The Gear Loop is supported by its readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

(The Gear Loop) - It’s fair to say Inov-8 pretty much lives and breathes the off-road life. The company, which is located in the depths of the Lake District, has  been designing and manufacturing trail shoes since 2003 when it dropped the innovative Mudroc 290.

It continues to put in long, hard research hours to come up new materials that ensure its shoes thrive when running and racing on more unpredictable terrain.

-

The Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 marks another era, as it becomes the latest brand to plant nitrogen-infused foam into a shoe to offer a soft and bouncy feeling with the kind of energy return that should give it big marathon and ultra runner appeal.

It sits between Inov-8’s impressive TrailFly Ultra G 300 and G 270 shoes, so does the middle member of the family stand out in the right way when it’s time to hit the trails?

Our quick take

Despite sitting somewhere in the middle of the G 300 and G 270, we found the G 280 doesn’t really compromise on any of the standout features of those aforementioned shoes. It really is a solid all-rounder that absolutely shines on challenging surfaces.

Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 review: built-in suspension for off-road runs

Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280

4.5 stars - The Gear Loop recommended
For
  • Springy yet controlled ride
  • Nimble on descents
  • Great sticky grip
Against
  • A little slippery on wet roads and mud
  • Light on protective elements

squirrel_widget_12861249

In the Loop

Everything you need to know about the Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 in short:

  • Nitrogen–infused midsole foam 
  • 4mm lug depth
  • Weighs 280g per shoe
  • 8mm drop
  • Graphene-enhanced G-Grip outsole 
  • Available in half sizes up to UK size 14

Features

As mentioned, the TrailFly Ultra G 280 sits between Inv-8’s G 300 and G 270 shoes and you can expect a weight drop that is somewhere in the middle of what those two shoes offer.

Inov-8Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 review photo 4

The 280, as the name suggests, weighs 280g, so it’s slightly heavier than the G 270 and a tad lighter than the hulking G 300. That kind of weight puts it in the mix with shoes like the Hoka Speedgoat 5 and the Saucony Peregrine 12.

It features an 8mm drop with a stack height of 33mm at the rear and 25mm at the forefoot, and that’s when you factor in the outsole and the footbed. If you’re familiar with Inov-8’s own width scale, it puts the G 280 at a 5, placing it at the widest end of the spectrum.

In the upper department, Inov-8 has gone with a knitted material that definitely has a little more stretch to it than the uppers on its other TrailFly shoes and promises more breathable surroundings for your feet as well. 

Inov-8Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 review photo 3

Throw into the recipe a nicely padded heel and tongue to provide some snugness on the top of the foot, although you need to work a little to get a good lockdown with the laces. There’s a noticeably roomy toe box, which does factor in natural feet swelling when you start to up the distance.

Inov-8 uses its now much-lauded graphene-enhanced rubber outsole to provide seriously sticky grip on a range of surfaces and the kind of durability that makes it fit for eating up an impressive amount of off-road running time. 

That outsole hosts 4mm deep, multidirectional lugs, which have been positioned to promote a speedy feeling and also help you put the brakes on. The spacing between lugs is designed to prevent them getting clogged up with dirt, which should make them a touch easier to clean as well.

Inov-8Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 review photo 7

Then we get to the headline feature and that’s the Flyspeed midsole, which has been infused with nitrogen to create a soft yet bouncy ride that also keeps the overall weight down and is lighter than the Graphene-enhanced midsole foam Inov-8 used on the G 300. 

Brooks has used nitrogen-infused foam in its Caldera 6 trail shoe and Glycerin 20 road shoe, while Puma packs something similar inside of its excellent Velocity Nitro 2, so nitrogen-infused midsole foams are definitely bang on trend right now.

It’s also grabbing elements from that previously mentioned G 300 shoe, adopting similar Adapter Flex grooves in the midsole, which aim to let the toes move more freely, offer a closer to the ground feel and make the G 280 more adaptable to different trail terrain.

Inov-8Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 review photo 6

Performance

We tested the TrailFly Ultra G 280 on shorter and longer runs on our local trails. These included long stretches of muddy canal paths and both dry and wet pavement time. They immediately felt great to run in.

We’ll start with the fit, where the knitted upper creates very comfortable, spacious surroundings for the feet and there's plenty of room in the toe box here as well. 

The knitted nature of that upper means it’s got some stretch, but with that space comes an overall structure that might be a bit lacking for some, especially those who need something to hug a little closer when picking up the pace. It’s definitely less of an issue when you’re coasting in this shoe.

Inov-8Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 review photo 1

Inov-8 doesn’t go heavy on protective elements either, other than a slither of rubber at the toes, so if you’re worried about a debris attack, there’s probably better shoes to go for over this.

Then we get to the midsole, which is soft, has a nice bounce to it but also feels nicely responsive. Moving faster in the G 280 wasn’t a struggle and that energetic ride was consistent, even when settling into a more comfortable pace on longer runs. 

Tackling descents was a particular highlight and those Adapter Flex grooves do help to keep you agile on tricker trail routes.

Inov-8Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 review photo 6

Interestingly, Inov-8 has opted not to use the excellent  Boomerang insole it has featured in its other shoes, but that may well be because the level of bounce and comfort you get in the footbed here means it’s not a huge miss. You can always swap one in at the risk of adding more to the overall weight if you’re feeling that cushioning Boomerang void.

It’s no surprise to find that the grip on the G 280 is great. This has been a highlight on Inov-8’s shoes since it packed its outsoles with graphene a year or so ago, and it held up best on harder trail surfaces.

It handled wet leaves and some mud too, but there were also a few slippery moments in the deep sludge. Back on terra firma, you do feel that outsole and lugs more and it was a touch slippy in places - something to be mindful of if you are planning on hitting lots of road or pavement on the way to favoured trails.

Inov-8Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 review photo 5

Overall, this feels like a very polished trail shoe that doesn’t have to be worn over thousands of miles to appreciate what makes it an enjoyable shoe to run in. 

If you like the idea of a bouncier, softer ride, a roomy upper with a good but not maximum level of protection and a great outsole grip, the TrailFly G 280 offers this in abundance. 

squirrel_widget_12861249

To recap

The Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 is a great trail shoe that doesn’t require you to clock up hundreds of off-road miles to realise that it packs some special qualities. It’s comfortable, offers an enjoyable ride at a variety of speeds and has the type of grip that works best on hard trails, but doesn’t do a bad job on the softer stuff either. As a rugged all-rounder, we find it hard to fault.

Writing by Michael Sawh. Editing by Leon Poultney.