Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Nike ZoomX Ultrafly Trail Multi Tester Review: 10 Comparisons

Article by Sam Winebaum, Mike Postaski, and Jeff Valliere

Nike ZoomX Ultrafly Trail ($250)


Sam: The Ultrafly Trail, releasing August 2023, is Nike’s first true entry in the high performance ultra run category. It features a full Zoom X midsole as in the Vaporfly and Alphafly but here wrapped in a tight outer fabric that protects the foam and stabilizes along with a full FlyPlate carbon plate for protection and propulsion. 

In a huge and welcome change, at long last, Nike Trail gets new “tires” with a state of the art Vibram MegaGrip with Traction Lugs Lite Base outsole. Long a weak point for Nike Trail shoes on wet rock, the Vibram is proven and effective. 

Ultra shoes these days mean higher stack and here we have a 38.5 mm heel / 30 mm forefoot ( 8.5 mm drop spec). My US8.5 sample weighs 9.8 oz / 278g so about 10 oz in a US9. This is very respectable for the stack height and full coverage outsole  but heavier than I might have imagined given Zoom X is so light in Nike road racers and that its most direct competitor in stack, carbon plated and purpose the Hoka Tecton X 2 weighs about 1 oz / 28g less. We’ll try to figure out why! 


So where will this top end $250 new shoe fit in and how did it perform?  Mike ran them in Idaho including for part of a 175 mile Boise Trails Challenge and I tested them New Hampshire where I not only ran them on trail  well as  paved and gravel dirt  roads and even took them up the Rock Pile in the all uphill, and lots of it, Mt Washington Road Race. 

And we now also have just in race results as Tyler Green and Anthony Cosatles wore the Ultrafly  to 2nd and 3d places at the 2023 Western States 100, a smoother trails fast course. Promising for sure! Let’s get into it.


Fast door to trail, gravel, road and smooth terrain, a deep, soft cushioned and plate powered “near” rocket: Sam/Jeff/Mike P

No plate harshness, easy to roll on moderate terrain and flats with full carbon plate well masked by the soft Zoom X foam: Sam/Jeff/Mike P

First Vibram outsole ever (or certainly in recent memory) on a Nike.  About time we got some MegaGrip chez Nike! : Sam/Jeff/Mike P

Fit/comfort: Jeff/Mike P/Sam


Best run faster and on moderate grades due to broad flat rear of shoe, stiffness of plate, and upper: Sam/Jeff/Mike P

Wish plate/shoe was more flexible: Sam/Jeff

Why not a more flexible (and lower cost) nylon plate here? for slower paces and for steep climbs: Sam/Jeff

Surprisingly “heavy” at 10 oz US9 given ZoomX is such a light foam and upper is in no way hefty:  Sam/Jeff/Mike P

Pricing at $250. Rich for any trail shoe, even one as here with a carbon plate and supercritical Zoom X foam: Sam/Jeff/Mike P

Too soft underfoot impacting stability? Mike P/Sam

Tester Profiles

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets lucky.. training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run or nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to nearly 100 mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. In 2022 Mike won both the Standhope 100M and IMTUF 100M trail ultras within a 7 week period - both extremely rugged Idaho mountain races. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.


Estimated Weight: men's 10 oz  / 284g (US9)  /  women's oz / g (US8)

  Samples: men’s  9.8 oz / 278g US8.5, 10.4 oz / 295g US 9.5, 10.6 oz/304g US 10

Stack Height: men’s 38.5 mm heel / 30 mm forefoot ( 8.5 mm drop spec)           

$250  Available now including :

US at Running Warehouse HERE

Europe at Top4 Running now HERE

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Mike P: Let’s cut to the chase - the first impression for the Ultrafly Trail is all about the feel on foot. Can Nike replicate that magical sensation - when you first tried on Vaporfly - in a trail shoe? The answer is yes, well, sort of. The deep, soft ZoomX cushion is very much felt when standing in the shoes for the first time. Then let yourself lean a bit, take that first step forward and aha - that familiar carbon plate lever action is also there. So do chalk that up as a win, as Nike clearly has brought that Vaporfly “feel” to the trails. The big question is - will it work?

[“FAST AF” - did they really print that on the midsole ?!?!]

The next most noticeable aspect - the shoe is astonishingly wide across the forefoot in fit. Nike trail shoes have not been known to be narrow - I’ve found them to generally have standard width across the forefoot. Some models here and there have been a bit shallow over the top, but in general nothing really notable. Here with the Ultrafly Trail - the width up front is very apparent, both on foot and even visually. 

[For reference - vs. Topo MTN Racer 3 - Ultrafly Trail is wider across the forefoot!]

Again, I mentioned that it was quite astonishing, because it feels essentially Topo-esque and dare I say, borderline Altra-esque. Immediately the wheels start turning in my head and I’m fairly certain that they had to make them as wide as they reasonably could on foot and underfoot at the platform due to the also-extreme softness of the ZoomX foam. 

[Definitely plenty of space up front - easily fit my Injini liner / Wrightsock combo]

Sizing-wise, they’re perfectly fine for me at true-to-size US 9.5, with as mentioned plenty of room all around in the toebox. Midfoot fit is nice and snug, but I do feel a little bit of looseness in the heel. It’s not a lot, just a touch of lift when flexing the foot forward, and not really an issue on the run. In my experience, it’s very difficult to get 100% heel lockdown with a very stiff carbon-plated shoe. 

