Inov-8’s latest shoe, the Inov-8 TERRAULTRA G 270 ($160), is big on expectations and snappy technology taglines. The company has taken the widely lauded but not often used material–graphene–and created Graphine Grip, which claims best-in class-traction for its native conditions: the U.K.’s wet and muddy terrain.
It’s a shoe for racers, so with the pandemic disrupting the competition scene, how can Inov-8 showcase the benefits of the shoe’s ultramarathon-distance qualities? For one, it has supported ambassadors like Damian Hall who wore the shoes while setting a fastest known time on the Pennine Way, a National Trail in the U.K. It was a wet and muddy 268-mile journey which appeared to hold up well for Hall… though he probably should have added two extra miles for an even 270!
But does this technology matter much when used in distinctly non-U.K. environments like the super-dry trails of my hometown of Boulder, Colorado?
Inov-8 TERRAULTRA G 270 Upper
The TERRAULTRA G 270 has a very sophisticated upper, meaning it does a lot of different, seemingly disparate things. For one, its heavy-duty overlays make it such that the shoe is very protective from moisture and mud while still being very flexible and accommodating for wide or swelling feet. Secondly, it’s incredibly durable and robust. Its wider-than-average toebox means your forefoot can splay. And while it accommodates for splay, the overlays match almost perfectly the spots where my wide feet usually begin to wear out shoes from other manufacturers who don’t reinforce the mesh.
Inov-8’s width scale is graded 1 through 5, with 5 being the widest. The G 270 is rated a 5.
The fully gusseted tongue stays in place perfectly, laying just where it should across your foot. For added protection, the shoe has perforations on each side where a gaiter can be affixed.
Inov-8 TERRAULTRA G 270 Midsole
I felt like a guinea pig when responding to our team’s inquiry about reviewing these shoes. A stack height of 12mm on these zero-drop shoes means that your foot strike, form, and maybe most notably your Achilles tendons must be in good shape to thrive (and survive) in the G 270.
As a midfoot striker, I found no trouble in these shoes and appreciate the quick turnover and springiness of the super-springy Powerflow Max foam. The G 270 added 3 millimeters of stack from the TERRAULTRA G 260, intended to make the shoe more comfortable over longer distances. Though the G 260 was well received, many of us found it too unforgiving for a shoe meant for ultramarathon distances. The longest run I wore the G 270 on was three hours. I suffered none of the fatigue I have endured from other shoes I’ve worn recently. Inov-8 claims a 20% energy return improvement over the 2019 G 260.
Because it’s so springy, this midsole is more at home on hard terrain. I wore it on road-to-trail runs and even opted to wear it for a speed workout on dirt roads. The energy return on roads is great; you actually don’t feel like you’re sacrificing much compared to dedicated road shoes.
The included insole is what Inov-8 calls Boomerang. It’s supposed to compress and then spring back for 40% more energy return than previous insoles. As it turns out, I almost instantly discarded these insoles during my test. My feet cramped and ached on my first run out of the box. I don’t know if this was a fluke and would have gotten better over my runs, but my feet were so traumatized I decided to run without them for the duration of my testing runs and the pain went away. You may want to consider using a trusted insole of your own in these shoes.
As a race-day (or fastest known time) option, this is a shoe you’ll reach for because it doesn’t skimp on material features and it’s still very light at a little under 8.5 ounces. In fact, it’s the lightest shoe I’ve tested from around 10 pairs so far in 2020. You could always go for a lighter shoe but I believe Inov-8 found a very happy balance at this weight and for its intended long-distance use.
Inov-8 TERRAULTRA G 270 Outsole
Graphene is not a new material but to date it has not been used widely in consumer products like shoes. It’s a carbon-based material that is claimed to be the strongest available in the world. The Graphene Grip on the 4mm lugs is tactile to the touch and works well–but not great–on my aforementioned dusty trails. Where the graphene really shines is not just in grip but also durability. Inov-8 is not the most globally recognized brand in trail running but it hasn’t stopped the company from reaching into its pockets to fund and patent scientific innovations (it formed a partnership with graphene experts at The University of Manchester) and move with start-up speed (this shoe was developed very quickly in response to the pros and cons of the G 260).
After 150 miles across surfaces as soft as trail and as hard as pavement, there is little wear to be found on the lugs. Crossing laterally on the outsole are four water-dispersion channels but this feature is lost on me as I didn’t have the opportunity to run in wet much less muddy conditions.
Inov-8 TERRAULTRA G 270 Overall Impressions
The neon-green colorway I tested stands up to the bold technology it employs. (Other colors are available, too.) So who is it for? I would recommend this shoe first to people who live in wet places. I still enjoyed running in it very much despite not having the environment that it’s best suited for. It is lightweight with zero drop so heavier runners should be cautious. I am 6’ 4” and 177 pounds, and I believe I’m at the upper end of the body types who will find this shoe suitable. It can go the distance as Damian Hall found on the Pennine Way, but I think most runners won’t want to run beyond 50 miles in this shoe at one time. It’s not the durability that will waver, it’s simply that the cushioning will likely prove too minimal for most people.
Call for Comments
- Have you run in the Inov-8 TERRANOVA G 270? What do you think of the shoe overall?
- In what conditions and over what distances have you used the shoe and how has it performed?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]