Thirteen years ago, Andrew Geim and Kostya Novoselov, scientists at England’s University of Manchester, figured out how to isolate the two-dimensional material graphene from graphite, earning them the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.
Since then, there has been tremendous buzz around the material and its potentially revolutionizing applications to myriad industries, technologies and products — among them, athletic shoes.
Leading the charge, British sportswear brand Inov-8 has partnered with the University of Manchester to bring to market the first running and fitness shoes made with graphene. The shoes are set to be unveiled some time next year.
Despite being the thinnest material in the world, graphene is 200 times stronger than steel. It’s also incredibly lightweight and flexible, able to be stretched, twisted and folded without causing any kind of damage. According to Inov-8, laboratory tests demonstrate that when added to the rubber used in the brand’s shoes, graphene delivers superior traction and durability.
“Off-road runners and fitness athletes live at the sporting extreme and need the stickiest outsole grip possible to optimize their performance, whether running on wet trails or working out in sweaty gyms. For too long, they have had to compromise this need for grip with the knowledge that such rubber wears down quickly,” explained Michael Price, product and marketing director for Inov-8. “Now, utilizing the groundbreaking properties of graphene, there is no compromise. The new rubber we have developed allows us to smash the limits of grip. Our lightweight G-Series shoes will deliver a combination of traction, stretch and durability never seen before in sports footwear.”
Ian Bailey, Inov-8’s CEO, said the patent-pending technology is part of the brand’s push to drive innovation in the footwear market. “Product innovation is our No. 1 priority. It’s the only way we can compete against the major sports brands. Our pioneering collaboration with the University of Manchester puts us – and Britain – at the forefront of a graphene sports footwear revolution,” he said, noting the company is exploring additional uses for the groundbreaking material. “The potential of graphene really is limitless. We are excited to see where this journey will take us.”