UK-based Inov-8 has been making high-quality trail running shoes for years. Many of their shoes are built for soggy trails of the olde country, but these are supposed to shine on hardpack. The Inov-8 TrailTalon 290’s have been put to the high desert test and there’s a lot to talk about.

Inov-8 TrailTalon 290 Features:

  • Two-piece Powerflow midsole
  • Tri-C sticky outsole with aggressive 4mm lugs
  • Traditional last with 8mm drop
  • Adapterfit MET cradle
  • Rubber toe bumper
  • Attached gaiter hooks
  • Weight: 11.85 oz ea (44.5 actual)
  • MSRP: $125
Inov-8 TrailTalon 290 Review

Great traction and overall comfort with the TrailTalon 290’s.

Smooth comfort and breathability

It’s truly astounding the sheer amount of trail running shoes that Inov-8 has in their lineup. There are so many, I can’t even count them, but the TrailTalon 290 sits in their line as a hardpack specialist. As a hardpack specialist, I’m honestly surprised at the size and shape of the outsole lugs — they seem more aggressive than similar purpose-built shoes. But, after many miles on mostly dry, hardpacked trails, it all makes sense.

Sometimes the break-in period of trail runners can feel like a fish out of water, but not these. I typically wear them around town for at least a couple of days just to work out the kinks. On one of those initial days, I had several compliments on how cool the TrailTalon 290’s looked. I’d try to tell them about the Inov-8 brand and all I got were shoulder shrugs (hopefully that starts to change). I’ll add that walking around town, these are quite comfortable and smooth with verified good looks.

This summer has been quite dry here in Utah, so testing on hardpack trails is about all I was able to do. I very much appreciated the consistent traction the Tri-C outsole provided. I’d say it’s as expected with great traction on all but the most challenging terrain (like loose, roller-ball scree). I was surprised, however, that traction on smooth rock slabs was lacking. Overall uphill and downhill traction has been respectable, but not best-in-class. Wear continues to be outstanding and I imagine these will have a long lifespan.

Inov-8 TrailTalon 290 Review

Smooth stride up and down with the TrailTalon’s.

During my initial break-in period, I felt like the arch supports sat about 5-10mm further aft than they should as they didn’t sit square in my arches. That feeling never went away, but I didn’t have any negative affects from it on the trail.

The combination of a thick midsole and Adapterfit upper makes for a well-cushioned ride that remains responsive. It’s not on par with the likes of an Altra Olympus, but cushioning is slightly above average. Additionally, it has a natural, smooth stride from midsole strike to toe-off with excellent toe-off traction.

I liked the cradled feel of the Adapterfit wrap, but did find the inner cage can occasionally catch the opposite foot mid-stride. Again, it only happens if the planted foot rolls inward or there’s a slight undulation in the terrain. Perhaps a lower-profile Adapterfit system on the instep side would avoid that.

Breathability is excellent and overall protection is good. Each foot strike has enough trail feel to remain connected to the terrain while delivering excellent protection from sharp, pointy rocks. On the stability side, these favor agility over stability. It’s easy to dance through tough terrain, but I did find them to be a touch less stable than other shoes I’ve tested.

The Good

  • Lightweight design with good breathability
  • Good dry trail traction
  • Excellent overall protection
  • Adapterfit offers a cradled upper
  • Wearing extremely well with little signs of use

The Bad

  • Arch support sits aft about 5-10mm
  • Adapterfit cage can catch on opposite shoe

The Bottom Line: Inov-8 TrailTalon 290

Inov-8 has a trail running shoe for every type of terrain (mud, loam, snow and hardpack). The TrailTalon 290’s are purpose-built for hardpack trails, which makes Utah the perfect testing ground. Overall performance has been great with good breathability, comfort and style.

Buy Now: Available at Moosejaw.com

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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