When your brand is called inov-8, there must be a certain pressure on you to, well, innovate. While some brands have been directing all their efforts towards carbon plates and speed on the flat, inov-8 has been focussing on helping us to run longer and faster on the trails.
Back in 2018 inov-8 launched their TERRAULTRA shoe (we looked at the recent 270 here), which had a graphene-infused sole. Graphene, the toughest material on earth, gave the soles greater durability and allowed them to deliver the best possible grip for longer. Since then they’ve rolled out graphene-infused versions of some key shoes and hiking boots, with great success.
The question was ‘what will they use graphene for next?’. And the answer is the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX. It’s not the shortest shoe name out there, but perhaps that’s fitting for a shoe that’s designed to help you run for a really long time.
The first key innovation of the TRAILFLY is that the foam used in the cushioning is graphene-infused. So the idea is that it not only retains its cushioning for longer, but it delivers more energy return (25% in testing). What does this feel like in practise?
The shoe feels very cushioned from the off, as you’d expect from something with a sole this chunky. If you normally run in inov-8s, this might take a bit of getting used to as they’re definitely a slight departure from their regular shoes. Even if you’ve worn the TERRAULTRA this cushioning is next level. But if you’re used to a maximal shoe like a HOKA, it probably isn’t such a big difference.
The cushioning doesn’t feel too squishy though. It’s still a fairly firm ride, with good energy return. The most obvious test of the cushioning for me was running downhill on a harder surface. When I’d normally find myself bracing my legs on those steep downs, I was able to completely let myself go with the confidence that the TRAILFLYs would soak up the impact. It was a strange feeling at first, but I liked it!
The second big innovation of the TRAILFLY is the groove across the middle of the sole. This is designed for maximum stability – the idea is that if you step on a rock or something which would normally send your foot twisting one way or the other, the rear of the sole and the forefoot can flex independently, so you have fewer ankle twists. It’s a clever little innovation which helps you stay nice and stable, even with the bigger stack.
The fit is reasonably wide (it felt very similar to the TERRAULTRA G270) and the tongue is minimal, sits nice and flat and doesn’t slip around. The Boomerang insole gives you even more cushioning and just enhances the feeling of comfort. It’s designed with comfort, and ultras, in mind, to keep you going on those really long runs.
The grip, as you’d expect from inov-8, is great for a trail shoe. It copes really well with most surfaces and while it wouldn’t be your choice for deep mud, that’s not what it’s designed for. The balance between cushioning and grip is a personal one but I found it really good for rocky, grassy or dirt trails. I also actually found them a great shoe for the road. And the graphene in the sole means that the grip should be very durable.
And durability is a key issue here. Trainers are notoriously tricky to recycle, so if we care about the environment we should be trying to limit our consumption as much as possible. inov-8’s focus is on trying to make shoes which are as durable as possible, so you’re not replacing them every 300 – 500 miles. By reinforcing the sole with graphene, making the foam as durable as possible, so it doesn’t compress and lose its springiness, plus making the upper resistant to wear, they’re hoping that they will last you longer than your average trainers. Time will tell on this and we’ll report back.
The TERRAULTRA shoe is really popular for inov-8, but there were still people who couldn’t get on with it because it was zero drop or it still didn’t have enough cushioning for them. The TRAILFLY should appeal to those runners looking for a super comfortable, super cushioned shoe with a 6mm drop. If you’re after a shoe for an ultra or long training runs with a mix of harder trail and road, it’s definitely worth trying a pair.
Find out more at the inov-8 website here.