Trail Running's Paul Halford puts the latest hi-tech shoe through its paces
It's been about six weeks since Trail Running were among a select group of specialist journalists at the worldwide reveal in Manchester of the new Inov-8 G series, the first running shoes with graphene in the soles. As trail shoe launches go, this was about as hyped as it gets.
Deservedly so. Putting graphene - the world's strongest yet thinnest material - in the sole of a running shoe is pretty significant. Since being broken down from graphite in 2004, it's one of the first batch of practical applications for the one-atom-thick material which could in time revolutionise many fields. After trying out 20 different mixes for graphene and rubber, Inov-8 say they have a sole which is at least 50% more durable, 50% more elastic and 50% stronger.
But do they live up to the hype?
I've run around 200 miles in the Terraultra G 260 - one of the two running shoes from Inov-8's new series. I've alternated them with a pair of Hokas, although it's not been on strict rotation and I've naturally tended towards the Inov-8s when just about to head out through the door.
Given that, I'm well short of the 1000 miles that Inov-8 say the soles lasted for one tester. But so far they're showing no obvious signs of wear underfoot. I'm an overpronator, who hasn't been wearing his orthotics lately, which ought to make wear more easily visible on the inside.
Back to the beginning, though, and the first thing you notice about these - and the Inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 is the striking colour. It's a great move in terms of branding - you're unlikely to mistake these for any other shoe.
On putting them on, they feel pretty comfortable from the first mile - and I'm very fussy when it comes to running shoes. I've had to test a lot over the years, but very few do I choose to wear for everyday training. It's noticeable too how wide they feel in the toebox.
They have a 9mm heel and 9mm forefoot, although when running in them, they don't feel like zero-drop, but a bit more "heely" than that.
At 260g, they're not superlight but, as a light runner, heavy shoes are a real pain for me and they're certainly not in that category.
And if you want plenty of cushioning, look elsewhere - these are all about responsiveness. They have a firm and thin midsole but just enough protection underfoot for my liking.
The 4mm lugs mean they're not going to serve you well on the toughest of terrains but for hard-packed trails they provide plenty of grip. The theory with graphene is that you're not having to make the usual compromise between grip and durability.
My only slight gripe is that the crease of the upper when toeing off sometimes cuts into my left foot a little, causing a noticeable discomfort. That said, it usually goes away after a few miles and it's not enough to cause any rubbing.
A common response from runners when these were unveiled was that a 1000-mile sole was worthless if the uppers fell apart well before that. Only time will tell whether the interwoven overlays of Kevlar - a material used in bulletproof vests - will handle everything the trails will throw at them for hundreds of miles. So far, the worst "microtear" on mine is a 1cm break in the stitching (see picture).
As for the price, you are going to pay more for the 18 months of research performed via Inov-8's link-up with the University of Manchester. Retailing at £140, Inov-8 admit there is a £20 premium. But if they last twice as long, it's well worth it.
Overall, these are a great shoe for everyday training and faster runs, plus longer races where you need some grip. Comfortable and responsive, they may even be worth the extra price without the promised extra mileage.