Inov-8 X-Talon 230 Review

The Inov-8 X-Talon 230 is the latest addition to the brand’s renowned range of fell running shoes.

I know lots of fell runners who choose X-Talons as their preferred race shoe; the aggressive grip, precise fit and light weight making them ideal for fast running over loose and wet terrain. I’ve had several pairs of X-Talon 212 in their various guises and use them for both racing and winter training –  so what’s different about the new X-Talon 230?

photo of Inov-8 X-Talon 230

Inov-8 X-Talon 230

Features:

The 230 model now features a different rubber compound on the sole with Sticky Grip rubber designed to give a better grip than on previous X-Talons. (Note this is not the Graphene rubber due to be released later this year). The sole unit is visually identical to that on the 212 with the familiar pattern of 8mm aggressive lugs but the sole now also contains a rock plate that gives underfoot protection from sharp stones, a handy feature if racing down loose rocky paths. The shoe uses the Powerflow+ midsole which is designed to give better shock absorption and energy return than on previous models.

photo of Inov-8 X-Talon soles

soles L – R 230, 225, 212, 212

The 230’s have a 6mm heel to toe drop as indicated by the two arrows on the heel unit, the same as the 212 version and come with Inov-8’s new width rating of 1 (1 being the tightest, 5 the widest) which replaces the previous “precision” and “standard” width measurements of the toe box.

photo of X-Talon 230 upper

heel and toes: 6mm drop

The uppers are water resistant with an all round rand and toe bumper offering good protection to the foot. They are also designed to accommodate the Inov-8 Gaiter which is useful for preventing the ingress of snow or small stones (e.g. if scree running).

Inov-8 X-Talon 230

protective rand for feet and toes

As the name suggests the 230’s are slightly heavier than the previous X-Talons which range from 190 to 225 grams, however this is still very light compared to many fell shoes.

On Test:

I’ve had the 230’s for a few weeks now and have had chance to test them in some pretty horrible winter conditions including snow, mud and on wet gritstone. My first thought on hearing about the rock plate was that they would have a rigid sole and although they aren’t as flexible as the 212 model they certainly aren’t stiff. They seem to have a little less twisting flexibility but front to back flexibility is still good. The uppers felt a little stiff at first and it seemed like the shoes needed a few wet runs to “bed in”.

photo showing Inov-8 X-Talon 230 flexibility

still flexible even with the rock plate

What I do find difficult to judge when testing shoes is grip; is it possible to gauge if the new Sticky Grip rubber is better than the previous version? Obviously it would be easier to compare different tread patterns in mud but what about identical tread patterns on wet rock? that’s a bit more subjective. So I decided to conduct a not so scientific test – running with different models on each foot!

photo comparing grip on Inov-8 X-Talon 230 vs 212

scientific comparison!

Whilst running I couldn’t tell for certain if one shoe offered better traction than the other so I tried a spot of easy “bouldering” on a wet slab of rock where I attempted to use first one foot then the other on the same “hold”. Other testing included hopping up and down on either foot on the same area of sloping rock. The bouldering test definitely felt like one shoe offered more grip.

photo of Inov-8 X-Talon 230 vs 212

comparing grip on steep wet rock

I tried left and right foot with both shoes in order to eliminate any imbalance in my balance / coordination etc. The result – the 230’s definitely felt stickier! However during the testing they still felt slippy on wet rock with green lichen so don’t buy these thinking that they will grip on ANY wet rock. Smooth wet limestone would still be a challenge for any shoe!

photo of runner wearing Inov-8 X-Talon 230

testing on greasy rock

See how I tested them in the video:

Verdict:

I don’t see the Inov-8 X-Talon 230 as a replacement for the existing X-Talon 212 which is still available. They offer a little more protection and thus are a little heavier and a little stiffer so might not be the shoe for the runner seeking a very light, low and responsive fell racing shoe. If that is you then the stripped down, speedy little brother the new X-Talon 210 is probably for you.

However if you want a lightweight shoe with excellent grip and some underfoot protection that is suitable for both training and racing then check out the X-Talon 230.

