Northwest at the forefront of a sports footwear revolution

A Cumbria based sportswear brand has teamed up with the University of Manchester to become the first-ever company to incorporate graphene into sports footwear. Sportswear brand inov-8 has designed the running shoes with scientists at the National Graphene Institute.

Graphene is the world’s thinnest material – around one million times thinner than a human hair – and is 200 times stronger than steel. First isolated at the University of Manchester in 2004 graphene is also the first two-dimensional material at just one-atom thick and has the potential to revolutionise many areas of technology.

inov-8, based in Staveley, Cumbria, announced last week that a new rubber using graphene has been developed. Laboratory tests found the rubber outsoles of the company’s G-Series range of shoes were stronger, stretchier and more resistant to wear and tear. Three shoes using graphene will be available to buy – priced between £140 and £160. Two are designed for running with the other for cross-fit training.

Michael Price, inov-8 product and marketing director, said: “Off-road runners and fitness athletes live at the sporting extreme and need the stickiest outsole grip possible to optimise their performance, be that when running on wet trails or working.”

“For too long, they have had to compromise this need for grip with the knowledge that such rubber wears down quickly. Now, utilising the ground breaking properties of graphene, there is no compromise.”

“The new rubber we have developed with the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester allows us to smash the limits of grip.”

The scientists who first isolated graphene, physicists Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov, were awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2010. Graphene is derived from graphite, which was first mined in the Lake District fells more than 450 years ago. It has been hailed as the strongest and most conductive material in the world, with a huge range of potential electronic, material, and even medical uses. Researchers at Manchester’s National Graphene Institute have already unveiled a graphene sports car, medical devices and a dress made from graphene.

Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan, reader in nanomaterials at the University of Manchester, said graphene could be bent, twisted, folded and stretched without damage. He said: “When added to the rubber used in inov-8’s G-Series shoes, graphene imparts all its properties, including its strength.

“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.”

Founded in 2003 by Wayne Edy, inov-8 is one of the world’s leading all terrain footwear, apparel and equipment brands. The company is now owned by Japanese sportswear manufacturer Descente and it supplies to over 60 countries worldwide.

Top trail and mountain runners are currently carrying out tests ahead of the planned market launch of the G-Series range of shoes in July next year.