Inov-8 X-Talon 200 Review: A Trail & Fell Runners Perspective

Inov-8 are a big deal in Obstacle Course Racing and 2015 has seen them release the X-Talon 200 which is their first shoe aimed specifically at this market. I’m no OCR runner so before getting into the review I should first explain a bit of background into my motivation for wanting to give them a try.

I test more Inov-8 and Salomon shoes than other brands because they are light, low, nimble and grippy which makes them a great match for UK conditions and you probably see more of them on our muddy footpaths and mountainsides than just about anything else.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews of Inov-8 shoes you may have noticed a common theme that I tend to love their stability, flexibility and outsole designs but find them lagging behind Salomon a little in the fit department. For quite a while now, I’ve found myself wishing that someone would release a shoe that could blend together the best qualities of both of brands.

When I first saw pictures of the X-Talon 200 last year I was intrigued by the upper which is quite a departure from Inov-8’s other models featuring new welded overlays, two types of mesh and a plastic toe bumper. Whilst they are undoubtedly a unique Inov-8 design, there are hints of influences from the Salomon S-Lab line and this made me curious to find out how they would work out from a purely running perspective.

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It would seem that I’m not the only person who recognised the potential of the 200’s as a trail or fell running shoe as they have generated quite a bit of interest on social media and forums. I also happened to notice that Inov-8 Ultra Runner, Joe Grant was recently photographed wearing them during The Coastal Challenge race in Costa Rica.


  • 258g in my UK size 9.5’s
  • 3mm heel to toe drop
  • 7mm deep lugs
  • Built on Inov-8’s ‘Standard’ last
  • Sticky rubber outsole
  • Semi-rigid plastic toe bumper
  • New lace loop design
  • DWR water resistant coating
  • No rock plate
  • Rope-Tec™ reinforcements to provide protection and security during rope climbs (apparently)

First Impressions

I’m rather fond of the ‘in your face’ colour scheme of the X-Talon 200. It’s bright, bold and classic Inov-8 whilst the quality of build and finish are both very good. The outsole and midsole design are carried straight over from the 190 and 212 with no rock plate / shank. The semi-rigid toe bumper is a new feature for Inov-8 and offers decent levels of coverage and protection.

For me, the most interesting features of the design are the welded overlays and use of two types of mesh in the upper. The heel cup and midfoot are made from what looks like the same heavy duty material that Inov-8 are now using for the new Mudclaw 265 that I reviewed a few weeks back. This is clearly intended to work in conjunction with the overlays to add security around the midfoot. In contrast, the toe box material is much more flexible and similar in appearance to the one they use for the Trailroc upper.

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Whilst I am favor of this move, it leaves the seam between the two materials almost directly over the main flex point of the shoe and the whole area is exposed to potential abrasions from rocks and debris because it is not covered by the overlays or toe bumper. Inov-8 have done a lot to improve the durability of uppers and mine are showing no early signs of breaking down so it’s only fair to give the 200’s the benefit of the doubt but I’d be a bit wary of launching them down scree slopes on a regular basis for example.

Fit and Sizing

In the past when I’ve tried shoes that are built around Inov-8’s standard / anatomical fit, I’ve enjoyed the shape of the toe box but found that the midfoot fit doesn’t allow me to secure them quite as well as I would like for running on steep or technical ground. The performance fit on the other hand provides plenty of security thanks to the snug toe box and it’s great for running fast but the slightly pointy shape tends to push my big toe across laterally and I find this can get a bit uncomfortable over longer distances.

The X-Talon 200 provides a great compromise between the two in my opinion because the new upper leaves the midfoot nice and snug whilst the forefoot is fantastically accommodating. For comparison purposes, I’d say that the fit feels like a roomier Salomon Sense. It’s not as locked down as the X-Talon 190 when things get really steep but I find it much more comfortable and I think this is a worthwhile trade-off in most circumstances unless I was going to be using them exclusively for short / fast / steep fell races (which I’m not).

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A few comparison shots


I really like the new lacing system and found it very easy to get the tension right as the laces glide through the loops with minimal friction. I had to pull the lace loops pretty close together to get the fit completely dialled in though, leaving little scope for further adjustment. This worked fine for me, especially with slightly thicker socks than I would usually wear and I have D-width feet of ‘average’ volume but the throat could do with being about 5-10mm to allow a bit more adjustment. As things stand, I think that average-wide footed runners will be OK with this but those with narrow feet could be better off sticking with the Performance Fit variants of the shoe.

The X-Talon 200’s run ‘true to size’ and they are consistent with Inov-8’s other shoes in this regard.


As with the rest of the X-Talon range, the 200’s  luggy outsole provides awesome grip over a wide range of surfaces including mud, snow and sand, whilst the sticky compound offers surprisingly good traction on wet rocks and other slick or hard surfaces despite the prominent lugs.

