In my search of the perfect replacement of the Roclite 243, I tested out the X-Talon 225. I have a pair of the original X-Talon 212 as well as the lightweight version the X-Talon 180, and although they are now retired they do come out every now and then for the odd jog around. The desgin of the the X-Talon is best suited to off-trail running and in particular in the mud. As result they are a polpular choice of shoe for orienteers! I remember 1 event looking around in the start box and seeing 15 out of the top 20 elites wearing them! The 225 version is a little more refined, a little heavier and I thought it may be a good shoe for trail races. That was partially the case and I found them best suited to grassy or muddy trails rather than hardpacked trails, probably because of the aggresive tread pattern. This is a good shoe for shorter races, the lightweight sole doesnt handle too long of a race but it was a perfect shoe for racing around in the wet muddy hills this winter.
Where to get in NZ: Various Outdoor Stores, see https://inov-8.co.nz/pages/stockists
Typical Retail price: $200
I got these shoes for the Luxmore Grunt, as a potential replacement for the Roclite 243. The thread pattern is slightly less aggressive than the original 212 but still has some big knobbles on it which give good grip in the mud. Unfortunately for the specific purpose of the Luxmore Grunt, which was largely on hard packed gravel they didn’t quite cut it. I had quite sore feet afterwards, with the thread creating pressure points in a few places on the sole.
It is probably already emerging that the thread pattern of these shoes is an important feature… So when I travelled to china with these shoes, I had a tough few lessons as I thought it was going to be largely off trail and turned out to mostly be on roads. The pattern which makes them so good for mud and wet grass is not so good on slipperly and well polished rock stairs, in fact it was almost like being on ice skates! Then a flat trail run turned out to be a half marathon on a road surface, the ultimate test! They had good grip on this surface, but cushioning was very minimal and although they were mostly comfortable I again had some sore spots on the soles of my feet from the thread.
Alas, I finally found the optimum terrain for these shoes this winter, and it turns out they are great for soft muddy and wet ground. The grip is perfect for these conditions and were perfect for running around the damp winter trails. Perfect for off road travel, and for park orienteering, probably not in the forest as they can be a bit slipperly on logs and rocks, but great for that sprint around the park.
The X-Talon 225 is built as a racing shoe and as such comes in the precision fit. I like this fit as it seems to fit me well, but everyone I talk too has a differing opinion on how there shoes fit to them! For the perfect terrain these shoes are great, super comfortable with the perfect grip. For terrain that is not as ideal as they could be they are not too bad. I was able to run a half marathon on the road in them with minimal damage to my feet, however on hard ground the stud like features of the thread do create pressure points on the sole of your foot.
As far a X-Talon shoes go these are the most robust version I have owned. The toe box has good covered protection and again the heal has a good solid base for anchoring your foot in place. The mesh upper does connect directly to the sole which on other Inov8 shoes tends to be a weak point. So far the upper mesh material has been fairly strong and has shown minimal signs of wear. Again Inov8 has used the plastic overmoulded reinforcing around the laces, but this time they have got it right, or at least better and more durable. The thread pattern has also lasted well, now worn down a bit but still very function in the mud.
These shoes arrived in a combination of red and black, which look good together. The colour scheme is simple and subtle, the ultimate combination for a racing shoe. They look and feel fast when you put them on and that is probably the most important feature for a racing shoe! The contour type stylisation of the heel material is again subtle but a nice touch to fit in with the off road racing feel. Going on looks alone these are one of my favorite looking Inov8 shoes.
For a specific racing shoe you can always expect to pay a little bit more. These are a little bit higher priced than you will get a Inov8 training shoe, coming in around $200. Compare this to a pair of racing flats for the road this actually seems pretty reasonable for what you get. Inov8 have also done some work to make this shoe a bit more robust, so there is a bit of a weigh increase as well, but I think you will get a longer life out of these X-Talons when compared to previous versions. I think these increases in the function and durability justify the cost being up around the $200 mark.