Last December I walked away from cushioned shoes. The main reason? My ankles were destroyed for a good two weeks after the Spartan Beast. With every mile it became harder to stabilise my ankle and on uneven terrain I was barely controlling how my feet fell under me. Those cushioned shoes, the ones that were advertised with a claim to support ankles and feet? They failed me.

Off the asphalt which I’d been used to, I felt like a fawn with spindly legs. Sideway hills were especially a nightmare where my foot would roll inward. So I resolved to strengthen my ankles and feet. I started doing exercises to strengthen these parts and to correct my running form, but to complete the transformation I needed new pairs of training and racing shoes.

2XU Hyoptik Thermal Compression Tights-preracw

Running the Winter Sprint in my Talons and warm, merino-wool socks.

After years of repurchasing Asics Gels (and running OCRs in Saucony Peregerines), I was stuck choosing a new pair of shoes. The one thing I knew was that I couldn’t go straight to zero drop shoes. I’d need to work up to that over months, maybe even years, whilst carefully undoing the damage from cushioned shoes. So I looked for shoes with a 3mm drop.

What stood out immediately, was that very few brands with OCR shoes had their counterpart of the normal running shoe variety with a matching milimeter drop. One of the few that did was Innov8. My research pointed to their F-lites being a great pair of shoes to support someone transitioning to minimal shoes for the first time – perfect for training! And their 3mm drop F-lites had an OCR-ready counterpart in the well-known Talon series with the same 3mm drop. Sold!

Almost six months later, let’s see how this minimal shoe for OCR has performed. I’ve worn the Inov8 X Talons to many (muddy) trail runs in London’s Trent Park as well as to a couple of Spartan races: a Winter Sprint on snow and ice and the more recent mud-heavy Orte Sprint.

                                                                                     shoe rating table key

Water drainage –  star_activestar_activestar_activestar_activestar_active

Stability and support – star_activestar_activestar_activestar_inactivestar_active

Grip – star_activestar_activestar_activestar_activestar_active

Fit for OCR – star_activestar_activestar_activestar_activestar_active 


Yep, I’m pretty pleased with these shoes! They compliment my F-lites perfectly, which I wear during day-to-day (non-muddy) training. Both shoes are very light and fit the foot well so I can comfortably land on the midfoot every time and use my ankle to stabilise the foot rather than relying on a padded sole.

That said, the X Talon 200 is definitely not a close-to-the-ground shoe. In addition to the 3mm drop, the bottom of the shoe has a layer of the spikes mandatory for OCR shoes. And they don’t disappoint. Although mud gets stuck into them early in the race, it doesn’t affect grip so I can still complete obstacles like the wet slippery wall without trouble.

Their grip on ice and was also fantastic – I only slipped twice in the Winter Sprint, and both times I stopped myself falling. The terrain in that race was varried too including ice, well-trodden thin snow and running in thick fresh snow that was falling on the day.


Finally, running through the riverbed at the Orte Sprint was made easier by the super quick drainage on this shoe. It meant that my foot would come out of the water in an empty shoe, which was a huge advantage in a race where you’re running through a knee-high river for over a kilometer.

The only flaw of this shoe is the headache-inducing colour scheme. I know, they’re fugly. But you know what, the neon parts light up in the dark and for that extra touch of genious, I love them even more.

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