Thursday, May 20, 2021

Craft CTM Ultra Multi Tester Review

Article by Alex Filitti, Jeremy Marie, Nils Scharff, and Ivan Luca Corda


Craft CTM Ultra ($160/160€)


Introduction


Alex: My past experiences with Craft gear were in cycling where their bib shorts are among the best (and most protective). I was therefore enthusiastic about the idea of testing their CTM lineup of shoes and some apparel too. I was hoping for the same quality oriented products with what I would call the Swedish attention to details that I had discovered in their cycling products. And I was not disappointed! More on the shoe below but even the shoe box is nicer and more sturdy than most shoeboxes on the market. The CTM branding details in a silver font are further incentives to open up the box and go directly outside for a run. Unfortunately though (and the caveat is valid for all my parts of the review), I was only able to run with this shoe on a treadmill due to an injury.


Jeremy

Just like Alex, for me Craft is more associated with clothes than shoes. My favorite winter base layer happens to be a Craft (Active Extreme) and I use it extensively during cold months for running, cycling and skiing, for maybe 5 or 6 years now. Without tons of technical terms in the product description, a simple, no fuss, effective simple design that works, at a fair price. I really appreciate this very...Scandinavian approach to product design. 


I happened to learn that Craft was designing a shoe while following Tommy Rivs on social media, and the support that the Swedish brand gave to this athlete and his family despite the disease they have to face says a lot for Craft’s consideration for their athletes. This raised my interest in these shoes, and I must admit that interest turned into excitement once the technical details of the shoes were out. Part of the CTM (Craft Tailored Motion) lineup, which represents the pinnacle of Craft products, and I must admit that the CTM Ultra shoe stands up to this moniker. The apparent quality and simple design are striking on box opening. No let’s see how this hybrid road-light trail shoe runs.


Nils: I’ve had one Craft shirt in my closet before last week’s surprise package. It is probably the lightest shirt I’ve ever owned. But unfortunately it has a major flaw: It is chafing. Nonetheless my impression of the Swedish brand has been that they are designing high quality gear for athletes. Lets see if they can translate that impression onto running shoes.

Ivan:

I know Swedish Craft mainly from their high quality sportswear, but this is the first time I’ve tried a pair of Craft running shoes. I was very much looking forward to finding out if the company, as a relatively new running shoe manufacturer, could deliver a first product that could compete with the more established brands in the market. As a long-distance runner planning to take part in a 100 km race soon, it was also exciting to find out if the shoe is as suitable for ultra distances as the shoe's name suggests. I immediately took it out for a 60km run and I can already reveal that it was a pleasant experience.


Pros:

Alex/Jeremy: Light and very breathable upper offering a roomy toebox

Alex / Nils/Jeremy/Ivan: Nice and not too pronounced rocker motion with an overall surprisingly stable and protective ride

Jeremy: outsole lugs are effective on dry light trails.

Jeremy: soft and stretchy semi-gusseted tongue that stays in place

Ivan: A superb fitting and breathable upper

Ivan: Probably the best sockliner I’ve ever experienced

Nils: The CTM Ultra is quite stable for such a high stack height


Cons:

Alex/Ivan: Sizing inconsistencies between EU and US charts: go US size or half down in EU

Alex: Very supple and flexible heel, lockdown isn’t bad but could certainly be improved

Nils: Can’t get a proper lockdown in the mid- to forefoot

Nils/Jeremy: The outsole rubber is straight up hazardous on wet asphalt and rocks!

Ivan: Midsole lacking a bit of fun and bounce especially at faster paces



Stats

Approx. Weight: men's 9.4 oz / 266g (US9)  /  women's / (US8)

 Samples: men’s: 293g/10.3oz (US11), 286g/10.08oz (US10.5), 260g / 9.17  oz (US8.5)

Stack Height: 40mm (Heel) 30mm (forefoot), 10mm drop

Available in Europe & Globally now. US soon.  


First Impressions and Fit



Alex: As often with new shoes, the first thing I did was to remove the sockliner,  a piece of art in itself. It is very thick, has a “bubbled” texture to it on the bottom. 

