Inov-8 X-Talon 225 review
Usually I don't review my running shoes as I tend to buy them in cycles i.e. when my old ones are ready to be retired, so I often end up with shoes half way through or towards the end of their seasonal cycle and by that time, the shoes have already been reviewed time and time again. For a change I've got a pair of the X-Talon 225's from release and with them being so new, thought I would take a bit of time to review them, or at least give people an overview on the new model of fell shoes and rather than just looking at certain aspects of the shoe, I'm going to honestly look at them from my own experiences of actually running in them, rather than a typical "shoe review" post.
If I'm honest, the first thing that made me take a closer look at them was their actual appearance. Now you're probably thinking why are you bothered about what they look like when they'll be several foot deep in bogs, splashing through mud and scraping on rocks for most of their days. I guess it's just one of those things but I was the same when I played football. First of all, I like to know they do their job properly but then the appearance of the shoes is always second on the list! After using Inov-8 for around a year now, I know I can trust their shoes and the grip they sole them with. So that's bullet point 1 ticked off!
The fresh, red X-Talon 225 - Eye catching!
Red has always been my favourite colour, being a Liverpool fan it's pretty obvious why! But also I always like my kit to have a decent colour correlation so being a Calder Valley fell runner, red is a welcome shoe colour and black goes with anything too.
The 225 is a new model from Inov-8, but, it's another addition to the famous X-Talon range which is proving increasingly popular and is donned by a vast array of runners on the fells, from the elite's to the middle-packers like myself, it's both a lightweight and durable shoe for any runner who requires a trustworthy grip. If you look at the feet of runners on the start line of any fell race these days, I would say at least 70% of the runners are likely to be wearing Inov-8. This obviously varies but the Inov-8 range has become so vast and trusted within the fell community, that whatever the terrain, runners know that Inov-8 will have a shoe to run in, even on the roads these days!! ( see the Roadclaw 275 here - ROADCLAW 275 )
The shoe is precision fit like many of the other models and provides a decent protection at the toe box for the more rough and rugged races, like the Langdales, giving you protection against rocks and boulders. I found this particularly useful on both the Ben Nevis race and the Scafell Pike race, both which have rocky sections at the summit which then require speedy descents and fast feet!!!
Descending Scafell Pike in my not so red X-Talon 225's (photo credit: Stephen Wilson)
My first run out in the 225's was while I was supporting at this year's English Championship Borrowdale fell race. I ran from Rosthwaite, across the River Derwent, through the old mine and up to Dale Head, then dropping down in to Honister Pass to meet runners before they ascended Dale Head itself. The true test on that day was when I descended back from Dale Head trig and down towards the tarn. On the best of days that descent is a tough one as it's very steep and if you take the wrong line it can be a real, real pain and can cost you a heck of a lot of time if you're racing! Thankfully I wasn't racing but I still descended at a decent speed and without a slip, thanks to the Talons!
The 225's - looking fresh but well tested after their first run out in Lake District
Most shoes are tested for about 10 miles/one or two run outs and then a review is written, it would seem. That's just my observation from reading a few others online over the past 12-18 months or so. After my Borrowdale support day, I have since raced at Pilgrim's Cross, Pendleton, the Pendle 3 Peaks, Thieveley Pike and as mentioned earlier, Ben Nevis before Scafell Pike, with over 50 miles churned out already...if ever there was a way to test a pair of shoes, that was most definitely it!
With a 4mm drop, they are perfect for my own requirements. I like a shoe to be low to the ground, especially for fell racing, as it gives me more control and I feel more confident, especially when descending. I used to roll my ankle a lot and when I finally got to the base of the problem, it seems to be because my shoes were stacked too high. Since I changed to a low drop fell shoe, I have never had such problems, only once or twice have I since rolled my ankle and that was on very rough terrain while racing!
Saying that, some of the terrain I've raced across while wearing these I wouldn't normally be too confident on but when you trust your shoes it's a massive thing, for me it is anyway! Below are a few pictures of the 225's in action, you may have to click on the picture itself to get a closer look...
2016 English Champs Pendle 3 Peaks race in the 225's (photo credit: David Belshaw)
The finishing field - Ben Nevis race 2016 (photo credit: Paul Birdsall)
Super grip on the slippery rocks of the Pilgrim's Cross (photo credit: Steve Bateson)
Overall, it's a shoe I would recommend to anybody. I've ran over 50 miles in them to date and intend to do many more. Comfortable, grippy and lightweight, they provide me with the confidence to descend with more nerve and proved to be a trustworthy shoe on the absolutely rain sodden Pendle 3 Peaks a short while ago as well as letting me go all out on the descents of Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike...I don't think you can ask for more than that from a fell shoe! Now all I need to do is keep on training and stay injury free then who knows where I can get to in the 225's!
Thanks for reading! :)