The Inov-8 X-talon 212 has existed since before many of the major competitors had their current shoes in the market. They are durable and grippy while still being comfortable.
The Inov-8 X-talon 212 has been a reliable mid to upper range shoe and is still in my shoe rotation since 2013. I initially did a write up after wearing them for 10-20 miles of trail and Spartan Race running but have since really put them through the ringer. They were also my first real obstacle course racing / trail shoe that I had ever run in since starting to run 10+ years before them.
What made me choose the Inov-8’s at the time? There was nothing else on the market really. Icebug hadn’t really been heard of and the Reebok Spartan Super didn’t exist at all. There was of course the Salomon Speedcross that was also out but for some reason that shoe looked too bulky for me, I would change my opinion later on. Now I will write this review fresh and with 2 years of using these shoes in my trail shoe rotation.
Inov-8 X-talon 212 Features
One of the reasons that I picked the Inov-8 x-talon 212’s over any other shoe was because they had a fairly large drop for trail shoes – 6mm. Inov-8 normally sell zero drop or close to zero shoes that many people are finding to be the current running injury fixing fad. Don’t get me wrong, a lowered drop is good for some peoples overall mechanics. But to go from running in boats with 14-18mm drop and to switch to a zero drop shoe on race day, you’re gonna have a bad time. You will feel calf pain and lower back pain that you can’t figure out why until you make the realization you have made a mistake. I speak from experience here. I now run in shoes in the 6-8mm range so most minimal trail shoes aren’t too bad for a few days of trail running.
Next up was the durable upper combined with the water draining speed. At the time I bought these the water draining was revolutionary compared to my running shoes, but that was overshadowed by the sieve like Reebok Supers. Still they do drain water very well and never leave you with a puddle like feeling in your shoes.
Then we get to the nice grippy lugs. They measure a little shy of 1/4″ and haven’t worn much at all since I use them in mud and soft trails for the most part. They work great of loose and very muddy trails but like most they turn to ice skates on wet wood, usually fallen trees. I did notice if the mud is in this special not too wet and not too dry consistency they tend to cake up and not shed mud very well.
A final nice tough Inov8 has is the laces. I feel like for many shoes laces end up being an after thought, especially the Reebok Super’s terrible laces. Normally if you have an issue I would suggest buying the bubble laces from New Balance but Inov8 just worked in their own slightly bumpy and gripped laces. They don’t come untied if you tie them well and you can almost guarantee that you will never tie them if you double not.
Inov-8 X-talon 212 Durability
You almost couldn’t ask for any more as far as durability is concerned. These shoes take a beating and keep coming. I have worn them for days at a time of running and hiking on wet trails while running down hill and through rocky terrain. The only thing that looks to be failing from the usage is the orange strips that are cosmetic seem to be peeling off.
Inov-8 X-talon 212 Usage
My first real test for the shoes was at the 2013 Spartan Beast in Vermont. Previous to owning these as my first real trail shoe I used normal running shoes when running trails. After the 2013 Spartan Super in NJ I learned that was a big mistake for OCR. You see, with normal trail running you can get away with a lot because you aren’t going to be forced into running/swimming through water and crawling through muddy barbed wire pits. For OCR you need a real shoe like this or the other ones compared on this page.
At that first Spartan Beast using these shoes it almost made up for my lack of training (it didn’t). I spent 6ish hours in the rain and muddy trails while being tortured by all sorts of swims and steep mountains. The shoes, along with my waterproof mp3 player, were the only things that survived the race. My ego was beaten, my shorts were oddly mud stained for life, and my body was destroyed. I had grip on the slick uphills and a decent amount while flying recklessly down the steep declines.
After that I used them for a handle of other races and they basically felt like they weren’t worn down at all from race to race. I’ve even started using them for casual trail runs when the mood strikes me. They have 100+ trail miles on them and you would be hard pressed to tell – besides the caked on mud.
Inov-8 X-talon 212 Verdict
The question of whether or not you should buy these isn’t as straight forward as it was 2 years ago. Do you want a durable work horse of a shoe that you can use for seasons to come? Buy this shoe. Do you want a high speed shoe without much durability, try looking into the Reebok Super’s. The reason not to buy these shoes wouldn’t be because of any fault they of their own but because they are jack of all trade and master of none.
For example- if you want more grip on all surfaces, you need a studded shoe. But those shoes might not be allowed on some courses and aren’t meant for anywhere with concrete. The x-talon 212’s are still a super grippy shoe but they aren’t in the same market. Think Toyota Camry (x-talon 212) vs. Jeep Wrangler (icebug studded shoes).
Here are other shoes to compare: