When starting a shoe review, I tend to try not to look at the manufacturer blurb early on, other than some basic information about what they’re designed for. Given the name it was pretty clear inov-8 had trail running in mind, and potentially some rather long trail running at that.
First impressions out of the box were very good. The colours appealed to me, a simple orange and teal (officially known as pine/nectar), looking stylish and well designed. The patterned knitted upper looks great with inov-8 branding at the heel and the trademark footprint on the tongue. There are other colour options for the men’s shoes: a grey/blue and a red. There is also a women’s version of the TRAILFLY but there is only one colour available, a red/burgundy.
The sole looks rugged enough and is infused with graphene to allegedly provide a tougher grip. There’s a groove around the middle of the sole (known as the Adapter Flex) and you can quite easily bend the shoe at this point with the theory being this provides more underfoot control. The toe cap seems ok but I would say slightly softer than some other shoes – maybe try not to kick too many rocks!
- Nitrogen gas infused midsole (known as FLYSPEED)
- Weight 280g
- Graphene-enhanced rubber outsole with 4mm lugs
- Designed for long-distance performance
- Price: £165
I’ve given these a decent bashing over a wide-variety of terrain from easy going trails to completely off-path on the soggy hills in the Peak District, squelching through mud, scraping through heather and clambering up rocks. I’m not sure this could be classed as “Trailflying” but it has been great fun all the same.
Pros: What’s good about the inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G280
They are wide! For a slab-footed person such as myself who potentially has room for a 6th toe, width is a really important factor. The extra width is a feature often included for shoes marketed at the ultrarunning audience to accommodate any enlargement/expansion of the feet over such long distance.
inov-8 rate them as a width of 5 (from 1-5) so the widest that they do. From my perspective they fitted perfectly, although I had chosen a half-size up from my normal running shoe size of 9.5. I often have shoes ripping at the “knuckle” of my toes, but with the wide toe-box the knitted upper, so far, shows no signs of wear and seems robust. The upper is breathable and seems to keep the feet at a decent temperature (a steady freezing in October in the north).
What about the nitrogen? Well, these shoes certainly are comfy to run in and the sole feels well cushioned along the whole of the foot. I would even go so far as to say slightly bouncy, helping to maintain pace on the trails. It’s also worth noting the sustainability credentials from inov-8 suggesting the use of nitrogen gas saves an estimated 50% of energy during creation of the midsole compared to the other chemicals that would have to be used. Furthermore, the factory where they are manufactured moving towards 100% sustainable-use energy.
The grip works well, I ran in the TRAILFLY ULTRAs well beyond hard packed trails and during one run ended up scrambling up a waterfall. The grip on rock is good and gave me confidence to keep up the pace. Wet rock always seems a tough one to conquer and generally these seemed to perform well as an all-rounder. They are very adaptive over uneven terrain which may be down to the groove along the middle of the sole.
Cons: What’s not so good about the Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G280
I feel like I might be clutching at straws here, but I did find myself having to stop multiple times to re-tie the laces, even trying a “double-knot”. This was particularly noticeable when running off-trail within the undergrowth which may snagged on the laces a little and pulled them loose. Slightly frustrating but not really a major concern. I also wouldn’t necessarily pick these for a shorter distance race, as I’d probably prefer something a bit more rigid, but obviously that’s not really what they’re designed for.
My only other comment would be the price, which seems to be at the upper end of the scale for trail running shoes.
inov-8 aren’t usually a brand I pick after trying a couple of shoes in the past that just didn’t suit me, but the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 280 has really grabbed my attention. I think they look great (particularly the colour for this review) and fit me perfectly. They’ve been great on all sorts of terrain but they perform best on hard packed trails.
I’d have no hesitation to pick these out for longer runs knowing that they’d keep my feet comfortable for hours. How much of this relates to the nitrogen infused midsole I don’t know, but the foam mix works excellently and combined with the outsole and “adapter flex” groove they’re amongst some of the comfiest trail/ultra shoes I’ve tried. As I look through my shoe collection, I’d reach straight for these if I’m doing anything that’s off road and not overly technical.
Have you tried the inov-8 TRAILFLY ULTRA G 280? Don’t agree with this review? What’s your opinion? Add your own comment to this review and share your experience and passion for running with others.
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About the writer: Dan Stinton is a former Editor of RunUltra. He’s a Peak District based runner collecting mud and scrapes in and around Glossop, and he likes nothing more than escaping into the Dark Peak and then writing about how difficult it was.