Mountain Ventures is the new South African distributor of Inov8, the UK brand that will be revolutionising outdoor footwear soles with its new Graphene technology, predicts Leo Rust. The company, a subsidiary of the Branded Footwear and Clothing Company, acquired the Inov8 distribution rights in the beginning of the year and has already received its first shipment.

Rebel Elite Fitness was the former distributor in South Africa.

Rust has a strong history in outdoor footwear and clothing distribution, as well as trail runner and mountaineer. Around the turn of the century he worked for the now-defunct Outward Ventures, which pioneered outdoor brand distribution in South Africa, and later joined Capestorm, when it was still a standalone brand with its own retail stores. He then joined Adventure Inc as sales manager for about ten years until the end of December 2017.

In between, Rust had managed the indoor climbing venue CityROCK and last year started his own business as life coach (he has a degree in psychology) and mountaineering guide.

Since it was founded as a minimalist trail running shoe brand by Zimbabwean-born engineer Wayne Edy in the UK in 2003, Inov8 has considerably expanded its product offering and distribution to more than 60 countries. It now produces premium trail running, hiking and fitness footwear and accompanying apparel and equipment, says Rust, who hopes to establish Inov8 as a top competitor in the trail running scene in South Africa.

“This will be a long, slow, process as building retailer confidence is key,” he says. “Our policy as a distributor is to not sell directly to the public and primarily build relationships with specialist retailers who have a core following of trail enthusiasts.” They will also be targeting obstacle race (OCR) and training enthusiasts with specialist products.

Inov8 graphene
Photo Inov8.

Rust is especially excited about the revolutionary new Graphene sole from Inov8 that “delivers the world’s toughest grip”. It was developed in 2018 with the help of from the University of Manchester, who won a Nobel Prize in 2010 for their ground-breaking experiments with graphene, which they began extracting from graphite in 2004.

“Previously 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,” the brand says on its website.

According to one of the University of Manchester scientists by “Using graphene we have developed G-SERIES outsole rubbers that are scientifically tested to be 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% harder wearing.”

Although the Japanese sportswear manufacturer Descente acquired Inov8 in August 2015, Wayne Edy is still in charge of product innovation. Descente, an 80-year old Japanese company, owns several sportswear brands like Le Coq Sportif, Arena, Umbro, Ryka, Marmot etc.