The midsole is thin leading to a low, flexible and incredibly stable and agile platform but there is no rock plate and cushioning from sharp objects is quite limited. For me, this is fine over relatively short stretches of pointy lumps and bumps but I need a bit more protection for longer runs which feature extended sections of this type of terrain. If you are familiar with the X-Talon 190 or 212, you can obviously expect very similar characteristics.

The mesh in the forefoot is more permeable than the heavy-duty material used in the rest of the shoe and I found that water gets in pretty quickly despite the DWR treatment. I think most people accept the fact that they are going to get wet feet at this time of year so I don’t have a problem with this and the water seems to come out as easily as it goes in.

It’s a cliché but the 200’s really ‘disappear’ on my feet whenever I wear them and they have immediately become my go-to shoe for winter running over short-medium distances. I feel a little foolish saying this because it was less than a month ago that I made a similar statement about the new Mudclaw 265 but they really are that good.

Obviously this is only one guys opinion but if you’re already a fan of Invo-8’s shoes or you feel you can relate to some of my views on shoes I’ve tested from other brands I think you are probably going to love the X-Talon 200.


It’s rare that I write an overwhelmingly positive review, or at least I hope it is as I don’t often feel that way….. but I had really high hopes for the X-Talon 200 and they have been met or exceeded in all departments. Inov-8 have taken an exciting direction with the fit and design of the upper and I’d love to see them adopt the some of the same ideas and technology in the rest of their range. I think It would be perfect for the Trailroc platform for example and perhaps a snugger, more focused variant could be utilised across the ‘performance’ range using some of the same concepts. Overall, Inov-8 have absolutely nailed it with the X-Talon 200 and it has to be an early contender for my shoe of the year.

This product was provided as a test sample by the manufacturer, please refer to my gear review and advertising policy for more information.

Durability Update: June 2015

In among the various other shoes I’ve been testing of late, the X-Talon 200 have retained their place as a firm favorite within my current rotation but with about 200 miles on the clock, I’m afraid I have some ominous news to report. Unfortunately the mesh around the toe box has started to tear around the high stress / abrasion point between the toe bumper  and flex point as shown below. Whilst this is a common location for any shoe to break down I do feel that it’s a bit early for them to be showing this kind of wear, especially seeing as I haven’t been that hard on them and I can’t think of any specific occasions where I’ve snagged them badly on rocks or undergrowth. The abrasions aren’t that bad and I’m pretty sure that careful application of some Black Witch will stall the degradation but it’s clear that this area could do with some more protection. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has had similar issues? Please let me know in the comments section.

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In the meantime, I’ve noticed more and more people seem to be using the X-Talon 200 at fell races so I guess I’m not the only one who likes them!

Where to Find Them

The X-Talon 200’s are available from Amazon (link below)

I make every effort to ensure these reviews are as objective and honest as possible to help you decide if a product is right for you. This takes me a lot of time and effort and if you are interested in a product I have reviewed, you can help me keep the site going by placing purchases through the links and adverts at no extra cost to yourself. Thanks for your support.

Get Involved!

Got any thoughts to share about the X-Talon 200? Have a question? I’m especially interested to hear your experiences on the durability? Please leave your thoughts below!

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  1. Will Heap says:

    My Son has a pair for orienteering. He absolutely loves the feel and the grip but like your shoes, the mesh has started to tear on both sides of both shoes. i.e in 4 places. He’s only had them for 2 months with less than 100k. We’ve sent them back, hopefully for a replacement. Also considering VJ IROC.

  2. Andrew says:

    I should add that I’m equally interested to hear from anyone who has had positive experiences with durability as this is just as important to know!

  3. Will Heap says:

    Inov8 have kindly replaced the shoes and i hope it lasts better because it really is a fantastic orienteering shoe. Fast, sturdy, super grippy and minimal.

  4. Brian says:

    Hi Will, thanks for sharing. I thought it was just me.
    Love these shoes as they are so light and comfortable and offer great grip but, I only purchased them in March 2015 and after only 124 miles are showing wear in the exact same places as yours have.
    I applied Shoe Goo when the first signs appeared but it only seemed to slow the inevitable rips. This is my third pair of inov8’s they seem to offer the best grip of all the trail shoes I have tried but have all let me down with their fragility.

  5. Andrew says:

    I guess this makes me think to myself:

    When is a degree of fragility ‘acceptable / expected’ in light of the fact that we are talking about a product that is very lightweight?

    When is fragility clearly due to a design floor which makes a product unsuitable for it’s intended purpose?

    The answer to this question is not always 100% clear cut in my view and the 200’s are marketed primarily as an OCR shoe so that does muddy the waters a little. However, as soon as I got them out of the box I thought that it seemed strange that the mesh is exposed in such a high risk area and if our experiences are anything to go by, Inov-8 are certainly going to need to rectify this in a future update.

  6. I think this is a common problem with the really lightweight Inov8 shoes. The rand for the toe box is too short, so where the shoe flexes the mesh rubs on the rand and it wears a hole. I had a similar problem with two pairs of Terrafly’s and a pair of Trailroc’s. For the second generation of this shoe I bet they redesign that area and extend the rand!

