We are are all looking for the right shoe, the right pack, the right pants, the right… or anything for that matter. With every single shoe manufacturer jockeying for your hard earned cash, which of them should get it? There are brands like Reebok, Merrell, Salomon, Altra, inov-8, Ice Bug, and the list goes on and on. For years, I have been running in many of them, but the inov-8 200’s have been my go-to shoe for just about any race. Well, Inov-8 has another shoe, the X-Talon 225’s, and they look sexy.
It wasn’t long ago that I first heard of inov-8. In fact, I hadn’t heard of them until I ran my third obstacle course race in 2014. I was fumbling around in the mud in Ohio, and one kind person was able to offer up some advice; “Get some real shoes before you hurt yourself.” That was the day I purchased my first pair of X-Talon 212’s. Since that day, I have learned more about myself, my shoes, and the sport than I could have ever imagined.
Those 212’s had served me well, and when it was time for them to throw in the towel, they had been replaced with a few pairs of 200s, and they have been rock solid over the course of a few seasons and a few dozen events. inov-8 caught my eye with the release of their 225s. See, the 225s are built on everything that made the 212’s great. They are supposed to have the same great grip, the same durability, and the same feel, but they sport features of the 200s as well. So what are we left with? The love child of the 212s and the 200s. The real question is, do they have what it takes for me to choose them over my 200s, my Altras, my Merrells, or the other brands of shoes I have in my closet?
Before we get into it too deep, let’s get some of the finer details out of the way. The 225s are built on the Precision fit platform. There are two widths that inov-8 offers: Standard and Precision. Standard fit offers a close fitting heel and a wider toe box. Precision fit offers a close fitting heel and a close-fitting forefoot. While The Standard fit is good for longer runs or longer training sessions, a precision fit is better for shorter runs or shorter training sessions. Personally, I don’t buy into any of that. Instead, if a shoe works, it works, no matter its intention.
|Midsole Stack||Heel 19.5mm / Forefoot 15.5mm|
|Product Weight||225g / 7.9oz|
225s features a DFB (Dynamic Fascia Band) shank. If you were wondering what a shank is and does, Wikipedia offers this: “In a boot or shoe, the shank is a part of the supportive structure between the insole and outsole. The presence of a shank is crucial to the functionality of mountaineering boots as they diminish the load incurred by the wearer’s feet and calves over the course of an ascent.” Note the words, “and calves”… trecking up the death march at a Spartan (Ultra) beast, your calves will thank you!
If you have an issue reading the incredibly small print on the image to the left, it states: “inov-8’s patented dynamic fascia band technology replicates the anatomical position of the plantar fascia ligament, and duplicates the function of the human foot’s ability to utilize the “windlass effect.” The inov-8 fascia band also replicates the benefits of the windlass effect of the human plantar fascia structure. Originating at the front of the heel’s outsole, the inov-8 fascia band extends forward along the outsole and divides, just as the human fascia divides, into five bands that terminate anterior to the metatarsal heads. As body weight moves forward onto the metatarsal heads and the toes begin to extend, tension on the invo98 fascia band increases. When the heel leaves the ground, the inov-8 fascia band resists elongation of the medial arch and carries the entire body weight of the runner converting the shoe into a rigid propulsive lever.”
If you were a fan of the 212s or had tried a pair on for a quick run, you will have noticed that the material used in its construction tended to hold water as it was almost a felt like soft material. Here on the 225s, that has all been taken care of. Water seems to just roll off the shoes, that is unless they are fully submerged.
Re-engineered second-generation X-TALON outsole with DUAL-C compound (a mix of medium and hard sticky rubbers) for improved durability and refined stud configuration for quick release of mud and debris.
Get more miles out of your shoes. Industry-leading lightweight upper material increases durability. The material, combined with the new mesh tongue, significantly aids shoe breathability.
Shoe’s precision fit ensures a fast feel, while small cutaways on the outsole increase flexibility and further reduce weight. Dynamic Fascia Band delivers kick of energy with every stride.
Reinforced toe box delivers outstanding protection on descents, and against stones and other debris. Water repelled by durable, water-resistant coating.
inov-8 has created the 225s with the same flexible outsole that allows your foot to move a bit more naturally when crushing the terrain. Some of the competition look for to add a bit of rigidity to their lineups, not these. Your foot can flex and bend the way it was intended to when traversing technical terrain. Keep in mind; they won’t flex as much as the 200s or the 190s. Because of its minimalist intentions, you feel more of the ground when running.
The aggressive lug design on the bottom keeps its grip on loose or muddy terrain, but lugs have enough spacing to allow a quick release of said debris or mud. Having your shoe hold on to packed earth does nothing for you but make you look like you are ice skating around.
The inov-8 toe box typically runs a bit on the narrow side, making things a bit snug; almost claustrophobic. This snug feeling may have you questioning how your toes, and toenails, will handle hits while running. However, they did include some added protection for those of us that tend to kick roots or rocks on the trail. I seem always to find the loops of roots then faceplant, but I digress. Not only does the toe box sport a bit of rubber up front, but the added material found on the 225s is similar (only in style) to that of the famous 212s. It not only provides reinforcement, but it has an added water resistant coating to help keep some of the mountain dew from soaking your socks.
You might expect that a shoe designed with a narrow toe box, when compared to my Altra Superiors, would have your toes banging into the front when you are barrelling down a hill. However, proper lacing and the precision fit of the 225s keep the shoe firmly in place. As always, I run in a shoe slightly larger than my actual size to account for some swelling as a race lingers on.
While we are on the subject of lacing; when lacing the shoes, you will immediately notice that the tongue and laces almost feel non-existent. The tongue of the 225s is thin and barely present, like that kid in the outfield chasing butterflies. The laces have adequate length and do a good job of staying put if you throw some force behind the knot. Other members of the inov-8 lineup would require a lace change the moment you pulled them out of the box; I still can’t keep my 200s tight. However, these are solid.
Having just unwrapped these and worn just twice on some shorter races (Savage’s Maryland event and Spartan’s West Point Sprint), I was convinced I would wear them for Spartan Race’s Killington Ultra Beast. However, a last minute decision found me lacing up my trusty 200s on race day, weary of running in a new-ish shoe the day of an Ultra Beast. I had quickly realized that my decision probably wasn’t the best one as my foot moved around a bit more than it had in recent months and hot spots quickly developed on lap one. I found myself with a nice set of blisters and plenty of discomfort for lap two.
The next day’s Beast run (Yes I did an Ultra Beast and a Beast the next day in Killington… I am an OCRAddict remember?) had me lacing up the 225s, and everything was held in place nicely. The 225s don’t move, they really just don’t move around on your foot, at all. You lace them up; they stay there. That makes running longer distances more manageable, even though inov-8 claims that precision fit shoes are intended for shorter distances.
Running in the 225s feels almost natural, far better than I had expected. They are light and springy. The added protection up front kept my toes, and toenails, where should be while the durable new material used in the upper showed no signs of wear. When wearing my 212s or my 200s, I never forgot they were there. There was always some reminder that I had them on. These? No reminders… which is a good thing. Also, I usually don’t buy into the hype around some technology that can help to propel me forward, namely the DFB shank, but when running in these, you can almost feel it. I knew something was different before I even started researching the anatomy of the shoe. Will it help you podium if you haven’t been able to run for more than 11 minutes type propulsion? No.
So, you might be asking yourself, where does that leave me? Well, I love my 200s, and I love my Altras, my Merrells, but now I love my 225s. These are light, grippy, and they are pretty good looking too. Next time I run, you will likely see me in the 225s.