Last week, the UK-based running shoe company Inov-8 unveiled the world’s first graphene-infused shoe line, dubbed the G-Series. The brand worked directly with scientists at the University of Manchester’s National Graphene Institute for 18 months to develop a shoe that it claims offers athletes exceptional grip with an added shot of durability, turning to graphene for its unique combination of strength, light weight, and flexibility.
While I haven’t gotten my feet in the shoes just yet, I’m intrigued by the concept. Graphene is said to be the world’s strongest (200 times more so than steel) and thinnest material, consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms, and it has been gaining popularity in sports equipment, appearing in tennis rackets, skis, and golf balls—in many cases, quite successfully. Outside tested Head skis made with graphene and found that the material resulted in a lighter ski without chatter or instability. The most applicable example, though, is probably Vittoria’s graphene-infused MTB tires, which are lightweight and maintained their grip over a month of testing.
For the G-Series shoes, Inov-8 and the NGI scientists mixed graphene into the outsole, the idea being that the carbon would dramatically increase the rubber’s durability and thus lengthen the life of the shoes. Typically, sticky rubber that excels in wet conditions—like in the steep, rocky, and muddy terrain of Inov-8’s home in the Lake District—wears quickly because it’s softer, leaving runners burning through shoes. By infusing graphene, Inov-8 aims to extend the life of its outsoles in the most abrasive environments while maintaining exceptional grip. Lab tests at NGI found the new graphene outsole to be 50 percent stronger and last 50 percent longer than previous Inov-8 outsoles.
The G-Series consists of three shoes: The MudClaw G 260 ($150) has burly eight-millimeter cleats and a four-millimeter drop and is best suited for soft, muddy mountain conditions and obstacle courses. For long-distance running on smooth trails, the TerraUltra G 260 ($150) features a zero drop with multidirectional grooves that allow the shoe to flex. The F-Lite G 290 ($160), designed for CrossFit and weightlifting, has a reinforced heel for added support during powerlifts and the graphene-infused outsole for when friction is a priority.
The G-Series went on sale June 22.