With a roomy fit, bouncy midsole and exceptional off-road grip, the Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 is a great long-distance trail-running shoe. However, those sticking to shorter distances or running road-to-trail will find better options both from Inov-8 and elsewhere.
- Great off-road
- Comfortable midsole
- Flexible ride on uneven ground
- Heavier than other options
- Slippery on wet roads
- Cheaper options available
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The Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 is the “in-between option” in Inov-8’s ultra-running range, and it’s the best Trailfly yet. It’s lighter than the max-cushioned Trailfly Ultra G 300, and it has a higher drop, more comfortable ride and wider fit than the zero-drop Trailfly G 270.
I rate it as one of the best trail-running shoes for ultramarathon runners, but those who aren’t lining up such long events will be better served by lighter, nimbler shoes. I also found the Trailfly Ultra G 280 struggled with grip on wet pavements, so it’s best kept on the trails.
Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280: Price And Availability
The Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 is available now and costs $185/£165, falling between the G 300 ($195/£175) and the G 270 ($160/$145).
Design And Fit
The star new feature on the Trailfly Ultra G 280 is a nitrogen-infused Flyspeed midsole, which Inov-8 says delivers the softest, bounciest ride yet. The shoe also has a fairly high stack at 33mm at the heel, which drops 8mm to 25mm at the forefoot.
Inov-8 lists the weight at 280g per shoe, hence the 280 in its name. That’s the average across the size range, with my UK 9 tipping the scales at 11.3oz/319g. That’s a lot lighter than the G 300, which was 12.9oz/366g in my size.
The G 280 also stands out in Inov-8’s range of generally narrow shoes by having a wide toe box, and it has a knitted material upper. I found the fit to be comfortable and secure in my normal size, with enough room to accommodate feet swelling on very long runs.
Inov-8 has always made shoes with excellent outsoles, and this continues with the G 280, which has gripped superbly well on any off-road terrain I’ve tackled. It has 4mm lugs made from graphene-enhanced rubber that dig into soft ground and stick to hard trails. There is also an 8mm deep groove in the midsole, which creates more flexibility so the forefoot and rear of the shoe can move more independently on uneven ground.
How I Tested This Shoe
I have run in the Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 280 on a wide range of terrains, including some steep climbs and grassy descents in Scotland plus a mix of tamer trails like forest paths and canal towpaths. I’ve not been out for any ultra-distance runs – my longest run in the shoe was cut short at around 13km when I fell over. More on that later.
I’ve used Inov-8 shoes for many years, mostly for muddy runs in grassy fields or my local forest, and I’m used to them having a fairly firm ride, brilliant grip and a narrow fit. The G 300s bucked the trend by being more cushioned, but they were much heavier than other Inov-8 shoes and I found them just a bit too hefty to be truly enjoyable on anything other than gentle plods.
With the G 280, Inov-8 has managed to create a lighter, nimbler shoe than the G 300 while taking some cues from its design. It has a wide fit and a fairly high stack of cushioning for a trail shoe, but still feels agile underfoot. While it’s not light, it ran lighter than its weight in my experience, and I didn’t feel it was an encumbrance when chugging up hills or speeding up on flatter sections of my runs.
It doesn’t have the smooth ride of the Hoka Speedgoat 5, but I did enjoy the flexible feel created by the grooves in the midsole. It gives you a bit more confidence when running on uneven ground in a fairly high-stack shoe and helps to make the G 280 feel reasonably light and agile, though there are much lighter trail shoes available if you are sticking to shorter runs and don’t need so much cushioning.
The grip is exceptional on trails. I used the G 280 for some runs in the Pentlands near Edinburgh that included some steep and fast descents on grassy and gravelly trails, plus sections on rooty ground, and never had any concerns about slipping. The 4mm lugs are not as deep as on Inov-8’s more fell-focused shoes like the X-Talon range, but the G 280 gripped well in any mud I came across while also sticking well on rocky trails.
However, it is not the best road-to-trail option: the lugs slipped on wet pavements a few times as I jogged to and from trails, culminating in a nasty fall when taking a turn on slick asphalt. The Inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 also has 4mm lugs, but the spacing on the outsole makes it more suitable for road-to-trail runs.
Is The Inov-8 Trailfly G 280 Worth It?
The Trailfly G 280 is a comfortable long-distance trail-running shoe and the changes Inov-8 has made – giving it a softer midsole, wider fit and higher drop than its other Trailfly shoes – will make it more enjoyable to use for a wider range of runners.
Stick to the trails and the grip is outstanding; along with the flexible ride, this makes the shoe perfect for navigating tricky descents on uneven terrain. Just take a little more care than I did when on wet pavement, or opt for a true road-to-trail shoe like the Parkclaw G 280.
I still prefer the smoother ride of the Hoka Speedgoat 5 for the most part, though the G 280 is a little more nimble on rooty or rocky ground. If you’re not an ultramarathon runner I’d say the G 280 is a little more shoe than is needed, and I’d prefer a lighter option with less cushioning, whereas the Speedgoat 5 works well for trail runs of any distance.
Those seeking all-out speed for longer trail runs should also consider plated options like the Hoka Tecton X and Saucony Endorphin Edge. Both are faster than the Tralifly G 280, though neither offers such impressive grip on technical trails.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.