The Quest to Replace My Race shoes
By Ryan Dubey
So, after the Spartan Super in Barre, MA. my beloved Inov-8 X-Talon 200s finally ripped through the pinkie toe. Actually both shoes had holes in them. All my shoes seem to fail in this manner but, it’s my thing. I was in denial because I really do love the 200s. I think the X-Talon is a great sole for OCR. It does well in all conditions and the fact that the tread sticks out a whopping 8mm means it grabs onto any little nook and cranny on rocks, roots walls, etc. The 200s are an OCR specific shoe with great drainage. They are very light and close to the ground for good ground feel and less chance of rolling your ankle. However, that lightness has taken its toll on my feet. I not only race in them but, I also do the vast majority of my training runs in them. They really are suited for racing but, maybe I need something with more cushion to put the miles on.
With my affinity towards Inov-8, I started looking for other models. I found the Terraclaw 250. Inov-8 describes these as “The higher mileage version, this shoe delivers extra protection and comfort.” Initially, I didn’t consider this shoe at all. I wanted to stay in the X-Talon line. I was thinking the X-Talon 212 would be the ideal choice. It has added cushioning over the 200, better side protection from rocks, roots and my deadly pinkie toe (DPT™). These shoes are like most Inov-8s, on average $100. I was looking to spend a little less on something to put the miles on. Doing my typical Amazon thing, I found some different model in my size and put them in the shopping cart…then I waited. I waited because the prices on Amazon fluctuate every day. All of a sudden the Terraclaw 250 dropped to $43! 43 bucks! How could I not give this a try?
I put in my first run of 4.5 miles through some nice varied terrain. My initial impression was “wow, nice and cushy” After a mile or so, I started to settle into the new kicks. I really liked the softness. I didn’t feel that I had lost a lot of the ground feel and I didn’t feel the edges of rocks nearly as much. That’s a big plus for training. As I climbed up and down, I felt surefooted. The added protection was the biggest plus. After an initial rocky climb, the bulk of this run is on a fire road. It’s pretty fast with small rises and has sections of dirt and crushed rock. These are perfect conditions for this shoe. On my return trail, there is a good amount of downhill running. This is where I feel the weakness is. The X-talon sole is so incredibly solid going downhill, anything less feels loose. I don’t think the Terraclaw are loose, I just need to get used to the different feel. So, my initial impression is this will be a great training shoe for lots of miles. My feet will take less abuse and maybe I can put up some more PRs. These shoes are fast. There is no doubt about that. I
don’t, however, think I want to race in these. I don’t feel that the demands of racing where you need to throw yourself down the hills and get up the obstacles as quickly as possible will suit these shoes. I plan on logging lots of miles in these but, not stepping on to any race courses.
With this realization, I had to take another look into the X-Talon 212. I put them in my shopping cart and started the waiting game. Luckily, I only had to wait a few days. The price went down to $50! What a steal. I couldn’t order them fast enough. They arrived two days later and it was game on. Now one thing that is different about the 212 vs. all the other Inov-8 shoes I own is, the 212s are in what they call “precision fit”. All the others I have are “standard fit”. The difference is the width of the toe box. The precision fit is closer fitting and meant more for a racing shoe. Perfect! I want these to be my new racing shoes. The Terraclaws are definitely better for training so, this should be OK. The next morning, I took my shiny new 212s out for a 4.8-mile run. This was the same place I tested out the Terraclaws but, since I knew these shoes could take it, I headed for a rougher section of trail. Initially I could feel the difference in the fit. I noticed that the toe box was closer, not tight, just closer to my foot. As I ran, I didn’t notice the difference at all. In fact, they really felt like part of my feet. There was no movement at all but again, they didn’t feel tight. Then I had the almost simultaneous thoughts of “these are great, they’re perfect for races” and “I really like these, I should wear them all the time”. But no, I will resist the urge to wear them all the time. I will reserve these for racing and the tougher / muddier runs. The roomier toe box of the standard fit Terraclaw will be better for my feet in the long run.
These have the added protection and cushion I was looking for and the truly awesome grip of the X-Talon sole. They really are a great shoe. On the minus side I will have to say the precision fit. Although I like the feel, I think that a long excursion would be better in a standard fit. Allowing your toes to splay in a more natural way is a good thing. Another potential minus is unlike the 200, the 212 doesn’t have the mesh top. This will certainly lead to greater water retention when you dunk your feet. One note, the 212s can be found in standard fit if you look hard but, I don’t know if they still make them.
So, I think I have the best of both worlds now. One solid training shoe that protects my feet and one that is a great racer.
But, as they say on TV…BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
I only had a little over 180 miles on my X-Talon 200s and everything I’ve ever read says that running shoes should be changed every 300-500 miles. Some sources say 600 miles! I thought, ”yea, but that’s road shoes… right?” But, something didn’t sit right with me since I only had 180 miles logged. Granted, those were a hard 180 miles but, still not a lot. Well, a quick peek at Inov-8 FAQ had this;
Q: What is the average lifespan of a shoe?
A: Depending on the surface, most of inov-8’s footwear will easily get you 500-600 miles.
500 miles eh? So, on a whim, I contacted Inov-8 to ask about expected life of the shoes. The US rep got back to me the same day. He said, send him pics and proof of purchase and he’ll “see what he can do”. The very next day, he told me my warranty replacement pair was approved and what color would I like! Holy Crap!
The new X-Talon 200s arrived 3 days before leaving for the Killington Beast. I wasn’t going to test drive these like the rest because, I am well aware of their capabilities. I know they are very light and fast and have incredible grip. After running in them for a year, I know them very well.
Having three choices makes my shoe choice more difficult. The 212s should be a great race shoe and a great training shoe. I will want to use them for the wetter and rougher training runs where the Terraclaws will struggle. Having my 200s back means I have my favorite race shoe back. I think this will be THE race shoe. I see no reason why I would ever need to wear them for training. I’m sure I will race in the 212s but, for speed, the 200s are for me. If I had only one pair for everything, I would go with the 212s. These are workhorses but, still plenty light to race in. Here is a grid to compare the features:
|X-Talon 212||6mm||3mm||Precision||Train / Race|
Using the 200s at Killington was awesome. The fit and function for me was top notch. I’m so glad that I took the time to contact the company.
Before you go and spend your money on a nice pair of Inov-8s. Make sure they are right for you. I like them but, they fit my feet and my needs very well. If they didn’t fit the shape of my foot, I would not be wearing them. Don’t try and force a particular shoe if it isn’t right for you. Check out my previous shoe article for more in depth information on how to choose a shoe. Here: The right shoe
I cannot say enough good things about Inov-8 as a shoe and as a company though. I now have a great training shoe, a great all-around shoe, a great race shoe and a great story. The best part is I get to reduce the wear and tear on my race shoes so they are in good shape for the race. Hopefully, I also save some wear and tear on my body by running in some nice cushy trainers.
Ryan Dubey is an Elite Masters racer in his 5th year of racing. He lives in CT with his wife and 3 boys. He is an ambassador for Medal Addict, Honey Stinger, Swiftwick socks and RSP Nutrition. He will be attending the 2016 OCR World Championships in Ontario Canada.