It feels super soft but also is heavy (weighing 43g!). I can imagine how this liner can impact the ride, adding an extra layer of soft cushion between the foot and the midsole. 


Craft sizing charts are not necessarily aligned to other brands and my sample was half a size bigger (based on receiving EU sizing as ordered)  than what I would normally wear. The first impressions were therefore pointing towards a very long shoe, with a super roomy toe box and poor midfoot and heel lockdown. After trying a few combinations I ended up going with my custom EVA orthotics and thicker socks which reduced the floating sensation within the shoe. Other than that the shoe is in line with my expectations of quality and attention to details.


Nils: Taking the Craft CTM Ultra out of the box the first thing I noticed was how light it felt in hand for the massive stack. 286g for my US 10.5 is actually quite good for a 40mm heel stack, especially considering that we are looking at a trail outsole. Most of the weight savings were probably achieved with the help of the very minimal upper (more on that later).


I was lucky regarding the sizing lottery. Usually I’m wearing US 10.5 which usually translates to EU 44.5. Craft indeed sent me US 10.5 but translated it to EU 44. For an US 10.5 the CTM Ultra fits true to size - lengthwise. But for an EU 44 it’s definitely too long. So stick with US sizing!


Besides the length, the fit of the shoe is very, very roomy in mid and forefoot. My feet are on the more narrow side and it’s almost impossible for me to get a proper lockdown. The heel is fine, especially while using the runners knot. But I can’t get the forefoot locked in at all and for the midfoot I have to crunch down the laces so tight that it almost hurts. Choosing the thickest socks I own made things a bit better. Therefore I’m going to try these ones on my local trails, but I’m afraid that's a rather bad idea.


Jeremy:

When I first saw the shoes in their box, I thought « wow, those are some gigantic shoes! ». The stack, heel bevel, forefoot width, all lead me wondering what the shoe was designed for.

But  they actually turned out to be quite light for the amount of midsole and outsole packed in: 292g for a 11US/44.5EU is more than acceptable given the protection offered. Looking at the shoe makes it quite obvious than the weight savings comes from the airy mono mesh upper.


Just as Nils, I wear a 10.5 US which translates to a 44.5EU...Craft sent me a 44.5EU...but it translates to a 11US/29cm long. The shoe is indeed a hair long, but I managed to get away with it by wearing mid weight socks and using the last eyelet, something I usually don’t bother to do. I can only second Nils’s advice to stick with US sizing.


The sockliner is one of the most substantial I’ve seen in a shoe. Weighing a bit more than 40g, it definitely brings its own share of cushioning to the shoe and for sure makes for a comfortable step in: the layer just under it is far more firm. I bet this sockliner would improve the ride on some very firm shoes, something I’ll probably try.


Something that I strongly advise is to cut out the label stitched on the side...this is an unusual place for a shoe label, but at least it's easy to remove.


The shoe offers a generous volume from the midfoot to the forefoot. Even if my feet are on the wider side, I had to take some time and work my way through every eyelet in order to get an appropriate lockdown without too much lace pressure. Combined with the ½ size long sizing, this is something narrow-footed runners must be aware of. Using the last eyelet did the trick for me and I’m able to comfortably wear those shoes without sloppiness nor too much pressure from tight laces. For sure the fit leans more towards « relaxed » than « performance », which goes the opposite of the moniker printed on the shoe: « Engineered for speed » as far as the upper. 




Ivan:

I have always been a fan of simple designs with just a splash of sporty colors and in that regard the Craft CTM Ultra certainly delivers. The thick blue midsole in my pair stands out and gives a bold contrast to the rather plain gray upper. The first time I put on the shoe, I struggled a bit, as both the heel cap and the upper are very soft and flexible. But when I finally managed to get it on, it felt extremely pleasant and wrapped my foot perfectly. Please note that the European sizes are half a size down, so in my case my US8.5 is a EU41.5 instead of my usual EU42.


