DESIGNER'S INSIGHT INTO THE MAKING OF THE TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX
Launched in March 2021, the TRAILFLY™ ULTRA G 300 is the world’s first running shoe to use a Graphene-enhanced foam, called G-FLY™. It delivers 25% greater energy return that lasts for longer. This helps runners maintain a faster speed over greater distances, aids their feet in feeling fresher for longer, and prolongs the life of their footwear.
Not only that, the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX is also the first deeply cushioned trail shoe that, thanks to new ADAPTER-FLEX™ technology, adapts and reacts to uneven terrain. The clever 10mm underfoot groove frees up the midsole and works in harmony with the foot, so runners feel connected to the trail.
The making of this game-changing shoe was a huge team effort that involved leading footwear industry veteran Doug Sheridan and Graphene experts at The University of Manchester. Our Senior Footwear Designer Luke McConnie was part of the team and gives us the full lowdown on how we did it.
When did you start designing the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX and what was the objective?
It actually began life several years ago through our discussions with athlete ambassadors, retail partners and the running community. We recognised that there was a growing trend towards highly stacked cushioned shoes, especially when used over longer distances and ultramarathons. It would have been all too easy to bring to market another maximal cushioned shoe, so our mindset and objective was all about how we innovate in this area by staying true to our DNA and pioneering a new way forward.
What key learnings did you take into the design process?
Through our research, we learnt that whilst highly cushioned shoes can be effective on smooth surfaces, that doesn’t often translate when used on uneven off-road terrain. This is because most cushioned shoes provide a smooth comfortable ride at the expense of being agile and retaining that close-to the-ground feel. On that basis, there was a great opportunity to develop a product that not only provided comfort over long distances but could also allow the foot to perform naturally by adapting, reacting and gripping to the terrain like no other.
It’s our first max cushioned shoe. How does the design retain our original DNA of light, fast, natural?
The product retains a lot of our DNA through our patent-pending ADAPTER-FLEX technology. This allows the midsole to move symbiotically with the foot’s midtarsal joint, by decoupling the heel from the forefoot, thus promoting increased mobility and adaptability over uneven terrain. This is combined with longitudinal grooves in the forefoot, which work in tandem with the foot’s metatarsals. They allow the toes to move more independently, aiding grip and a close-to-the-ground feel.
Where or whom did you take inspiration from for the design?
Inspiration usually comes from many different places. Nature, for example, is often a constant source of wonder. In the case of the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX, the hexagonal shapes on the midsole were inspired by Graphene’s molecular honeycomb structure, which can only be seen when viewed under a microscope.
Talk to us more about the G-FLY Graphene foam, how does it benefit the ultra runner?
Part of the benefit of Graphene in the midsole is its ability to enhance the partnering polymers within the foam. Not only does this enhance energy return and cushioning but it also increases the longevity of the midsole so it retains its performance characteristics for far longer.
The outsole is different to any other shoe. What’s the thinking behind that design?
The outsole is defined in part by the design of the midsole. For example, the 4mm deep Graphene-Grip™ cleats are orientated around the longitudinal grooves and the rubber is split between the forefoot and heel to accommodate the ADAPTER-FLEX groove. We meticulously shaped and positioned all the multi-directional cleats (there are 35 on each shoe) to improve both propulsion at the front and braking at the rear. We also drew upon the already very capable TERRAULTRA G 270 cleat which also has the properties of the Graphene-enhanced rubber and evolved that design to the next level.
The upper – how do you balance making the shoe look appealing while at the same time ensuring the ultimate in performance and durability?
Functionality defines much of the characteristics of the product. Once the performance features are set in place, we have the framework to start defining the shoes aesthetics and fleshing out the overall look of the product. This can be an exciting part of the process because it’s an opportunity for the designer to bring to life their vision of the product.
What are the key differences in this design vs the TERRAULTRA G 270, ensuring both have an integral part in an ultra-runners shoe arsenal?
The main differences between the two shoes are determined by the midsole stack height and heel to toe differential. The much-loved TERRAULTRA G 270 features a zero drop with a midsole-only stack height of 12mm at both heel and forefoot. The TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX has a 6mm drop and offers more cushioning with midsole-only stack heights of 25mm in the heel and 19mm in the forefoot. When coupled with the outsole, this makes the full stack heights for the new shoe to be 30mm in the heel and 24 mm in the forefoot.
How much did the design change over the period you were working on it?
The design changed several times throughout the process, which can often be the case. We encountered many twists and turns along the way. With every iteration there was something new to learn and something new to improve, and through this process we kept pushing the boundaries. The end result is an ultra running shoe truly unique to the market place and something we are all immensely proud of.