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inov-8 - X-Talon 190

posted Aug 26, 2014, 12:44 AM by GoOut Project   [ updated Sep 3, 2014, 11:46 AM ]

The lightest "off trail" running shoes that inov-8 offers in its 2014 collection are the X-Talon 190. With only 190 g (per shoe) these are probably also one of the lightest off-road running shoes in the world! We couldn't resist... we had to put our feet in such a "record shoe"!

Technical Description

The X-Talon 190 are ultra-light trail running shoes (or, as inov-8 define them, "off-trail" shoes) designed for "natural" running on very soft and loose terrains. Sticking out of the sole there are 43, almost 1 cm long "claws", that sink deeply into any kind of soft and loose terrain. The upper is made ​​of a lightweight, yet durable mesh with a 3D pattern. Two slender rubber panels, branching in 5 arms on each side, extend from the sole to the eyelets, providing some additional lateral support to the feet. The tip has a very thin rubber coating to protect from abrasion.

META-FLEX: more flexible front area of the sole to allow a more natural movement 
FASCIA BAND: technology that replicates the function of the plantar ligaments
ROPETECH: plastic inserts on the central part of the sole that provide better grip in rope climbing 

Upper: synthetic Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) mesh with Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment. 
Type of fit: "Precision Fit" - the width of the shoe is reduced by a few mm compared to the standard, for a more precise fit of the foot and reduced internal movements. 
Foot bed: 3 mm 
Thickness toe/heel: 6 mm/9 mm 
Drop: 3 mm 
Sole: Sticky rubber X-Talon

Weight: 190 g per shoe (UK size 8)

The X-Talon 190 is the lighter, simplified, and more minimalistic
 version of the famous, award-winning X-Talon 212 (see also our test). Even if the 190 derive from the 212 model, the entire structure of the upper is different, making the new, lighter model totally different from its predecessor. The thick protecting material around the edge of the shoe has been eliminated, the mesh of the upper has been made much thinner, and the lacing and stabilisation systems minimised. The drop of the sole is reduced from 6 to 3 mm and the weight dropped from 212 to 190 g per shoe.

Our Test

We used the X-Talon 190 for trail running for approximately 150 km during three months between spring and summer. We ran for about 90% of the time on soft and loose terrains (mud, grass, sand, gravel) and the remaining 10% on more compact ones (rock or dry and compact ground). We used them mainly in sunny conditions, often after rainfalls, and temperatures between 15 and 30 °C. We have also tested them for a few short hikes.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Hey runner, if you expect to experience with the 
 the same feelings you experience when you wear any other trail running shoes, sorry, but you're on the wrong track! If you've never heard about inov-8 and their philosophy in designing shoes for natural running, you may want to read their  "Guide to transition",  in order to fully understand the concept behind these shoes and our test (see also our previous tests of the Trailroc).

First Impressions
When you hold the X-Talon 190 in your hand for the first time it's hard to believe that you can really run off road in those shoes. They weighs like a pair of thongs!!! However, the more you look at them the more you understand the crazy minimalistic idea from which they were born. When you put them on, they fit perfectly and wrap around your feet like a sock: perfect, smooth, accurate... and the feeling you have is that of wearing only a rubber sole with some claws.

The X-Talon 190 is most probably one of the lightest "off-road" running shoe in existence: 190 g is close to the typical weight of a racing shoe! Running with them is an experience that everyone should do at least once, forgetting about all the "technical principles"
and all preconceptions. They are so light that you don't even notice them on your feet!

The tread of the sole leaves no doubt: the X-Talon stick to the ground like the claws of a hawk in the flesh of the prey! The spikes sink in any soft or loose ground and, obviously, the traction is amazing on those terrains. On dirt, mud, sand, gravel, and grass you couldn't wish for a better sole. Both uphill and downhill they provide a grip that's beyond any expectations, thanks also to the well chosen rubber compound. At first, since you cannot imagining such a response, you tend to be cautious, but when you discover to which extent they actually grip, you release the brake and you start running up and down the slopes without any worries! Only on some of the smoother, wet rocks sometimes we noticed some loss of grip.