Upper


Jeremy: The upper of the shoe is entirely made of mono mesh, which is only doubled with a suede-like piece around the heel. This mono mesh is indeed minimal and ensures top-notch breathability.


There are no overlays to add structure near the midfoot, hence reinforcing the sloppiness that runners with narrow feet may feel wearing the CTM.

The suede-like piece around the heel is stitched to the mono mesh on the medial side of the shoe, which is the only visible seam on the upper. 


This piece adds a bit of grip to the heel, which is also held in place with two little « pillows » I’ve already seen on the comparably minimal upper of the Slab Phantasm.



 

There’s no heel counter and as a consequence, heel hold is only ensured by those « pillows » and the shape that’s clearly on the narrower side.


The stretchy tongue is semi-gusseted and stays put, protecting my feet from lace pressure and ensuring a breathability on par with the upper thanks to the micro/macro perforations.


Despite the minimally structured upper and generous volume, I had no issue of foothold, be it in the midfoot or the heel, even on uphills/downhills. The toe-box may not be « foot-shaped » but it offers a nice amount of space so that I’ve never felt I would need more space even at the end of long runs.


I have a bias towards « free » uppers, and the CTM is one of those. I find the even thinner upper of the Slab Phantasm a joy to put a foot in, as it just does it’s job without much fuss and minimal, but sufficient overlays. The Puma Liberate is also one of those free and light uppers I like, just like the first Kinvara iterations were. Even if I can appreciate a more traditional, plush upper, which can be comfortable and probably more efficient for longer miles or daily usage, I just find them less enjoyable, less fun to run. As a consequence, I like how it just gently, hardly holds the foot, but your mileage may vary. And for sure I won’t use it on technical/rocky trails


Alex: The monomesh upper is extremely light, breathable but also supple and unstructured. It has some overlays added to it from a bit of structure around the toebox from the inside but without any rigidity. That adds up to the already wide and roomy toebox as it prevents the upper from collapsing at the front of the shoe. There are also similar overlays of plasticy material around the eyelet chains for a more secure and dialed in lacing. Around the heel from the inside there are extra pieces of felt that certainly help to keep the heel in place without slipping. 

Both the counter and collar parts of the heel are extremely soft and pliable despite the two lateral bolsters. With my little trick of liner swap and thick socks I managed to get a decent fit. The roomy toebox is pleasant but it would certainly remain so while being of a more appropriately length had I received a true to size sample. The upper wraps nicely around the foot, not perfectly but that’s likely due to the extra material on my ½ size up. The biggest surprise in terms of fit came from the heel which I feared would be terrible in terms of lockdown and while certainly not perfect it worked ok. A tad more structure and two bigger bolster would help having something better. The felt fabric on the inside of the heel helped avoiding any slippage.  


Nils: As briefly discussed in the beginning, the upper of the Craft CTM Ultra is of a very minimal construction. You can directly look through the light mono mesh. 

The only overlays you can find are the laminated seam that connects the heel with the mono-mesh in mid- and forefoot as well as the reinforcement around the lacing holes. Around the instep and the heel Craft uses a suede-like material, which feels nice on foot. Two little “pillows” hold the heel in place which works surprisingly well given the sloppiness of the rest of the upper. The same suede material builds the toe bumper at the front of the shoe. A gusseted tongue stretches around the midfoot and is lightly padded. All in all there’s not much going on here in terms of structure of the upper. Together with the roomy fit that sadly results into a very bad lockdown for me. Cruising along on non technical stuff is possible. But even the slightest bit of technicality makes me slide around in the shoe.


Ivan:

As mentioned earlier I received the CTM Ultra in my usual size US 8.5 (half size down in EUR) and I think that makes a world of difference. The upper fits me really nicely. The heel cap could be more structured for a bit more hold and stability on those longest runs, but I honestly didn’t notice it along the way. In general I actually didn’t notice any part of the upper that much at all and that’s a huge compliment. If anything the toebox is a bit shallow around my big toe, but the single-layer stretchy polyester mesh is so light that it didn’t really bother me. I certainly didn’t experience those lockdown issues as some of my fellow contributors and I even usually prefer a rather tight lockdown. Especially around the midfoot. I wouldn’t say it’s tight, but for me it’s just right and especially when going really far, it’s nice that the material it’s so light, stretchable and breathable without feeling restricting and possibly creating hotspots.