[Midfoot wrapping element (orange) is seen below the Vaporweave outer material]

Speaking of which, another hugely noticeable aspect of the shoe is just how stiff the carbon plate is - in hand. It’s virtually impossible to flex the shoe in hand. I can’t recall any shoe being so stiff in hand - it feels as if they might have embedded a 2x4 in there by mistake. But equally astonishingly - that stiffness is essentially unnoticeable on the run! Quite a trick Nike pulls off here! Read on in the Ride section below for more details.. 

Sam: Right up front I agree with Mike. At try on we have the characteristic and soft energetic Zoom X vibe but here more centered as surrounding the Zoom X midsole we have a tight outer fabric “shrink wrapped” to  the midsole. Pressing the side walls, it feels firm and that is good as the fabric wrap not only protects the fragile ZoomX foam from trail obstacles butalso stabilizes  it. Yet, down the center of the shoe the feel is soft and pleasant.  Walking around you could have fooled me and totally that there was a full carbon plate and a rigid one to boot in them. Quite amazing.

The front fit and volume is indeed very broad, very comfortable and somewhat unstructured for a trail shoe. The Vaporweave mesh is soft, thin and very pliable with no stretch. Inside the toe box there  a thin loose sock like front lining. We have  the most minimal of toe bumpers, also very soft, pliable and thin.  No Nike road shoe and very few if any trail shoes have such a relaxed front of shoe. Enough front hold for more tech trails? On the plus side for front stability the platform is a big 115mm wide.

The relax continues at the midfoot with the same very thin pliable mesh with notably pliable logo overlays for some support, the inner side medial Nike Trail overlays being more extensive. 

The gusset tongue is two layered and has a conventional inner stretch gusset with a second outer perforated mesh salmon colored gusset attaching to the lacing system. Again a very effective if not mountain trail confidence inspiring approach focused on maximum adaptability to foot shapes and foot swelling. 

Lace up is super easy and always comfortable with the thin leatherette tongue not only lightly padded with 3 bolsters at the top on the side but with a broad band of outer padding further down.

The rear collars are conventional with plenty of padding and a secure hold. The heel counter is very rigid down low then progressively softer. This is in no way one of those minimal rear collar set ups and I think essential to maintain good foot hold in an otherwise very minimal soft and pliable upper, even for a road shoe, and certainly for a Nike.

The fit is true to size for me, generous in fit and secure enough overall for non technical trails, gravel and paved roads. 

Very, very comfortable and obviously designed for long long hours on the go in heat and proven by 2nd and 3d at Western States 2023.

Jeff V:  The Ultrafly was a surprise for me, I had heard a bit about it some time back, but then was pleasantly surprised to receive them (but unfortunately the day after I left for a 9 day vacation and thus Sam and Mike got a good head start on me for review).  My first impressions were quite positive, as the Ultrafly looks very stylish and purpose driven.  They were a bit heavier in the hand than I had imagined at 10.6 oz. for my usual US Men’s 10, but feel more reasonable (though still not light) on the foot.  

Stepping into them is very pleasurable, as the Zoom X foam feels especially soft, deep and comfortable underfoot, but very well contained by the plate underneath and the woven sidewalls.  The upper is notably comfortable, with a very well held heel and midfoot, though with a surprisingly wide forefoot.  Though the forefoot is wide (in line with the overall wideness of the shoe), my foot feels well held and is a great blend of all day accommodating comfort and security.  That said, I would not recommend the Ultrafly for technical terrain (more because of the stiff carbon plate, but also perhaps a bit to do with the wider forefoot).  Fit overall feels very true to size.  

I have found that when running up steep trails (~10% gradient and higher, but especially 18+% and up), I do notice a bit of heel slippage just simply due to the very stiff nature of the shoe with the carbon plate.  That said, it is not really an issue and also not really what this shoe is designed for, so likely a non issue for most.  


Sam: The midsole is Nike’s Zoom X foam with a fiber outer wrap to protect the foam and stabilize the platform. Embedded we have  a full length carbon FlyPlate. 

The underfoot geometry is 90 mm at the heel, a comparatively narrow 65mm at the midfoot and a broad 115mm at the forefoot. The carbon plated Tecton X has the same 90mm heel width, a far greater 80mm at the midfoot and 110mm at the forefoot.

There is no question on the run that we have Zoom X in the mix. The feel is silky soft, light and energetic. The challenge for Nike was to make such a soft low density foam practical on trail. To do so the design incorporates 3 key elements.

  • The outer midsole surfaces are wrapped in a tight dense fabric covering, shrink wrapped likely with heat which compresses the Zoom X along the sidewalls. To pressing the sides are for sure firm yet on the run the center is soft, resilient and forgiving with lots of rebound. The fabric also protects the ZoomX foam which in all Nike Zoom X shoes has a covering of paint, or as here fabric, to protect it as it is quite fragile to abrasion and punctures. So far zero issues with punctures of the side walls or any wear there at all. This fabric covering and its adhesive  likely explains part of the 10 oz weight but I think is essential.

