Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 Review
This year, trail running company Inov-8 has looked to diversify its footwear technology with a renewed focus on durability and ride longevity. The outcome is the Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280, which features a “first-of-its-kind” nitrogen-infused midsole that promises to improve underfoot bounce. For my plantar fasciitis-ridden feet, that sounded like a promise too good to pass up on, given how much I liked the original Trailfly Ultra 300s.
Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 At-a-Glance
MSRP: $185 | £165 | €190
Weight: 9.88 ounces, or 280 grams per shoe
Overall stack height: 33mm at the heel to 25mm in the toe
Colors: Green/Orange | Red/Burgundy
These shoes launched on October 13th, so I’ve only been able to give them a spin for the last few weeks. They’ve been on about half a dozen 20-mile days but haven’t been through the wringer properly yet. That said, I’m very familiar with Inov-8’s other shoes and thus have a fair idea of what to expect. Look out for an update to this review once I’ve put 500 miles on them on the Te Araroa.
The Big Features
Flyspeed Foam Midsole
This is what this shoe is all about! The G 280 immediately feels springier than I’m accustomed to with popular minimalist trail runners. According to Inov-8’s website, “FLYSPEED foam gives back 65%-68% of the energy put in. A standard foam midsole gives back 45%-48%.” I was impressed with the bounce but can’t yet comment on the durability of the foam. Given its robust stack height, this is something I’ll keep an eye on.
This shoe is all about comfort. With a tall stack height of 33 millimeters, this is definitely one of the thicker soles I’ve used. It’s therefore impressive that Inov-8 has limited the weight to 280g a shoe, thanks to the nitrogen infusing process. In addition, I am impressed by how sturdy it feels despite the stack height. The comfy insoles also improve the overall feel.
Unchanged from the Trailfly Ultra 300, the Adapter Flex is a groove in the center of the shoe, allowing it to flex. This means that the front and back of the shoe can move independently, giving you a responsive ride that can adapt to the terrain. Therefore even though you’re wearing a high-stack, cushioned shoe, the grip and reactiveness aren’t compromised.
Graphene Grip Sole
Inov-8 has built a name for itself with its graphene-rubber compound, which improves the stickiness, elasticity, and durability of the shoe versus a standard rubber sole. The use of graphene is more than just marketing hype. My Inov-8 original Terra Ultras (Now called the Trailfly G 270) lasted 1,200 miles of mixed use.
The new knitted upper is designed to flex and expand as the wearer’s feet swell from a long day on the trail. I’ve noticed that the toe box definitely feels roomier, but I find that where the tongue overlaps the shoe’s upper, there is increased pressure on the top of my foot. They also don’t dry as quickly should they get wet.
In the past, I’ve also complained that I found Inov-8’s color choices quite garish, which meant that they couldn’t be worn around town once I’d beaten them up on trail. These new designs are much more stylish and ‘town friendly’ with just the right amount of color pop.
Inov-8’s Trail Runner Line Up
The new G 280 is one of three shoes in the Trailfly trail runner family, each with unique characteristics. Having reviewed all three (G 300, G 270, and G 300), my pick is between the original Trailfly G 270s and the new G 280s. It comes down to two main differences: comfort and drop. The 270s offer an impressively light package for a firmer, lower-to-the-ground ride (22mm). Meanwhile, the 280s have a tall stack height (33mm), an 8mm drop, and a bouncier ride. The 300s feel a little out of place now as the 280s have them beat in pretty much every category, including weight and comfort.
Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 Pros
Bounce: If you’re buying these shoes, it’ll be for the bounce and comfort. When I put them on, I was immediately reminded of the Hoka One One Speedgoat in terms of the protection it offers underfoot. While the shoe technically has a medium-thickness sole, you feel like you’re getting a lot more protection and energy return than a typical sole of this size. Inov-8 claims 20% more than an average foam shoe.
Grip: I’ve called out the graphene infused rubber in previous reviews and for this shoe this is still a killer feature. Combined with the responsive Adapter Flex sole, it makes for a sure-footed, confident companion for terrain ranging from rocks to damp grass. The deep lugs also do a great job with semi-muddy/wet terrain, gaining traction quickly.
Durability: I’ve tried a number of Inov-8s over the years. The graphene-infused rubber outsole is an exceptionally hard-wearing compound. All my previous pairs are still going strong, even though they all have over 500 miles on them. The new nitrogen-infused sole promises a longer-lasting midsole – this is the bit that can make the shoe feel like you’re walking on concrete when it finally gives up. If you’re looking for a shoe that will last the longest on trail, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better lineup than Inov-8’s.
Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 Cons
Tongue: My main discomfort came from the new tongue. This is a shame as I was hoping these would be some of the most comfortable shoes I’d worn based on the soles. I was initially excited to see a more robust tongue on the G 280, having complained about the minimalist tongues on other Inov-8 models. I retied these shoes several times to try and get the right fit. However, I found that where the tongue and the eyelets met, a number of pressure points developed on the tops of my feet.
New Upper: While the new knitted upper did provide a lot of breathability, I found that I didn’t really get on with the material, which differs from the minimalist mesh that I’d become used to on other Inov-8 shoes. I did appreciate that the shoe flexed a bit more as my feet swelled throughout the day, but if I got these shoes wet, I found they took much longer to dry out versus previous models.
Fit: While the 280 is Inov-8’s widest fit, I still think the shoe could have an even wider fit at the front. I found my pinky toe didn’t have the space it gets in something like the Altra Olympus. In addition, combined with the fact I didn’t want to tighten my laces too much due to pressure on the top of my foot, I found that my feet moved around within the shoe. This is probably also due to the upper material being more flexible.
I’ve long been a fan of Inov-8 and its relentless focus on, well, innovation. The graphene outsole remains the stickiest, bounciest, and most durable I’ve tested. Meanwhile, the new nitrogen-infused midsole adds a generous amount of underfoot comfort and energy return. The new design looks great both on and off trail, and I’m sure it’ll withstand hundreds of miles of beating.
With so much changing in this new model versus Inov-8’s older shoes, some features (namely the upper) could be refined in a second version of the shoe. That said, I’m excited to see how Inov-8 rolls out the nitrogen-infused midsole to the rest of its lineup.
Weight: 10 ounces
Stack height: 32-28mm
Weight: 8.9 ounces
Stack height: 31-27mm
Weight: 8.2 ounces
Stack height: 30-25mm
Disclaimer: The Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 was donated for purpose of review.
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