Do the inov-8 X Talon 212s hold up during a swimrun?
I’ve run in many different pairs of inov-8 shoes over the years. I had a pair of the early 2004 Mudroc’s that were where it all started for inov-8 and the Trailroc series were my ‘go to’ runners for a long time in.
They have a substantial enough grip for most light trails but also cope fine with some road mileage, which is important for me as most of my running tends to end up on mixed terrain, especially when I’m travelling.
I’ve also had a few pairs of Mud Claws for winter bog trotting and fell races and even a couple of pairs of lightweight F-lite road/gym shoes too. In fact, as my wife is fond of telling me, I probably have more pairs of shoes than the Kardashians, though my collection is a little light on the Jimmy Choo’s…
I recently added a new pair to my collection, picking up a pair of the aggressive Inov8 X-Talon 212's specifically with racing a swimrun event in Portland, Maine in mind and I feel like I’ve put enough miles in now to pen a quick review...
The perfect shoes for swimrun?
Picking shoes for swimrun is always interesting as the demands placed on them are pretty unique. As most athletes don’t tend to take footwear off for the swim sections, you benefit massively if your shoes are relatively lightweight and quick to drain. Anything too bulky or heavy just compromises your swim performance too much.
On the flip side, the running in swimrun is often extremely rugged, including wet and dry rocks, trails, roads, grassland and just about anything else you can think of, so your treads need to have enough grip, cushioning and toe protection to cope with that.
The X-Talon 212’s have a very deep lugged outsole (8mm lugs) made from very sticky and pliable rubber. This does a fine job of providing traction in mud or on wet and loose trails, as you might expect given they’re primarily designed as a fell and trail running shoe.
Surprisingly, where they excel in swimrun though is on wet and slippery rock, there’s a lot of that to contend with entering and exiting the water and the ‘tacky’ nature of the rubber gives you a lot more confidence.
As the run sections can be pretty long in a swimrun (up to 13 miles in the big ÖTILLÖ World Champs race in Sweden), I tend to benefit from having a shoe with a little bit of heel to toe drop to take the pressure off my calves and Achilles tendons, which can take a beating if I run in anything too flat. The 212s have a moderate 6mm drop which is perfect for me in a shoe predominately chosen for racing in.
For those who prefer something flatter, there are options with the same basic structure but less drop (3mm - X-talon 200), making things a little lighter weight overall.
The upper on the X-Talons is light and water repellent (with a DWR coating), so it holds little water. This means the shoes don’t gain too much weight when swimming in them and they dry out pretty quickly on the longer runs. It’s also just about substantial enough around the edge of the toe box to give some protection against rocks and debris, another common issue when entering and exiting the water.
The 212’s are quite firm in the midsole, so long distance road running is not their forte, but they’re by no means unusable on tarmac. In fact they’re surprisingly durable given the stickiness of the rubber. Before and after my swimrun race I’ve clocked up quite a few road miles in them on my travels, with no real signs of visible wear just yet.
I’ve yet to use the X-Talons for another race but they’re due an outing on my local parkrun soon - which is mainly on gravel trails at Moors Valley Country park in Dorset - and I’ll certainly be using them for my next swimrun race whenever that comes around.
If you’re looking at shoes for winter fell and trail running in the UK, or something specifically for swimrun, I’d certainly recommend having a look at the X-Talons. Size wise I tend to go down from my usual UK 8.5 to a UK 8 in inov-8s (I feel like they come up a bit large), so ideally try them on before you buy.