  • The carbon Flyplate provides structure, protection and propulsion. The shoe, even after more than a few miles, remains rigid but has developed a tiny bit of flex.

  • Finally ,the full overage Vibram outsole provides a stabilizing layer at the ground.

The 3 elements above, the Zoom X foam and the platform geometry come together in a surprising way. One might assume the plate would make them over rigid and be felt as harsh, the foam would make them unstable and the outsole would be overpresent on smoother terrain. 

Not the case at all. The cushioning is forgiving and very deep and of course reactive and pleasant. The wide flat on the ground rear heel is well stabilized by the rising quite substantial orange Vibram outsole walls, the narrow midfoot platform allows for smooth transitions forward while upfront the foot sinks in to the Zoom X with a touch of late pronation as in the OG OG baby blue Vaporfly. We then lever via the plate rolling easily  up and away without being “bothered” by the presence of the plate in a smoother and more gentle way than the road Vaporfly 3, reminding much more of the OG OG Vaporfly but with more front cushion. 

Mike P: The ZoomX foam in the Ultrafly Trail is very, very soft. Perhaps the softest feel underfoot of any trail shoe I’ve run in. As Sam mentioned earlier, despite the stiffness and non-flex of the shoe in hand - you don’t feel the carbon plate at all underfoot. Of course you do notice the forward levering action, but the firmness of the plate itself is very well insulated from your foot. 

[You can see the textured fabric wrap around the midsole foam here]

If you’ve ever run in a Vaporfly, you’ll know the type of ZoomX softness that I’m talking about. In the Ultrafly, the feeling of softness is the same, yet it also feels different because the forefoot is so broad and there’s such a great volume of ZoomX foam spread out so wide under the foot. This is definitely different than the more narrower at the heel, concentrated setup in their road supershoes like the Vaporfly.

[ZoomX for the trails requires more width!]

Perhaps this is partly the reason why they use a fabric wrap around the ZoomX midsole foam. I assume part of the reason is to protect the soft form from abrasions and damage. But I’m sure another reason is to “contain” the foam from squishing too much. We’ve seen this mechanism used on other trail shoes - the first Saucony Endorphin Trail comes to mind.

The softness of the ZoomX foam begs the question - is it too soft? This type of very soft foam is typically more welcomed on harder surfaces, i.e. road, but on the trails you usually look for some type of balance between cushion and also maintaining some ground feel over uneven surfaces. Also, with the carbon plate sandwiched inside all of that softness - that rigidity is another element that has to be balanced carefully on the trails. 

Jeff V:  Sam and Mike describe the midsole very well.  I am in awe at how Nike was able to incorporate such a soft, bottomless feeling Zoom X foam into a trail shoe, yet have it contained just enough within the mesh sidewalls and carbon plate beneath.  

Some carbon plated trail shoes can feel harsh underfoot, but the Ultrafly does a great job hiding that plate from your consciousness upon impact.  While I find the plate to provide a smooth and reasonably energetic ride, I do not find them to be as snappy, fast and as race ready as I would expect (some of that sensation is due to the weight of the shoe).  

The Ultrafly however is particularly good for running moderate to uptempo pace on buffed out rolling trails and dirt roads, roads and of course an ideal road to trail shoe.  

While able to handle short stretches of moderately technical trails, I do however find the stiffness of the plate to be a liability in technical terrain.  I find myself struggling to keep them stable when the going gets rough, particularly when running fast and trying to leap and balance them from rock to rock or root, as they do not conform or contour well laterally.  If I try to run too long in them on technical, rocky terrain, I find that my ankles get a bit sore and tired from the added effort to keep them straight.  The cushioning here is very plush feeling underfoot and quite comfortable for long days.


A first for Nike a Vibram MegaGrip LiteBase with Traction Lugs. Approx 3mm-3.5mm lug height.

Mike P: Perhaps the most shocking move of all is Nike deciding to go with a Vibram outsole for the Ultrafly Trail.  This is somewhat surprising as we all noted that the “mitten” rubber they used on the Pegasus Trail GTX performed very well, even in wet conditions. I would have expected Nike to use that compound or some evolution of it. But the (negative) feelings about Nike Trail outsoles do run deep - I hear this all the time from trail runners. At a price point of $250, Nike is just pulling out all the stops to dislodge that sticking point.

Nike does go all the way here - full coverage, Vibram Litebase Megagrip with Traction Lugs. I noticed right away that the lugs are quite shallow (3-3.5mm), and also broad. It’s not an all-terrain design - the lugs and pattern seem designed for faster, runnable surfaces such as Western States. The ride as far as the outsole is concerned is quite smooth, and the lugs don’t get in the way at all. I know Sam has run them a bit on the road without issue, and that doesn’t surprise me. 

[Outsole comparison to MTN Racer 3 - both Vibram Megagrip. Also, a surprisingly similar platform on the ground - the Topo being slightly narrower at the heel]

In my first 45 miles of testing, I only had a few minor stream crossings to deal with. I wasn’t trying to soak my feet, but I did try to walk through slightly and test the wet grip coming out. I had no issue at all, as you would expect from the proven Vibram compound. The first Nike trail shoe where wet grip is not the primary concern ?!

Sam: Vibram MegaGrip Light Base with Traction Lugs. A big, big deal. I was surprised by all the Vibram branding not only stamped all over the outsole and also on a card in the box. Nike rarely if ever has any “co-branding” and here they went all out to stamp out their traction demons. 

