The first commercially available fitness shoes to incorporate graphene have been announced. From 12 July, consumers will for the first time be able to buy graphene trainers, and for companies keen to bring other graphene-enriched products to the market, the product’s launch will be a valuable test case.
Developed by British sportswear brand inov-8 in partnership with The University of Manchester, the graphene trainers are available in three versions under the brand G-Series.
The material has been integrated with rubber to form the shoes’ soles, which the company claims has significantly improved the trainers’ durability compared to conventional equivalents, while increasing grip and reducing the overall weight.
“Prior to this innovation, off-road runners and fitness athletes had to choose between a sticky rubber that works well in wet or sweaty conditions but wears down quicker and a harder rubber that is more durable but not quite as grippy,” said Michael Price, inov-8 product and marketing director.
“Through intensive research, hundreds of prototypes and thousands of hours of testing in both the field and laboratory, athletes now no longer need to compromise.”
What is graphene?
Graphene, which is derived from graphite, is just a single atom thick. However, it has a molecular structure that makes it extremely strong – reportedly 200 times stronger than steel.
Dubbed a wonder material, it netted the scientists that first isolated it the Nobel Prize back in 2010.
Since then, it has been predicted to have benefits across a host of industries, from construction to energy, and beyond.
However, considerable work has had to be undertaken to make the use of graphene a commercial reality. In particular, there has been extensive research into making it possible to manufacture the material on a commercial scale.
At The University of Manchester alone, over 300 staff have been working on using the material in commercial applications, producing prototypes for industries as diverse as automotive, aerospace and medical devices.
The launch of graphene trainers
The commercial release of graphene trainers is a key moment in the development of graphene. Not only will it bring the practical potential of the material to the public’s attention, but it will also demonstrate how the material can be used in a commercial setting.
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inov-8’s G-Series, which is described by Price as bringing “the world’s toughest grip to the sportswear market”, encompasses three different graphene trainers, each designed for a different fitness application.
The Mudclaw G260 is designed for outdoor running in muddy, uneven terrain such as on obstacle courses or mountains, while the Terraultra G 260 is intended for long-distance running on firmer, flatter surfaces. By constrast, the F-Lite G 260 is designed for gym use, and is being targeted at crossfit enthusiasts.
All feature graphene-enhanced rubber outsoles, which, according to the company, have been proven to be significantly more durable than traditional equivalents.
“Using graphene we have developed G-Series outsole rubbers that are scientifically tested to be 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% harder wearing,” said inov-8 CEO Ian Bailey.
All the shoes will be available to pre-order from 22 June, ahead of their release on 12 July. Once released, they will be available to purchase from all of inov-8 250 retail stores, which are located across 68 countries.
The growth potential of the graphene industry
While graphene trainers may seem like an unremarkable early step for graphene, their market performance will likely be closely watched by other industries keen to bring the material to their products.
Last year the graphene industry was predicted to be worth $1bn by 2025, but the success of early-to-market products such as these graphene trainers will play a key role in continuing investor confidence in the material.
Naturally, inov-8 will also be keeping a close eye on the success of the graphene trainers, ahead of plans to incorporate the material into other products in its sportswear range.
“We are at the forefront of a graphene sports footwear revolution and we’re not stopping at just rubber outsoles,” said Bailey.
“This is a four-year innovation project which will see us incorporate graphene into 50% of our range and give us the potential to halve the weight of running/fitness shoes without compromising on performance or durability.”