The first thing I noticed about the Inov-8 X-Talon was how light they are; 213 grams to be precise. I also wondered how Inov-8 could make such an aggressive looking tread that light and whether or not it would hold up to the harsh realities of the trail.
The Inov-8 X-Talon are low cut, like a race shoe, in an inoffensive grey, black and orange colour-way. The uppers are mesh-like with the Inov-8 brand not very subtly printed on them. The lower part of the shoe is enclosed in a thin, but durable rand which reduces the amounts of seams and protects the normal wear points. The sole is soft and flexible thanks to the low profile midsole, which is similar to the F-Lite, but with great big sticky lugs (like the Mudrocs) to give a better grip and traction on all sorts of terrain. All though the sole is relatively soft I have not detected any wear, yet.
Fit and comfort
The Inov-8 X-Talon feel like a racing flat which is perfect for my style of running and they immediately feel like a pair of comfy slippers that do not need breaking in. This was a huge bonus because my very first run in them was the tough Viking Chase Four Peaks race over very steep rocky ground.
Inov-8 market the X-Talon as a unisex shoe (usually men’s trainers are a smaller fit than women’s) and so I bought them a whole size abovemy normal shoe. There is plenty of toe room to fend off black toe nails on the steep descents… which is not very attractive in strappy heels! The ankle padding is thick enough to make them snug and keeps out all the debris, but not too restrictive to give blisters.
Fit for purpose
The Inov-8 X-Talon are a narrow fit and I wondered why Inov-8 would purposely cut out a huge chunk of the market by making them on a narrow last. However, during a recent fell race I overshot a check point and tried cutting across a very dangerous steep and slippy descent hoping that I would get back on track. The shoes responded admirably and the side of the shoe took all the pressure as I dug in deep to keep me from free falling into oblivion. A wider fit could have burst under the pressure of my weight and if I had been lucky enough to escape hurtling down hill at suicidal speed then I surely would have suffered a catastrophic injury. Surprisingly these lightweight racers are very tough and the narrow fit gives superb control for the wearer. I felt no incessant sliding around within the narrow constrains of the shoe and did not suffer from lacerations or blisters.
The Inov-8 X-Talongrip mud, pebbles, loose scree, wet grass and huge slabs of wet rock with precision and I was able to brake and change direction easily even at speed. Any fell runner knows that you have to focus your mind on the potential hazards that lie ahead and you don’t want to spend time worrying whether your shoes will be responsive and have a reliable grip or not.
After several outings (races and reccies) the sole is wearing well, they are still very grippy and incredibly durable even after being in the washing machine (but don’t tell Inov-8). I have yet to try them in winter conditions, but I look forward to a lot more fun in them
They have admiring glances whenever I wear the Inov-8 X-Talon and there is a lot of interest in these super lightweight trail/fell shoes. Would I buy them again? I have already bought two further pairsjust incase Inov-8 suddenly decide to redesign them! I think that in itself speaks volumes and I recommend them without hesitation.
In case you missed it, you may want to take a look at Ransackers’ full Winter Trail Running Shoe Review.