Pros and Cons
Filed under:Gear reviews, Trail Running Shoes, Uncategorised, Graphene, Inov-8, Inov-8 Terraultra G 260, trail running shoes
Jon Doran tries out a super-tough trail running shoe made from wonder-material Graphene...
“It is,” says inov-8, “the world’s toughest shoe for running the world’s toughest long-distance trails,” but it’s also quite good for shorter runs in the Peak District. – Jon Doran goes for a run to test out these claims (especially the second bit).
The inov-8 Terraultra G 260 is designed for people who run a lot, in big chunks, maybe for several days in a row, ultra-runners in other words. Unfortunately, cards on the table, I’m never going to be one of those runners. The idea of churning out marathon-plus distances really doesn’t appeal, but I do use trail and mountain running as both a fun outing its own right – I like covering ground fast – and as a way of staying outdoors fit for bigger mountains.
That said, the ultra running-orientated Terraultra looked interesting with its mix of cutting edge Graphene compound rubber sole material and promise of all round grip with added durability. It could, I thought, make an ideal all-round trail-running shoe.
I probably wasn’t the only person with the same idea. The shoe was in such high demand that inov-8 themselves had run out and we were saved only by the nice people at who kindly supplied a pair for review.
Oh, one last thing,
All About Graphene
The buzz around the shoe and inov-8’s new G-series generally, is all about Graphene. It’s a substance that’s harder than diamonds, 200 times stronger than steel and stretches 25% without breaking. It was discovered in Manchester and won a Nobel Prize for the scientists who produced it from Graphite mined in the Lake District.
And it’s mixed with the rubber used in the sole unit of the Terraultra. The claim is that inov-8 can use soft, grippy, rubber, thats 50% stronger, 50% more durable and 50% more elastic than before.
And just to underline the stand-out technology, the shoe gets standout, neon green looks as well. It’s not one for the timid runner that’s for sure.
Early take was that the shoe is decently light, thought not as light as the 260 in its name suggests – digital scales showed around 305g per shoe in size 43 but sturdy at the same time. The uppers are reinforced with a lightweight Kevlar overlay for abrasion resistance.
The fit is orientated towards ultra athletes, in particular the forefoot – like that in the older inov-8 Race Ultra 260 shoe, is slightly higher volume than usual to accommodate the way that feet swell up on ultra-length and multi-day runs.
There’s not much in the way of internal padding, particularly around the heel and ankle area, but what there is is well placed and the fit, for me was excellent.
What I was a little taken aback by was the relative lack of cushioning. A lot of my running is ‘door-to-trail’ taking in a mile or so of pavement before hitting the off-road stuff and the shoe was unexpectedly harsh underfoot with very little cushioning. I say unexpectedly because that sole unit looks reassuringly chunky.
In reality its a zero-drop shoe with just 9mm of padding under both heel and forefoot and a sole unit that’s generally true to inov-8’s ethos of matching the sole to the natural mechanics of the foot using its tried and trusted META-FLEX grooves in both mid and outsole along with other technologies.
Jekyll and Hyde
As soon as I got off the road and onto the trails, the Terraultra started to make sense in a dramatic chalk and cheese sort of way. Suddenly the harsh ride translated into a mix of nimbleness and excellent ground feel with just the right level of cushion. You do notice the odd stone, but the pay-off is a really good grasp of what’s happening under your feet.
The roomy forefoot doesn’t seem to hurt this either and the shoe felt unexpectedly precise and planted. Not a small part of that is the uncanny level of grip from the Graphene-enhanced sole unit.
I’m used to inov-8’s rubber being grippy, but the G-Grip compound was extraordinary on rock generally and wet rock in particular. I don’t know if inov-8 has taken advantage of the added durability to make the rubber compound even softer, but in any case, these things grip like Velcro to rock generally.
They’re not half bad elsewhere either. In fact in anything short of proper, primeval slop, the 4mm lugs of the sole simply dig in reassuringly. As a rule of thumb, if there’s grass in evidence, they will generally grip.
The one slight weakness was a tendency to slide sideways on really sloppy off camber stuff, probably something to do with the tank-track style lug pattern. To be fair, most trail – as opposed to full-on fell shoes – are going to struggle with this sort of thing.
And The Rest
Other stuff I noticed included the relative lack of water-resistance from the very breathable mesh uppers. Step in a puddle and you know it instantly. The flip side of this is that the shoe’s lack of padding means it dries out pretty quickly.
The fat laces are easy to tie and untie and didn’t come undone in use. And finally, despite the paucity of internal padding, the shoe stayed consistently comfortable. For me the heel fit was excellent with no slip or lifting and while the forefoot is a little more roomy than some, it didn’t translate into off-road sloppiness.
Inov-8 says the EXTEROFT upper adapts to the swelling of feet during ultra events and while I never actually tested that in practice, the shoe stayed super comfortable even on longer runs (by my standards) up to around 20km or so.
For a shoe aimed primarily at ultra-runners, the Terraultra G 260 also makes a really effective all-round trail and general off-road training shoe. It gives excellent, tenacious grip particularly on rocky stuff, but also on anything else short of proper, full-on slop.
It’s a bit harsh on pavement and other really unforgiving surfaces, which may write it off as a door to trail shoe for some runners, but once you get onto the trails, it has an excellent balance of precision, ground feel and just enough cushioning to keep things comfortable but still natural.
It’s emphatically not a cheap shoe at £140 per pair, but the claimed increased durability of the Graphene-enhanced rubber along with those Kevlar-reinforced uppers might just make that more palatable. A propos of which, although it’s hard to measure, my test shoes are still going strong along the Peak District trails.
Last but not least, if you fancy the idea of Graphene-enhanced rubber grip and durability, but want more toothiness from your sole, keep an eye out for the new inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 – – which uses the same technologies but with a super-aggressive fell-type sole unit to cope with soft and slippery off-piste and winter trail conditions. Available shortly.