I spent time with the Director of Nike Men’s Running at the December 2022 The Running Event and discussed rubber and traction at length in their trail shoes. They knew the “mitten” rubber in the Peg 4 GTX had superior traction to the regular but were concerned about its durability and were “working on some things.” 

And indeed they were! The Vibram outsole is state of the art with 3-3.5mm lugs. Traction is great on gravely trail and not in the way on smooth and hard surfaces even pavement although of course the outsole is noisier than a road outsole there but not slappy noisy as MegaGrip can be and especially on a stiff shoe as we have here. Really well done with the outsole very well integrated to the rest of the shoe also providing stabilizing of the Zoom X and protection in concert with the plate. 

Jeff V:  I am very impressed that Nike has decided to up their outsole game and go with a Vibram Litebase outsole, as essentially all other preceding Nike trail shoes have offered sub par traction for any conditions that are the least bit wet or challenging.  The Vibram outsole has fairly low lugs, which is ideal for less technical terrain, dirt roads and road to trail.  The Traction Lugs are a great idea and getting more and more common across brands, a simple way to add a little bit of extra grip to any lugs, and it is especially welcome on a shoe such as the Ultrafly that has the lower lugs for speed and versatility.  
I have found traction to be very good all around, be it loose trails, hard packed trails, dirt roads, rocky slab and they also have great road manners.  I have not had an opportunity to run them in truly wet conditions, but have tested along creeks and damp areas and they seem grippy in the wet.  The only time I wanted more lug was in steep off trail loose terrain, but that is of course not what this shoe is made for.  Durability is thus far proving to be very good, with very little, if any wear after around 40 miles.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: The broad flat on the ground heel, narrow midfoot, and wide front with the carbon plate in the mix makes the shoe perform best at faster paces on smoother, more rolling terrain of all sorts including pavement and when power walking steeps. Steep climbs at run paces are trickier unless you can really drive the plate hard due to the rigid platform.  

On its preferred smoother terrain,  the Ultrafly is a delight with a soft energetic ride which is amplified by the beautifully integrated carbon plate’s impulse.The cushioning is incredibly forgiving and the plate’s active participation in the ride is as natural and easy as any plated shoe I have ever run on road or trail at faster paces.

For my mostly non technical trails running with some roads in the mix,  they are a lot of fast fun. I say fast fun as, while fine at slower easier paces, they shine when you step on the gas as the heel can feel a bit blocky when run slow and back at the heels. . Zoom X is soft and energetic, the plate is no way a harsh chore to activate,  there's “enough” underfoot stability and deep cushion and the upper is comfortable and secure, if more relaxed, roomy and road oriented than a typical for a trail shoe.

I did “race” them up Mt Washington, 7.6 miles of road and vertical with no issues, in fact if slow my “easiest” most pleasant experience ever there despite the weather and with zero cramps and no soreness at all the next day. 

The infamous "Wall" 22% grade Mt Washington finish  (PC: Joe Viger Photography)

That said  once I could not really push hard on the plate and drive the knees, I made less progress than in a more flexible shoe but for sure power walked by many I could not get ahead of running. A more flexible and lighter shoe would have been better but testing called! 

I never had plate “issues”, getting hung up at midfoot at slower paces on any run at any pace that  I get in for example the carbon plated Endorphin Edge from Saucony, a shoe that also ikes fast and smoother terrain and power walking but I struggle in at slower paces when tired.  

I ran very few more technical downhills and single tracks of the New England rooty and rocky variety in them. Why? The Ultrafly is not really a shoe for those kinds of trails. They were a delight on my usual combo run of rolling gravel roads, rail trail, pavement, and light trails where I easily, on tired legs, got some uphill and uphill easy-angle road and trail Strava segment PR’s. 

At faster paces, for me 9:10 mile and faster, they are amazing on such terrain. I can’t wait to get them on the machine built smooth single track in Park City and for sure, as demonstrated at Western States with 2nd and 3d in them just this week,  it is a shoe seemingly ideally suited to that fast smooth terrain. 

From everything I can tell, Nike set out to create a complement to their Vaporfly for non road,  moderate “gravel”, smooth trails, and road using Zoom X foam and a carbon plate. They did not stop there adding, and decisively with fanfare a totally any trail worthy Vibram outsole, a first and a move that banishes their trail line’s traction demons and decisively so!

If your runs involve the need for traction beyond the usual for pavement: gravel, snow, some mud and  you run multi surfaces  of the smoother variety they are a very solid choice both for training and racing longer distances.  And this despite their weight, which while fine at 10 oz, is somewhat up there. It’s a small penalty to pay for the big and broad stack of cushion, plate and full outsole.

Value is there as for sure the underfoot platform will be long lasting with the upper to be further evaluated. At $250 pricing is comparable to road super shoes and all the tech elements are present with competitors such as Tecton X ($225) up there too but I do wish for the more price sensitive trail market it was priced.more aggressively. A stouter more supportive upper and as Mike also suggests and I agree that slightly firmer more stable Zoom X foam could also add to value as it might extend their utility to more technical trails. In the tradeoff, some weight might also be saved by reducing the wrap up rubber at the rear which might  also tone down the blocky flat rear feel at slower paces.