Midsole


Alex: With a 10mm drop and that 40mm of stack height in the heel, the CTM Ultra is a  fairly rare animal in the market at the moment given that high heel stack outside of carbon plated super shoe racers.  The EVA material of the midsole feels firm and dense and would likely be similar in that sense to the DNA Flash midsole of the Hyperion lineup by Brooks, albeit just a little softer (of course the angled heel also helps make that connection). The dimensions of the midsole are not only interesting in terms of stack height but also in terms of width. The forefoot is very wide but the midfoot and heel are way more narrow (which by the way was not something I noticed in the fit nor in the ride). 


After completing this written review I was still a bit curious on how Craft achieved to include that soft touch to the ride with their EVA midsole. A quick glance at their US website made me realize that the EU one was the exact same text expect for one word and that one word was the material of the insert in the vault foam midsole: PEBA. Because yes there is an insert and the EU site says it’s also made of EVA vault foam. So yes I found that there is a PEBA insert in this shoe, below the TPU liner and above the Vault foam itself (in that same bedding where the CTM Carbon Ultra houses both a PEBA insert and the carbon plate). 


Image: CTM Carbon Ultra with black element its carbon plate which CTM Ultra does not have

   

And that explains everything: the soft ride, the protective yet energetic feel and an overall stable shoe. Well done Craft! 


See above and below heel widths compared to the Nike Invincible.




The midsole also comes with a relatively pronounced rocker and of course that very beveled heel. 


Nils: I was very afraid of possible instability when I first saw the massive midsole stack along with the high drop. The narrow heel shape together with the minimal upper would also point to a very low stability. Yet the Craft CTM Ultra surprised me in that regard. The beveled heel, with the foot sitting down in the sidewalls together with the relatively firm Vault Foam and the wide forefoot somehow keep things together in terms of stability. Other than that there’s not much to talk about. The foam reminds me of a firmer blend of Nike’s React with the rocker noticeable but quite subtle. 


Jeremy: 40/30mm stack height is by far the « highest » shoe I’ve run in. This is a massive midsole, and this impression is amplified by the « heel platform »that extends after the heel cup by almost 1cm. I really thought the shoe would be unstable, an impression amplified by the minimal upper and the narrow heel.

But the proof is in the pudding, and I must admit that I’ve never had any issue with the shoe’s stability. The wide forefoot and my midfoot strike certainly help, but even when heel striking on dowhills I felt secure in the CTM Ultra.


The Vault Foam which is more on the firm side is surely a factor contributing to the shoe’s stability.

I really enjoyed the ride of the shoe, which I would describe as « peppy ». It’s not bouncy, and certainly not soft or mushy. It’s clearly an energetic ride, which I found to work well with a variety of paces, helped by the light rocker geometry.


Ivan:

To me the so-called Vault midsole is neither on the soft or harsh side. I would describe it as having a dampening feel, very pleasant and balanced under foot. The foot sits nicely in a kind of cradle of EVA foam with a thick TPU sockliner and an even softer PEBA foam piece just underneath that. A lot of R&D has gotten into developing this shoe which is impressive for a fairly new running shoe manufacturer as Craft is. 


The way the foam wraps around the foot and especially at the heel enhances the stability features and this despite the platform being fairly narrow in the back part of the shoe. 


The midsole itself is certainly not very flexible which means that the feet do not have to work as much and are able to “rest” on that quite stable platform. This is something I certainly appreciate on the very longest runs (up to 60km right out of the box in the Ultra). Once again, I just want to highlight that sockliner. It’s rare to experience this much focus on the quality of materials all the way down to the sockliner, which in this case contributes more than usual to the overall ride by not only being thick, but also really responsive.


