Friday, August 18, 2023

Craft Nordlite Speed Multi Tester Review: 6 Comparisons

Article by Derek Li and Renee Krusemark

Craft Nordlite Speed ($220)


Derek: Craft have done quite well in the trail shoe category and although they have produced a number of good road running shoes, I get the feeling that they have struggled to make headway in terms of market share in the road running category. 

Part of it may have been down to misfortune, as their key road running ambassador, Tommy Rivs, got quite ill in 2020 and is still fighting to get back to the shape he was in. Part of it, as I see it is that their road shoe line-up has the conventional line-up as other mainstream running brands do. They have about 4-5 current road models, and all the models seem to have more or less the same midsole shape. There isn’t a very clear differentiation between the models, and you don’t have the clear traditional divisions of racer, daily trainer, premium trainer, support shoe. They all kind of do the same thing to slightly different degrees. So that makes it difficult for the consumer to decide what shoe they need as well. If all the shoes are close enough, people are just going to get one model instead of all four. Worse, if that one model happens to not work out for whatever reason, that consumer is likely to write off the entire line-up since they are all too similar. 

I for one did like the last Craft shoe I tested. It was the Race Rebel (RTR Review) in a very nice all black colorway. I used it for many miles of daily training and the odd workout, and after the outsole started to fail, I used it as my main shoe to wear to work for quite a few months. 

As fate would have it, the very next Craft shoe i would get to test would be the polar opposite (in color anyway) of the Race Rebel. Enter the Nordlite Speed, an all white road focused shoe. How would it stack up against the current crop of super shoes? Please read on to find out. 


Surprisingly comfortable at a variety of paces: Renee/Derek

Stable on gravel/rutted terrain: Renee


Heavy weight as a super plated "racer": Renee/Derek

Firm/rigid midsole ride: Renee/Derek

Top edge of the heel upper has tendency to rub the Achilles: Derek

Please find the testers run bios at the end of the article after Comparisons.


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

  Samples: men’s 9.52oz  / 270g (US9.5) women’s 8.13 oz / 231g (US8)

Measured Sample Stack Height men’s: 40mm heel, 32mm forefoot (US9.5)

$220.  Available now.

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Renee: The Craft Nordlite Speed is a pretty shoe. I did my best to keep the white upper from turning dirt-road brown, and after 40 miles, the shoe still looks sharp. 

After running with the CTM Ultra and Carbon Ultra (version 1 of both), I was looking forward to testing the Nordlite Speed because it promises a more secure upper (an issue with both those shoes) and a lower drop. The 10mm drop on the Ultra and Carbon Ultra felt a bit much, especially on gravel roads. I have an improved fit with the upper as compared to the other two Craft. I had to pull the laces fairly tight, which bunched the material over the forefoot. The tongue looks bunched too, although neither were felt while running. 

I found the upper secure in a way I prefer for long distance shoes, but not so much what I would prefer for short speed workouts. 

The sizing runs a tad short. I’m between half sizes, so a women’s size 8 (which is the same as a men’s size 6 for Craft) worked well for me. I wore thin socks because of the heat and likely wouldn’t be able to run with a thicker sock and still have room for my fourth and fifth toes. 

During testing, the temperatures and humidity were high, and the thin upper worked well. Runners between half sizes should be fine with the longer size. Anyone questioning the length should choose a half size up or check out our comparisons below for sizing comparisons. 

Derek: I agree this shoe is very pretty. The white has an almost luminescent feel to it, and I too have been very careful to avoid running on wet and dirty roads with the shoe. 

Step in feel was comfortable enough, and it seems to run just marginally short, though fortunately for me, Ii run in hot climates, so with thin socks, I can just about make it work quite comfortably. If you tend to use thicker socks, then I would consider sizing up a half size for this model. Walking around, there is a bit of give to the shoe, but it seems to mostly stem from the compression of the thick Ortholite sockliner. There is a decent forefoot rocker here and it starts to engage quite easily once you get going. 

The upper itself is almost completely unstructured. The primary upper material is a very thin ventilated synthetic mesh that covers the forefoot and midfoot. 

At the forefoot, There is an extra layer of laminate that forms a still quite malleable toe guard. 

At the heel, there is a little bit of reinforcement to build up the structure, but there is no traditional heel cup to speak of and you can quite easily squash it if you step on it. There is cushioning that lines the upper part of the heel lining to keep your heel locked in. The upper part of the heel is lined with suede for comfort. Even the tongue is mostly composed of the same thin mesh, and only the pull tab section is made of suede. 

For me, the upper is quite comfortable, and although the tongue is free floating (quite rare these days), it doesn’t move at all because they are threaded by nice thick padded laces. In uppers like these, there is always the tendency for the laminates around the lace eyelets to cause irritation to the top of the foot, but I had none of that with this shoe. 

One minor gripe I have is with the stitching around the heel opening. 

In order to build the structure of the heel, the stitching is quite rigid around the top of the heel, above the cushions, and when I toe down in the shoe, in thin socks, I can feel the edge of the stitching biting into my Achilles. There is a quirk to my stride, where my left foot tends to toe down more than my right and the left is always a bit more prone to Achilles rub than the right. I had this issue with other shoes like the Puma Deviate Nitro v1 before as well. Most other people don’t seem to notice this so it could just be me. 


Renee: The Cr Foam midsole is coupled with a “Ultra-Rebound” insole and carbon fiber plate. The midsole is firm and rigid. The 5mm (my measurements) Othrolite insole is spongy, and I was a bit bummed that the insole was not the same TPU-beaded insole from the Carbon Ultra or Ultra v1s, an insole I use in many other shoes because it’s great. 

The insole gives an initial soft feel, which quickly dissipates while running. The ride is firm with a lot of stack height at 40/32 for longer distances. The midsole will appeal to runners who prefer a firmer, rigid ride with a forefoot rocker that helps keep a high cadence. As compared to other carbon plated super shoes, the Nordlite Speed doesn’t have the same bounce or propulsion. As compared to plated trainers, the Nordlite Speed doesn’t offer  softer cushion for slower paces.

Derek: The foam used here is supercritical EVA foam, but as Renee alludes, is on the firmer side of the spectrum. There is still a bit of give, and that does become more apparent at moderate to uptempo paces but at slower paces, it tends to be a bit harsh. A lot of the initial sponginess comes from the Ortholite sockliner rather than from the midsole. That said, I do find the ride to be very stable for a relatively high stack shoe, so if this is something you are looking for, I think the Nordlite Speed is a good option. 

The embedded carbon plate also does not seem to be particularly stiff, which lends well to it being used for training paces. In terms of overall cushioning, I have to say it is not as protective as one would expect for a shoe with a 40mm heel stack, probably because the foam is inherently on the firmer side. 


Renee: Crafts states the shoe is meant for road and light trail. I only ran on gravel and dirt. “Light trails” mostly refers to maintained gravel paths, not single track. I’m sure some runners could use them on trail, but with the high stack and rigid forefoot landing, I won’t. Still, the shoe is stable thanks to the wide platform, and it worked well for me on smooth gravel, dirt clumps, and through rutted areas. 

The outsole does not have lugs, but the rubber is quality. I had no issues going downhill on gravel, but for speed work or fast paces for hill repeats, I’d need more traction/deeper lugs. That said, this isn’t a trail shoe so the outsole is a good mix for paved or gravel roads/paths. 

Derek: The outsole seems to be decent enough in terms of durability. I found the grip to be good on dry surfaces, but tended to slip a bit on wet roads. I think with the material used, they would be better served with a more grooved outsole. 

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Renee: The Nordlite Speed has a distinct ride that some will like and others won’t. See my notes about the midsole: the ride is firm and rigid. 

The shoe has a decent rocker from a forefoot landing that still allows a natural flex of my arch within the shoe itself. The shoe runs stable and is more stable on rutted gravel compared to other carbon plated super shoes, likely in part because the shoe is heavier in comparison. 

I found the ride to be best for mid to long distances at tempo paces or close to marathon paces, although it’s fine for easy runs too (note: if I was running paved road/harder surfaces, I might not like these for easy paces). 

The stack is plenty for ultras. While the weight doesn’t compare to other marathon plated racers, the shoe might work better for ultra distances when the constant pace is slower than marathon pace. 

The term “Speed” within the name of the shoe is somewhat misleading for me. The stack and firmness don’t make the shoe a top choice for me for short speed work. The Speed is more stable for uneven hilly gravel as compared to any other marathon super shoe. For rail trail or flat/smooth gravel, I’d still choose any other super shoe (VF, Adidas Pro 3, Endorphin Elite, or Metaspeed Sky+). The Nordlite doesn’t have the bounce or propulsion of those shoes, ie it is slower for me but more stable.

That said, all of my miles in the shoe were enjoyable, and I think high cadence runners who like a firmer ride and don’t mind the weight might like the shoe for long or ultra distances. 

The Nordlite Speed is not heavy, just heavier than carbon plated racers  and more along the lines of the weight of a plated trainer.  If the shoe was an ounce lighter in my size, it’d be on par with other racers. As a trainer, the shoe doesn’t have the soft comfort underfoot, and it’s pricey.

Renee’s Score: 8.7/10 (-.50 firm/rigid ride, -.70 weight for a “speed” shoe/racer, -.10 cost for use)


Derek: My testing for this shoe was a bit hampered by the fact that the heel was cutting into my left Achilles for runs longer than an hour. The longest I was able to get away with was a 10 miler for this shoe. 

The ride is what I would describe as firm-springy. Something like what you get in the older Nike Zoom Fly 2 or new Zoom Fly 5. The shoe is quite rockered, so it tends to feel a bit awkward at very slow paces, I think it works best for moderate pace efforts. For faster pick-ups, the shoe responds well, but the weight of the shoe starts to show and it becomes difficult to sustain the faster paces in this shoe. 