That Nike was able to have a rigid carbon plated design that makes you “forget” the often harsh and unpleasant feel of carbon plates is truly amazing with a feel appropriate for the “slower” paces of long ultras on smoother terrain  by elites and the daily training (and racing) needs of most of us. One pleasant fast ride that is for sure!

Sam’s Score: 9.41 / 10

Ride: 9.75- The ride is superb both protective, forgiving and propulsive for intended uses: fast on smoother terrain and at longer distances

Fit: 9.1 - Many positive points for comfort and room, deductions for more upper structure needed which would extend shoe range and improve value

Value: 8.7 - State of the art tech, great ride and  expected durability but wish it was priced and could go more tech trail uses

Style: 9.2 -So many white shoes these days and the look is spectacular but I wish it was darker.

Traction: 9.5 - No compromises for just about any terrain.

Rock Protection: 10 - Combination of 30mm stack and plate makes for great protection while soft Zoom X contributes to keeping some feel in the mix.

Smiles 😊😊😊😊 1/2

Mike P: I received the Ultrafly Trail just one day before I decided to do the Boise Trails Challenge, which covers 175M of trail segments (tracked via Strava) around the Boise area. They felt quite comfortable on foot right away, so I decided to run them straight out of the box and see how they felt. I was planning to rotate shoes anyway, and I figured it would be best to test the Nikes on fresh legs in the beginning. 

[Still on the move - about 110 miles into the Boise Trails Challenge]

The focus for me in the first miles and hours of the BTC was just to keep things as smooth as possible. I found the Ultrafly Trail to be perfect for that. The softness underfoot felt really good, and the plate impulse was also noticeable. By just keeping my form, and adding a bit of forward lean, I could easily lock into a smooth and controlled cruising pace. The plate felt great - as if it was just keeping me rolling along with less effort. The slight toe rocker also helps, and minimizes any stiffness at the end of the stride.

[Toe rocker is nice on the uphills]

The stiffness and (lack of) flex in hand was most concerning for me before running in them. But I was quite surprised that they did not feel stiff at all on the run, nor did they feel laterally tippy. The softness of the ZoomX foam seems to swallow up some amount of unevenness underfoot so the stiffness of the plate does not directly translate into tippiness. I also think the relative narrowness of the platform under the midfoot also helps a bit with stability. Too much width in those areas would likely be a problem as there would be more ground contact area to cause stabilization issues.

As the miles wore on during my BTC runs, the looser fit of the upper became more apparent to me. This was also more noticeable with steeper grades and more technical and rocky terrain. The upper just feels more geared for long haul comfort as opposed to being really locked in and secure enough for rough and steep terrain. I found my foot moving around at times more than I’d like, especially up front. When I got into some of the rougher segments later in the challenge, I shied away from the Ultrafly and looked to something with a more secure foothold and a firmer feel underfoot. 

Ultimately the Ultrafly Trail has to balance many contrasting elements - very soft foam vs. very stiff plate, comfortable upper vs. foot hold, wide platform for stability vs. tippiness. It does the job very, very well. It definitely fits in the “super shoe for the trails” category - as evidenced this past weekend by podium finishes at Western States. That type of smooth, runnable, Western States style terrain is the ideal, and likely targeted terrain for the Ultrafly Trail. 

Mike P’s Score:  9.23 / 10

Ride: 9.5 - Very fast, smooth, and efficient - fun & race-ready

Fit: 8.5 - Comfort for the long haul, but I’m surprised how loose the upper is up front

Value: 9 - You’re getting a real super shoe for a super shoe price

Style: 10 - Love the white canvas to dirty up

Traction: 9.5 - Great for the intended fast, runnable trails

Rock Protection: 10 - This is primarily about cushion - I wouldn’t take them through too much rocky terrain 

Smiles 😊😊😊😊

Jeff V:  Overall I am impressed with the Ultrafly, finding them to be a great option for smoother, non technical trails, dirt road and door to trail.  I find them to do well at just about any pace, but I find that they shine at quicker paces over rolling smooth terrain and on the flats. 

In my experience, the plate is prohibitively stiff for steep gradients, at least for my 145 lb body and running style, even causing a bit of heel slippage.  On steep ascents, I am not able to get any beneficial propulsion out of them and long for a bit more flex.  While my preferred terrain is rocky, technical trails, as luck would have it, a banged up knee from a recent fall had me seeking out less technical terrain and the Ultrafly was perfect here.  

On smoother terrain, I find them to be stable, in part due to the platform width and reasonably quick, with noticeable propulsion from the carbon plate, but I am not sure I would declare them “super shoe” fast.  

While not made for technical terrain, it is important to reiterate that I find the Ultrafly to be difficult to maneuver through rocky trails, navigating roots, steep sidehilling, etc…  with the primary impediment being the lateral stiffness of the plate, perhaps exacerbated by the soft Zoom X foam and wider forefoot fit. Even on moderately technical terrain, I find I have to be especially careful with foot placement, as to avoid any unexpected ankle rolls.  While I have strong ankles, I find that the Ultrafly put my ankle strength to the test, as after running in them for multiple days, my ankles were feeling a bit sore.  

Fit, comfort, cushioning and protection are all amazing and many will appreciate the wide toe box and accommodating fit.

