The Inov-8 Trail Talon 235 is a no frills, lightweight trail shoe. It is fast, flexible and firm and will be a fantastic sub marathon distance race shoe. This updated version has a sock like fit that is very comfortable right out of the box. It has very little underfoot protection so it is best suited on buffed or non highly technical trails.
The Trail Talon 235 is a slimmed down version of its predecessor the Trail Talon 250. Most of the weight savings come from the upper which is completely seamless since the midsole and outsole are very similar. It comes in as one of the lightest shoes (8.2oz for men, and 7 oz for women) in our test and you can feel it. The step in feel is comfortable with a surprising amount of room up front for Inov-8 which is typically considered a narrower fitting shoe. The midsole is comfortable but is noticeably firm. This is definitely felt while running. This shoe is one of the most minimal shoes tested this season and you feel it. The firm midsole makes for a fast shoe, but since it is so thin there is little to no protection from sharp rocks. Comfort is limited to a couple of hours and unless you are used to Inov-8s or more minimal shoes, the ideal distance is anything up to a marathon.
As with most Inov-8 shoes, the Trail Talon has excellent grip that sticks well in most situations. The flexible midsole can be a little bit of hinderance when you are trying to climb steep hills or boulders. The use of 3 different density rubbers helps with grip and wear in many different conditions (Inov-8 uses a firmer rubber in the heel, a medium density down the middle and softer rubber along the sides to help with lateral grip.
The biggest drawback for this shoe really is the surprising lack of underfoot protection. There is no rock plate and the midsole is so thin (only 7mm) that you feel everything on the trail. This is great for those wanting that and can help you learn to avoid rocks rather than just run over the top of them. But, for most, it is important to know what you are getting into. Think of this shoe more as a precision instrument where you have to pick and choose your way through the trail instead of just bombing down it without thinking about it.
The Trail Talon 235 is definitely considered a race shoe. There are only a few shoes in the lightweight category that would be considered a race shoe and this is definitely one of them. Because of that, soft and plush comfort was not high on the priority list for Inov-8. The upper on this shoe is actually very comfortable and is light, flexible and breathable. It has ample room in the forefoot without being too roomy and has enough padding on the tongue and heel collar. As previously mentioned, the midsole is very thin. It is still a very smooth rolling shoe and has an excellent transition from heel to toe. Because of the thin midsole, this is not an all day shoe and would be best suited in distances from the marathon down.
Since this shoe was built for speed, it is only appropriate it got our highest score of shoes tested. Everyone agreed that this shoe is fast. It does not the have the “pop” of shoes like the Brooks Mazama with its propulsion plate, but it is still very responsive and the transition is so smooth that you can effortlessly get up on your toes and get going fast. Inov-8 claims their midsole material returns 15% more energy than a standard midsole and that actually may be true in this case. It helps that the shoe feels fast and connects very well to the foot, and of course it is very light.
Security of Fit
This shoe is really well balanced for lots of different terrain. It holds the foot securely most of the time. On steep descents and really sharp cuts there can be a little movement inside the shoe, mainly due to the very flexible upper. One major plus and an addition from the previous model is the addition of an external heel counter. It does a good job of securely holding your heel in place without being to tight or restrictive. This helps add support and mitigates some pronation, if you need it. The midfoot fits securely and the lacing system works well and generally unobtrusively, which is exactly what it is supposed to do.
For a lot of the same reasons the Trail Talon was one of the fastest shoes, it is also the most agile. One of the best compliments a shoe can get is that it is fun to run in. Everyone one of our testers mentioned how much fun it was to run in this shoe and that was largely thanks to its ability to turn and cut with ease. Because of the secure fit, lightweight design, low drop (4mm) and excellent grip this shoe really can carve up a trail. There is little forgiveness for poor foot placement so you do really need to commit to your line, especially if you are running fast.
Not surprisingly, the Trail Talon is also very responsive. It is rare for a shoe that is so flexible to be so responsive. But Inov-8 has done just that. This is a very smooth shoe and has one of the best transitions of any shoe tested. As previously mentioned it does not have a lot of pop that really propels you forward, but to compensate for that, you can feel the midsole actively returning energy with every step.
As mentioned in the Comfort category, this is a race shoe. And since no shoe can have everything, some sacrifices have to be made. Inov-8 chose not to make a plush shoe with lots of protection. If you are looking for high levels of protection then a lightweight trail shoe may not be what you are looking for. In going for speed, agility and responsiveness Inov-8 did not make a shoe that was very protective. Under foot the very thin midsole just does not provide enough protection for really any rock. The upper does provide fair lateral protection and the new seamless toe bumper may stop a rock from penetrating the shoe but will not provide much more protection than that.
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HOW WE TESTED
Out testing spans the course of several months. Our testers spend a few weeks running at least 50 miles (typically much more) in each shoe. They live all over the country so each shoe can be put through our testing protocol in a variety of terrains and conditions. Each tester is encouraged—to the best of their ability—to test the shoes in as many different terrain environments as possible: in the mountains, on dirt roads, buffed single track, technical terrain, etc. In addition to varying terrain, our testers have to test each shoe at different efforts including a long run, easy running and fast running. As mentioned above we test for six different criteria: comfort, speed, security of fit, agility, responsiveness and protection.