The X-Talon 190 stick to your feet, especially the slimmer ones, in an excellent way, particularly on the central part of the foot. This gives a good overall feeling with the shoes. However, they are also quite minimalistic shoes, on which comfort is somehow put into the
background in favour of performance: tongue, insole, and cushioning are cut to the bone. They also lack the typical protections used on off-road running shoes, such as rubber tips, semirigid impact-protection systems, and heel-support structures. This is something to take into account when choosing these radical shoes.

Flexibility & Responsiveness
The sole of the X-Talon is soft and flexible over its entire length and the META-FLEX system adds even more freedom to flex the toes. In addition, thanks to the quite thin, minimalistic upper, which is free of thick support structures, the sole is also free to flex almost without constraints. The sole is slightly stiffer only around the central area, probably a technical solution to better support the arch. Overall the flexure of the foot inside the footbed is quite natural. The sole doesn't have a very high degree of reactivity and much of the work will have to be done by your tendons and muscles.

If you think that a 9mm-sole is not enough, well... maybe it's better if
you look for another pair of shoes! If you are experienced with natural running you'll find that the degree of cushioning is generally more than enough. You must also consider that you will mostly use these shoes on soft terrains and that the rubber compound that makes up the sole and cleats is very soft.

The lack of strong support structures hamper a bit the lateral stability, as it's often the case on minimalistic running shoes. However, the combined action of the tapered upper and the good lacing system wraps the foot very well and keeps it well bound to the sole, therefore compensating, at least in part, the lack of support. 

Protection from the Elements
The X-Talon 190 are not much more than a thin mesh around your feet. Even if the upper has some water repellent treatment (DWR) and a thin rubber layer protecting the tip, they cannot do much to keep water, sand, wind, and dust out. The tongue is also detached from the upper, unlike most trail running shoes, where it is instead common to see it sewn to the upper in order to avoid the intrusion of dust and debris. The collar is also very low, therefore mud may get in
quite easily. We recommend some appropriate gaiters (e.g. inov-8 gaiters).

Excellent! The same thin mesh that provides only limited protection from the elements, allows instead a good air exchange with the outside environment. When running with the X-Talon 190, you rarely sweat much. Of course, it is advisable to always wear socks with adequate breathability, in order not to vanish the good work done by the shoes.

The compound of the sole is very soft, which makes it more comfortable, but less resistant to abrasion. However, the X-Talon are designed for use on soft ground, where abrasion is generally minimal. So, if properly used, they last more than what you would expect. Even if thick protections are lacking, the upper has a good resistance to tearing and abrasion. Unfortunately, the lack of support structures make the whole shoe more susceptible to
softening. Therefore, the shoes tend to lose their original shape, their excellent fit, and their precision with the use.

Obviously they are not the most suitable shoes to run the New York Marathon! Not because they wouldn't be comfortable on the road (the cleats are very soft and flexible and do not press under your feet), but because the cleats, although very durable, would wear out quickly. To get the maximum performance and life from the X-Talon is advisable to use them, as much as possible, on soft terrains. We have found them excellent for workouts on the beach, for example! We tried them also for some hiking and for a light and fast use on the trails they offer the advantage of being very comfortable and always well anchored to the ground, allowing you to be faster even on steep and wet terrains. Again, also for hiking the only limit is the wear of the cleats on harder terrains (especially on rocks).

Our Verdict

The X-Talon 190 are extremely minimalistic off-road running shoes designed for those who can do without all the superfluous and who count every gram they are wearing. You have to approach them with an "open mind" and you have to be experienced with "natural running" to appreciate them to the fullest. On mud, sand, grass, and any soft terrain they deliver the best performances, especially up and downhill. They are the perfect choice for a Sky Running race, where coming in second is not an option. If you're looking for traction where you wouldn't even think you could walk, the X-Talon are the right shoes for you!

+ Lightweight
+ Excellent traction on soft and loose grounds
+ Good breathability

- Limited protection against impacts
- Poor protection from the elements
- The upper tends to soften and deform

 Lightness  10/10
 Grip    9/10
 Comfort    7/10
 Protection from the Elements   6/10
 Breathability  10/10
 Flexibility and Responsiveness     7/10
 Cushioning    8/10
 Stability    6/10
 Versatility    5/10
 Durability    7/10
 Total Score  7.5/10