Top positive review
15 people found this helpful
Best grip out there
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).