Monday, September 06, 2021

Craft CTM Ultra Carbon Race Rebel Initial Review: The Friendly Riding, Super Light Super Shoe for the Long Hauls!

Article by Sam Winebaum

Craft CTM Ultra Carbon Race Rebel ($250)

Introduction

The Race Rebel is the 3d shoe in Craft’s brand new series of performance running shoes.  It follows the Carbon Ultra (RTR Review) and Ultra (RTR Review). All share a nearly identical basic geometries  approximate 10- 11mm drops but differ in foams, use of plates and run focus.


All models were developed with collaboration of ultra runner Tommy Rivs who also has a sub 2:20 marathon time to his credit 

The Carbon Ultra is a firmer chemically modified EVA dirt road and light trails focused shoe with carbon plate, a stout outsole and supportive upper. It weighs 9.88 oz / 280g  (US9) and has a 40mm heel / 30 mm forefoot stack.

The Ultra removes the carbon plate and substitutes a PEBA insert as well as a very light upper and comes in a 9.4 oz / 266g (US9) at the same stack as the Carbon. It retains the trail worthy outsole of the Carbon. While the super light upper challenged some of our testers, most found the ride dynamic and well named for road ultra purposes and long runs.


The Race Rebel has a somewhat lower stack height at 35mm heel with an extra millimeter of drop to 11mm and has a carbon plate. It is about 2.9  oz lighter than the Carbon and about 2.4 oz lighter than the Ultra using what is clearly a supercritical foam and a lighter, lower profile yet still grippy outsole. It’s engineered mesh upper is super pliable and among the lightest we have yet seen in a super shoe. 


At just 7 oz / 200 g in a US9 it is one of the lightest super shoes with to our knowledge only the Nike Next % and Puma Deviate Nitro Elite (RTR Review) lighter.


Craft was kind enough to send us a pair for early testing ahead of our full multi tester review (and more pairs) when the Race Rebel releases more globally, expected in October.  I will not be able to fully comment on sizing and fit in this initial take as while the box was marked US9/EU42, the shoe itself was marked US10/EU42 and was clearly long and voluminous for my US8.5-9 usual sizing. 


With thick socks and lace lock I was able to adequately lock down my foot but the fit was not ideal with main issue length I will be sending it to a tester who is US9.5 who will add to this initial review. 

Update:I was sent a second pair correctly marked on both shoe and box. The fit of this half size up pair from my normal US8.5 is nearly perfect but due to the volume and light mesh still a bit voluminous on my narrower right foot. I would go true to size without question here.


Pros:

  • Forgiving cushion yet not mushy or over soft. 
  • High drop and geometry make them extremely stable at the heel, no low heel feel ever at any pace and easy to drive forward.
  • Somewhat flexible unlike competitors. 
  • Carbon plate does its job without extremes (all paces accommodated) and without any front harshness.
  • Extremely breathable light upper. Voluminous and soft so wider feet should be very pleased.
  • More than enough near full coverage thin durable rubber coverage and great grip.
  • Near ideal long, fast ( and really any pace) shoe option. 
  • Very solid marathon racer for mid packers seeking a friendly, well cushioned fast ride that doesn't over prescribe.

Cons:

  • Not quite the aggressive snap of some racers so more long than short, longer than 10K for me. 
  • While versatile, pricing at $250.


Stats

Approx. Weight: men's 7.05 oz / 200g (US9)  

  Samples: men’s 7.48 oz  / 212g US10

Stack Height: Measured 35mm heel. 11mm drop

Available in US Oct. $250.  


First Impressions,  Fit, and Upper

All black with an angular and cantilever heel the Race Rebel is all serious in looks and means business. I personally think it is a fantastic design with the black playing well with the overall visual design and midsole angles.


Update: The fit in my half size up from my normal new pair is generous in volume and well held. The fit here is oriented as the shoe is named more towards the marathon and road ultras, swelling feet, and wider feet than shorter distances and narrower feet but if you wish for sheer racing comfort this is a superb upper.

