Inov-8 Terraultra G 260
The Terraultra G-260 is a «colorful» shoe for running on hardpacked trails, with Inov-8’s reliably tough uppers and a grippy, but not necessarily longer-wearing, graphene-enhanced outsole. Snug and comfortable fit even on my unconventional feet.
- Tough uppers
- Grippy sole
- Good fit on my feet
- Gaiter system
- Soles not as durable as claimed
- Day-glo green not to my taste
My last pair of Inov-8s, X-Talon 212s, did not want to die. After over 1000 km, the deep lugs were worn down bald on the heels and thin elsewhere, but the uppers were pretty well unperturbed. I did have a fit problem with them, though, so that I had to protect my toes with moleskin or hydrogel plasters to keep on using the shoes. So when Trailspace offered to hook me up with some new Inov-8s, I looked forward to the opportunity with a mix of eagerness and trepidation.
Asked to choose, I picked the zero drop Terraultra G-260 because I ran almost exclusively in minimal shoes for 5+ years and so am used to neutral shoes (but now I use a range of shoes and don’t mind having some drop either). As the name implies, these shoes are built for long-haul trail running—"Run forever" is Inov-8's two-word summary of what these shoes are for.
While I don't do the kind of distance my elite-level daughter puts in, I run 50-75 kilometers and 1000-2000 meters of elevation a week and sign up for the occasional trail run in the half-marathon to short ultra range. I want a shoe that still feels good two hours or more into a long run and keeps mud out. As a sometime minimalist-shoe runner, I'm not concerned about cushioning or support.
Because of some questions about the durability of the soles during initial testing of the Terraultra G 260, Inov-8 sent me a second pair after a month or so of testing the first. I put in over 200 kilometers on the first pair and 185 kilometers on the second pair, on a mix of hard-packed dirt trails with muddy and rocky stretches in the city forest above my house, but also including a 20 km/1400m ridge run on the Norwegian outer coast island of Tustna:
Sizing, Fit, and Comfort
I like a close fit and so went with an EU45 (sometimes I take a 46), same as with my X-Talons. The fit is just the way I like it, snug with my heel almost snapping into place, but wide up front with enough room for my wide feet and hammer toes. After 200 + 185 kilometers in these shoes, I am not experiencing the rubbing on the bends of my hammer toes or outside of my little toes that caused me some consternation with the X-Talon 212s. They have a soft flex that suits me just fine. The heel cups are snug but not stiff, and I have not suffered any rubbing or discomfort, even after runs of up to five hours.
The 9mm midsole gives moderate cushioning but maintains some trail feel. Runners that are used to cushy shoes might find these shoes a bit thin, but for me they are about right.
The Terraultra G 260 shoes are not, and are not intended to be, waterproof or insulated. They breathe well enough to keep sweat from building up while running in dry, warm conditions. The tight weave of the upper material keeps mud and grit out and holds some heat in, but in cold, wet conditions forward motion and good circulation is necessary to keep feet warm. I have used them in spring and summer snow and would use them for short runs in winter (when I am usually xc skiing anyway), but would want something warmer for longer runs in cold conditions.
World’s Toughest Shoe?
Here’s is part of Inov-8’s website blurb for the Terraultra G 260:
“The world's toughest shoe for running the world's toughest long-distance trails. Revolutionary graphene-enhanced rubber delivers the world's toughest grip on hard-packed trails…”
The Kevlar-reinforced uppers seem to be living up to the claim, with no signs of fraying or cracking after 200 kilometers:
As with other Inov-8 shoes, there is no exposed stitching anywhere on the outside of the shoe. I have a history of occasionally hooking a rock or root with my toes, causing the outsole to start to peel where it wraps up onto the toe. None of that here or with the 212s. Inov-8 doesn’t crow much about its adhesive technology, but they must be on to something for these and its other shoes to hold together as well as they do.
Grip and Durability
Inov-8's Terraultra G 260 shoes incorporate graphene into the sole (hence the "G" in their name), versus the regular Terraultra 260, which are available in both men's and women's models. The only other difference between the models is Terraultra G 260's Kevlar-infused reinforcements.
