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Jack of all trades - master of mud, hills and obstacles

by Paul Hayward
Friday 7th August 2015
 
 

Product review: Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward has put the inov-8 X-TALON™ 200 through its paces

inov-8 X-TALON™ 200

The news that inov-8 were releasing a specific Obstacle Course Racing (“OCR”) shoe in the form of the X-Talon 200 (200s) onto the market at the beginning of 2015 was received to much fanfare. With a lot of competitors opting for the safety of the 212s, the support of the Mudclaws or the lightweight 190s; a specific OCR shoe was something to behold.

I will be honest with you - I originally wrote a review in April 2015 which confirmed the 200s were responsive, lightweight and drained water perfectly. They performed effortlessly through the mud and made hills enjoyable. My only concern? the colour scheme to be honest. But shortly before submitting I was hearing a lot of people stating the build was poor, their shoes were falling apart and could not take on the demands of an OCR.

This contradicted my initial thoughts and view that the 200s were a good piece of kit that could hack OCR. The answer? Subject the 200s to a full season of OCR, including some of the big name events, such as Tough Mudder (London South West) and Dirty Dozen USK, and some of the new bright lights in OCR, the Reaper and Ram Run, and even the hell that is the Suffering before reaching a view if they were still standing.

It was important to me to see if they could hack the season and not be thrown in the bin half way through. On the evidence of some quarters this was in doubt, so the test “was on” for the season.

Initial thoughts

When you get these out of the box, you cannot help but hate the colour scheme. Maybe I am showing my age, having been brought up on bright yellow and orange, but they just don’t aesthetically make me think “oooooh”.

But I do not look at my shoes whilst running so that is more an issue for me. The feel to the 200s is like a glove, and not too dissimilar to the 190s, they feel lightweight and nimble. They do not feel restrictive but supportive. Whilst the drop of 3mm is not what a number of people are accustomed to with the 212s, it still holds its own and provides more support than their lightweight brother.

On running your hand across the talons, the spikes across the bottom, you cannot help but be impressed by them with visions of them piercing the mud to keep you planted. They seem so aggressive compared to other shoes on the market but based on their heritage of the 212s and 190s, I was dying to see how these fared. Importantly, in a design taken from their Crossfit range, the shoe benefits from “ropetec” technology ensuring that you will be supported on OCR’s rope climb.

The 200s seemed to tick the boxes from the start.

Reaper & Ram Run

March Madness at the Reaper - Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Reaper and the Ram Run offered me very different challenges to test the 200s in. Firstly the Reaper (HERE) provided a non stop roller coaster of obstacles in short succession and varied terrain, from bogs to forest trails, that pushed me quite hard due to running at pace.

The 200s lapped up the challenge and provided me with resounding support through the mud as if I was planted to it, ensuring I could concentrate on my pace and not worry about my balance or grip through the varied terrain. The exuded confidence and I ran freely knowing I could push harder without holding back due to concerns about balance.

The Ram Run (HERE) provided mixed terrain with a host of water obstacles and bogs to surmont. I was concerned by the amount of water on offer and thought that this may be a real test for the “DWR” treated 200s and their ability to drain. I should not have been concerned as the 200s drained with ease and were not cumbersome or heavy allowing me to continue the race.

In both races the 200s performed and ensured that I was able to take the terrain and obstacles head on without fear.

Ram Run - January 10 & 11, 2015

Tough Mudder and Dirty Dozen

Tough Mudder - May 2-3, 2015

Regular readers will be aware of the challenge that both Tough Mudder London's South West (HERE) and Dirty Dozen Usk (HERE) offer in terms of terrain. In some cases the obstacles play a supporting role to the main feature - hills. Both races are littered with them, in Dirty Dozen Race’s case they seem to have forgotten to add any flat land, ensuring that competitors are pushed to the edge of their comfort zones without the need for a wall or a rope climb.

As I took on a mixture of steep gradients, through open ground and closed woodland, the 200s ensured I was stuck to the ground and I was able to climb the hills at pace without losing my footing or importantly my momentum. The 200s seemed to be spurred into life and asked to be pushed further and harder. Fortunately the descents gave you this opportunity and with my confidence spilling over, I could concentrate on catching competitors as I trusted my shoes to keep me safe and sound.

The 200s were more than a match for the terrain thrown at it and ensured that I could, unlike a number of the field, keep my balance and momentum when it counted and with the terrain changing the field - I felt competitive. 

Durability

On inspection of my 200s I was expecting, after reading stories of cracking or build quality, to see some form of damage. In the least I expected to see them falling apart. This has not reigned true and after washing the shoes off they look the same as they always have, albeit a little less shiny and more worn in, and they are still in one piece.

The criticism that I had heard about does not seemed to have materialised and instead these shoes have shown they can hack the demands of an OCR season. 

Overall

I held this review back on purpose in order to see what, if any, build issues there were. I can report that eight months on, with more than two OCRs a month, these shoes have stood the demands of OCR and more importantly performed. Yes they are going to get battered and be up against it, however they are still in one piece and I did not find the issues I expected.

The 200s offer the “trademark grip” that you have come accustomed to from inov-8 products, ensuring you are planted to the terrain, along with excellent drainage and support and it will take something special to lodge the 200s off the perch as the shoe to have.

Click here for more information on the 200s

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

About The Author

Paul Hayward

I am 33 years old and spend the majority of my life within an office environment. Whilst I played football, I never really took an interest in sport let alone athletics. In 2011 I joined a gym as I was slightly concerned about my weight. However I was, like an awful lot of my colleagues, coasting and I considered spinning three times a week a workout.
 
This changed when I took up a circuits class and found myself entering Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest London in November 2011. I was assured by my friends that this was a good idea and would be a “challenge”.
 
I had never entered any form of competitive event before and training for this run changed me. I listened to my personal trainer, who assured me that if I quit drink I could be dangerous, and sorted out my diet, stopped drinking so much and focussed my training. I completed the race in just over an hour and I was instantly bitten by the racing bug, I loved the challenge the event offered. 
 
Nearly two years on I have completed a half marathon in 1hour 49 minutes, came 6th in the Rat Race Horseplay 5k event and usually come within the top 30% at Obstacle Course races. I am also a part time triathlete and I am lucky to find myself in a running club where we have a great coach and the focus is on members. If I am honest - I came to running through these events and I am not alone.
 
My aim through Run 247 is to promote, discuss and publicise Obstacle Course racing. It is becoming huge and over the coming months we will cover all of the major races and the new competitors entering the scene. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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