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Craft Nordlite Ultra Performance Review: Road to Trail Fun

Craft Nordlite Ultra

The Craft Nordlite Ultra upgrades Craft’s typical midsole foam to a supercritical foam called Cr Foam. And while that’s the biggest difference between this shoe and previous Craft road-to-trail shoes, it works together with Craft’s more minimal upper to provide what I believe is the best all-around Craft shoe to date.

Craft Nordlite Ultra

Release Date: June 2023

Price: $160

Weight: Men’s 9.3 oz., Women’s 8.1 oz.

Drop: 6mm

Sizing: Go a half size up

Buy Men's Nordlite Ultra Buy Women's Nordlite Ultra
  • Rundown: Craft’s first supercritical shoe is my favorite Craft shoe to date and a high-performing road-to-trail option.
Craft Nordlite Ultra Midsole Cushion

Midsole

My previous favorite Craft midsole was on the Craft Endurance Trail. The Px Foam was bouncy and protective but too heavy for road use. For a road-to-trail shoe like the Craft Nordlite Ultra, Craft needed something different. Cr Foam delivers exactly what was needed.

Cr Foam is similar to the DNA Flash found on the Brooks Hyperion Tempo and just a bit firmer than the Nitro foam found on the Puma Magnify Nitro. It’s not near as squishy as New Balance’s FuelCell, but that’s a good thing. Craft shoes are made for outdoor adventuring…in this case, running some roads that eventually drop you into the backroads or onto the trails. A foam that was too soft just wouldn’t perform well when going off-road.

In my testing, I found the Cr Foam midsole to be fantastic on gravel, hard-packed beaches, and dirt. It wouldn’t be my first choice for root and rock-filled trails but it can handle those if needed. For anything more technical, I’d use one of Craft’s other trail-focused shoes.

As for the Craft Nordlite Ultra’s performance on roads. Solid. I wouldn’t want to spend multiple hours on roads in the Nordlite Ultra but they can easily handle an hour at a time and can somewhat pick up the pace as needed for workouts like fartleks or sprints.

Craft Nordlite Ultra Upper

Upper

The upper on the Craft Nordlite Ultra is a one-piece engineered mesh. Simple and effective. The tongue is a super slim, barely-there type that stays in place despite not being gusseted.

And the one thing Craft always does well with its uppers is continued here…a spacious toe box. The shoe does narrow towards the heel so you can get locked in but there’s plenty of room in the shoe for both wide and tall footers.

One note, you may want to go up a half size as the Nordlite Ultra runs short. A half size up from my normal shoe size resulted in a perfect fit.

Craft Nordlite Ultra Outsole Traction

Outsole

The three pieces of rubber that make up the outsole of Craft Nordlite Ultra cover all the high-wear areas and ensure that outsole durability won’t be an issue. Whether you’re hitting roads or trails, it’s built to last. As for the traction, I didn’t run into any issues.

Admittedly I was only able to test in dry, summer conditions but my previous experience with Craft shoes leads me to believe the Nordlite Ultra will do just fine in both wet and wintry conditions.

Is the Craft Nordlite Ultra wide foot friendly?

As with all Craft shoes, the Craft Nordlite Ultra is wide foot friendly. The last (foot shape) that Craft uses to build its uppers makes spreading your toes easy.

Is the Craft Nordlite Ultra worth $160?

$160 is a little high. I’d feel more comfortable with this shoe at $140-150. That said, Craft is a younger, smaller brand and it can’t manage the same cost structures as Nike, adidas, and Puma. So from that perspective I don’t think Craft is making extra margin off of us, it just doesn’t have the economies of scale that its larger, richer competitors do.

Cons

The price and sizing are the only true negatives. As a hybrid shoe, it’s not going to be for everyone but Craft knows its audience and built the Nordlite Ultra accordingly.

Craft Nordlite Ultra Side View

Craft Nordlite Ultra Summary

The Craft Nordlite Ultra shows me that the future of Craft footwear is supercritical. The improved foam is the star of the show and makes me want to run in Craft more than I ever have before. If I lived within running distance of a great network of well-kept trails or gravel paths the Nordlite Ultra would be the perfect daily training shoe. If you can benefit from a well-thought-out and executed road-to-trail shoe you likely won’t find anything better.

If you’d like a second opinion, watch this well-put-together video from our occasional collaborator, Mike Ko, better known on the interwebs as Kofuzi. He’s a long-time wearer of Craft apparel who thought previous Craft shoes were a bit too firm for him. This is a great summary of his thoughts on the newest (and in my opinion most interesting) Craft shoe:

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