By CHELSEY GRIBBON
This past winter, Inov-8 Ltd., a British footwear company, came out with what it called “the world’s lightest fell-running shoe.” Even though most Americans do not know what fell running is, the shoe — called the X-Talon 160 — grabbed some attention because of its crazy light weight.
Indeed, at just 160 grams per foot (5.6 ounces), the shoes are among the lightest trail runners ever built. (By the way, fell running, if you’re not British or do not know, is a sport like competitive trail running, but without many trails, and with more hills — running up mountainsides and through the woods, to be precise.)
Though the X-Talon 160s are extremely light, there is a catch. To cut to the chase, these shoes are made for kids or very small adults. I, at about an even 5 feet tall, fall into the latter category. Inov-8 recommends you weigh in at 110 pounds or less — and have small feet! — to use these shoes.
With the launch of this shoe, I was extremely excited because, for once, my foot was the perfect size for testing it out. (I often have difficulty finding trail shoes small enough to fit me.) The X-Talon 160s are unisex shoes and come in U.K. sizes 1 to 4, which equals to about U.S. women’s sizes 3 to 6 or U.S. boys/men’s of size 4.5 and less.
Last month, I put the X-Talons through an ultimate test in the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race, a weeklong event in southern Chile. Racing with Team GearJunkie.com, I wore the shoes for about 150 kilometers of trail-less trekking.
I had planned to switch out my shoes halfway through the race’s long trek. But after the first 80 kilometers, my feet were feeling so good that the idea of changing shoes seemed silly. The X-Talons adapt and seem to form to your foot. They are highly flexible with super traction, making them great for scaling up rock faces, side-hill traversing on slippery slopes, and running on rocky, unstable terrain.
These are minimalist shoes, no doubt. They are so light and flexible that many people would be uneasy using them off-trail. There is little “support” in these shoes, at least as how that term has been traditionally defined (padded, big-heeled running shoes with lots of foam and plastic “rock guard” plates and the like).
Indeed, many runners will think they are too light. They have a heel-to-toe differential of about 3mm, which gives them a flat, “barefoot” feel that I prefer. In Patagonia, or for racing and training at home, I have come to love the X-Talon shoe for its supreme sensitivity, durability, and grip.
—Chelsey Gribbon is a member of the YogaSlackers. She raced on Team GearJunkie.com in the 2010 and 2011 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race.