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(The Gear Loop) - When it comes to race day, there are many who turn to Inov-8’s X-Talon series. Lightweight, agile and responsive, they’re a no brainer when it comes to gaining the competitive edge. Crucially, their aggressive 8mm rubber lugs give the wearer confidence-inspiring traction on the kind of soft, muddy terrain encountered on gnarly routes.

The 255 is the wider version of this trail classic, retaining all the features that make the X-Talon a winner, while giving feet and toes more room and, depending on the shape of your feet, providing a more comfortable ride.

So, if hitting muddy countryside or boggy hills, moors and mountains is your bag, then the X-Talons could be your perfect partner. Check out some of our other technical trail running suggestions here.

Alex FoxfieldInov-8 X-Talon 255 V2 review photo 2
Our quick take

When conquering bogs and muddy trails, the X-Talons soar. A super quick, nimble and lightweight trail running shoe that continues to be a go-to for race day. They can slip a little on polished, wet surfaces and there may be better options for hard, dry rock, but on most trail types they excel. 

Inov-8 X-Talon 255 V2 review: a lightweight and agile trail running shoe

Inov-8 X-Talon 255 V2

4.0 stars
For
  • Excellent grip on muddy terrain
  • Lightweight responsive
  • Comfortable fit
  • Durable upper
Against
  • Hefty lugs reduce trail feel
  • Traction suffers slightly on polished surfaces

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In the Loop

A quick look at what you can expect from the Inov-8 X-Talon 255 V2s:

  • Enhanced traction on muddy terrain thanks to 8mm rubber studs
  • Wide toe box for comfort
  • 3mm heel to forefoot drop
  • EVA midsole
  • Lightweight: weighing just 255g per shoe
  • Improved upper materials for durability and water resistance
Alex FoxfieldInov-8 X-Talon 255 V2 review photo 7

Features

As the name suggests, this shoe is all about the talons, which are its 8mm lugs that are designed to conquer boggy, muddy and chossy ground. Like Inov-8’s Mudclaw series, the X-Talons are designed to slay terrain that would otherwise be too slippery to consider running on. The lugs are forged from Inov-8’s proprietary StickyGrip rubber, which provides enhanced traction on a range of hard surfaces, from gravel trails to textured rock.

With a heel to forefoot drop of 3mm, the X-Talons are intended for regular runners who strike with their forefoot or midfoot, rather than their heel. They weigh just 255g, which makes them a lightweight option compared to many bulkier variants on the market, though it’s worth noting that there are lighter versions available within the X-Talon series itself. 

Those who enjoy a maximalist shoe with ample cushioning are best served elsewhere - the X-Talons are designed to be flexible, agile and are minimal in this regard. However, their wide fit, roomy toe box and secure heel cup make them very comfortable on the trails.

Alex FoxfieldInov-8 X-Talon 255 V2 review photo 3

Inov-8 says it has improved the upper materials for added durability and water resistance. This is a welcome enhancement considering the extreme environments the X-Talon thrives in.

Performance

The X-Talons are comfortable, despite fairly minimal cushioning. Lacing across the midfoot and boasting a fitted heel cup, the set-up ensures the foot is locked securely, while toes still have a little wiggle room. All of this, when coupled with their low weight, makes them feel pretty nimble.

Soft and muddy ground is where the X-Talons excel, thanks to lugs that are as aggressive as a caged tiger. This means you can absolutely fly across terrain that would potentially give you pause for thought in less grippy runners. On undulating, weaving trails akin to obstacle courses, with large puddles, fallen trees and roots to negotiate, they are perfect.

Alex FoxfieldInov-8 X-Talon 255 V2 review photo 4

The X-Talons give you the ability to change direction fast, with your standing foot providing a solid anchor, even in mud. Their traction is not quite as strong on polished rock or on the sort of flat, wet stone you get on steps, where the lugs can slip a little – worth bearing in mind when you’re bounding along. However, on textured rock, roads and pavements, you still get plenty of grip from the lugs’ proprietary rubber.

Running on the road for short distances is a relatively comfortable experience for such specialised trail shoes. Nevertheless, these are not hybrids by any stretch of the imagination, so if you’re the kind of runner who likes to mix both road and trail, these aren’t the shoes for you.

This length of lug comes at the price of a truly intimate trail feel, however they still give you ample feedback on the terrain below your feet, while protecting your sole from any pain.

Alex FoxfieldInov-8 X-Talon 255 V2 review photo 10

When splashing through puddles with joyful abandon, the water resistant upper managed to keep these feet relatively dry. After several long outings, we are yet to notice any wear, which underlines Inov-8’s claim that these are more durable than previous incarnations.

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To recap

A super quick and very agile shoe that's designed for race day but will also serve as a great training partner. They can slip a little on polished, wet surfaces and there may be better options for hard, dry rock, but on most trail types they excel.

Writing by Alex Foxfield. Editing by Leon Poultney.