inov-8 is relatively unknown to the general public, but its products have long been favorites of the CrossFit and fell/trail running crowds. Their X-Talon range is at home on obstacle course race start lines.
We’ve been anxiously awaiting the family’s newborn for a few months now; let’s see if the X-Talon 200 lives up to the hype. Slotting right in the middle of the existing range, inov-8 tells us this new model has been specifically designed for OCR. Jonathan Albon, Spartan and OCRWC champion participated in the process.
Inov-8 isn’t the first brand to come out with a shoe aimed at the booming OCR market, Reebok did it a year ago with mixed success. Water and muck drainage was excellent, as was the grip, but the upper tended to wear prematurely. Fit was too narrow for many feet, especially for long distances, and I never found the “obstacle grip” feature in the middle of the sole to be convincing.
Against expectations, no OCR-specific gimmick is to be found on the X-Talon 200. When you think about it though, what difference is there between OCR and fell running when it comes to shoe specifications? The needs are identical: excellent water and mud extraction (which will always end up making its way in), materials that soak up as little water as possible, an aggressively lugged outsole, highly abrasion-resistant upper and laces which hold firm.
Caracteristics: The X-Talon 200 retains the main characteristics of the X-Talon family: minimalist design (220g, 3mm drop) and talon-like grip on soft ground (the outsole is exactly the same on all X-Talon, despite the so-called “Rope-Tec” announced by inov-8). A few interesting innovations are added, however:
Upper material: the upper is now an interesting mix of a strong material, similar to that of the X-Talon 212 on the majority of the shoe and a looser mesh material, akin to the 190’s, on the toebox upper; the best of both worlds. The front is flexible and sheds water quickly and the rest of the shoe offers better support and abrasion resistance against ropes, rocks, branches.
Toe protection: the toebox is covered with rubber applied in three distinct layers. This seems to offer better protection for our sensitive toes, often first in the line of fire when coming across rocks, stumps and other nuisances; they were completely left to fend for themselves in the 190 and to a lesser extent the 212. We’re not talking steel toecap here but for a minimalist shoe, it’s excellent and it also seems to provide a better surface for the tip of the outsole to stick to, something that has sometimes been lacking on previous versions of the 190 and 212.
« Standard Fit » : the shoe has a wider shape especially at the front than other “Precision Fit” X-Talon shoes. I have relatively wide feet and I appreciate the extra room for them to splay out especially during longer races when feet tend to swell and during steep descents. The X-Talon 212 is indeed slightly tighter in front, although I’ve never felt it to be a problem on the 190 due to its more flexible upper but more width in front is always welcome.
Lacing : this is a point where the 200 really differ from their X-Talon counterparts. First, instead of standard holes in the upper, laces go through textile loops. This allows for more flexibility and even some more exotic lacing techniques.
Second, on the upper part of the tongue, plastic retainers “lock” the laces and maintain the tongue in place which prevents the laces from loosening. The tongue is also held centered inside the shoe with elastic bands: it isn’t going anywhere! Finally, inov-8 is generous enough to provide laces long enough to use all lacing anchors and double knot them.
Now that we’ve taken a detailed look at the shoe, check out my race review here.
By: Sébastien David
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