Inov-8 has some considerable expertise when it comes to trail running – this is the brand behind some of the best trail running shoes around. Increasingly, we're seeing it taking a similar approach with its hiking boots, with lightweight and streamlined footwear designed to help you tackle walking routes at speed.
The newest addition to the range – the Inov-8 Rocfly 390 – is a case in point, and packs one intriguing new material: Graphene-enhanced foam. Graphene is apparently the strongest but also the thinnest material in the world, and has for a few years been used to fortify Inov-8's sole units. Here, however, it has been infused into the sole foam, with the purpose of providing bouncy cushioning to 'supercharge your feet' and deliver 25% greater energy return. Elsewhere, Inov-8 has also added a 10mm groove into the sole to provide flexibility and enable the boot to mould to uneven terrain.
I've been testing out a pair and can confirm they really are beautifully bouncy, absorbing impact effectively to stave off foot fatigue and keep you going longer. These are amongst the best hiking boots on the market, for our money. They're not really all-rounders, though – they're specifically for tackling long distances over multiple days, where speed is of the essence. The main reason I wouldn't recommend them to your average casual stroller is that in its streamlining efforts, Inov-8 has done away with the traditional waterproofing layer. There's no GORE-TEX option here.
On the flip side, no waterproofing layer means these are both lighter and that much more breathable than your average boot. Which in turn means they dry out pretty quickly, too. So it just depends on how much you dislike getting your feet wet.
The Inov-8 ambassador for the Rocfly 390s is James Forrest, who holds a whole bunch of long distance hiking records, including the fastest solo, self-supported hike of the Three Peaks (plus the miles in between, naturally), for which he wore the Rocfly G 390s.
“The foam is amazingly springy and cushioned, almost propelling you forward with good rebound and energy return," he says. "The rubber is ultra grippy and the upper gives out-of-the-box comfort. Being non-waterproof, they dry really quickly and breathe well too – my preferred approach."
Graphene was first discovered in 2004 by scientists at The University of Manchester, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. From 2018, it has appeared in the sole unit of a number of Inov-8 boots, including the ultra-tough Inov-8 Roclite Pro G 400. Here though, it's been added to the foam to create so-called G-FLY Graphene foam (patent pending). It has also been used to add a boost to the award-winning TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX trail running shoe, but this is the first time it has been used in a hiker.
The ROCFLY G 390 launched in mid October and is available to buy now in men's and women's versions, priced at £175 / $210 / €200.