Jeff V’s Score:  9.3/10

Ride: 9.5 - Smooth, energetic and efficient

Fit: 9 - Exceptionally comfortable, which is nearly universal for Nike trail shoes.  While fit is comfortable for the longer distances and wider feet, those with narrow feet may struggle.

Value: 8.5 - $250 is a lot for a shoe and I am not yet convinced that a carbon plate here (or in any trail shoes) is a true advantage, yet.

Style: 9.5 - I like the look and even my middle school daughters approve, even going as far to say that they are cool looking.

Traction: 9.5 - Very good for intended usage and the traction lugs are a huge plus

Rock Protection: 10 - Bomber, you’ll never feel a thing through this carbon plate.

Smiles 😊😊😊😊

10 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Nike Zoom X Zegama Trail (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): First off, big difference in the flavor of ZoomX between these shoes. The Zegama uses a firmer variety while the Ultrafly’s is much softer, similar to their road supershoes. The Zegama feels more deeply cushioned, but not in a soft way as in the Ultrafly. I’d say it handles technical terrain a bit better due to the firmer ride, but it still feels a bit “tall” to me when really technical. The Zegama also has a much tighter upper, especially up front, with way less volume over the top. I can see why Nike when soooo wide with the Ultrafly, but I don’t quite get why they made it so loose. Perhaps a snugger fit closer to the Zegama would make it more versatile. Overall, the Ultrafly is a fast and smooth racer, while the Zegama is more of a long distance cruiser with a bit more trail capability. 

Sam: I agree with Mike here although on smoother terrain and road I put down some really fast times in the Zegama due to its Zoom X in a firmer formulation than Ultrafly but without any plate and relying on a rocker and a bit of flex. I much prefer the plated geometry of the Ultrafly for smoother firm terrain with the Zegama having a less pleasant ride overall but one more suited to rougher trails than Ultrafly. 

Jeff V:  Agreed with Mike on all points.  The Zegama never really appealed to me, as even for my narrow foot, I found them to be a bit too narrow, as well as not particularly fun, energetic or light.

Nike Invincible Run 3  (RTR Review)

Sam: I include this comparison as the Invincible Run 3 has a similar Zoom X midsole, similar stack height and weight  and no plate. Its upper is dense and rougher and  not nearly as comfortable as the Ultrafly but apart from some heel slip issues more supportive. It has near trail worthy dry traction. In this match up the Ultrafly for dirt roads, pavement, light trails wins on versatility as it adds a lighter more comfortable upper and any surface traction while not conceding anything in terms of road speed. 

Saucony Endorphin Edge  (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The Endo Edge’s PWRRUN PB is bouncier and more responsive than the Ultrafly’s ZoomX, and not as soft. The Edge’s plate is more noticeable underfoot - you can really feel it when pushing the pace and it can tend to feel stiff around the midfoot sometimes. The Nike’s carbon plate is sandwiched more in the ZoomX softness so you don’t notice the feel of it, but you get the smoothness and efficiency of the plate action. The Edge is a real rocket that just feels super fast, I love it for fast stuff and I’ve taken them up to 50K. But I find their stiffness to be fatiguing over the long haul. So the Ultrafly is much better suited for faster, longer efforts and races. Sizing is similar for me, but I can snug up the Edges a little bit better, so with care, I can handle a little bit more technical terrain in them.

Sam: I struggled at anything other than fast paces and consistent mid to forefoot strikes in the Edge due to its more aggressive plate making it less versatile than the Nike for me. 

Jeff V:  I find the Edge to feel so much lighter and more bouncy, more fun and overall more energetic, but do find the carbon plate to be a bit laterally stiff and fatiguing, especially on anything technical.

Hoka Tecton X  2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0): Very good and close comp here, both are top long distance ultra racing options. The Tecton X’s dual parallel carbon plates are also effectively unnoticeable, and also give a smooth and efficient ride. The Tecton X (& X2) has a nice, soft & responsive, high stack, but the Ultrafly takes that softness to another level. The Nike’s plate impulse is also more noticeable, so I’d say it’s surely a faster shoe on a fast, runnable course. Where the Tecton X wins out though is in moderate & technical terrain. The Tecon X’s carbon plates and overall ride is much more stable in all mountain terrain. The firmer (in comparison to the Nike) foam also gives it a more stable and confident feel. The Hoka’s Matryx upper is also far better than the Ultrafly’s looser Vaporweave. Foothold is much more secure, without any hint of movement.  I’d go with the Tecton X for anything more rough or technical, but I’d consider the Ultrafly if I knew the terrain was majority very smooth and runnable.

Jeff V:  Agreed with Mike here as well.  The Catamount 2 is much more conventional as a trail shoe and can easily handle just about anything with aplomb.  

Saucony Endorphin Rift (RTR Review)

Sam: The Rift is considerably lighter at 8.6 oz / 244g and somewhat lower stack at 33/27. Both share supercritical foam midsole foams. The Rift has a woven rock plate that is not quite as protective or propulsive as the Ultrafly's carbon. Both have quite roomy uppers with the Nike's having a broader toe box. They have big differences at the outsole level with the Saucony having higher lugs and more broadly spaced ones so a shoe despite its somewhat shaky upper best for softer ground whereas the Nike with its Vibram is more all terrain and easier to run on hard surfaces, its tended best terrain and where its roomy upper is not a negative. Even with an $80 difference in price, I still think the Nike is a more versatile and exciting ride.