Outsole

Alex: The outsole is remarkable in the sense that not many shoes in the category  have such deep lugs (likely 2/3mm, if not more). The amount of rubber is maybe excessive for a road shoe but I heard good things from co-reviewers who took them on some gravel and dirt. As mentioned in the introduction, my input is limited to treadmill use and I cannot therefore further develop on the outsole grip or durability (but I imagine both being good). 


Nils: The outsole of the Craft CTM Ultra is quite misleading. It looks like a mature trail outsole and therefore I hoped to have a nice road-to-trail hybrid here. But after my first impressions and the described lockdown problems I revisited the product page on Craft’s website. There they state “optimal traction on roads and even surfaces”. They talk about ultras and long distances but at no point they mention the CTM Ultra to be a trail shoe. And that’s exactly what I felt and concluded. 


Actually the outsole didn’t work at all in mud. Even worse: It also doesn’t work at all on wet surfaces like rocks or even asphalt. All my runs so far have been partly on wet roads and there the CTM Ultra feels slippery and unsafe. You can even feel that you lose traction on the uphills. I don’t even want to think about using this outsole on wet trails in the alps. The outsole worked fine for me on roads, dirt roads, fire roads etc. - but just under dry conditions. That’s less than the bare minimum I would expect from a road- or even ultra-shoe.


Jeremy: The outsole looks like a perfect road-to-trail hybrid shoe, with a very elaborated lug design. 

The 2/3mm lugs are present in three different shapes, which dots and multi-directed arrows on the heel, forward facing arrows and a « cup » shape on the forefoot. 

I only had the opportunity to try them once on a dry trail due to bad weather here, but the outsole did a good job in those conditions . It also works very well on dry pavement asphalt where the lugs do not interfere with the ride.


No luck- the weather is now a disaster here in France, and I ran almost all my kms in the CTM under the rain or on wet road/light trails. And what looks to be a versatile outsole turns out being slippery as hell. The lightest layer of mud on the road makes the shoes slip. Wet asphalt is even worse because you don’t even think the shoe would slip that much. On a flat tempo run, in a straight line on wet asphalt, I was able to feel the shoes slipping backward during the push-off. Quite annoying. The outsole really is a huge disappointment on the CTM Ultra, limiting it to perfectly dry surfaces. At least it seems to be durable as I cannot see any wear signs after a bit more than 100kms.


Ivan:

I’ve only had the pleasure of using the shoe in dry conditions so far. Mostly on either asphalt, light gravel and some softer surfaces in the woods. It has been outstanding under those conditions. Looking at the lugs underneath it reminds me of another “hybrid” shoethe Nike Pegasus Trail 36 and that one was a nightmare for me in wet conditions. Also, from the experiences from my fellow contributors this is certainly something to pay attention to. Another small aspect to take note of is the fact that this outsole collects so many small pebbles between the lugs. That being said, I enjoy that the outsole runs surprisingly quiet considering the thickness of the rubber.



Ride


Alex: I clearly anticipated something firmer and less pleasant. The ride is actually enjoyable because the midsole feels softer, more protective and more accommodating than what one could imagine when pressing it due to the PEBA insert in the core. The rocker is present and while nice it does  modifies the natural footstrike at bit leading to a strile a bit more towards the midfoot for me instead of my forefoot “natural” footstrike (that is likely in order to take full advantage of the rocker, and maybe also because of - or thanks to - the 10mm drop). The heel does not feel narrow or unstable at all and I was surprised to see how narrow it actually is when I measured it. 


The ride is overall very stable (confirmed by measured low pronation angles, a few degrees below my average and among the lowest values I’ve tested) with the midsole designed in such a way that the pronation for me was contained in this shoe. Also the unstructured upper did not impact the ride too much for me, and while I would appreciate a better wrap around the heel, that would likely not make the shoe feel more secure. 


Nils: The Craft CTM Ultra is made to cruise along - and that for very far distances if you want to. The ride is very protective and thanks to the subtle rocker and light construction of the shoe easy to get going. It even handles climbs quite well because of those reasons. Once you roll in the CTM Ultra you can go forever. Additionally the shoe is more stable than you would expect and therefore gives all the support you need in the later miles of a (very) long run.


