The Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 is a highly cushioned trail shoe with a wide fit.
The Trailfly, as its name suggests, is a shoe designed for long distance trail running. Its unique selling point is the high level of cushioning and energy return offered by the nitrogen infused foam in the sole unit. That sounds impressive but do they measure up to the hype?
Inov-8 offer a wide range of trail and fell running shoes, the feature that makes the Trailfly Ultra G 280 stand out from the others is its cushioning. The “FLYSPEED” midsole uses foam infused with nitrogen (sounds like something from a Heston Blumenthal recipe!) This is said to give high levels of bounce and energy return. Inov-8 state that their testing shows that the FLYSPEED foam gives back 65%-68% of the energy put in whereas a standard foam midsole gives back 45%-48%. The use of nitrogen is also said to cut back on the use of energy and chemicals during the manufacturing process.
The Trailfly has an 8mm heel to toe drop and a stack height of 33mm / 25mm (heel / forefoot) which also provides high levels of cushioning. The Adapter-Flex groove in the outsole all0ws the shoe to flex on uneven ground whilst the 4mm multi directional lugs provide grip. The Graphene enhanced outsole gives high levels strength and durability.
The upper is made of a breathable, stretch knit material with a lightly padded tongue which should remain comfortable over longer distances. The roomy toe box is a size 5 on Inov-8’s width sizing scale i.e. the widest available. Again this is designed to allow the toes to splay and maintain comfort over long distances. There is also a toe bumper for protection. Despite their chunky appearance the Trailflys are lightweight with my size 6.5 weighing just over 270g.
I’m fairly cynical when it comes to marketing terminology so I wasn’t overly impressed when I first read about the bouncy nitrogen infused shoes! Rather than hearing all the technical blurb I just wanted to know what they felt like to wear. I tested them for a week on hard packed Peak District trails during a fairly dry spell of weather.
Cynicism aside, I must admit that first impressions were good with the shoes being noticeably well cushioned and comfy. I don’t usually find that running shoes are comfortable straight out of the box, I tend to need to wear them a few times but the Trailflys were just that. My first proper run in them was a two hour outing on firm, man made paths and the springiness of the shoes was instantly evident. I haven’t run for a very long duration in them but I can imagine that they would help reduce fatigue on very long runs. Although the word “Ultra” in the name suggests that they are designed for longer distances I would also be happy to use them for faster runs or training sessions on hard, dry surfaces. I did some faster paced intervals whilst wearing them and was pleased with the “feel” of the cushioning at a faster pace.
I would be less inclined to wear them for faster running on more technical terrain as the 8mm drop and 25mm forefoot stack height plus the wide toe box results in less stability and control than a lower shoe. The high level of cushioning also makes them a good option for recovery days such as the day after a race or hard training session when you want an easy, low impact run.
It is uncommon to do an off road run that is wholly on dry trails and I did encounter a bit of mud during my test runs. The 4mm lugs will handle shallow patches of mud and wet grass but they are not designed as a fell running shoe so it wouldn’t be fair to expect them to perform like a fell specific shoe. The question everybody will be shouting is “what are they like on wet rock?” The answer – ok. I’ve worn shoes that are grippier but also ones that are much more slippy; shoe choice for mixed terrain is always going to be a compromise. The lightweight knit uppers don’t look particularly robust and I wouldn’t want to venture off road in rough heather in them, but then again they aren’t designed as a resilient fell shoe.
The cushioning and ride height of the Trailfly Ultra is evident when viewed from the side and several people have commented that they look like a Hoka. They certainly have similarities. I have a pair of Speedgoats that I wear when I need more cushioning but I find them a bit too “tippy” on uneven terrain. The Trailfly has less forefoot stack height and so would be preferable to the Hokas from now on for runs on uneven ground.
Weight 280g (size 8), Drop 8mm, Lug depth 4mm, Graphene enhanced outsole, Width 5 (on Inov-8 1-5 scale with 5 being the widest) Stack height (including outsole and footbed) 33mm at rear 25mm at forefoot, Colours Men: Pine & Nectar (as in photos) Grey & Blue. Women: Red & Burgundy
The Trailfly Ultra G 280 is a shoe designed for trail running rather than fell running. They will handle a bit of mud and grass but that isn’t what the shoes are intended for, the cushioned sole definitely means they are best suited to harder packed trails. I found them to be light and very comfortable with a noticeable amount of cushioning on hard, man made paths. The high amount of cushioning and wide toe box allows them to remain comfortable over long distances whilst the Graphene enhanced sole aims to provide both durability and grip. They would be a good choice for longer runs or races on firm, stable terrain or dry grass (remember last summer?) The cushioning also makes them suitable as a recovery run shoe.
Maybe the nitrogen infused foam is a recipe for comfort despite my skepticism!
Click link to purchase or see more details about the Trailfly Ultra G 280