See link to Inov-8 website for more information about the new Inov-8 X-Talon 230

What are the best shoes for Fell Running?

One question that I'm often asked is "What are the best shoes for Fell Running?"  The answer is simple; "It depends..."

what are the best shoes for fell running?

what are the best shoes for fell running?

Ok, simple but not very helpful!  That's because there are a number of things to consider before making a purchase so you need to ask yourself a few questions.

What is the terrain like?
The term "Fell Running" covers a wide variety of terrain including rough mountains, steep grassy slopes and hard packed trails.  Different shoes will be suited to different types of terrain.

What will I use them for? 
Are they for for training or racing?  Your day to day trainer can afford to be a little bit heavier than your racing shoe where you might be concerned about saving weight. Likewise with grip; a steady run requires less grip than when you're going eyeballs out with your nearest rival breathing down your neck!

What's the weather like?
We know what the British climate is like and a firm, dry path can change into a quagmire after a week of heavy rain.  Shoes that were perfectly adequate one week can have you slip sliding away the next.

fell shoe grip comparison

different grips for different trips

Quite often a run or race will include several changes of terrain.  The Moelwyns fell race in Snowdonia starts and finishes with a long section of hard quarry track where road running shoes would be fine, however the seven miles in between involves steep, wet, grassy descents where a shoe with an aggressive grip is vital.  The 3 Peaks Race swaps between fell and road and runners have been known to change shoes for different sections.

Unfortunately there is no one shoe that is best suited to all types of terrain so you need to compromise.  A heavily studded shoe is not ideal for a hard, dry track but it will cope but a road or trail shoe with little tread won't cope with wet or muddy conditions.  If in doubt go with the worst scenario. (or mix your trail and fell shoes, one on each foot!)

trail and fell shoes

mixed terrain? you could always try this!

So it seems that you probably need more than one pair of shoes, in fact you could convince yourself that you require several.  Personally I classify the type of running I do into 3 categories with a type of shoe for each one:

Winter training and racing.
This requires a shoe with the most aggressive grip.  Weight is less of a concern.

Summer racing.
This still requires quite an aggressive tread but I look for something lighter in weight.

Summer training.
This requires less grip and weight is not as important.  It makes up the majority of my running so needs to be comfortable,

There are several shoe manufacturers to choose from.  The once ubiquitous Walsh is nowhere near as popular as it was although some runners still swear by it.  Inov-8 seem to have taken over as the leading brand and have a huge range of shoes to choose from. Salomon have also appeared on the market and have a range of models to suit different conditions.

Personally I use Inov-8 shoes for the majority of my training and racing.  The Mudclaw is my weapon of choice for winter running and racing, it's super aggressive sole is what I have found copes best with the Peak District bogs.

inov8 debris sock

Mudclaws for winter running

For most other races out of the winter season I opt for Inov-8 X Talons.  The 212 are a good lightweight shoe with an aggressive grip that work well in a range of conditions.  I find these too lightweight for day to day training so they are saved as my race shoes.

X Talons for summer racing

X Talons for summer racing

For the majority of my running I need a comfortable shoe that can cope with a mix of terrain and I am currently on my third pair of Roclites.  These are my favourite workhorses and have served me well for a number of years.  I used them for the Paddy Buckley Round as I needed a shoe that would cope with the mountainous terrain yet provide a reasonable amount of cushioning and comfort.  I liked them so much that I literally wore them until they fell off my feet!

inov-8 roclite

Roclites, my faithful workhorses - they didn't look like that for long!

If I could only have one pair of shoes it would be the Roclites, for me they are the best all rounder.

Much depends on personal preference and I do have other shoes including less aggressive trail shoes and even a pair of road shoes for the odd run from home.  However these are my top three:

Roclite, X Talon, Mudclaw

my top 3: Roclite, X Talon, Mudclaw

So the best shoes for fell running?  It depends on a number of things and you're most likely going to need more than one pair.  One thing I'm sure of; there's always room in the cupboard for another pair!

Note - I am not sponsored by Inov-8, this post is based on my experiences of shoes that I have purchased myself.

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