Jeremy: As my first maximally cushioned road shoe, I must admit that I enjoyed the CTM Ultra far more than I would have anticipated. 


The combination of the responsive Vault Foam, the slight rocker profile and the airy upper make for a tremendous shoe for cruising at many paces. I’ve used it from endurance pace to near 5k pace with almost equal pleasure. 


The sweet spot is clearly when cruising on tempo runs, or between HM and marathon pace where things seem to get in place together and keep you rollin’ and rollin’ for many kilometers. 


Responsiveness and protection makes for an enjoyable ride and you feel you can keep on cruising far more longer than with other shoes, helped by the stability of the shoe. The ride is never jarring, even when bombing downhills, thanks to the amount of foam, and I’ve ended some long runs with quite fresh legs.

Ivan:

As I mentioned earlier, I took the shoe straight out of the box for a 60 km workout. On such a long run you really find out what works and even small issues can easily grow big. In that regard the shoe exceeded all my expectations. At no point did the upper create hotpots and the ride was very smooth, stable and effortless. There was an ample shock absorption despite the fact that the foam is not particularly soft. Personally I don’t like too soft cushion over such long distances, as my feet and especially toes tend to work more when they sink into something overly soft. A bit like running in sand. The shock absorption itself feels almost vibration-damping, likely also partly due to the thick TPU insole and the softer PEBA piece underneath.


The shoe feels light on foot but you do feel the height of the shoe and for those who prefer a lot of ground contact, this will not be the perfect shoe. Also, for the faster paces I felt the midsole lacked a bit of bounce and responsiveness. But otherwise it handles most paces great. If you want a bit more “snap” in the ride, then Craft also offers the CTM Ultra Carbon (RTR Review) including a carbon plate as the name suggests but we have not tested to directly compare.

 

Conclusions and Recommendations


Alex: Craft did not disappoint for my first experience in their running shoes! They had set the bar high for me with their cycling gear and the CTM Ultra running shoe isn’t too far from those high standards either. 


The quality, attention to details, and user-oriented design are all here and the CTM Ultra is a one of a kind product in the category of tempo/distance shoes. The stable and secure ride is the highlight for me and I look forward to seeing how Craft develops CTM products over time as here they take off  here with a nice first step.  

Score: 8.4/10 

(ride: 9, fit: 7.5, value: 8, style: 9)


Nils: I have very mixed feelings about the Craft CTM Ultra. On the one hand I really like the protective and stable ride. But on the other hand the fit just isn’t for me and therefore I’m probably going to retire the shoe right after this review. Don’t get me wrong - I love roomy / natural toe boxes such as those from Altra or Topo. But I also love proper lockdowns and that is where the CTM Ultra falls short for me. For those with wider feet,  I can see it to be a great option for long runs and even non-technical ultra races. Just check the weather forecast before you run in it, because running in wet conditions is straight up hazardous in this shoe. 

Score: 7.10/10 

(ride: 7, fit: 6.5, value: 8, style: 9 - major point deductions on ride (-2) for the outsole and fit (-2) for the lockdown)


Jeremy: The CTM ultra is a really nice surprise for me. I didn‘t know what to expect from such a high stack shoe but it turns out that I really enjoyed it.


The airy and minimal upper is clearly something I like and Craft delivers on that here, but I will say it is on the fence of being too wide for me. I think that tuning the upper and giving it a bit less volume might make the shoe work for more runners.


The midsole foam and geometry has given me some enjoyable miles with some paces faster than expected considering the controlled effort.  In other words, it rolls easily. For someone with wide feet, and with a bias for unstructured uppers, I think it’s a tremendous long-distance shoe...under dry conditions.

