Weighs 9.8 oz. (280 g.) for a US M8.5 / US W10
Nitrogen-infused foam is still a new feeling for the trail scene
Graphene Grip belongs among the who’s who of outsoles
Inov-8 is all-in on a roomy new last
Available now for $185
TAYLOR: As a kid, I would scour the IGN collection of trailers for upcoming video games. Sometimes they’d release a year ahead of time and, if I was lucky, include gameplay. I can’t even begin to count how many times I watched single videos repeatedly to look at every detail. It’s kind of funny how that pseudo-obsession has now morphed into being a gear junkie — but that’s beside the point.
In a much less obsessive but still concerned sense, I’ve been waiting for a shoe from a particular UK brand that melded their bests for the ultra-distance world. In 2020, the team overwhelmingly voted for the TerraUltra G 270 (now renamed the Trailfly G 270) as the BIG Trail Shoe of the Year. Its combination of light, bouncy foam, secure fit, and Graphene Grip outsole captivated us. The only issue is that the slimmer fit, rather minimal stack, and zero drop would massively limit its sales to the broader trail running community.
After that came a highly anticipated shoe, the Trailfly Ultra G 300. It had the right ideas and bold moves, but not many could get behind this tank of a shoe. It was a missed opportunity not to employ more of the same tech found in the Terraultra G 270.
It’s now 2022, and we have on our feet a shoe that resembles what I had hoped for so long ago. Here is an Inov-8 shoe with a high stack (33mm to 25mm, 8mm drop) of bouncy foam, Graphene Grip, a much broader fit, and some heel-toe drop to boot. This just might be Inov-8’s first proper long ultramarathon distance shoe. The new Trailfly Ultra G 280 is a big step outside of the norm for Inov-8, but I think it is both appropriate and welcomed.
SAM: Gearheads use the word “love” pretty liberally when talking through their stable of clothes, shoes, and other items for outdoor pursuits. I’ve loved more pairs of shoes than I can count, several tents, two or more hats, at least four pairs of shorts, and one perfect cotton t-shirt with a too-obviously-meta image of a backpack printed on the back.
All this love flying around generally needs qualification — it has to be explained. My love of vaguely self-referential organic cotton t-shirts is not nor should not be shared by everyone. Other people look at my backpack shirt and feel nothing. That’s why we write and read reviews like this — perspective and input.
Love is often bestowed upon items, flaws and all. Something about the whole package of the things we love makes us accept the bad with the good. I mean, is it even love if we don’t care as deeply for what we don’t like as for what we do?
Aside from the stray philosophical meanderings on love, we’re here to talk about shoes and why we love them — or don’t. This shoe, the Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280, is my first brush with a brand for which so many people have expressed love. After my miles in the shoe, I think I get it.
TAYLOR: I’m going to flip this thing upside down from the get-go. Grip has been a marque component to any Inov-8 shoe. Recently, it’s taken another leap forward with its usage of graphene in the outsole. The element is highly durable and extremely grippy. It’s in the running to be the best of the best in outsole rubbers. I was sure-footed on any surface, from grassy plains to moist mountains. This stuff rocks!
Nitrogen is a buzzword of a midsole ingredient right now, and for good reason. The Trailfly Ultra G 280 gets a healthy dose of the nitro-infused EVA called Flyspeed. It feels light in hand and similar on foot. It falls into a medium density but feels relatively cushioned. There’s life in this thing. The high stack, geometry, and feel remind me most of the original Trailfly G 300 and Brooks Caldera 6. I also get hints of the Brooks Catamount and Inov-8 Terra Ultra G 270. It’s a much lighter (11.5 ounces for a US M10.5) feeling than the original Trailfly G 300 and the Caldera 6. Apparently, Flyspeed foam returns around 20% more energy than the typical midsole. To that, this foam is modestly lively and a welcomed addition to the trail realm.
A canyon of foam is cut out of the midsole across the arch, creating an 8mm groove called the Adapter Flex, which allows the chassis to adapt to various terrain. It seems a wise approach, given the number of high-stack options that struggle to roll with the punches of uneven ground. The Adapter Flex makes it feel like the forefoot and heel are moving independently, lending a much more nimble feel to the hefty stack.
The biggest surprise in the Trailfly is the overall fit. Inov-8 goes way out of its box to provide ample room and comfort. It’s like a genre-bending hit from your favorite band. The brand known for its firm, form-fitting uppers now has a very roomy knit option in its repertoire. Like the midsole, it feels light and comfortable and adds a satisfying balance to the package.
It’s structured enough to hold its shape while a moderately padded gusseted tongue and heel collar round out the comfort. The whole vibe is a comfy one, even compared to other brands, and it has a purpose. When the hours on the trail stack up, so does the blood in your feet. The extra room is meant to accommodate swelling during those long efforts.
SAM: Since Taylor decided to flip things around, I’m going to follow suit. I, too, love this outsole and would rather not wait to talk it up. Inov-8’s Graphene Grip outsole is incredible. Not only does the stuff sink in its claws and stick to basically any terrain you can find, but it’s insanely durable. On top of running trails, I wore the Trailfly Ultra G 280 daily for about a week and a half as my own little extra durability test. My job has me walking a lot — through city streets, parking lots, and concrete warehouses — and my Trailfly still has almost all the texture bumps on its lugs. The rubber still looks new. I love this stuff.
The nitrogen-infused midsole is springy and soft, and the high stack — especially in the heel — is capable of sucking up pounding everywhere on the trail, vicious downhills included. I particularly like the extra agility of the Adapter Flex arch. It seems to keep more outsole surface area in contact with the ground for longer throughout your stride, allowing for more consistent traction and a truly nimble underfoot feel despite the stack (as Taylor mentioned above). This, paired with the Graphene Grip outsole, blooms into remarkable downhill confidence even on the most technical of trails.
The knit upper is very comfortable. It’s forgiving and roomy and breathes better than almost any other upper I’ve worn. I don’t often go sockless, but this shoe breathes so well that I tried it out, and you almost forget you have full-coverage shoes on. With all this, this shoe has a fantastic fit in the heel — secure and comfortable with no hint of hotspots.
Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultra runner living in Estes Park, Colo., with his wife and daughters. Trail running is pretty much the only hobby he can manage right now and loves it. Every so often, he will pop off a race or FKT attempt because competition is pure and the original motivator for him getting into running anyways. When not running, Taylor is a 1st grade teacher, running coach (track & field, Cross Country, and Trail/Ultra athletes), and volunteers at his church.More from Taylor
Sam lives in Baltimore with his wife and two kids and spends his days fixing espresso machines for Ceremony Coffee Roasters. He runs with the Faster Bastards when he can, races ultras, and has been working on completing the AT section by section. He thinks the best days are made of long miles on nasty trails, but that a good surf session, a really stunning book, or a day of board games are pretty all right too.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Xodus Ultra, Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, Altra Lone PeakMore from Sam