Customer Reviews: Inov-8 Men's x-talon 212 Trail Running Shoe
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on July 2, 2012
Background: 47-yr old male rediscovering competitive running, after racing X-Country in high school, then road racing (10k to 10m distances, predominantly) thru mid-30s. General Fitness level: good for 25yr active Army soldier. Incorporating upper-body strength, cross-fit principles, road and trail running. Recently returned to road racing, and preparing for obstacle course race at 8 mile distance.
Previous shoes: Brooks/New Balance (road and trail shoes); currently ASICs for road use. Mid-foot striker; neutral/stability shoe; size 10.5 D.
Why I purchased these shoes: Was looking for a competitive shoe for obstacle course-type races involving mud and water obstacles. Needed a shoe that could shed mud, drain water well, and reduce weight. After research, settled on the x-talon 212 by INOV-8.
Assessment: I was concerned by the feedback in general from running blogs concerning transition from road-biased, cushioned shoes to a minimalist racing shoe with low rise. Out of the box, I noticed that the shoe had a narrow profile and felt tight across the top of the foot and in the toe box. Not a show-stopper but something to which I had to adjust. These shoes are also incredibly light weight. Based on runner's warnings regarding "minimalist" shoe impacts to calf muscles, I eased into these shoes with 4-mile runs on rocky, unpaved horse trails in a local state park, including stream crossings and mud holes. Aggressive tread pattern shed terrain well and I only experienced one episode of having a stone caught between the tread lugs. (A quick scuff of the shoe along the trail quickly shed that stone.) Shoes drained well transitioning out of streams. I did experience heightened aches to my calf muscles, particularly in my left leg. Due to a required Army physical fitness test, I switched back to my ASICs road shoes and during the running portion of that test on an improved running track, I experienced a Class I tear in my left calf muscle which sidelined me for two weeks. I think that the stress of running in these INOV-8 shoes may have set me up for the tear and would caution any runner - particularily someone in their 40's who has spent more time in road shoes - to take care to ease into these shoes and train smart. I'm not blaming the shoes... I just think I underestimated the amount of training required to transition to this minimalist-type shoe. Since the injury, I have rehab'd my calf muscle by running in ASICs Gel-Kayano 18s on the trail, but have also experimented with running in the INOV-8s on a treadmill to build up mileage and muscle resilience. So far, so good, and the treadmille is very forgiving to the aggressive treads.
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on March 19, 2013
I tried out a laundry list of shoes for some upcoming Spartan Races this summer: Salomon Speedcross 3, New Balance MT110, Merrell Trail Glove, and, finally, Inov8 X-talon 212s. The 212s have the right mix of what I'm looking for in a trail runner. Specifically, excellent grip on all types of off-road terrain (mud, packed dirt, loose dirt, snow), great drainage, durability and fit.

I am not a minimalist runner but I prefer a shoe with a bit of feel instead of some big hulking shoe with 2 inches of cushioning. I also want something light that won't weigh me down on long (and typically wet) trail runs. The 212s fit this to a tee. The shoe has both feel and a bit of cushion. It is a great for those who do not want a full-on minimalist shoe (as the Merrell Trail Gloves are) and don't want a big thick max cushioning shoe (like the Salomon Speedcross 3s). The shoes hug the foot for a solid fit which is ideal for wet trails where extra room means extra moisture and rubbing. I typically wear a size 11.5 running shoe and the 212s fit me just right. The first time you put them on you notice that they are a bit narrow but taking them on the trail you'll find that being narrow is an asset and not a hindrance. There is no place for water, mud or dirt to collect and there is no movement of your foot inside the shoe. Between the fit and weight you'll barely notice the shoes are even there! Plus I have found that the shoe is a bit more molded to my foot now after taking it out on some runs.

I've taken these shoes on two trail runs thus far for a total of 10.5 miles. I've run them through snow, ankle deep puddles, thick mud that would suck in a lesser shoe, packed dirt, and gravel. The 212s handled all conditions like a champ. The sole grips the ground in all conditions and is effective at releasing mud and dirt as you get through it. I never encountered a time where the sole was excessively clumped up with mud, the mud is shed quickly and effortlessly. Hose the shoes down at the end of the day and they clean up nicely.

As for drainage, I've noticed that the 212s are quite good at expelling water and mud. First off, a typical trail runner (think Adidas Kanadia) can soak up a good amount of water and running such shoes through ankle deep mud will leave them squishy and gross the rest of your run. Not so with the 212s. The shoes fit snug so there isn't much room for water or mud and the breathable upper allows wetness to pass through thus preventing the dreaded squishy running shoe syndrome.