Despite the naming, I suspect this is not really meant to be a racing model, but more of a daily trainer or long distance trainer. At 9 oz, it’s hard to see it being a serious race day option, especially since their Race Rebel was well under 8 oz so they do know how to make lightweight racers. 

I see this shoe being a good option for heavier runners , and runners who like a bit more stability in their trainers. In testing the shoe, the immediate comparison that came to mind was the Saucony Tempus. Very similar stack numbers, very similar rocker, but with a lighter more streamlined upper for the Craft. That’s what I kind of see as the target audience for the Nordlite Speed.    

Derek’s Score: 8.73 / 10

Ride 8.5 (50%) Fit 9 (30%) Value 8.5 (15%) Style 10 (5%)

6 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Hoka Mach X (RTR Review)

Renee: The Mach X is a PEBAX nylon plated trainer that some runners might like for racing as well. The Nordlite Speed weighs about the same in the same size, although the shoe runs short so many runners might be able to wear the Mach X in a half size shorter as compared to the Nordlite Speed. The Mach X is much more forgiving underfoot. The plate is felt, but it is nowhere near as firm or rigid. For a variety of paces and comfort underfoot, the Mach X is a better choice. For a faster, firmer turnover, faster runners might prefer the Nordlite Speed. 

Hoka Carbon X 3 (RTR Review)

Renee: The Carbon X 3 is a bit heavier than other plated racing to training focused shoes, but it’s still lighter than the Nordlite Speed. The Carbon X 3 rolls evenly from a midfoot landing while the Nordlite Speed has a distinct forefoot rocker. Both run stable on gravel roads. The Nordlite Speed is a more dynamic ride with a better fitting upper (the knit upper of the Carbon X 3 might not work for narrow or low volume feet). I think many runners can wear a half size shorter in the Carbon X 3 as compared to the Nordlite Speed. 

Saucony Endorphin Elite (RTR Review)

Renee: Both the Endorphin Elite and the Nordlite Speed have very distinct forefoot rockers. The Elite is even more pronounced, and warrants a constant fast cadence. The Nordlite Speed is better for a variety of paces and it’s more stable on gravel (the Endorphine Elite stack is massive). For racing, the Elite will be faster and it’s a lighter weight shoe. Sizing is comparable, but the Elite has a touch more room. While not the best looking upper in terms of security, the Elite upper worked as well as the Nordlite Speed for me. 

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models. They fit a little differently as the Endorphin Elite actually runs slightly large for me, while Nordlite Speed runs slightly small. The EE feels more cushioned and springy and has a more fun dynamic ride. It is also significantly lighter. The EE is also at a higher price point so it’s not really fair. I would say the Nordlite makes for a good trainer companion for the Endorphin Elite. 

Puma Deviate Nitro 2 (RTR Review)

Renee: The Nitro 2 is a plated trainer capable of racing for some. The shoe is a bit lighter in the same size and offers more room in length. The 8mm drop of the Nitro 2 has a more traditional ride, while the Nordlite Speed has a forefoot rocker. The Nitro 2 is more user friendly, has a more secure upper, and the outsole is great on gravel or actual trail.

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models. The DN2 actually feels a little firmer than the Nordlite for me, (and indeed firmer than DN1 which surprised me). I like the Deviate Nitro 2 better because the fit is a little more idiot-proof for me and the shoe is just overall a little more predictable, if somewhat boring compared to the Nordlite Speed. 

Nike Tempo Next%  (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models. The Tempo Next% is right at the same weight as the Nordlite Speed and it is at a similar price point, but it is significantly more effective in terms of rocker effect and cushioning. I would say the Nordlite is a lot more stable, and it has to be said, has a much quieter ride. Both seem to be a bit squirrely on wet roads. Overall, I like the Tempo Next% more more fun and assistive ride. 

Saucony Tempus  (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both models. The Tempus has a more traditional fitting upper, but is a bit heavier as a result. Otherwise both shoes are quite similar in terms of stability, rocker, and cushioning. The Tempus is a bit more springy in the midsole, but this is sort of canceled out by the heavier weight. Overall, I see the Nordlite Speed as a very good alternative, and potentially better, than the Saucony Tempus.

Editor's Note: 

While neither Renee or Derek tested the Nordlite Ultra please read our multi tester review HERE

The Nordlite Speed is available at our partners

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Tester Profiles

Derek is in his 40’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:39 marathon PR from the 2022 Zurich Marathon.

Renee is a former U.S.Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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70's Teen said...

As the midsole is supposedly the same as the Ultra's, which is soft and bouncy, the plate must be over-adding the firmness. Too bad, as the Ultra is a great shoe.

Anonymous said...

Description sounds a bit similar to adidas Boston 11 (& 10) when it comes to ride (bit heavier, not best at easy pace, likes going faster but are better optios for race). Is there possibility to compare these models?