The single layer engineered mesh is the thinnest, most pliable, softest I can recall. And one of the least stretchy. The mesh is very similar to the CTM Ultra, if yet more pliable and thin and less stretchy.

We have, as in the Ultra no heel counter, just rear and side of heel  overlays and internal bolsters.  

The toe bumper is a very slightly denser mesh with some 3D printing or melt in material and is almost as equally but not quite as pliable as the rest of the upper.


The tongue is a very thin 3 layer construction: a smooth fabric on the inside, a grid of what appears to be pliable overlay type material and on the outside open mesh.  There is no gusset tongue. 


Unlike its siblings with their excellent TPU beads sockliner, the Race Rebel has a decently thick apparently well glued in sockliner.


The construction is incredibly breathable with no components that can absorb much moisture that I can see. 

The laces and lace eyelets are a key, key element of the effective hold (even in my overly large sizing).  The laces are flat, non stretch and remind of what might see in a non running athletic shoe. They grip the eyelets ferociously and to put the shoe on and take it off a lot of work is required both to loosen enough to get the foot in past the non stretch heel area and overall upper and then to tighten. 

Once tightened the hold is fantastic and even cinched way, way down for the sizing issues in my first pairI felt no undue top of foot pressures, surprising me.  In my truer to size pair the lacing was equally as effective


The soft pliable mesh clearly provides a voluminous, secure and comfortable fit. So comfortable I wouldn’t hesitate to wear them all day. Yet at the same time the Race Rebel is more than adequately secure. Running a marathon or ultra road race in the heat with foot swelling I am quite sure this upper would be just about ideal.



Midsole

The geometry of the Race Rebel features a 35mm full stack at the heel and an 11 mm drop so we are in the more mid range of super shoe stack heights below shoes such as the Alphafly, Next % and Adios Pro, and RC Elite 2 and more in the midrange along with shoes such as Deviate Elite, original Vaporfly, RC Elite 1, ASICS Metaspeed Edge and 361 Flame. The 11mm drop is noticeable. I personally prefer higher drop , 8mm or more in a carbon plated shoe to easily get me forward as I tend to land towards the rear of a shoe.

The rear features a cantilever design reminding of the Brooks Hyperion Elite and equally as stable with the sharply slope rear rocker preventing any lingering at the heel no matter how far back one might strike . 

I tend to have a very short duration but pronounced heel strike before rapidly transitioning forward.  Here in combination with admirable and leading rear stability in a super shoe, one clearly and easily flows along to the front at all paces I have tested at so far (one run at 9:30 per mile pace and another a 10K training run at a bit faster than my marathon pace (8:16 per mile).   


Given the 7 oz / 200g weight, the UD Foam Pro in the Race Rebel is undoubtedly a supercritical foam but we don't have confirmation yet. The Craft website calls the midsole foam out as 100% EVA foam but clearly it is processed to lighten and give it a distinctly forgiving rebound that is not quite as soft or quite as energetic as New Balance’s Fuel Cell (supercritical EVA TPU blend) as in the RC Elite and Rebel but gets close. 


The midsole foam here has the benefit, in combination with the geometry, of being more stable and consistent in feel regardless of pace than the RC and most other super shoes. The UD Foam Pro is somewhat firmer than Puma’s nitrogen infused PEBA infused foam in the slightly lighter Deviate Elite,  and isnot as bouncy, but more deeply and protectively cushioned.  The foam is less decisively springy than Hyperburst and somewhat softer and bouncier in feel. The foam is clearly softer than Saucony’s PWRRUN PB.  


I said forgiving, and more than once so far... as after my fairly fast (for me) 10K effort the next day I had zero soreness during a strenuous 10 mile hike.  I can not say the same after a recent 10K race at somewhat faster paces in the denser, firmer, and heavier adios Pro 2.


The carbon plate is called out as “precision split for torsion and variable energy return”. The plate is felt as a smooth long impulse with absolutely no “sharp edges” or harshness up front and for my tastes is very well matched to the foam and geometry. Yes, this is a fully rigid shoe but there is a touch of give or flex up front and a smoother longer toe off roll through the plate than say the distinct sharp Speed Roll in Saucony’s Endorphin Pro which for my tastes requires very fast paces to really shine. Here the plate geometry is truly any pace friendly, even at slow paces.