Let me say this about the grip, recently on an uphill trail run my training partner wore a pair of Nike "trail" runners. Some parts of the trail still had snow and ice with a small sliver that was clear. My partner was lucky not to tear a hammy or fall off the cliff when he first tried to run over the snow and ice in his "trail" runners. After seeing him slip and slide a second time I told him to run on the inside where it was clear of snow and ice. Wearing the 212s I ran right through the snow and gripped into the ice with no problem whatsoever. The difference was night and day. We saw a few other folks sliding around or tiptoeing around the ice that day, thanks to the 212s I was not one of those people. Suffice to say, the shoes inspire confidence in all conditions.

I do have one CON to note. The tongue of the shoe is less than ideal. When you put the shoe on sometimes the tongue scrunches up toward the toes. It is mildly uncomfortable and is fixed within a few second but it seems like an oversight by inov8. Why not secure the tongue to the shoe itself? It likely would help keep out moisture too, no? This is not a huge issue but something that inov8 may want to address in future iterations of this shoe.

I know it sounds like I've been guzzling the inov8 x-talon 212 kool-aid but the fact is that I have found these to be excellent trail running shoes. Build quality is top notch and performance is excellent. If you plan on running a few Spartan Races, Tough Mudders, or any other mud race, the 212s are worth checking out.

100 MILE UPDATE: I ran two Spartan Sprints with the 212s as well as a number of training sessions. The 212s were great for the sprint races. Mud, hills, walls, and varied terrain were no match for the grip of these shoes. I have noticed that the extra feel the shoe allows also means that when you step on a jagged rock or other sharp object, you feel it through the shoe. Note that you need to be mindful of the terrain in these shoes otherwise twisted ankles can happen. It does make for cautious running but that is part of the trade off when you look for a shoe with more feel. There is a new version of the 212s that recently came out that has a new EVA midsole which should provide a more cushioned run. If I didn't already own my yellow/black 212s, I'd probably grab the new version with the extra bit of cushion. Still, these are great Spartan Race and mud run shoes. Easy to clean too (just throw'em in the washing machine and air dry).
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on September 25, 2012
I ran my first Spartan race this year, and it happened to be the Beast in VT. I used the x-talon 212's, and they worked incredibly well. I never lost traction, even in the most muddy and slippery of obstacles and they gave good support on down hill sprints and up hill climbs. I will be using these next year; I do not think there is a better lightweight minimal trail shoe.
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on March 14, 2013
I purchased these shoes specifically for my first Spartan Race in Atlanta, 2013. I already had a pair of the F-Light 195 for Kettle Bell/Crossfit type training. They are awesome too. I wanted a light shoe that would drain water well and not hold it. Also, wanted a aggressive tread. Thee F-light 195 required not break in and the X-talons fit just a little narrower. However, the were still awesome overall and I ran past people on muddy steep banks that were slipping everywhere. I scaled muddy obstacles like nothing. I felt like spiderman in these shoes and they are awesome for any kind of adventure race. I though I had destroyed them and and hosed them off thoroughly and they still look great. Going to practice with them and use them again next year. The entire Inov-8 line awesome and I strongly recommend their products. Very minimalist but constructed well and tough!!!
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on May 3, 2012
I wore these last month for a commercial Obstacle Course Race (OCR); one of those muddy ones, you know the type... and I was beyond satisfied! Even with the soles caked with mud, well, the entire shoe overflowing with it, I had tremendous traction. A quick heads up though, don't buy these with the intention of using them for trail running AND as a casual wearing shoe. They are definitely not the latter! They have a purpose, and it's apparently for climbing up the sides of mountains. The knobs on the bottom aren't overly aggressive (like sports cleats) and they definitely hold up to a beating. I'm sure they'll last well into the 100's of miles on the dirtiest, loosest of trails. I'm anxiously anticipating my next race knowing that my shoes won't let me down.
After the race I participated in, I hosed them down and washed them... good as new! No degradation, no loose stitching, not even any staining!
These are BY FAR the best heavy trail running shoe out there. Spend the extra $$ and go with the best. You couldn't possibly end up disappointed.
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on November 29, 2012
I was initially turned on to Inov-8 brand shoes by some buddies at my local CrossFit box. I started with a pair of F-Lite 230's for use in the gym/box/park workouts. I was so impressed by the F-Lite's that, when the time came to look for an offroad shoe for my upcoming Spartan Beast race (previously have run these obstacle/mud races in New Balance Minimus 10's), I opted to stick with Inov-8 and bought these X-Talon 212's. The fit and comfort is on par with my F-Lite's and the grip in the field due to them being cleated is outstanding. I've done a couple muddy training runs in them and the lugs clear immediately and the shoes stay light, even when wet and mud. Their first REAL test will come in a couple of weeks at the Spartan Beast but at this point I'm confident I won't be giving my feet much thought during the race. These seem to fit the bill for my needs.
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on April 29, 2012
I bought a pair about six months ago. Theyrr holding up well. Theyre my wear all the time shoes. So I bought another pair to have for when these wear out. But theyre to big. So I'm sending them back. Amazon said justail them back when you get a chamce. And they would credit me. Then I could order the next smaller size. I wear size 11us. But I need size 10 1/2 in these shoes I guess. I'd forgot that the first pair, the ones I've had for six months were to big too. But I didnt want to part with them at all. So I cooked them down in front of my heater over night. They were perfect the next morning. But for my new pair I want to get the right size. I hope tp mail them back tp Amazon next week. Chow.
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on December 17, 2012
You know that pair of shoes that has carried you through a lot of special miles, the shoes you were wearing on your most epic runs, the shoes that feel like a part of your body, the ones you don't like to think about throwing away someday? My X-Talons are that shoe.

