For the Grit and the Glory

X-talon 190 review

Reviewed by Peter Maksimow

This classic Inov-8 model has been a staple in my off-road racing footwear arsenal for some time and when I heard it was getting updated, it made me nervous. I hoped the changes wouldn’t be too drastic. Why change something that is already amazing? I’ve seen this done with a lot of other shoe brands to the collective dismay of loyal wearers. The word “update” does not always translate to “better”. After all, this shoe has been worn by some of the best mountain/trail/ultra runners in the world, even by Royalty, otherwise known as R[oil]ty, in some circles!

Peter 1

The X-Talon 190 not only gets a facelift, but a complete overhaul and, in this case, it results in “better.”

On first appearance you notice the color change–it has gone from the original red and white to a hazard-suit orange and white colorway, dramatically increasing the flash-factor more than a few notches. You will not be able to hide in these shoes! At first, it would seem this is the only change, but upon closer examination, you discover big updates. What are the differences? Let me count thy ways….

Peter 2

The welded overlays that make up the structure and lacing system of the shoe are increased ever so slightly to add just a touch more structure.

The once thin, rough toe guard has been changed to a thin-skinned toebox overlay and now continues back well past the bending points of the metatarsals and should decrease the occurrence of mesh blow-out that some people were having on the medial and lateral sides of the shoe. In the previous model, if the mesh rubbed a few rocks or the wearer had a wider foot, it might become frayed and lead to ripping and those little piggys could become exposed. This thin protection layer should prevent that from occurring.


The front and center toe bumper is half the height it was in the previous model.

There seems to be a higher rubber to foam ratio in the midsole material compared to the previous model, just judging by feel. Increase in durability? This is already a shoe that ages gracefully. This will only make it age like Walt Disney!

The employment of the Rope-Tec technology (so that crossfit athletes or obstacle racing athletes don’t destroy the foam in the midsole by going fireman-style down a rope) adds a bit of rigidity to this once rigid less shoe. I stress, it is minor, the new 190 is still really flexible and can still be easily rolled up into a taco shape like its predecessor, but the little bit of rigidity helps prevent rocks from poking through the underside on more rocky trails.

Peter 4

They remain a 1 Arrow Shoc-Zone shoe, with a 3mm heel-to-toe drop.

They have the heel counter of the newer Road-X models, which comes up higher on the back collar and includes a pull tab. Welded overlay piece on the back-most heel rather than a stitched on material.

Not may people know this, but the heel counter of most Inov-8s can be form-fit to ones heel by steam heating. Great news if you have a heel spur or are a male chicken! The thermosetting heel counter can be steam heated to alter its shape to perfectly fit your heel. Simply, heat the heel counter with a steam iron or steam from a boiling kettle for 30-60 seconds until the heel counter softens. Put the shoe on and go for a run or walk and the heel will form to your foot similar to Han Solo face to Carbonite in Star Wars.

Peter 3

The aggressive lugs (aka talons) are just as gnarly as ever.

I wore the new X-talon 190 for the first time right out of the box for a 50K race…and no blisters, although, I did get a CR!

Since I have worn them, I am no longer nervous. A great shoe made greater!

4 responses

  1. HAve always loved these bad boys and have run many an ultra in them. Due to the wearing of the sides, my latest purchase saw me move from my 4th pair of 195′s to the Roclite 243′s for durability. Hopefully the newly developed “thin-skinned toebox” on the 195s will hold up… :)

    September 30, 2013 at 11:23 am

  2. Great review and info on the steaming tip!
    Ill be busy with the kettle this eve :)

    October 2, 2013 at 6:16 am

  3. XCMom

    When I first put on these shoes, they seemed a bit narrower and shallower in the forefoot than my last 4 pairs of red X-Talon 190′s. However after a few runs they stretched out nicely and molded to my foot. I’m thinking the new overlay on the toe box is what lead to the initial feel of narrowness as it doesn’t give as easily at first as the mesh did. Still a fantastic shoe.

    October 2, 2013 at 6:47 pm

  4. KD117

    I’m on my 7th pair of X-Talons starting with the 212 (4 pairs) and now on my 3rd pair of 190s. I love these shoes! I cannot wait to try out the new 190s!

    October 3, 2013 at 4:42 am

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