Think of inov-8 and more often than not you think of the X-TALON. In the 10 years since its inception, this iconic off-road running shoe has become a global success story. Run on soft ground trails in the UK, the USA or anywhere else in the world and you will no doubt see the distinctive stud pattern of the X-TALON, left behind by the runner ahead of you.
With its lightweight, flexible upper and aggressive rubber studs, the X-TALON has propelled mountain runners, fell runners, trail runners, orienteers and obstacle course racers to multiple world championship wins and course records over the last decade. But where did the X-TALON story start? For that you need to go back to 2008 and discussions held between inov-8 founder Wayne Edy and the brand’s first-ever retailer, Pete Bland Sports, based out of Kendal, Lake District (UK).
At that time inov-8 was five years old and, thanks to the success of innovative shoes like the MUDCLAW and ROCLITE, was making a big name for itself in the world of off-road running. Realizing that there was a need amongst elite runners – particularly those competing over fells and mountains – for a super lightweight, aggressively-soled shoe that could go ‘cross country’ (meaning it could tackle multiple terrains, and not just mud) Wayne and design manager, Graham Jordison, got to work.
Grip like the claws on a bird of prey
With the help of the knowledgeable team at Pete Bland Sports, they designed the original X-TALON 212, weighing just 212g. The X in the name represented the word ‘cross’ and is still pronounced as such (although many people say ‘ex’), while the word ‘talon’ was chosen to define the grip – like that of a talon, the claw on a bird of prey.
The shoe, with a 6mm drop (heel to toe differential), precise fit and EVA midsole, felt insanely fast and agile, while the soft sticky rubber outsole featuring 8mm deep studs propelled inov-8’s reputation as grip-masters to the next level.
Graham recalls: “The X-TALON 212 has always embodied the very DNA of the brand – the function, the lightness, the low profile sole unit and the fully randed upper that provides durability and protection. We worked really hard on the X-TALON 212, listening to feedback and addressing issues raised on previous shoes to take things to the next level. It has been a big success story.”
Multiple industry and running press awards stacked up alongside the high-profile race wins, before Wayne and Graham decided to build on the success of the X-TALON by designing an even lighter version. And so the X-TALON 190 was born, hitting retail shelves worldwide in 2010.
The 190 weighed just 190g and had a 3mm drop, bringing the foot closer to the ground for an even faster feel, while offering underfoot comfort courtesy of an injected EVA midsole.
Featuring the same outstanding soft sticky rubber outsole as the 212, the 190 was an out-and-out race shoe and quickly became a firm favourite amongst elite runners seeking a minimalist option. Not only did it prove a winner over the soft ground of the UK fells, it also helped athletes smash records over hard-packed mountains and trails across the world. As the sport of obstacle course racing began to blossom, many of the elite also adopted this as their shoe of choice.
The big X-TALON redesign
Those two original shoes remained in the range until 2013 when the X-TALON underwent a redesign. If there had been a flaw in the originals it was in the durability of the shoe upper, particularly the 190. This was addressed in the new X-TALON 212 and 190 shoes, which utilized stronger, more resilient upper materials, while retaining the same stud pattern on the outsole.
The new-look 212, now with an injected EVA midsole, and a more protective feel than the original, quickly pulled in several stellar reviews. Just a year later it was on the feet of the first runner across the line at the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships.
And it was because of that success in what was now the booming sport of obstacle course racing that the decision was made to design a new X-TALON that would meet the needs – although not exclusively – of OCR competitors. The X-TALON 200 again featured the same X-TALON stud pattern but was a wider-fitting shoe that allowed the toes extra room and comfort. It also included toe bumper protection to help on obstacles and an upper material that allowed water to escape the shoe faster. At the same time inov-8 also offered the 212 in a wider fit.
The X-TALON 200 has since undergone design changes and now, in its current guise, has a proven durable upper combined with a 3mm drop and soft sticky rubber outsole. It is the only wider-fitting X-TALON option in the family and is popular with off-road runners as well as those tackling obstacles.
In 2016, the new X-TALON 225 joined the X-TALON franchise and spiced things up for two years. It was the first time inov-8 designers had changed the rubber outsole on a X-TALON shoe, using a DUAL-C compound (a mix of medium and hard sticky rubbers instead of soft sticky rubber). This gave the 225 extra bite in mud and softer ground (similar to the MUDCLAW) but also a firmer ride. There are many fans of this shoe, which remains available to buy at retailers.
And so that brings us to the present day where there are four options in the Spring/Summer 2018 X-TALON range. The X-TALON 212 and X-TALON 200 (as already mentioned above), plus the X-TALON 230 and X-TALON 210, both of which are new. The 230 and 210 are the first-ever running shoes to feature new STICKYGRIP rubber technology on the outsoles, which otherwise remain the same as the original X-TALON 212 from 10 years ago.
The 230 includes a flexible rock plate for increased protection underfoot and POWERFLOW+ midsole technology, which not only acts to soften your landing but retains vital energy that it then uses to help spring you forward into the your next running stride. If you like the 212 but seek even better grip on all types of off-road terrain and a little more protection, this is the shoe for you.
The 210 is 20g lighter than the 230 and feels very much like the original X-TALON 190 – and by that we mean very fast, very flexible and, of course, very grippy. Read more about the new X-TALON 230 and 210 – two new additions that are helping inov-8 celebrate a decade of X-TALON success in true innovative style.