Inov-8's X-Talon 225 blows away the competition with a unique perspective on the traditional trail running shoe design. Instead of minimizing the elements of a typical trail trainer - the rough outsole and grippy spike-like designs - the X-Talon 225 goes whole-hog on the idea and give you flexible cleats while still delivering a lighter shoe that comes in at only 8.9oz on a Men's US size 11.
inov-8 X-Talon 225 Review
Cons: Limited use, tight-fitting, may be expensive for some
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The inov-8 X-Talon 225 delivers a lot of shoe in a small package. The Precision Fit design, mud-resistant DUAL-C material and X-Talon outsole all come together to provide a superior trail shoe that shines above its competitors. It's an innovative stab at the barefoot category, but with the same drop as the Minimus 10v1 and comparable weight to nearly every other shoe in the review, it's definitely minimalist.
While these shoes are designed exclusively for trails, we tested them out on flat hard surface runs and around the gym for good measure. They shine like the sun on trails, but that's where they should stay. The New Balance Minimus 10v1 just can't touch the way this shoe handles mud on trails. The mixture of lightweight, minimal drop — only 4mm — and the X-Talon outsole make them a fair trail shoe, but they suffer in other areas that make them less than ideal for anything but the muddiest trails. Whereas the Trail Glove 4 kills it on most trails and smooth surfaces.
Unsurprisingly, these are sub-par barefoot shoes, but inov-8 seems to know that they were aiming an exact shot with this model. The New Balance 10v1 and Merrell Trail Glove 4 are far more realistic compromises for trail runners seeking out a minimalist barefoot shoe. However, at just 8.9oz and with only a 4mm difference between the heel and toe, they still fall within the acceptable idea of what a barefoot shoe should have.
We like what inov-8 is going for with its Precision Fit shoe design. On a US Size 11 shoe, they appear impossibly small for a US Size 11 foot. But, the Precision Fit does not lie, it fits with glove-like precision and still leaves a good bit of room for your toes. With that in mind, we find runners tend to either love a tight, glove-like fit or prefer a little wiggle and expansion, like the Stealth 2 offers, to take into account heat from repeated strikes or the hot ground effect. For a great, tight fit, there's also the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite or the Minimus 10v1 Some users complain about the size, and it is right there in the name "Precision Fit," but a size 11 fit perfectly.
The spike-like rubber cleats that ostensibly are designed for muddier or sandy terrain do reasonably well on rocks and hard-slabs on mixed trails, but we found that they skid and slide a bit on stone slabs, especially if they are angled or wet. Keep that in mind when picking the trails you do. The Minimus 10v1 had decent traction, but can't compete in mud. The inov-8 X-Talon 225 is marketed for soft mud and sand and we think you should take them at their word as we found some of our runners experienced some scary slides when tackling a mixed trail that offered mud, grass, water and stone slabs. If you want a trail shoe without scary slides, we had better success with the Trail Glove 4, even though it couldn't handle sand and mud as well.
The reinforced toe box is excellent on descents and holds up well to the kind of trail debris that typically tears less well-made shoes to shreds. We wished the Minimus 10v1 or Trail Glove 4 had a sturdier toe box like this. These do slog up a bit when crossing streams or on rainier wetter runs. The pictures tell the story of what the weather was like during this review portion, and we got a good view of how all these shoes handled water. The lightweight mesh upper and synthetic tongue are tough while maintaining an impressive amount of breathability. After dozens of miles, besides a little bit of caked mud, these shoes are still like new, and any runner can expect to get hundreds of miles out of these.
The inov-8 X-Talon 225 absolutely kills it on the trails and if you are seeking a lightweight trail shoe with a little bit of drop, but not a lot of unnecessary padding and cushioning, then these are the perfect shoes for you.
At $120, these deliver exactly what the consumer has come to expect in a trail shoe. It's a great price for a highly durable shoe that offers a superior trail design. But $120 is probably the upper limit of what a fair shoe should be that is limited to only being used on the trail.
This is simply the best trail shoe for the toughest trails in our review, hands down. It's lightweight, breathable, protects your toes from trail debris and will not get bogged down in muddy or sandy terrain. It blends minimalism and traditional designs into an excellent trail trainer.
— Thomas King