Brooks Catamount 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0): The Catamount is an excellent all around trail shoe, while the Nike is a very specific long distance racer. I find that I can run the Cat 2 in pretty much all trail terrain and virtually any distance as well. I like the firmer feel for real trails, and I find its flexible plate to be snappy up front as well as protective and not unstable. The Nike clearly wins in the cushion department, so if that’s your preference the Ultrafly is the way to go. Again, similar to the Tecton X, on longer distances on runnable terrain, the Ultrafly would likely shine over the Cat 2, both in comfort and efficient speed.

Sam: Agree with Mike on uses. Not as deeply and energetically cushioned the Cat also has a supercritical foam midsole but one tuned denser and firmer for more tech terrain. It includes a flexible plate for protection and propulsion that works fine and doesn't have the special Zoom X plus carbon impulse of the Nike. it is a more versatile all arounde with a more supportive upper but not nearly as special, forgiving and fast a ride on smoother terrain as the Ultrafly. 

Saucony Xodus Ultra v1 and v2  (RTR Review)
Mike P (9.5): Interestingly, Saucony has shrunken the Xodus Ultra toebox while NIke goes in the opposite direction. The Xodus Ultra is another great and versatile shoe that leans towards moderate to longer distances. If you’re looking for a do-it-all trail shoe that can also handle racing, the Xodus Ultra is a good pick. I like how Saucony tightened up the upper, but don’t like how they narrowed the toebox in V2. The shoe rides differently for me and feels less stable in technical terrain now. The Nike isn’t really designed to play in the same territory as the Xodus Ultra - it’s more at home in runnable terrain, and definitely faster.

Jeff V:  I only tested the v1 Xodus Ultra, but found it to be so much lighter, faster and energetic, despite not having a carbon plate but with a woven flexible plate nonetheless.  Neither shoe is good on technical terrain though, the Ultrafly because of the lateral stiffness, soft foam and wide toebox, where the Xodus Ultra v1 has a fit that was not secure or supportive.

Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT  (RTR Review)

Mike P (10 ⅓): I found the Kima to be a bit stiff on the run. The carbon plate impulse was very noticeable, but at the same time could be quite tippy. The Scarpa foam is quite firm and nowhere near as cushioned as ZoomX. It’s clearly designed for truly alpine terrain - places I would not recommend taking the Ultrafly Trail.

Jeff V:  Agreed with Mike.  While the Kima is stiff underfoot and has a very firm ride, it is much more tech trail worthy than the Ultrafly, whereas the Ultrafly rules over longer distances at quicker speeds on less tech terrain.

Norda 001  (RTR Review)

Sam: Priced above even the Nike at $284 (our co branded Satisfy edition was more) the Norda clearly wins in the upper race if your focus is more technical trails and underfoot as well. Its Dyneema upper is equally thin and more supportive.  Its midsole outsole combination is built by Vibram with superior also MegaGrip traction to even the Nike. The ride is firmer, denser, more stable but considerably less dynamic and fun although it climbs steeps better due to a front flex point with no plate. It likely will outlast the Nike , especially on more tech terrain. 

Jeff V:  I only tested the studded version, but agree with Sam mostly, though I think (without metal studs) that the Norda would be more dynamic and fun overall than the Ultrafly.

Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): Both shoes utilize a design with a quite wide forefoot platform that narrows under the midfoot and heel. The Salomon upper though is much more locked in and therefore for me - better to handle some stretches of moderate/technical terrain.  The Salomon is much firmer and its nylon plate stiffness is noticeable on the run. That factor makes them a bit unstable for me in extended stretches of technical terrain, whereas with the Nike, it’s the softness and the lack of foothold from the upper that is the issue. Both shoes shine in rolling, easy to moderate terrain. I’d go with the Salomon for shorter, faster outings, and the Nike for long distances.

Sam: The lighter Pro is as Mike says firmer, stiffer and requires a consistent mid to forefoot strike and for sure fast paces while the Ultrafly is softer, more rebounding and far easier to turn over at multiple paces.  The Ultrafly upper could use some of the support of the Pro’s. For short always fast on moderate to slightly technical terrain Pro for everything else Ultrafly.

Jeff V:  Agreed with Mike on all points.

Scott Ultra Carbon RC (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0): These shoes were both more or less designed specifically for Western States. Both feature carbon plates, but they differ vastly in the cushion department. The Scott goes with a more traditional high stack firmer ride, while the Nike goes full ZoomX softness. The Scott also features a more refined and secure upper, giving it an edge in any technical terrain. But I had big issues with the ankle and achilles collar, so something to keep in mind. They’re very close in comparison, but unfortunately the Scott comes in at a hefty 11.8 oz while the Nike is a more respectable 10.4. That likely tips the scale in favor of the Ultrafly - as long as the terrain stays smooth. 

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Anonymous said...

Nike trail shoes with vibram megakrip and wide toe box????? Am I dreaming??? Take my money!!!

Anonymous said...

At $250 a pop Reza, they'll gladly take all your money :-0

faci said...

Korea started selling it a week ago

tjg said...

