Tried and tested: Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280

inov8 trailfly ultra g 280
Tried and tested: Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280Hearst Owned

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The shoe

Inov-8's Trailfly Ultra G 280 is the third addition to its Trailfly range – there’s also the highly cushioned Ultra G 300 and the zero-drop fast-feeling Ultra G 270 – and they are all designed for tackling long distances off road. The Ultra G 280 sits somewhere in between the two. Weighing in at 280g, it's heavier than the Ultra G 270 and lighter than the Ultra G 300 (the number in the shoes' names represents their weight, in grams) and offers plush cushioning, thanks to a nitrogen-infused midsole foam. But it isn't quite as cushy as the Ultra G 300.

What is the TrailFly Ultra G 280 like to run in?

While I haven't tested these during an ultramarathon, which these shoes are primarily designed for, I have been wearing the shoe for my long, slow weekend runs, which I've taken off road for the past month or so, for the purposes of testing the shoe. And so far, I've been impressed.

The relatively high stack of midsole cushioning (33mm at the heel and 25mm at the forefoot) is soft – but not marshmallowy soft – and I found it provided excellent shock absorption, even on tarmac when I made my way to the trails. But while soft, it also felt surprisingly bouncy and lively, too, which I was thankful for during the latter stages of my long runs, when my energy levels began to dwindle.

Yet despite the wad of cushioning, you still get a nice connection with the ground. This allowed me to better identify, and negotiate, changes in terrain – eg tree roots and rocks – especially when running on trails that were caked in thick mud.

The shoe also feels quite light and nimble. You’ve got an 8mm deep groove in the midsole, which allows the forefoot and heel to move independently of one another, so you have extra control when navigating uneven surfaces.

Up top, you've got a flexible knitted upper and there's extra reinforcement around the toes, plus a toe bumper to protect the foot from roots and rocks. I found this to be generally comfortable but would have appreciated some added reinforcement around the heel, as my niggly achilles felt quite tender after testing the shoes on a couple of occasions. The interior of the heel counter also lacks padding, and I would have liked to have seen some extra cushioning here in order to create a snugger and more supportive fit.

Finally, as expected, I found the graphene-enhanced rubber outsole – featuring deep 4mm lugs – to be superb. I have tested the shoe on snowy and muddy canal paths, wet and boggy parkland, plus dry hard-packed rails and tarmac and had no issues with slippage on any of these surfaces.

How does the TrailFly Ultra G 280 fit?

The shoe does fit true to size. However, I found the interior to be a little roomy. While I did appreciate the wide toebox, which ensured I had no rubbing or discomfort at the base joint of my big toe (which I do tend to experience in narrow-fitting shoes due to bunions), I would have preferred a snugger fit in the heel and midfoot. Due to the lose-fitting upper, I found it hard to achieve a good lockdown, and while I tried to achieve this though heel-lock lacing, this created a little discomfort and pressure across the top of my foot.

RW verdict

Plush underfoot yet still light, nippy (and grippy), these are the best Inov-8 shoes I've ever worn – and, actually, some of the comfiest trail shoes I've tested to date. For me, they were just a touch roomy and I would have preferred a snugger sock-like upper with a more secure lockdown. Wider-footed runners, however, are likely to find little to complain about.

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