Inov-8 Terraultra G 260 Review
Cons: Expensive, absorbs water easily
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Inov-8 Terraultra G 260 is unique for a zero drop shoe because it is designed to run ultra distances, and follows up with its performance. The other longer distance zero drop shoes we have tested for years typically feature overly soft foam in the midsole that compresses out in a surprisingly short amount of time, eliminating the protection underfoot that you need for running very long distances. We have not found that to be the case with the ExteroFlow midsole of these shoes, which feels relatively firm, not springy at all, but offers good protection while not numbing out any feeling of sensitivity.
In fall of 2019, Inov-8 released their first update to this shoe, described in this review. The original neon green color of the first version (still available for sale) has been replaced with a dark sky blue color for the second. Minimal updates have taken place, although they are significant. The shoe weighs close to an ounce and a half lighter per pair, while cutting back on some of the upper material, which also makes the upper a bit more comfortable, with a slightly more expansive fit. Kevlar aramid fibers are now only used in the rear of the upper, rather than as overlays on the original version. Due to the slightly wider and less constrictive fit, we think this shoe is even better suited to long distances than before, and also think that if you liked the first version, you will also love this second version.
This shoe offers plenty of foot protection for long distances, while still offering an equal amount of sensitivity. With a mere 17mm of stack height in both the front and back of the foot, it is not nearly as thick or heavily cushioned as many shoes, such as Hokas. Indeed, when running over, especially rugged terrain like rocks or boulder fields, plenty of sensation makes it through to the bottom of the foot, although not enough that you will be forced to adapt your running stride or speed.
The upper of this shoe is thinner, lighter, and features thin TPU film overlays for structure whereas the last version featured thick fabric overlays made of Kevlar fibers. There is no doubt it is slightly less durable than before, but still uses the Kevlar aramid fibers in the heel cup, and has a thick fabric reinforced toe bumper. There are certainly more protective shoes out there, but very few that offer such a nice blend of protection and sensitivity.
The traction on this shoe is excellent. It was one of the very first products to feature Inov-8's G-grip graphene infused rubber compound, which combines the strongest substance ever tested in a lab by man — graphene — with rubber to create an insanely durable outsole. As one of our favorite shoes, we have put lots of miles on our two test pairs, including heaps of rock scrambling as well as running over a ton of sharp and jagged lava rock, and see not a single nick in any lugs, a testament to the G-grips durability. Consider us true believers!
Upon purchase, the rubber actually feels very slippery to the touch, but this texture disappears after only one run. What is left is a super sticky grip, especially on rock and wet rock. The 4mm deep lugs feature a large surface area that also makes them good on hard surfaces like packed trails but doesn't give quite as much grip on soft or slippery surfaces like mud or snow as the Salomon shoes that feature very deep and aggressive lugs.
These shoes are ridiculously stable. The 0mm drop, combined with a low 17mm stack height, keeps your foot close to the ground. Their stiffness and wide landing platform ensure a stable position for landing and taking off. If stability is a concern, these are among the best shoes you can choose.
As we have already mentioned, the fit of these shoes feels slightly wider, more expansive in the forefoot and comfortable than the first version. At the same time, they lock the foot firmly in place with virtually no slippage, and the heel doesn't slide around on any sort of hill. When side-hilling across off-camber terrain, the opening around the ankle feels comfortable on all sides.
These shoes fit true to size, with a perfect amount of length in the front of the shoe to accommodate the toes. The shoe is neither overly wide nor too narrow and seems to fall right in the middle of the spectrum in terms of width. It fits spaciously through the arch, which almost feels a bit too "hollow," like there should be more of a padded insole built up under the arch (at least that is our expectation when compared to most other trail running shoes).
The upper is minimally padded around the ankle opening and over the heel, but this padding is more than sufficient for a comfortable fit. Because the upper is more supple and flexible than the previous version, it doesn't pinch the top of the foot at all, and compared to the competition, this one ranks pretty highly for comfort.
This shoe weighs a mere 20.9 ounces per pair for men's size 11. This is roughly 1.3 ounces less per pair than the first version of the shoe, an impressive savings considering that it also got more comfortable at the same time.
A shoe this light that can also handle ultra distances is a real boon for runners because added weight only compounds into more fatigue the further you go.
As we have mentioned above, this shoe has a nearly perfect balance between sensitivity and underfoot protection. It is constructed with enough firm foam underfoot so that you can handle the roughest of trails, while simultaneously allowing for a pleasant amount of trail feel to keep you in touch with what you are running on.
This balance is in stark contrast to either Hokas, which are insanely protective but offer almost no sensitivity at all, and Altras, which feature soft squishy foam in their zero-drop platform that gives amazing trail feel, but quickly packs out and can feel lacking in underfoot protection.
These shoes are one of the more expensive options that you can buy, although not the most expensive in this review. Since they perform so well and considering that the G-grip rubber is designed to last longer than any other (outsoles wearing down is one of the most common reasons to replace a pair of trail running shoes), we think that they present great value, despite the price. Inov-8 also offers the Terraultra 260 (missing the "G" in the name), which uses their standard rubber compound, and costs about $20 less.
The Inov-8 Terraultra G 260 is a rad trail running shoe for a variety of reasons. Not only is it zero drop, but it features the most durable outsole rubber that we have ever tested, which also happens to be incredibly sticky. It provides a perfect blend of both underfoot protection and sensitivity and is an easy choice for our Top Pick award.
— Andy Wellman