    • Andrew says:

      I actually thought that they improved it with the second generation of trailrocs with the updated mesh. I wonder why they didn’t use the same material for the XT 200 toe box

  7. Steve Heller says:

    Can you compare these to the Terraclaw 220s? I’m considering both for OCR purposes.

    • Andrew says:

      Hi Steve, Funnily enough, I’m currently half way through writing a review on the Terraclaw 220………..The Terraclaw has a slightly snugger fit in the midfoot and might suit you better if you have really narrow feet and is a fantastic trail shoe but generally speaking, I’d say that the X-Talon 200 is a better bet from a purely OCR perspective, especially when things get really muddy or slick as it has stickier rubber on the out sole and bigger lugs

      • Steve Heller says:

        Thanks Andrew. I’ll look for the new review. I wasn’t sure i you thought the larger lugs might create unsure footing if the course is drier, and/or on certain obstacles like walls and beams, etc. Also curious about the draining efficiency of each model.

        • Andrew says:

          That’s a good question. In my view, the compound on the X-Talon is sufficiently soft that it should ‘give’ a bit on those kind of surfaces and create sufficient surface area to provide decent grip. However, they might be a bit over the top if there wasn’t much mud at all on the course and in that case, the Terraclaw might do just fine. Drainage is good on both of them, poss marginally better on the Terraclaw but there isn’t much in it

  8. Jeremie says:

    I’ve got a pair of 200s and have race 6 OCR races since May. Also do the occasional trail run with them. They really break in well, and I haven’t seen much wear on them just yet. The footing with the bigger lugs do not seem to be an issue, and is nice and solid through dry and heavy mud terrains. (I race in Australia). Best shoes I’ve ever invested in for OCR.

  9. Laurence says:

    I run sock-less in Altra and Skora shoes and never had a hot spot or blister of any sort. Altra’s trail shoes don’t tend to get good reviews, so I opted for Inov-8.

    I went on a 3 mile recovery run to test the Inov-8 X-Talon 200 and noticed after 1 kilometre that my left foot, (second toe) was getting sore, about another 2 km in my right foot achilles tendon was also being blistered.

    During the run I have to say that everything in the review is spot on, I can see these being a great shoe wearing socks (disappointingly). Maybe they will break-in after a few more runs.

    I’d also add that the shoe laces supplied are far too long.

    • Andrew says:

      Hi Laurence, thanks for getting in touch and yes you are right about the laces! There is a seam on the inside of the shoe at the join between the two upper materials in the toe box and I bet that’s what you’re feeling. Not ideal for sockless wear like you say. Andrew

  10. […] more independent reviews on the X-TALON 200: Trampelpfad-Lauf 3 Seconds Outdoor Kinetics Mudstacle Muddyrace Obstacle Race Magazine Wes […]

  11. Sophie C says:

    Hi similar to some of the comments above I loved the low profile of the x talon 200s when I got them in October/November but both shoes already have huge tears around the seam of the upper/toe box which is really disappointing. The resultant debris which ends up in the shoe at the end of each run is really off putting. I used to use x talon 212s and they lasted me for about 4 years. I’m gutted to have to be buying replacements so soon and am now considering a pair of low profile Salomons or Icebugs as I’ve lost confidence in the durability of the x talons.

  12. Marko says:

    Hi, same problem here. I’ve been using the 200’s for two months. Big tears around the toe box area as mentioned in previous posts. I’ve had the 212 before these and had a lot of problems with shrinkage and the soles coming of. I too am losing faith in inov-8 which is a shame because the grip and the fit is amazing. I hope inov-8 fixes this problem real soon!

  13. Joel Hakala says:

    Do you know if the knew AW16 version (blue/orange) has better mesh?

  14. James B says:

    Mine have tore all around the toe box like yours after just 100 miles, one of the holes is worse actually. Totally agree with you on the fit though, the salomons are leagues above in their fit, still a great shoe but if they could recreate that slipper/sock type feel that salomon do it’d be the perfect shoe!

  15. Jon Colburt says:

    I also used mine for about 100 miles before they started to breakdown. I find this quite disappointing because the shoes are very good to run in, exceptional grip and very comfortable. Inov8 seem to have an issue with this part of their shoes, I have owned f lite and x talon and they have also given way in this area. It would be nice for a British brand to command the market but with these reviews I can’t see it happening. Back to Salomon I think.

    • Andrew says:

      It has certainly been an issue for them
      but I do think they’ve made progress with their mesh since then. My terraclaws have been fantastic for example

  16. Toby Doyle says:

    THis is a systemic problem with inov8 shoes it seems. I have trail talon 250’s. Same problem with them tearing on the side of the toe box. I got a replacement pair but was looking to by x-talon 200’s for more fell running. Not sure what to do for now… Is there another brand that is comparable in terms on toe box space, low drop, good grip, minimal cushioning?


    • Andrew says:

      I believe that they used a different material for the toe box of the latest model of the X-talon 200. Need to give it a try as I still really love that shoe. Not too many alternatives out there which tick the boxes to be honest

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