Outsole

The outsole is a thin almost full (but for a strip across midfoot) coverage rubber with micro lugs. It should be a very easy outsole to ShoeGoo if need be. While my runs so far have been on dry pavement grip is excellent almost reminding of the RC Elite's plastic nubs DynaRide outsole. 


Ride

Sam: Early in testing but so far the Race Rebel's ride is the most forgiving, stable and pleasant carbon super shoe ride to date for me (replacing the RC Elite 2)  and a shoe that without question I could daily train with and at a wide variety of paces. There are no compromises felt underfoot despite the incredibly light weight such as carbon plate and midsole firmness or lack of stability. More a half to marathon ride and fit  than a 10K focus shoe, the Ultra part is well placed in the naming as I am quite sure the Race Rebel would be near ideal for those crazy enough such as Tommy Rivs who run road Ultras! 


So far I am not finding it as aggressively snappy and energetic as some of the others such as Metaspeed Sky, Puma Deviate Elite, Next %, and 361 Flame (also a very stable super shoe) but far easier to flow forward consistently even when tired. 

  

Initial Conclusions and Recommendations

There is obviously more testing to come for me (including in a correct size pair) and from the input of my colleagues in a multi tester review to come, but the Race Rebel delivers a tremendous amount of super shoe substance, deep cushion, and smooth flowing forgiving ride at a very light weight of just 7 oz /200g . I am not convinced it is the fastest all distances super shoe but it may be the most practical and versatile for much of a runner’s training and longer races as well as for a wider range of runner paces than many of the other options.


The Race Rebel’s forgiving cushion, stability, high drop and thus easy to maintain forward flow to the front of the plate and toe off combine very seamlessly and effectively with enough excitement for sure but not so much aggressive character and geometry that their utility and range becomes limited to distances, paces, and particular runner strike styles.    


The only negatives so far are the confusion on sizing and how it was marked on the box and then differently on the shoe in my first pair and since resolved with the second pair, and the pricing. Pricing at $250 is up there, even at today’s high prices $200 or $225 seems more “reasonable”  although clearly three runs in the Race Rebel should prove to be tremendously versatile shoe at very, very near class leading super shoe weight and a more versatile and friendly one than any of its super light competitors.

Tentative Score 9.5/10


Comparisons in Brief


CTM Carbon Ultra

Heavier, denser, firmer. Burlier upper. More light trails focused.

CTM Ultra

Similar light uppers although Race Rebel’s is lighter and more supportive.  Ultra is heavier but about as equally forgivingly cushioned. Less front impulse as no carbon plate: PEBA insert inset into firmer outer EVA. 

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2

The RC Elite 2 is more cushioned, softer, bouncier and more energetic, with a lower feeling less stable heel

New Balance FuelCell TC

The TC has a softer bouncier heel which is lower feeling at slow paces and a somewhat harsher front plate feel.

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 1

Slightly lower stack and a touch heavier the RC Elite 1 is flatter feeling on the ground, less forgivingly cushioned with a more traditional race shoe feel. It feels faster but is not as any run versatile as Race Rebel. 

Nike Alphafly

Yet more cushioned with a more dynamic highly explosive forefoot but has a less stable softer heel when tired. 

Puma Deviate Nitro Elite

Slightly lighter, softer bouncier foam. Less protective, more agile and quicker

Adios Pro 2

Fimer and denser in feel, somewhat more responsive. Heavier. A bit harder to flow forward than Rebel. Close to as stable.


Index to RTR reviews of all the comparisons below: HERE


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA.

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes.RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content

The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

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1 comment:

Jim Beam said...

Very interesting initial review. I´m running in the Craft CTM Ultra (without plate) and the forefoot feels quite firm to me, almost harsh. I am a mid- to forefoot striker and usually land with the area around the balls of my feet, so a little softer foam would be appreciated although I´m not sure about the high drop?
Would these new Racers work for someone with a forefoot strike? Thank you :)