British footwear company inov-8, no stranger to the introduction of revolutionary footwear, has been secretly working with Manchester University on a new compound to improve the traction and durability of their outsoles. Graphene, produced from graphite (the core of your standard pencil) and the thinnest material on earth, is extremely flexible yet 200 times stronger than steel. While already being used to build stronger, lighter bike frames, it has yet to seep into the outdoor industry. But inov-8 found that when graphene is added to rubber, you get outsoles that perform classes above anything else.
First extracted at The University of Manchester in 2004, graphene is the world’s first two-dimensional material — it’s just one-atom thick and arranged in a lattice pattern. Extraordinarily flexible, graphene can be bent, twisted, folded, and stretched without incurring any damage. When added to rubber, the rubber takes on the properties of the graphene — this means it can flex and grips surfaces better without wearing down quickly. You get reliably strong, long-lasting grip.
Today, the main compromise in any outsole, whether it be a hiking shoe or climbing shoe, is that grippier rubber compounds wear down quicker. Think about it — the rubber on your climbing shoe wears down quicker than the rubber on your average hiking shoe. Even Five Ten’s MI6 rubber, the stickiest the company has ever produced, won’t last as long as their standard Stealth rubber compounds. This may now all be a thing of the past thanks to graphene.
Inov-8 is dubbing this the world’s toughest grip. “Our lightweight G-Series shoes deliver a combination of traction, stretch and durability never seen before in sports footwear,” remarked Michael Price, inov-8 Product and Marketing Director.
The inov-8 G-Series line of footwear will be out sometime next year and retail for around $200.