Most of my running is on trails. I am fortunate to live in the Rocky Mountains so I have lots of trails available. The trails I run most frequently are the closest to my house. They include some brutal terrain like steep hillsides, rabbit trails winding through cactus-filled fields, large sandstone formations, rocky inclines, sticky mud when it rains, ice and snow in the winter... you get the idea. I use every bit of traction the X-talon has to offer. When you are jumping boulder-to-boulder on sandstone, you can't afford to slip. Similarly, running down steep hillsides with loose, rolling rocks requires a shoe that can take a beating while still offering reasonable protection for your feet.

On demanding terrain, the X-Talon takes the question marks out of "go a little faster?"... "push a little harder?"

From time to time, I lace up different shoes because I don't want my feet and legs to get too adapted to running in a particular shoe. (Lazy feet result in "overuse" injuries.) When I wear other shoes - all of them "minimalist" as I don't even own a pair of classic trainers any more - I have to be much more aware of the limitations of the shoe on my foot. With the X-Talon, I can be confident that next time I eat dirt it will by my fault, not the shoe's fault.

The X-Talon is my unstoppable go-to for anything other than roads, treadmill, or very-groomed trails. Even on groomed surfaces and pavement, the X-Talon is a fine shoe, but there are lots of good running shoes for tracks and neighborhoods that couldn't last a week on tough trails. I can't believe how good of condition my X-Talon's are still in.

The X-Talon is really in its element when you get away from the noise. For those runs, it's just me, some old running shorts, and this shoe. Maybe that's why I like this shoe so much: it's the only thing I would miss if I left it behind on a long, epic trail run... shorts notwithstanding, of course, but who thinks about their shorts when they run?
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on January 18, 2014
This arrived just before a huge winter storm. Its performance was excellent running in a snow storm and on snow, new and compacted, and mud. Despite what some of the reviews say, it's not that bad running in these on pavement and it's actually a good idea if said pavement is wet, slushy or frozen. I also love the snug fit. So 5 stars for that.
I bought this shoe for 2 main purposes: long distance running and orienteering. The product isn't ideal for these purposes: Firstly, sole is too thin. Running on gravel and stones might get painful in runs over 25k. Secondly, protection is poor. I'm not a rock kicker but you do get to kick a stone or two over the course of a 2-3 hours run, especially when orienteering off-trail. One unexpected collision with a stone or a root is enough to leave you with a black toe which I ALWAYS do. So I suggest considering these remarks vs. the settings in which you intend to train/compete. Good luck.
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on September 24, 2012
Have had these for a while. I mostly compete in competitive action shooting events (USPSA, IPSC, etc) where you need a high-traction running shoe. I can't complain on the construction or grip of these, but I will say that compared to most any other shoe you buy, its incredibly narrow. I typically wear a size 11 and in this shoe that fit fine length-wise (actually with some room to spare), but to wear them not only is tight on the sides but it compresses in my little toe into a very, very uncomfortable position. If I went up a size higher that might solve that but the increase in length would leave too much extra room front to back.

Overall, if you have very narrow feet its probably fine, but if your feet are even the slightest bit wider, I'd try a different shoe.
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