Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to have a chat with the founder of trail running brand inov-8, Wayne Edy, and honestly I’ve never had my assumptions of a brand changed so much in a 24 hour period.
I spoke to Wayne a few hours after the launch of their latest and greatest shoe and the first since he took back the reigns of the company last year. The fact that he took time out of what must have been an utterly stressful day of interviews and company admin to talk to me, a lowly blogger, speaks volumes on inov-8’s desire to engage with the running community as a whole.
inov-8 is a UK based running company, which as their website states is; forged in the fells and mountains of the Lake District. The brand goes hand in hand with the trail running scene in the UK but besides a few bits of kit (their thin waterproof trousers being the top purchase) I had never been that drawn to the brand because I felt like it wasn’t made for me; the everyday, slightly rounder runner.
When I first came into running the only people I knew who ran in inov-8 shoes and kit were mountain machines, who were slight and speedy, you’d see them bounding down a mountain side like it was run to the shops. Because of that I was always slightly put off trying them out; “they don’t cater to the likes of me” I would think. From the outside it felt like an exclusive brand with a criteria to enter but with my multi-day ultramarathon on the horizon I swallowed my self doubt and messaged them on instagram and after only two messages I had brought a pair of their shoes. Here is the conversation:
“Hey there, I’m looking at running the Dragons Back Race next September and asked online what kit people would want to testing and reviewing and out of all the messages people kept saying try out some inov-8 kit! What shoes of yours would you recommend for a multi day ultra through the mountains of Wales?” – Me
“Hi James, thanks for getting in touch! I am part of the inov-8 social media team and I ran the Dragons Back in 2017. I ran in the our ROCLITE shoes – it was before we launched the graphene grip version, but if I was to do it again, I’d be in the ROCLITE G 275 all the way.” – Inov-8
Since then I have been fortunate enough to test the TERRAULTRA G 270, which won them most of the trail running awards of 2020. My review, which will be coming out in the next few weeks, is mainly positive but marked down because of the lack of cushioning and zero drop which made me once again think that maybe inov-8 didn’t cater to heavier runners like me. That was until they launched their latest shoe this week, which in the picture below you can see is cushioned to the max!
Wayne took back full control from Descente, the Japanese sports clothing and accessories company, last year after five years of their ownership, however his return was kept under wraps until the prelaunch hype for these shoes began. Finding out why was one of the many questions I had put to me on Instagram.
“I found it difficult not having the influence whilst still being in the business and I believed the brand would be better in my hands.” As Descente’s shifted their focus back to the Asian market, Wayne approached them and the rest is history. Although he admits navigating through a pandemic was not the easiest time to take back the lead of a company it is clear that inov-8’s focus is back to being the small, dynamic, locally focussed yet boundary pushing company they have always considered themselves.
This was rammed home when I brought up the touchy subject of carbon plates. inov-8 are yet to follow the carbon plated clad masses and and it is clear that Wayne will not being doing that anytime soon. They are instead putting all their eggs in the Graphene basket. inov-8 as their name dictates have put innovation at the forefront of what they do and their close links with Manchester University is the source of the technology inov-8 have built their brand on in the past few years. Wayne stresses that it is more important than ever that a company has products to stand behind. The pride he and the rest of the inov-8 team have for the use of Graphene in their shoes is a clear example of that as the press launch for the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX felt more like Apple launching a new iPad then a running brand launching a new shoe.
Sustainability is very much at the heart of what inov-8 is and has been since their outset in 2003. Wayne has promised an upcoming launch of their sustainability policy that will aim to be pioneering within the sports industry, hoping that the rest of the running world will follow suit in an open and honest approach to sustainabilty. Instead of using just making a pair of shoes made out of recycled coffee cup lids, inov-8 are taking a holistic approach; thinking about the life cycle of a shoe from; the materials used, how long they last and how the materials they use can be recycled at the end of a shoes life. The middle point is what interests me as a consumer and blogger as I tend to measure a shoes value in pound per mile, for example I recently brought a £100 pair of shoes and they lasted only 150 miles before the upper ripped and became useless. That pair is £0.66 per mile. While the new pair of shoes Inov-8 have launched are expensive at £170 but thanks to their brand new Graphene enhanced foam they could potentially last two or three times longer than traditional shoes (which should last 300-400 miles). Wayne says that during testing some runners were clocking up incredible mileage with little wear showing on the shoe at all. If the shoe can last 600-800 miles and beyond the benefits to your bank balance is pretty easy to calculate!
As I was finishing up writing this post the postman dropped off a delivery from inov-8 so I will be lacing up a pair of the TRAILFLYs soon and honestly I have brought my ticket for the hype-train on these shoes and thanks to Wayne; the brand itself too. I will of course be reviewing the shoes at 150 miles like I do with all my shoes with an additional review at 500 miles and it will be interesting to see if I am still on the hype-train or if the wheels will have completely fallen off by then but right now the future looks bright, the future looks fluorescent green.