-slide adventures had I been equipped with a similar degree of traction.
Muddy terrain and a fast feel sound like mutually exclusive circumstances. To be fair, while I may or may not actually be fast, if I can feel fast and nimble, I’m sold. For whatever your muddy season might be, confidently embrace it with the Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2.
Call for Comments
- Are you running in the Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2? What do you think of the shoe overall, as well as its specific features?
- What are your thoughts on its outsole, and in what conditions has it worked best for you?
- If you’ve been with this shoe since its original version, what do you think of the updates in this version two?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]
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