In the ten years or so that I have been running competitively I have always aimed, like many others, to use winter cross country races as ‘training runs’ and a springboard into the mountain/trail running season. Sadly I usually last, on average, two cross country races a season. The reason? I not only found them to be boring but also bloody hard work. The other reason? I hated wearing spikes. Until this year I had never really considered wearing running anything other than spikes as that is considered ‘the norm’ for cross country races, right? Wrong.
The main reasons I dislike wearing spikes is the feedback that comes through your foot whenever you hit ground that doesn’t accommodate the full depth of a spike or when you hit a big rock hidden beneath the muddy surface. I find hard ground to be incredibly uncomfortable, particularly when cross-country races often have track or road crossings, or even stretches of path. Not only this, but as I never trained in spikes (just pulled them out the garage for each race) I found that because they had a lower profile than most of my shoes I would often be left with tight calf muscles after a race.
This winter my approach to training has been slightly different. My training has been more focused and structured with a long-term goal in mind. Races have been planned, hours have been put in and cross country races have been used as part of the training. Things have been going well and I have been running strongly. When the first cross country race cropped up back in October I decided to run in my inov-8 X-TALON 190s.
What is not to like about the X-TALON 190? They are super-light, flexible, fit well as well as release mud and drain water quickly. They may not have 4×1″ metal spikes on the bottom but they have a whole sole-full of grippy, flexible rubber studs. It doesn’t matter how or where you plant your foot in the X-TALON 190, the grip is always amazing and the ride super-comfortable.
I have run in six cross country races this winter. I have seen a mixture of course conditions, including very long grass, short grass with frozen mud, wet and sloppy mud and heavy going clay mud. I have not, however, run in any conditions where the X-TALON 190 has not performed fantastically well. Having won two of the races and been on the podium in the others four, I would say they are not holding me back!
At each and every event I’ve wondered how the shoe would perform and looked around at my rivals in their spikes, thinking ‘what if they have an advantage?’ But each and every time I have run with full confidence in the shoe and not once did I have any concerns about grip. The spikes, it’s fair to say, will be staying in the garage!