Inov-8 Trail Talon 250 | Review
Inov-8's new lightweight trail-running shoe is a featherweight mix of grip and trail feel, but at the expense of some comfort.
'Minimal, barefoot-style feel and drop, but with a little more cushioning make the Trail Talon a sleek, direct, sports car of a shoe'
Outdoors Magic: Light, quick with slipper-like comfort, good stability and deceptive grip plus great trail feel. Natural feel from 4mm heel / toe drop. Toe space. Breathability impressive too.
Outdoors Tragic: Reduced cushioning compared to Trail Talon 275 an acquired taste.
Outdoors Grabbit? Rat-like speed comes at the expense of some hard surface comfort and durability, but the pay-off is a light, quick shoe with minimal, barefoot-like feel, but more protection.
Lightweight trail-running shoe / seamless upper / PowerFlow midsole / Integrated gusseted tongue / Dynamic Fascia Band™ (DFB) / multi-directional 4mm studs / 6mm foam footbed / 4mm heel to toe drop / gusseted anti-gravel tongue.
Full Review Below
Trail Talon 250 - The Tech
The bones of the Trail Talon are broadly the same as the Trail Talon 275 which we've also reviewed, but there are some crucial differences that make a difference to the way the shoe feels.
The heel-to-toe drop is just 4mm compared to the 275s 8mm. And while the shoe uses the same PowerFlow material - ' 10% better shock absorption and 15% better energy return than standard midsolds' - as its fatter brother, there's simply less of it, particularly at the heel end of things.
Also different is the upper. Both share the same seamless construction, but the 275 uses a external ADAPTERFIT met-cradle, which links the lace points to the mid-sole and helps hold the foot snugly in place.
And while on paper the 275 should only be 25g per shoe lighter, on our digital scale, the actual difference was more like 55g per shoe. Our 250s in a 43 were an actual 254g each.
What remains the same is the grippy outsole with its 4mm lugs and three different rubber compounds for optimum all-round grip. And the the Dynamic Fascia Band™ (DFB) technology in the sole unit. It’s supposed to echo the human foot’s natural propulsive mechanism called the windlass effect.
Trail Talon 250 - Performance
Although inov-8s says that both the Trail Talon 250 and 275 are intended for long runs on hardpack trails the two shoes have a markedly different feel. The 4mm difference in heel-to-toe drop might not sound a lot, but it's immediately obvious with a flatter, more barefoot-type stance.
The other really obvious difference is in the level of underfoot cushioning and protection. While the 275 is happy to clip along on hard surfaces like rock and pavement, the 250 is a harsher ride altogether that's something of an acquired taste.
That continues off road too, where the thinner forefoot means you can feel stones on the trail through the sole of the shoe. Some lighter, experienced runners will like the sensation, but if you have a background of more protective shoes, it takes a little getting used to and can be tiring on longer runs.
The pay-off to all this is that if you're in the mood, the light, sensitive 250 is properly quick and connected in a slightly hyper, 'how fast do you want to go' way. It helps that the outsole gives impressive all-round grip wet and dry on surfaces from hardpack through to light slop, making it confident and dependable on quick, knobbly descents as well as on more benign tracks.
Finally, as with the 275, the wider than normal toe-box gives plenty of room for toe spread and swelling on longer runs.
Like it's weightier brother, the Trail Talon 250 is aimed primarily at hardpack trails, but still has surprising amounts of grip on softer stuff too. It's a lighter, lower more minimal beast altogether and while that makes it properly quick feeling and direct, the pay-off is less cushioning and comfort.
In particular, hard surfaces like payment or stone slabs are hard going and you can also feel stones through the forefoot of the sole unit. Some, more experienced runners will love that directness - inov-8 expect to sell more in the barefoot-orientated US market - but for most novice to intermediate runners, we suspect the Trail Talon 275 will be a better and more durable choice.
If what you want is ratlike rapidity regardless of comfort, and flat, natural-feeling foot stance, the 250 is ready and waiting. Just don't expect it to love you long time.