Gear Review: Inov-8 Terraultra G 260 Shoes with Graphene Grip
A few months back we wrote an article about how graphene would be the next word added to thru-hiker lingo bingo. From that article a few of you readers suggested that we review some of the graphene composite shoes being made by Inov-8—and we’re really thankful you did.
Inov-8 was the first and is still the only company to utilize the Nobel prize-winning material graphene in sports footwear. This was made possible through the partnership formed with Manchester University in England—the place where the whole graphene revolution kicked off. Inov-8 now boasts an impressive lineup of about a dozen graphene-soled shoes (aptly called the G series) that have had some impressive accomplishments set in them (e.g., Seth James DeMoor’s Fastest Known Time at Mount Shavano and Jasmine Paris’s record breaking Spine Race win in 2019).
The Terraultra G 260 is Inov-8’s zero drop, wide toe-boxed trail running shoe featuring this mythical graphene material. They claim this shoe has “the world’s toughest grip” as the graphene-enhanced rubber is “50% stronger, 50% more elastic, and 50% harder wearing” than their non-G series. Weighing 260 grams (9.17 ounces), this shoe is lightweight, has a robust yet springy cushion, and deep lugs to help you keep that grip on trail.
The Terraultra G 260 At-a-Glance
MSRP: $150 ( $120 through Inov-8’s site).
Weight: 9.17 ounces, or 260 grams
Sole composition: Graphene Grip rubber composite
Stack height: 17mm
Material: Mixed fabrics, TPU film for strength, and a Kevlar fiber heel cup. 100% vegan.
Circumstances of Use
With the claim of apocalypse-proof soles being the biggest selling point of this shoe, it was really important for us that we put enough miles on these shoes before writing up our review. I’ve notched up 450 miles on these shoes, mostly through running but also through day hikes and general everyday use. The shoes have mostly seen compact dirt trails, grass, and some tarmac.
With regard to what we’re comparing them to, I hiked the PCT in 2018 going through four pairs of the Nike Wildhorses (the 3s and 4s), and have put about 500 miles on the Altra Olympus, Superior, Lone Peaks, and the Escalantes.
Outsole featuring Graphene Grip: The standout feature of this shoe is the Graphene Grip outsole of the shoe. Not only does this make the shoe grippy, but it is also incredibly durable. With a lower stack height than pretty much any other thru-hike worthy shoe on the market, the shoe feels incredibly stable, which paired with the grip makes you feel in control of the terrain you’re hiking. The 4mm cleats with deep water channels ensure the shoe can dig into the muddiest and wettest of terrains without compromising on its traction.
Midsole: The midsole of the shoe is made of a well-cushioned rubber that is supportive yet responsive and is supported by a lightweight DFB shank.
Strong upper fabrics: The upper of the shoe features a high strength fabric with TPU film strips in commonly wearing spots to improve durability. A rigid toe box also helps add protection to the shoes, and your toenails. The heel box contains Kevlar fibers and is covered by a minimalist yet supportive padding that makes for a comfortable fit around the heel and ankle.
Zero drop: One of the main selling points of this shoe vs. others in the Inov8 lineup is the zero drop. A zero drop shoe promotes natural form; Jenny and I are both big fans as we find it puts more focus on our muscles (specifically our calves) and less on the joints (knees and ankles). If you are not sure if a zero drop is for you, check out Hugh’s article on this.
Foot box: These shoes run comfortably wide around the foot box in what Inov8 calls its EXTEROFIT. This allows your toes to splay inside the shoes, while the mid shoe and heel cap keep the foot firmly in place. I never felt my foot sliding out of the heel box, which has been a problem for me in the past (e.g., with the Altra Olympus).
Very hard wearing: Hands down the best feature of these shoes are the graphene outsoles. After 450 miles these shoes show very little sign on the outers. Compare this to my Nike Wildhorses that have only done about 50 miles more, and the results are night and day. The grip on these shoes is incredible and I could see myself putting another few hundred miles on them before the grip was compromised. For us thru-hikers this is this is a serious consideration—a few hundred miles more on trail can mean saving serious cash when it means potentially buying one less pair over the course of a thru-hike.
Weight: Coming in at 9.2 ounces (260 grams) these shoes are one of the lightest shoes that could be used for a thru-hike made possible by Inov8s utilization of some of the most cutting-edge materials in the world. The shoe doesn’t feel like they’ve had to make compromises in getting this light—if anything they are one of the sturdiest shoes I’ve ever worn.
Good cushioning: Being quite tall and therefore heavier than the average human, I tend to find that “new shoe” cushion disappears pretty quickly with my shoes—traditionally within the first 200 miles. While not as springy as when I first got the shoes, they still have a significant amount of bounce, and the stress lines that appear in the midsole over time are not as prominent as on other shoes with the same mileage. All this adds to the number of miles you can clock up on them before you need to shell out on another pair.
Wide toe box: Being the widest toe boxes that Inov8 make, these shoes allow your feet to swell during the day without becoming uncomfortable. It’s really important with a big toe box that this doesn’t compromise the responsiveness and secure fit of the shoe and Inov8 does a good job at achieving this without all the pressure being applied to the mid-foot through the laces.
Insoles: The insoles on these shoes left a little to be desired. After about 300 miles the top layer started peeling away from the foamy undersole and started to bunch up under my toes. The insoles also provide no arch support, which again will be something to get used to coming from a traditional trainer. For me, this is a non-issue as when I am on a thru-hike I normally trade out the original insole for a pair of the orange Superfeet insoles.
Shoe temperature: These ran a bit warmer than I was used to due to the reinforced toe box and TPU film strips. These add strength to the shoe but as a result the airflow through the shoe isn’t as good as some of the lighter weight trail runners out there. I went for a run on tarmac during a 80F degree (27C) day and could feel the heat permeating through the soles. I imagine the same would be true in the heat of the desert sections of the PCT or CDT. The thick material also means the shoes take a little longer to dry out after a sketchy stream crossing.
We love this shoe. It ticks all the boxes for what consistently comes out of The Trek’s AT thru-hiker survey as the main selling points to look for in a long-distance hiking trail runner: lightweight, hard wearing, zero drop, and with a wide toe box. With long-distance hiking effectively canceled for the year, 2020 is a great time to try out some new gear on shorter hikes to see how you get on with them. We believe these are a worthy contender for your shortlist.
Weight: 8.7 ounces
Stack height: 21mm
Weight: 10.6 ounces
Stack height: 25mm
Weight: 10.5 ounces
Stack height: 22-14mm
Weight: 10 ounces
Stack height: 32-28mm
This item was donated for purpose of review
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