Score: 8.1 /10

Ride: 8.5/10 (enjoyable ride but grip on wet surface compromises everything…)

Fit: 7.5 (works for me but very minimal and voluminous)

Value: 7.5 (160€is quite high, but durability seems good)

Style: 9 (nice color combination)



Ivan:

I was pleasantly surprised by the Craft CTM Ultra. As I do lots of really long runs I often can get picky about small issues that can possibly grow substantial. Especially those regarding fit. Unlike the others, I found the fit to be superb, but I also got the right size. I almost don’t even notice the upper is there with its pleasant and secure wrap all around and some stretch to accommodate some swelling during long runs or summer heat. The ride is dampening, stable and fairly effortless especially at slower and medium paces. It handles most surfaces really well in dry conditions and overall it’s very clear to me that it’s a shoe that’s meant to go the distance, as the name also clearly suggests. 

Score: 9.1 /10

Ride: 9.1 (50%), Fit 9.4 (30%), Value 8.5 (15%), Style 9.0 (5%)



Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Nike ZoomX Invincible Run (RTR Review)

Ivan: The rides are very different  despite both being high stacked shoes with a high drop and almost identical weight. I’m not a big fan of the upper and overall instability of the Invincible despite the wider heel. That being said I think it’s lots of fun taking the super bouncy Invincible on some shorter runs on an even surface.

Alex: Very different shoes as described by Ivan above. The upper of the Invincible is way more structured and paded and the overall shoe feels more clunky. Now the ride of the Invincible is indeed more fun but it’s also more risky and I would choose the CTM for anything above 6mi/10km independently of the pace. 


Nike React Infinity Run (RTR Review)

Ivan: Both shoes are meant for long distance running and both are very stable. While the Infinity uses a denser and wider midsole and side rails, the Craft CTM Ultra takes advantage of the Vault technology to ensure a stable platform. The Craft is lighter on foot and works better at various paces. Also, I definitely prefer the lockdown in the Craft compared to the sock-like upper of the Infinity.


Hoka One One Mach 4 (RTR Review)

Ivan: The Hoka Mach 4 is one of my favorite trainers of 2021. However, it doesn’t suit my running style quite as well as the Craft CTM Ultra. I find both shoes equally stable. For shorter runs it’s a toss-up but if going further the Craft is superior to me. The ride just feels a bit more natural at easier paces and the midsole has more cushion. I prefer the upper of the Craft as it is more stretchy and airy when the feet swell. 

Alex: As opposed to Ivan I’m leaning more towards the Mach 4 here. Probably because the rocker works better for my gait cycle and also as it is a bit firmer, the Mach 4 gives me a bit more spring. The uppers are almost on par and the two tongues are among the best of 2021: light yet padded and offering a nice wrap. Stability wise the two shoes are solid choices for neutral runners in search of stable heels. 


Mizuno Wave Rider (RTR Review)

Ivan: Both shoes pack a lot of technology to create some of the best long distance shoes in a fairly light package. It’s build-up ‘Vault’ midsole and sockliner creates the stable and dampening platform in the Craft, while the Mizuno takes advantage of the Wave Plate technology combined with dual density foam. The Craft is higher stacked and a bit more cushioned compared to the Mizuno. I really enjoy both shoes for the longest runs. They are great reliable and durable workhorses  with the Craft at a higher price point. 


Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 (RTR Review)

Alex: This comparison is the elephant in the room, mostly because of that bevelled heel and overall shape of the midsole that is really similar on the two shoes. The upper is a little (but just a little) more structured on the HE2 (especially in the heel) but the difference is minor. Of course the HE2 has a carbon plate and therefore a more peppy ride. The Craft is a little softer but maybe also more natural and for the price difference it’s a phenomenal contender against the HE2 (or a superb training companion for people racing in the HE2). I would go TTS for both (US sizes that is!). 

Ivan: Overall I agree with Alex here. I really like the uppers in both, but they are also very similar. Just like the style in general. I also think the HE2 feels a bit more springy, but with less cushion. Without having tried the Carbon version of the CTM Ultra, I can imagine that those two are even closer. The HE2 also works fairly well at slower paces despite the carbon plate, but would definitely prefer the CTM Ultra for a really long slow or medium paced run and the HE2 for a shorter and faster one.


