The Inov-8 TerraUltra G260 is a revolutionary shoe that uses Graphene infused rubber for the lugs of its outsole. Graphene, a one-atom thick layer of Graphite, is the strongest material that has ever been tested in a lab by man, more than ten times stronger than steel! By infusing rubber with this material, Inov-8 has created what should be the longest lasting sole of any shoe you have ever worn. In their testing they claimed they gave up after 1000 miles per shoe, but we wore them almost every day for over two months, including on some runs over miles of insanely sharp lava rocks on the PCT in central Oregon, and see virtually no evidence of wear. For this reason we chose to award them our Top Pick for Traction, and hope that more of this rubber makes its way into the mainstream shoe market in the coming years. For the zero drop enthusiasts out there, we should also point out that these shoes are also zero drop, making them the burliest and longest lasting zero drop trail running shoe that we have tested.
Inov-8 Terraultra G 260 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: The most durable outsole, zero drop, amazing balance between foot protection and sensitivity, high volume fit
Cons: Very little interior padding, could be more comfortable, pricey
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The TerraUltra G260 is part of Inov-8's new G-series, which is made up of three shoes that all incorporate its new Graphene infused rubber. This one is designed specifically for longer, ultra length distances, and as such has moderately aggressive traction, a very heavily Kevlar reinforced upper, and a good balance between foot protection and underfoot trail feel. The other two models in the series are the Mudclaw 260, designed with 8mm lugs to provide optimal grip in the muddiest and slipperiest conditions, and the F-Lite 290, which is a crossfit and training shoe.
Worth pointing out is the reason we gave it our Top Pick for Traction award, because it does not have the super grippy and aggressive lugs found on the bottom of the Roclite 290, the Salomon Speedcross 4, or even the Saucony Peregrine 8. By comparison, its 4mm lugs are a bit shallower, but do an amazing job of gripping on hard surfaces, are sticky on rock, and also simply do not break off or wear out like the shoes we mentioned above. So, we think these are the best because they have a very wide range of use, and great durability, something any ultra runner these days can appreciate as they watch the outsoles of shoe after shoe break apart and disintegrate long before the training cycle is over.
This shoe strikes a great balance between underfoot protection and trail feel, attributes that are usually at odds with one another, but in the rare shoe are both very noticeable. It is nowhere near as protective as the thick and firm midsole of the Salomon S/Lab Ultra, but nevertheless provides a bit of padding as you roll over rougher, rockier terrain.
The upper of this shoe is also designed with durability in mind, as its light green felt is heavily overlayed with far more rigid blackish Kevlar fabrics, the same material that stops bullets from penetrating bullet-proof vests. We loved the eye to durability, but also noticed that the underlying fabric rubbed, tore, and abraded just like any other, and so are equally as prone to potential blowouts as the uppers of most other shoes in this review. The toe bumper is minimal, made up of the same Kevlar overlay combined with a little bit of rubber as it rolls up from the outsole. Overall these shoes protected better than average, but this wasn't their strongest attribute.
Inov-8 isn't disclosing their methods for how they "enhanced" the rubber of this shoe with the world's strongest known material, Graphene, but the result is a shoe that is simultaneously very sticky and grippy as well as highly durable, two attributes that are virtually never synonymous when it comes to trail running shoes.
For so successfully combining these two qualities, we gave them our Top Pick for Traction.
That said, these shoes have an outsole designed for the trails, meaning they have somewhat conservative 4mm deep lugs that are more square shaped than arrow or chevron shaped. They are not nearly as aggressive as those found on the Roclite 290, but also won't rip off the moment you get into some sharp talus. They wouldn't be our top choice for mud, snow, or steep grass, but on any sort of trail conditions, including rocky talus or even scrambling, these shoes absolutely shine.
Did we mention that these shoes are also zero drop! Holy cow, how lucky we are to have finally been gifted a very durable, protective, and sensitive zero drop shoe! These are an incredible alternative the Altra Lone Peak 3.5, which in our opinion they outperform in nearly every way over long distances.
The spec chart provided by Inov-8 says they have a mere 9 mm of stack height under both the toes and the heel, but they must be measuring this differently than every other company, because the next closest is the Roclite 290, followed but the Topo Athletic Runventure 2, and these shoes have far more underfoot than either of those! Perhaps what is referred to is simply the thickness of midfoot foam padding. Regardless, these shoes have a wide landing platform, are very low to the ground, and are aided in their stability by the flexibility of the sole, cut in half down the middle by the "meta-flex" design. These are easily among the most stable trail runners you can buy, a huge plus.
If we have one complaint about these award-winning shoes it is that they simply aren't nearly as comfortable as most of the competition. Of course, comfort is highly subjective, so there is the chance that what didn't work great for our head tester could be optimal for your foot. Despite the comfort issues, he was still inspired to wear them pretty much all the time, so this issue is still relatively minor.
Specifically, these shoes lack a lot of the padding around the ankle and heel that has become popular in shoe designs these days and which holds the foot comfortably in place over all sorts of terrain. As such, our head tester experienced a slight bit of rubbing on some longer runs in the Achilles tendon area. He also noticed that at the crease point between the forefoot and toes, the fabric had a tendency to fold up and pinch a bit at times, but only on one foot. The standards for comfort in our book, the Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 and the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4, still manage to provide amazing performance with incredible comfort, so there is room for improvement in this shoe here. That said, in our water bucket test they absorbed the third least amount of water, suggesting that they are a good choice for wet conditions.
Runners with large and high volume feet should be thrilled with the TerraUltra G260. The shoe runs pretty accurate in length, but is reasonably wide throughout the forefoot, arch, and even the heel, and also leaves a lot of room on the top of the foot. Runners with narrow feet may find the fit of this shoe to be too roomy and loose.
Our size US men's 11 weighed in at 22.2 ounces per pair, which makes them roughly middle of the road for this review.
As a zero drop shoe with minimal interior padding, a very low amount of midsole, and a light mesh upper, one would expect these to be among the lightest in the review. However, despite not being as light as the Altra Superior 3.5, they didn't feel heavy or clunky on the feet while running.
When it comes to sensitivity, these shoes are roughly average, but this aspect is well balanced with its underfoot protection. They are about as sensitive as the Salomon Speedcross 4 or the Saucony Peregrine 8.
When landing on sharp or jagged surfaces, such as rocks and roots, one can feel the impact in the sole of the foot, but there is no doubt that some of this impact is absorbed by the firm outsole as well as the minimal midsole padding. While they are nowhere near as sensitive feeling as the Altra Superior 3.5, we think that some shock absorption is a good thing for longer runs and races, as these shoes are designed for.
These shoes are best used as a high-volume trainer for someone who likes to pour miles into a shoe without having to constantly replace them. Due to their great durability, they are also a good choice for an ultra distance race shoe, provided you aren't looking for Hoka-esque levels of cushioning. For zero drop enthusiasts, there is no question they will retain their character longer than the squishy foam found underfoot in Altras.
These shoes retail for $150, making them one of the most expensive trail runners detailed in this review. That said, we are confident they will last most runners far longer than the average pair of shoes, so the price versus longevity makes them a good value.
The Inov-8 TerraUltra G260 are an innovative (see what we did there!) shoe that is the first in the world to incorporate Graphene into its outsole rubber compound. The initial round of testing was very positive in regards to the durability of this outsole, and this shoe is also remarkable as a high-quality alternative for zero drop enthusiasts.
— Andy Wellman