Inov-8 launched their new trail shoe, the TrailFly Ultra G 280 in October. For those unfamiliar, G stands for Graphene—a material that is 200 times tougher than steel but is remarkably thin and flexible which allows for it to be applied to a variety of surfaces. Inov-8 was the first footwear company to launch a shoe with this component in their outsole back in 2018 and since then, they have also included it in the foam of certain models. Following a growing trend—and dire need—for more sustainable options in the shoe industry, Inov-8 touts Graphene as the answer to longer-lasting footwear.
The Ultra 280 G features a new midsole foam dubbed “Flyspeed.” It’s their nitrogen-infused foam which is light and durable. Again, with a nod to sustainability, Inov-8 mentions that nitrogen reduces the amount of energy and chemicals needed during the manufacturing process. The nitrogen also reduces the overall weight of the shoe which comes in at 280 grams—hence the final component of the name. On their website, Inov-8 claims that this foam gives back 65–68% of the energy you put in, while a standard foam midsole gives back 45–48%. In the time of carbon and nylon plates making their way onto the trail running scene, it’s hard for runners to quantify this exact amount of energy return. That being said, during our testing period we did experience a light, nimble shoe that felt responsive on the trail and had excellent bounce.
The outsole also performed well during when we put it through a barrage of tests along the Wasatch Front in Utah, and single-track trails in Central Oregon. We tested the shoes on everything from dry, rocky trails to knee-deep snow. The Ultra G 280 performs well on hard-packed trails, and we also found that the tread gripped trails covered with icy spots quite well. The 4mm lugs on the outsole are well-positioned and follow the metatarsal pattern of the human foot to allow extra flexibility on rocky terrain. When not on wet, sloppy trails, the grip was sticky and tacky and gave us confidence on steep terrain. After testing these shoes for about 200 miles, we experienced minimal wear and tear on the outsoles.
The stack height of 33mm is fairly high but is also following a trend in the trail running shoe world. Unlike other high stack shoes like the Speedgoat 5 (38mm with a 4mm drop), the TrailFly Ultra G 280 drops 8mm from heel-to-toe making it a more comfortable ride over longer distances. Inov-8 has two other shoes in the TrailFly family, the Ultra G 300 Max and the G 270. The Ultra G 300 Max is their most cushioned option and a beefier shoe (with a 6mm drop), while the G 270 is billed as “the fast one” and is zero drop. With the launch of the Ultra G 280, Inov-8 is aiming for the sweet spot of a longer distance shoe that is light enough to be competitive but not lacking in any features that you might want in an ultra-distance shoe.
Available at www.inov-8.com.
Lug depth: 4mm
Stack height (midsole only): 22mm at rear, 14mm at forefoot
Stack height (including outsole and footbed): 33mm at rear, 25mm at forefoot