Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Excellent traction, protective and sensitive, light, comfortable, durable
Cons: Expensive, tongue comfort affects some
Our Analysis and Test Results
The TerraUltra G 270 is an updated version of the TerraUltra G 260. The shoes look very similar to each other and, in fact, are very similar, with small but significant changes made to address tiny flaws in the previous version. Overall, they are an improved shoe, and in our opinion are one of the very best you can buy. The Graphene Grip rubber is easily the most durable rubber compound we have tested. Our many pairs of test shoes still have outsoles that look practically new (the lugs on outsoles are usually the first thing we notice wearing out on our many trail running shoes). The G-grip rubber feels stickier than past versions, and the cushioning underfoot has not only grown by 3mm but also includes a new foam compound designed to provide spunkier rebound while also lasting longer before flattening and feeling played out. While the underfoot feeling is only subtly different, we can feel how they are not as firm. The tongue and lacing system has also seen a re-design, and while the laces are easier to tie and have better friction to stay tied longer, the jury is out on the tongue, which is the primary point of complaint from online reviewers.
Most trail running shoes emphasize either underfoot protection or sensitivity but don't strike a perfect balance between both. The TerraUltra G 270 is the exception to the rule, as they have a Powerflow Max foam midsole that not only adequately cushions and protects against anything you might run over but doesn't dissociate your feet by interceding with a thick, rigid rock plate. For many runners, zero-drop shoes are connected to the idea of an intimate trail feel, leaning in the direction of a barefoot shoe, so it is nice that this shoe maintains that connection. The foam is springy and has decent rebound but doesn't feel soft and squishy to the point where control is lost.
The upper is light and airy and features mesh with thin TPU film overlays that do a pretty good job of protecting the highest wear areas of the shoe but don't do much to cushion your foot from an accidental blow or kick to trailside rocks or roots. The toe bumper is pretty thin, simply a doubly thick version of the overlay, so it is still critical to be careful how you step. Due to the effort to maintain this balance, the TerraUltra earned an average score for protection.
These shoes have incredible traction and earned one of the highest scores of the group, alongside the Saucony Peregrine 11 and the La Sportiva Karacal. The rubber outsole is made with the famous Graphene (G) grip, which combines graphene, the strongest textile substance known to man, with rubber. The idea is a far more durable outsole, and as far as the four (and counting) pairs of G-grip rubber shoes we've tested indicate, this stuff really does work. The outsole is littered with large, arrow-shaped 4 mm lugs and has a large flat surface on top for better purchase on smooth, hard terrain. The sharp edges of the lugs also provide a good bite into softer surfaces, although they aren't as aggressive as purpose-made off-trail shoes.
In the past, G-grip rubber felt durable but a bit hard and slippery to us, especially on brand new pairs of shoes, and we didn't feel like they gripped on rock very well. The compound has been updated, and we feel like the new version is not only far stickier but also has some of the best rock grip of any shoe we've tested. We've taken them scrambling on 3rd and 4th class peaks in Colorado and have felt super secure the entire time.
As we've already mentioned, the TerraUltra G 270 strikes a nearly perfect balance of sensitivity and foot protection, such that you get the best of both worlds. To adjust for the lack of a rock plate in the midsole, the foam compound protects while also allowing you to feel what you are stepping on, connecting you to your environment without simply deadening all feeling of what is beneath you.
These are not nearly the most sensitive shoes but are sensitive enough for this not to be considered a downside. They still managed to score above average in this metric.
These are very stable shoes and score on par with the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 7. They fit precisely, hugging the foot with little to no movement at all, so you can always be certain that you will land squarely on top of the midsole. The zero-drop platform also ensures that they don't feel tipsy due to a high heel counter, and so these shoes are great for technical terrain where stability is needed.
Inov-8 added 3mm of foam to the midsole to aid with cushioning, but we have a hard time noticing any difference in stability. While there are undoubtedly minimalist shoes that ride closer to the ground, the idea is that these shoes aren't too minimal, so that you can take them anywhere you want to go. They still ride pretty low and are very stable overall.
In our opinion, these shoes are pretty darn comfortable, but still not perfect. They are about 1mm narrower than previous versions, but we still wouldn't consider them a "narrow" shoe overall. They fit average to slightly wide in the forefoot, but unfortunately, they don't come in a wide version. While a few online reviewers claim that the shoes fit better for them if they order a half size up, we felt they fit true to size.
Most of the complaints about comfort in this shoe seem to revolve around the tongue. The tongue is totally flat, with no padding, with flat laces folded over the top to adjust the tightness of the shoe. We felt a slight crease or pressure point at the bottom of the tongue in our left shoe, which manifested as soon as we put the shoe on, but we didn't notice it after a few strides. The upper, in general, is light and airy and breathes well — this is not a hot shoe, and unless you like to wear super thick socks, it is better suited to warm climates. While we find these shoes fit very well and are pretty comfortable, we admit that we've worn a few that are even comfier.
We weighed our men's size 11 pair of shoes on our independent scale and received a reading of 20.9 oz per pair. This number is impressively light compared to the vast majority of shoes we've tested and worn.
Shoes this light and lighter tend to have made sacrifices and compromises to get to this weight and usually lack the amount of underfoot protection one needs to run more than just an hour or two. These shoes differ significantly from the norm, as their very protective and nicely cushioned foam is designed to protect you for ultra distances, a job which they do very well as long as your calves and feet are adjusted to zero drop shoes. Light is right, and these shoes feel like feathers when wearing them.
Should You Buy the Inov-8 Terraultra G 270?
The TerraUltra G 270 is an excellent zero-drop trail shoe that strikes a nearly perfect balance between trail feel and underfoot protection while providing enough soft cushioning to keep you bouncing along for ultra distances. The G-grip rubber is the most durable we have tested, so your shoes should hold up for mega miles before needing to be replaced. If you love zero drop shoes, these are by far our favorites and some of the first ones we recommend to all of our trail running friends.
What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?
The hardest pill to swallow with these shoes is the high price tag. We assume that the extensive R&D that must have gone into developing the G-grip rubber is a part of why they cost more than most of the competition. That said, these shoes are very well made, and if you choose to buy them, we think that they will become some of the most well-used sneakers in your closet. If they are outside of your budget, the Altra Superior 5 is another zero-drop shoe that is much more affordable, although it doesn't have the same level of traction or foot protection that you find on the Terraultra. If you love Inov-8 shoes, we also tested the Inov-8 Roclite 290. Although it didn't rank as high as its sister product, it has slighter better sensitivity and weight scores.
— Andy Wellman
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