After the technical analysis (see here), it’s now time to put the X-Talon 200 through their paces.
I’ve had the opportunity to spend a fair amount of time in those shoes, including a training run, a winter obstacle race (Polar Hero) and a summer OCR (Battlefrog), so let me tell you what I think.
First, it’s important to mention that those are shoes for soft ground only, off the beaten trail; they are out of their depth on firm trails or asphalt.
I first went for a run on muddy trails, which turned snowy as I progressed in altitude. The X-Talon 200 excelled in those conditions. My feet stayed dry, no mud, snow or moisture got in. Protection was similar to the X-Talon 212 with better toe protection and a more “natural” foot strike thanks to the lower drop. Furthermore, the wider toebox Standard Fit provides more comfort compared with the 212’s Precision Fit and leaves a bit more room for thicker winter socks.
Compared to true minimalist trail shoes such as Merrell’s Trail Glove or inov-8’s Trailroc, you get less ground feel but also a lot more grip in difficult conditions, so check your priorities.
First test in race conditions during the Montreal Polar Hero in February: we sampled lots of different surfaces from deep snow to hard packed surfaces and everything in between, in addition to the obstacles of course. No real problem on the hard stuff other than a little “float” in direction changes, while grip on soft surfaces is unbeatable. I was a little afraid that the big lugs would lose traction on inclined walls, but inov-8’s rubber compensated with its flexibility = no problem. The combination of Standard Fit and the new lacing system allowed me enough room to wear two pairs of socks. As we spent lots of time with our feet covered in snow the front mesh eventually did let in moisture.
Time for the main test: Battlefrog Miami. Lots of water crossings, a fair amount of swimming, not too much mud, surfaces including asphalt, sand, dirt and grass: ideal testing conditions!
Water drainage was needed often during the race and I can report that it is excellent. Slightly less efficient but also letting in less debris than the Reebok All-Terrain Sprint, which uses even more water-repellant materials and features holes at the base of the upper. Coming out of the water, a few strides are enough for the X-Talon 200 to shed most of the water through the front of the shoe; you can actually see it work if you watch your feet while running. A few minutes later, the shoe is barely wet, and not much heavier than when starting the race.
A large part of the course involved mountain bike trails, quite firm but just soft enough to let the lugs do their thing. Grip is indeed surprising enough that at one point while expecting to slide slightly during a direction change, the shoe instead dug in so strong, I slightly twisted my ankle!
Comfort remained excellent, and there was no friction problems anywhere either, despite a 15km distance which I don’t often reach in training (I’m lazy). No problems on obstacles either, and not a hint of wear on the upper, despite lots of contact with ropes, nets, ladders and various wooden structures littered throughout course (I wish I could say the same about my skin). Only the outsole is starting to show signs of wear.
I have only one gripe: with thin summer socks and because of the grip, during quick direction changes I felt my foot move a little laterally, which I never felt with the 190 and their Precision Fit. Other than that, the 200s offer pretty flawless performance strait out of the box. If you’re the minimalist type and are looking for a shoe that shines in tough conditions with some extra room in the toebox, the inov-8’s X-Talon 200 should definitely be on your short list. As a bonus, they are easy to clean!
Overall score : 9/10
By: Sébastien David
Text revision: Adam Kwitko
To reach Sebastien on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sebdavidracing