Graphene bolstered long-distance running shoe lasts for twice the distance of ordinary running shoes.
Graphene is a revolutionary material with unchallenged flexibility and strength along with qualities like electrical conductivity and chemical resistance, making it vital in a multitude of engineering and design applications. From use in car bodywork, ship hull coatings and personal electronic devices, the future of graphene is bright indeed.
Thanks to researchers at the University of Manchester and UK-based sportswear manufacturer Inov-8, graphene can now be found at the tips of your toes as well as your fingers.
In 2017 Inov-8 brought to the market the first running shoe that utilizes graphene in its grips, and 4 years later the manufacturer is still innovating, offering a wide range of products that rely on the wonder material.
Now, as well as finding its way into the grips of the company's running shoes, graphene is also found in the soles of the company's latest long-distance running shoe too¹.
Using graphene as part of the cushioning insole in trail running shoes has led to a shoe that lasts twice as long as leading competitors' footwear, the company says.
Graphene Gets a Grip
When Inov-8 began their quest to use graphene to improve running shoes, the initial goal was to employ the material to create improved rubber grips that would not wear down as quickly as other running shoes and retain grip for longer during this slower wearing process.
The company teamed with the University of Manchester to make this goal a reality, with the collaboration initially part-funded by EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account.
"When added to the rubber used in Inov-8's G-Series shoes, graphene imparts all its properties, including its strength," Dr. Aravind Vijayaraghavan, a nanomaterials researcher at the University of Manchester said in a 2017 press release². "The graphene-enhanced rubber can flex and grip to all surfaces more effectively, without wearing down quickly, providing reliably strong, long-lasting grip. This is a revolutionary consumer product that will have a huge impact on the sports footwear market."
In addition to cutting down on wear and tear and retaining grip for longer, the company found their graphene grip improved traction on wet trails and sweaty gym floors.
The graphene-enhanced grip proved such a hit with consumers that in the four years since its induction, shoes featuring the outer-sole now account for 50% of overall sales.
Graphene Could be the Life and Sole of Running Shoes
Building upon the success of Inov-8's graphene gripped running shoe, the company has expanded its use of the material to a midsole foam. The graphene replaces EVA foam plates of carbon which are traditionally used in this form of long-distance running shoe.
As a result, the company says that it has created a product — the Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max — that is ideally suited to use by long-distance and ultramarathon runners. But, when it comes to making such claims, testing is where the rubber (or graphene in this case) meets the road.
Inov-8 put the graphene-enhanced soles through their paces both in the lab and in real-world testing. The developers discovered that the soles offered a 25% greater energy return than standard EVA insoles, really putting a spring in the step of long-distance runners.
Additionally, just as with the graphene-enhanced grips, the company says that graphene bolstered insoles majorly cut down on wear and tear, finding that running shoes equipped with the latter still performed well after covering a distance of 1200 km. That's double the current industry standard.
"Product innovation is the number-one priority for our brand. It's the only way we can compete against the major sports brands," said the company's CEO Ian Bailey in 2017. "The pioneering collaboration between Inov-8 and the University of Manchester puts us — and Britain — at the forefront of a graphene sports footwear revolution."
And further down the road, chronologically speaking, the company is still gripping onto this mission statement. "This is just the start, as the potential of graphene really is limitless. We are so excited to see where this journey will take us."
1. TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300, Inov-8, [https://www.inov-8.com/trailfly-ultra-g-300-max-mens-ultra-running-shoes].
2. 'Graphene at the forefront of a sports footwear revolution,' , The University of Manchester, [https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/graphene-at-the-forefront-of-a-sports-footwear-revolution/]