Monday, 22nd January 2018
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A real mud test for the inov-8 X-Talon 190

by Paul Hayward
Friday 21st March 2014
Tags  Paul Hayward   |   inov-8 X-Talon 190   |   inov-8   |   X-Talon 190

Product review: Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward takes the inov-8 X-Talon 190 through its paces

Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward takes the inov-8 X-Talon 190 through its paces

If you are facing the prospect of racing at an obstacle course race (OCR), with much varied terrain, one question that always comes up is: What trainers should I wear? You are often left with a key decision; invest in some decent “off road” or “trail” trainers or simply use your running trainers that serve you well at your gym or Bootcamp class?

Those that go with the latter are often left sliding around the muddy trails, bogs or hills that an OCR can throw at you and it can affect your performance on the day and or more importantly your enjoyment of the race.

With a number of options out there, with different promises of grip and durability, ranging from adidas to Inov-8 it can be an expensive mistake if you opt for some off road trainers and get it wrong. With this in mind I have decided to test some of the latest offerings this year specifically with OCRs and training for OCRs in mind.

I thought I would start with one of the clear leaders of footwear in the OCR scene; Inov-8.

Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward takes the inov-8 X-Talon 190 through its paces

With the emergence of an Inov-8 OCR team this year set to compete and attempt to dominate the UK scene; it seemed like a natural place to start. Inov-8 offer a host of specialist “off-trail” trainers ranging from the “Mudclaw”, designed for the steepest / muddiest terrains, to the “X-Talons” that are not only lightweight but flexible across all terrains.

In this review we will “mudtest” the X-Talon 190; which is promoted by Inov-8 as “the super fast model” of their range offering “talon-like grip courtesy of the aggressive sticky rubber cleats” and “is DWR (durable water repellent) treated to keep out mud and water”. With Size 8 weighing in at 190g (UK size 8) and the outsole having “Rope-Tec” technology to protect against rope burns; it sounds like the perfect partner to anyone wanting the flexibility of weight but not compromising on grip or performance.

So in order to give the 190s a real mud test I decided to subject them to part of my training schedule, namely a Park Run and a BMF class, and a 10k competitive OCR; RockSolidRace.

In relation to the OCR, RockSolidRace was taking place at Escot Park and I was assured that the venue was very hilly and muddy; which was exactly what I wanted to try out the 190s, as the majority of OCRs contain numerous hills, trails, bogs and water obstacles (in addition to actual obstacles).

Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward takes the inov-8 X-Talon 190 through its paces

Richmond Park Run - I normally run Park Run, a 5k timed event, in my Asics or Brooks and despite being an “off road route”, through the countryside in Abingdon by a river, I have never really considered wearing my OCR trainers.

With Richmond Park Run offering a mixture of pavement, grass and mud I was of the view that this would be a good test for the 190’s claim of flexibility across different terrains. Upon picking them up the first thing that you notice is their lightness, they certainly do not feel as heavy and as restrictive as other trail trainers I have worn. This sensation is even better when you wear them as they feel quite natural and actually akin to a normal pair of trainers.

The “natural” feeling was carried over into the Park Run itself ; I did not feel restricted by the mixed terrain and the 190s handled the grass verges and paths with ease. I was a little concerned that the pavement may render the cleats more of a hindrance than a benefit but this was short sightedness on my part as I did not actually notice that I was wearing the 190s if I am honest.

I was able to run Park Run comfortably in the 190s and I actually set a PB (at the time). The 190s felt speedy and light throughout this session. They certainly were not a hindrance, which was my concern, and if anything I was a little taken back by how natural and speedy they felt.

BMF Class - the BMF class is akin to a Bootcamp class I do and offered me another chance to try the 190s over Richmond Park’s mixed terrain. Although not far removed from Park Run; the terrain used in the class was a lot hillier and offered the chance to see how the shoes fared with hill sprints, while burpees, star jumps, press ups and suicide sprints were all in the mix as well.

If I am honest the 190s almost laughed at me with this test. At one point we were carrying out some form of an Indian file up a hill and I noted that a number of my colleagues were struggling with the terrain in their normal trainers, constantly slipping or falling over,  when sprinting up to the start. I, on the other hand, remained firmly planted through the cleats piercing the terrain and I could sense the grip, with the trainers holding easily across this terrain. This enhanced grip meant that I could corner and turn away with ease.

The effectiveness of the grip was confirmed to me as I sprinted over sections, dropped and did burpees and then sprinted back up. The difference in speed and direction did not affect my performance and I was comfortably planted at all times.

Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward takes the inov-8 X-Talon 190 through its paces

RockSolidRace - having eased through the other two tests; I was keen to see how 190s would fare at a competitive OCR with a real mixture of terrain. RockSolidRace is a 12k OCR that pits you against a real mixture of terrain such as ditches, rivers, steep hills, muddy trails and general cross country running with the addition of obstacles. (Read Paul's race report here)

Before the start of the race I saw Jon Albon, OCR’s most decorated elite athlete and member of the Inov-8 OCR Team, sporting a pair of 190s. I was a little surprised by this as I know he usually races in a pair of X-Talon 212s; the 190’s older brother that is slightly more aggressive and a little heavier. Jon informed me that he had decided to go with the 190s as “they are a slightly lighter version without the extra material”. Jon was clearly looking for weight and time saving but it was good to know that he rated them as part of his armoury.  

RockSolidRace proved to be a testing 12k OCR that threw muddy hills, ditches, rivers, trails, cross country running and paths at me in addition to obstacles such as cargo nets, a half pipe type obstacle and floating sections over a river to negotiate. I must say that the 190s seemed to roar to life in these conditions; I felt fast and I felt competitive.

The cleats gripped incredibly well up the muddy hills / banks and I felt firmly planted at all times throughout the race, allowing me to charge up and down muddy hills / banks whilst others fell around me. At one point I found myself running down a trail run through a forest with different depths of mud across my path. I have previously tended to slow down and be careful through sections like these, for fear of slipping or hurting myself, but the 190s gave me the confidence to keep pace and navigate it with ease. This was a totally new experience for me and importantly made me feel safe and competitive.

The 190s did not hinder my performance across the multitude of obstacles that RockSolidRace threw at me; they held firm and I was able to attack them with ease. I only ran, literally, into a problem when I faced the half-pipe obstacle requiring you to run up it and grab the top to pull yourself up. This was due to the obstacle being a little wet; however I do not see how any trainers really would have helped you against this obstacle and for once I had no-one to grab my hand.  

Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward takes the inov-8 X-Talon 190 through its paces

Verdict - the X-Talon 190s are a great piece of kit that can hold their own over a mixture of terrain. They are light enough to not feel restrictive, as other OCR trainers can do, and feel completely natural when you are wearing them. They offer great grip through their cleats, which means that you can tackle muddy hills or forest tails with ease. Due to these strengths they feel quick; they breed confidence in you and they make you feel competitive.

Whether or not you should use these for both training and racing is an interesting conundrum. There are claims that these are not as durable as their older brother, the 212s (which we hope to review soon), as they do not benefit from the extra material or protection but they do offer you a great mix of support and speed and will deliver on race day.

Find out more about inov-8's product range here: www.inov-8.com


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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