Hoka One One (EVO) Speedgoat (RTR Review)

Nils: The SG is what I expected the CTM Ultra to be. A massively cushioned shoe that can handle any surface over any distance. Sure the SG leans more towards the trail side, but it can handle paved sections as well as most road shoes. The CTM Ultra on the other hand is a little more speedy on the roads and cruises just a little better. But beware taking it out on the trails. The SG has one of the best outsoles on any running shoe - the CTM Ultra one of the worst. SG fit is narrow, CTM Ultra very roomy. Both 10.5 US.


Saucony Endorphin Shift (RTR Review)

Nils: When looking the CTM Ultra as a a pure road shoe I think the Shift is a close comparison. It’s foam is a little firmer, the rocker more pronounced and still one of the best in the game. The upper is great as well but by far more padded and heavier than the mono mesh of the CTM Ultra. The Shift has a wider base and a firm heel counter which makes it more stable and is a considerably heavier shoe. The fit of the Shift works flawlessly with my more narrow feet while I can’t get a proper lockdown in the CTM Ultra. What speaks for the Craft is it’s lighter construction. But I can’t see much else. Both 10.5 US.


WATCH ALEX'S CTM ULTRA REVIEW ON THE RTR YOUTUBE CHANNEL (13:47)



The Craft CTM Ultra is available from Craft Sportswear HERE US May 2021


Tester Profiles

Ivan Luca Corda: Copenhagen, Denmark.

Current age group: 45+. Height: 5’11 Weight: 140 lbs

Began running in 2012 (age 36). Weekly mileage: 50-80 miles (mostly roads and light paths/trails) Favorite distance: Marathon. Memorable running experiences: Tromsø Midnight Sun Marathon ‘17 (above Arctic Circle starting at midnight in full daylight), Valencia Marathon PB in 2019 in 2:39:28, First Ultramarathon in 2020 (100 km) and 3rd at Danish National Championship.


Nils Scharff is 30 years old, located in Heilbronn – Germany. "I've done all sorts of sports for all my life, often 5-7 times a week. But my young running career just started 3 years ago with a company run which I joined together with some colleagues in 2017. From there I never let go. I ran roughly 1000km in my first year, doubled and then tripled that number in 2018 and 2019. I've run 4 marathons to date with a PR of 2:57 marathon.  My other PRs are 18:14 for the 5k, 37:33 for 10k and 1:23 for the half."


Jeremy MARIE, French, 40y/o. Running since 2013 and quickly transitioned to trails, focused on ultras since 2015 : TDS, Maxi-Race, “100 miles du Sud”, 90kms du Mt Blanc, GRP 120kms, Some shorter mellow races (Saintelyon 45kms, Ecotrail Paris 45kms…) with always in the mix road and flat running, but not many road races. Recovery/easy runs ~4’45/km - 4’30/km 


Alex Filitti i is a French duathlete (AG 25-29), training mainly on road and track surfaces. He occasionally hits the trails, mostly during his off-seasons. His running PRs are 16:25 (5K), 34:00 (10K) and 2h50 (42K, Berlin 2019), and his weekly average mileage goes from 30 miles in the off-season to 60 miles in buildup phases before peak duathlon events (50 to 80 kilometers).


Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review beyond potential commissions from the shopping links in the article. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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5 comments:

Gijs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gijs said...

I have the carbon version and I loved it until I took it out in the rain last week. This is the worst shoe I ever ran in on wet surfaces ( roads and some muddy paths), I had to walk some downhill roads and corners because I was genuinly afraid of falling. Great shoe but don't use it if there is even a small chance of rain. It is downright dangerous and should come with a warning.

Nils said...

Thanks for the comment, Gijs! That's exactly what I experienced!

Jeremy said...

Hello Gils,
This is by far the biggest disappointment I have with this shoe. I can't really understand how is this even possible for a brand with such attention to details, and a shoe that has been developed with elite runners, to be so insecure under the rain.

harris said...

I have the carbon version and went down a half size and the fit was perfect. I got my usual size and it was way too long. I should get the ultra tomorrow so I hope it is a bit softer than the carbon version. No rain test as no rain in Arizona.