inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 review: bouncy and grippy

The super bouncy inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 is a high-volume road running shoe with enough grip for easy trails

inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280
(Image: © Claire Maxted)

Advnture Verdict

The bounciest shoe yet from inov-8, best for roads and gritty tracks or easy trails. The graphene grip works well on all surfaces, wet and dry.

Pros

  • +

    Grippy

  • +

    Cushioned

  • +

    Bouncy and comfy

  • +

    Movement towards more sustainable manufacturing

Cons

  • -

    Not designed for mud

  • -

    High volume

  • -

    Not very wide despite being broadest on inov-8’s fit scale

  • -

    One color option for women but three for men

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inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280: first impressions

The exciting feature about this newest trail running shoe from inov-8 – the inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280 – is the nitrogen-infused Flyspeed midsole foam. It’s designed to provide both good rebound and a soft feel (it’s difficult to achieve both together) and reduces the use of chemicals. The nitrogen naturally expands in bubbles to give, according to inov-8, “an estimated 50% energy saving during the expansion phase”.

Specifications

• List price: $185 (US) / £165 (UK)
• Weight (per pair UK 6.5): 522g / 18.4oz
• Drop: 8mm
• Colors: Women’s: Red; Men’s: Gray, blue, red
• Compatibility: Roads, gritty tracks, easy trails, all weathers including rain

It’s also worth noting that the Flyspeed factory is moving towards 100% sustainable energy, aiming for a future off-grid.

Having run in inov-8 trail (and some road) running shoes since the company started out in 2003, I can reliably say that this is definitely one of the bounciest shoes they’ve made. I would call the others padded and comfy, but they don’t particularly thrust you forwards like these shoes do.

Away from the midsole, the traditional lacing keeps the foot secure in the shoe and the very durable, tough graphene grip works well on wet, slippy pavement slabs and easy trails in winter, but isn’t designed for deep mud like some other inov-8 shoes such as the Terraultra G-grip 270. Instead, the TrailFly Ultra G 208s are designed for long distances in comfort with a fast-feel.

inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280: on the trails

inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 280

The shape of the toe box causes the area at the bottom of the laces to bulge when you tighten up the laces. This doesn’t affect performance but it does look a bit ugly (Image credit: Claire Maxted)

I’ve been running literally everything in these bouncy new running shoes this winter, including the Worksop Half Marathon, several parkruns and anything on my local trails when it’s not been raining too much. I really like the rebound in the new Flyspeed midsole and the graphene grip works well on all surfaces, wet and dry. I like the shoes so much I even wear them on more challenging trails and just slide around a bit if it’s muddy (they’re not designed for deep mud). 

The only downside I’ve found with this otherwise excellent running shoe is the high volume of the fit and the toe box shape. There is a bulge upwards at the end of the lace area as I have to pull the laces in tightly to achieve a good fit. I have low-volume feet and this does happen in other running shoes, but not to this extent. It’s not really a problem comfort-wise, it just looks odd. 

Then there’s the toe box. The TrailFly Ultra G 280 is the widest on inov-8’s fit scale and I don’t know if my expectations have been spoilt by the Altra Mont Blanc BOAs, but this shoe feels decidedly regular to me, and my little toe still grazes the edge. inov-8 started out most interested in supporting the natural movement of the foot so it would make their running shoes utterly perfect if they created some truly wide toe box versions of their popular classics. 

Claire Maxted

The co-founder and former editor of Trail Running magazine, Claire now runs the YouTube channel Wild Ginger Running, creating films packed with trail- and ultra-running content. An award-winning journalist, writing for outdoor and adventure sports magazines and websites, her first book The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running 5k to 50k is out in January 2021. Claire also speaks and presents at events and races.