Graphene-enhanced foam running shoes ready to go the distance
Image credit: Inov-8
Athletic shoe company inov-8 has unveiled the world’s first running shoes to utilise a graphene-enhanced foam, bucking the carbon plate trend and doubling the industry standard for longevity.
Collaborating with graphene experts at the University of Manchester, the UK brand is poised to launch what it is calling the biggest sports footwear innovation of 2021.
The graphene-enhanced cushioned foam, called 'G-Fly' is a key part of inov-8’s new trail shoe, the Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max, which is designed for ultra-marathon and long-distance runners.
Scientific tests prove that the foam infused with graphene - billed as the world’s strongest material - delivers 25 per cent greater energy return and is far more resistant to compressive wear. It therefore maintains optimum levels of underfoot bounce and comfort for much longer.
This helps runners maintain a faster speed over greater distances, aid their feet in feeling fresher for longer, and prolong the life of their footwear.
The company claims that the new shoe is also the first deeply cushioned trail shoe that adapts and reacts to uneven terrain, courtesy of its new 'Adapter-Flex' technology. A 10mm underfoot groove frees up the midsole and works in harmony with the foot, so runners feel connected to the trail.
Michael Price, COO of British-born inov-8, said: “In an industry where running shoe manufacturers seem hung up on underfoot carbon plates, we’ve delivered an innovative proposition. G-Fly cushioned foam not only gives runners incredible long-lasting energy return, but an underfoot feel free of rigidity and full of agility.
“We’ve worked incredibly hard for the past two years with the university and leading footwear industry veteran Doug Sheridan in developing this innovation. A team of 40 athletes from across the world tested prototype shoes and more than 50 mixes of graphene-enhanced foam. Trail test reports show G-Fly foam still performing well after 1,200km – double the industry standard.”
Inov-8 first used graphene in 2018 when it launched 'Graphene-Grip' rubber on the outsoles of its running, hiking and fitness shoes. Sales of its footwear featuring the wonder rubber have surged globally over the last three years.
The forthcoming Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max shoe will also feature Graphene-Grip which, along with G-Fly and Adapter-Flex, are all patent-pending. Inov-8 remains the only company in the world to use graphene in sports shoes. The company is based in the Lake District, Cumbria, which has historically been a major source of graphite, the natural material from which graphene is produced.
Wayne Edy, who founded inov-8 in 2003, said: “We continue to carve our own trail, with innovation at the forefront of everything we do. It would be easy to follow others, but that is not in our DNA. Our revolutionary use of graphene, first in rubber and now in foam, proves that we dare to be different.”
As well as being 200 times stronger than steel, graphene is also the world’s thinnest material and boasts astonishing flexibility. Its 2004 discovery as an almost invisible single layer of graphite ultimately earned scientists at the University of Manchester the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.
Since then, a team of over 300 staff at the university has pioneered a diverse range of projects and contributed to graphene-enhanced sports cars; medical devices; aerospace developments; improving infrastructure, and now sports footwear.
Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan, reader in nanomaterials at the University of Manchester, home to both the National Graphene Institute and Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, said: “As well as on the trail, we also tested extensively in the laboratory, including subjecting the foam to aggressive ageing tests that mimic extensive use. Despite being significantly aged, the G-Fly foam still delivered more energy return than some un-aged foams.
“We are proud of G-Fly foam, the Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max and all we have achieved in our highly successful partnership with inov-8. We look forward to the next phase and further expanding the use of graphene, a material that has limitless potential.”
The Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max is available to pre-order online, priced at £170, before general sale begins on 8 April.
E&T has closely followed the take-up of graphene and its widespread adoption and use in myriad applications, across a wide range of industries. E&T also previously interviewed both of the scientists - Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselo - who were behind the breakthrough discovery of the wonder material.
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