Graphene is pure carbon with the individual atoms bonded in a hexagonal pattern so that it forms a flat sheet that in principle can be extended infinitely in two dimensions. Here's a quote from a long Wikipedia article: "Graphene is the strongest material ever tested... the Nobel announcement illustrated this by saying that a 1 square meter graphene hammock would support a 4 kg cat but would weigh only as much as one of the cat's whiskers, at 0.77 mg."
While it is now available in various forms for various hi-tech purposes, for shoe manufacturing I suspect that it is added to the rubber as a powder consisting of micro- to nano-sized monolayer particles (as shown in a photo on Inov-8's website).
There’s certainly nothing visibly high tech about the soles—they look like regular black rubber, but are noticeably softer to the touch than some of my other shoes. Although the toughness quote above doesn’t quite make any claims on the durability of the soles, here’s another from Inov-8’s page on the wonders of graphene:
“Previously athletes had to choose between a sticky rubber that works well in wet or sweaty conditions but wears down quicker, and a harder rubber that is more durable but not quite as grippy. Through intensive research, hundreds of prototypes and thousands of hours of testing in both the field and laboratory, athletes now no longer need to compromise.”
That would seem to promise both grip and durability. The shoes perform excellently on the grip side. I have experienced little slippage uphill or down on even the steepest parts of the trails I run, so I am happy with the grip on wet and dry rock, hard-packed trail, and moderately muddy sections.
Trailspace contacted Inov-8 for comments on the wear problem. Their comments included this:
"there were issues with some of our earliest samples that actually made us find an entirely new vendor to these, so if he got them really early on, that could explain it. Although that was more of a midsole issue, but still…"
(right foot shoes, second pair after 185 km on the left, first pair with 200 km on the right)
I know from experience that I'm hard on the heels of my shoes, especially the right hand ones, but I just compared the G260s against another pair/brand of shoes with 271 kilometers on them and I have to conclude that the graphene soles are not living up to the claim of exceptional durability.
Given the top-shelf price of these shoes ($150 retail), I would hope to get the same kind of distance out of them as I did with the deep-lugged 212s, but with the 4mm lug depth I’m not sure that’s going to happen. This failure to meet the longevity claim is the main reason I am not giving these shoes higher marks (but the grip really is good).
My size 45s weigh in at 320g each, considerably more than the 260 g in the product description, I suppose for a mid-size shoe, but I’m not sure the size difference should account for a 30 percent weight increase. Based on the weight ranges given in this internet article, the claimed weight would be light for an ultrarunning shoe like the G-260, and I suppose my measured weight is within range for a bigfoot like me.
Inov-8 was kind enough to supply me with a color-matched version of their All Terrain Gaiter that mates with these shoes. They have plastic clips that fit into slots on both sides of the shoe, and a third clip that hooks the laces. I will review the gaiters separately, but will comment on their compatibility with the shoes here.
Finding the lateral slots can take a few tries, but once in place the gaiters are bomber. I suppose there is a possibility that the slots will tear or wear out, but they have held up so far. The stretchy gaiter material gives a snug fit over the shoe and ankle and successfully keeps out at least the mud and rain splashes that I have put the shoes through.
The tight weave of the uppers also keeps the mud out—no brown socks or toes so far. The shoes do not have a permanent velcro heel patch for anchoring Dirty Girls or other kinds of gaiters, so users of these gaiters will have to resort to adhesive velcro patches.
The day-glo green color of the shoes and gaiters doesn’t fit in with the rest of my wardrobe, and I don’t think it makes me go any faster. I rather preferred the more restrained primary colors of the X-Talon 212s. But that’s a matter of taste.
While I am somewhat disappointed by the durability of the soles, with nearly 400 kilometers run in these shoes I am very satisfied with the fit, performance, and durability of the uppers. I look forward to continued use of these shoes on long trail runs and hikes on improved trails, including an upcoming 50k and a few weeks of backpacking and day hikes planned for this summer.
I started running 10 years ago when my daughter, now an elite ultrarunner, challenged me to do the 60 km Trollheimen Triangle hike in a day. I don't compete much, mostly run about 50 km/week on trails to stay fit, but I have done a few half and full marathons on dirt and one 60 km ultra. In these shoes: 200 km in one pair and 185 km in a second pair on a combination of mainly hard-packed dirt and mud on hilly trails, some rocks and late-season snow and ice, and some asphalt link-ups.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Samples for testing and review provided by Inov-8.)
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Current Retail: $119.96
Historic Range: $119.96-$149.95