You have a toe box comparison photo with the Topo MTN 3 but no show comparison? I’d be very keen to know how they compare!

guillet jean jacques said...

bonjour a tous , je suis un fan de la marque Nike , et j ai tous leurs model trail , j ai acheté la derniere Wildhorse 8 , et je dois dire que cette chaussure est absolument geniale , je ne peus que vous conseiller de la testée , car pour moi c est un gagnant absolue ; une stabilitée deconcertante , un amorti exeptionnel , la mousse react est definitivement ma mousse preferrée , la plaque anti cailloux est ultra efficace , la place a l avant pied me fait penser a altra , le verouillage du pied est exellent , et venons en au talon d achille de la marque , l accroche sur roche humide , et bien figurez vous , que Nike nous a sorti une semelle qui n a absolument rien a envier a vibram , enfin j ai envie de dire , cette semelle accroche de partout , c est exeptionnel , j ai une confiance absolue dans cette chaussure , comme jamais auparavant , et si je pouvais donner un conseil a Nike , laissez vibram au placard , et pour tous vos prochains model de trail , mettez le meme composé de gomme que sur les dernieres Wildhorse 8 c est exeptionnel , et en plus la gomme est super durable , j ai deja effectué 300 km avec , elle est a peine marquée , et j ai courru sous toutes les conditions climatique , cette wildhose 8 est un hit absolu , ma preferrée etait la terra kiger pendant de longue année , a present , bien qu un peu plus lourde , la WH8 est ma nouvelle chaussure a tout faire , j ai une course de 68 km et 3500 le 8 juillet , j ai deja hate de les avoir aux pieds .

Mike P said...


Sorry about that - I just wanted to demonstrate how wide the Ultrafly toebox really is. I don't consider them to be comparable shoes otherwise.

MTN Racer 3 is a much more versatile all around trail shoe - can handle easy, moderate, and even technical terrain very well. Fit-wise, the Topo has a much more secure and locked in fit. I'd sat the toebox is the same width as the Nike, but the Ultrafly material is looser and has more volume over the top. I feel much more secure on the Topo. In my Boise Trials Challenge runs, I used the Topo just about everywhere including the steeper segments - where the Ultrafly is just too unstable.

Now on flat, and runnable terrain, there's no doubt that the Nike is faster - the plate is very efficient and "gives back" while the MTN Racer 3 has no plate (not even a rock plate) and is all about cushioned ground feel.

Mike P said...

guillet jean jacques-

I plugged your comment into Google translate so apologies if anything is misinterpreted. Sounds like the Wildhorse 8 is a big improvement, especially the outsole compared to previous versions. We haven't received that model for testing, but I have seen it online. I was definitely not a fan of the last few versions, but V8 does look very different and interesting. Hopefully we can get our hands on some samples.

semmtex said...

Hi, can it go at least semi technical terrain such as somewhat rocky terrains such as UTMB? (And those steep climbs?) Thanks

Mike P said...


I would say semi technical should be ok, depending on how much you like a soft feel underfoot. Many prefer a firmer feel the more technical the terrain is. Also, the limiting factor may be the upper. If you have a narrow foot, you'll have a lot of foot movement. If you have a wider or high volume foot, you'll fill out the upper more, giving you more leeway for more technical trails.

As far as I know, UTMB is highly technical in many parts. I don't see this as a UTMB shoe for most runners.

Anonymous said...

$250 plus taxes for a pair of trail shoes from Nike. I wonder what's the real cost of manufacturing, 10% maybe? Do they come come with the guarantee you're gonna win your race? Ok, I'm not Rockefeller. Still cheaper are the Killian Jornet's wunderbar sneakers. This post is half a joke, so please don't delete it.

Jeff Valliere said...


Lars said...

Thanks for the review, it was thorough and gave a good impression of what the shoes is like! I have tested a few different carbon trail shoes, but my absolute favourite is North Face Summit Vectic Pro. Currently I'm using Hoka Tectons and those North Face shoes - I like the Hokas, but North Face shoes are so much faster and also more stable in technical terrain. Have you had a chance to test those shoes?

Mike P said...


We haven't gotten those for testing.. they look and seem really nice though - fingers crossed!

I'm a big Tecton X fan and find them stable enough for 100 milers. I just wore V2 for the full distance at Scout Mountain 100M. Never even re-laced them. But if the Vectiv Pro is just as stable, just as cushioned, and faster, that would be quite something.

Anonymous said...

Je suis très étonné que vous n ayez pas testé la Nike wildhorse 8 , vous auriez constaté que c est bien sûr ce model que Nike ont sorti la première semelle qui colle absolument de partout , c est un vrai bonheur , et j espères que Nike mettrons ce composé sur tous leurs prochain modèles , nottement la prochaine zegama , et je peus vous dire que ce nouveau composé de caoutchouc n a absolument rien a envier a vibram , il est aussi ultra résistant , c est même presque dommage qu ils ne l aient pas mis sur l ultrafly .

Sam Winebaum said...

@anonymous merci pour ces infos sur Wildhorse 8. Nike ne nous la pas offert. On demandera. Ils on peut être mis la meilleure gomme trouve sur la Peg Trail 4 GTX qui colle beaucoup mieux que leur normal
Sam, Editor