Saturday, August 05, 2023

Craft Nordlite Ultra Multi Tester Review: 5 Comparisons

Article by Peter Stuart, Bryan Lim, and Jeff Valliere

Craft Nordlite Ultra ($160)


Peter: The Nordlite Ultra is a new shoe from Craft. Described as the “gravel bike of running shoes” by Craft at the 2022 Running Event, the Nordlite Ultra features an injected ‘supercritical’ foam and a “hybrid outsole” so it should be a good road dog as well as light trails and fire roads shoe. It’s a good looking shoe and weighs in around 10 oz for a size 9. 

Bryan: The Nordlite Ultra (“NU”) is my second pair of Craft shoes, the first being the CTM Ultra 3 which is also a hybrid road/trail shoe. The NU features a CrFoam, which receives single-dose injection under supercritical pressure during the manufacturing process.

It is intended for road and light trails, with a hybrid outsole (less aggressive in the rearfoot than the CTM Ultra 3). As in my review of the CTM Ultra 3, the NU is similarly a super shoe in that it can do all, and arguably better than the former, so hear me out! 


  • Responsive ride  Peter/BryanJeff V
  • Excellent traction  Peter/BryanJeff V
  • Improved upper hold over earlier Craft: Peter
  • Superior and comfortable fit  BryanJeff V
  • Incredibly protective:  BryanJeff V


Overly flexible heel cu:p  Peter/Jeff V

Fit is a little bit sloppy (but better than previous models).  Peter/Jeff V

Weight:  Bryan


Sample Weight: men’s  10.22 oz / 290g (US9), 11.1oz / 316g (US10)

Stack Height: 40 men’s mm heel / 34 mm forefoot ( 6mm drop) 

$160  Available now.

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Peter: The upper is a great improvement over previous Craft models. The Nordlite Ultra looks sleek and stylish. 

One knock on the upper is that the heel cup is very flexible. So flexible, in fact, that the shoe is a bit hard to put on. 

This is a shoe that could really use a pull tab to help get it on. As it is, you have to really loosen the laces every time you put the shoes on–not a huge hassle, but not ideal. The foot feels more locked down than earlier Craft shoes. 

I felt that the foot hold was a tiny bit sloppy in the forefoot on hard corners, but other than that the fit is great. 

Bryan: My first and only concern (which is later quashed) when holding the shoe in hand was its weight, coming in at 290g in my US9. But on foot, it does not feel as heavy as it is well balanced. It fits true to size and feels sufficiently roomy in a good way, for long runs especially. The fit is perfect in US9 my usual size, but I note Craft’s Euro size conversion was 42 which for a US9 is usually 42.5 or 42 ⅔ depending on the brand.

The NU as expected with any Craft product looks well made and exudes a sculpted simplicity vibe, and to purposely use a pun, is well…crafted. 

The one piece mesh upper is simple yet effective, although I might say that some will not be a fan of the unstructured and soft and not overly cushioned heel cup. No issues for me regarding the heel cup and from the upper as a whole. On the one long road and trail hybrid run I’ve taken this on, with relatively steep climbs and descents, the upper was absolutely perfect. My feet did not slide around despite the roomy fit and the largely unstructured mesh construct. 

The only real structure added to the mesh are plastic overlays near the heel on both medial and lateral sides.

Stepping into the shoe, the NU is soft underfoot, but in a good way. More on this in the next section.

Jeff V:  Out of the box the Nordlite feels a bit heavier than I expected, though on the foot, they feel lighter.  

It took a bit for the salmon color to grow on me, still not my favorite, but that is just a minor personal observation and there is an alternative gray color option.  Overall the shoe has a look that fits the gravel bike description, like a well treaded road shoe with an airy minimal upper and a soft and responsive midsole.  

Fit is true to size and the upper is flexible, breathable and very comfortable, a very simple design that I initially questioned how well it would hold.  

As Peter and Bryan mention, the heel counter is very flexible and unstructured, which I agree requires a bit of extra work to slip them on, but once they are on, the heel counter feels as though it adequately keeps my heel secure and stable.  

I was able to run the Nordlite over a variety of terrain and surfaces and find that the upper holds my foot better than expected and is plenty secure for smoother terrain, door to trail and even moderately technical trails. I did find that my foot slides forward in them somewhat on steep descents and struggled on off camber terrain.  

I was fully expecting this however and concede that this shoe is not built for rugged mountain trails, but I had to test there either way and push the limits a bit.  Overall, I find the upper to be great for the intended use, secure enough for more mellow terrain, very comfortable, flexible and well ventilated. 


Peter: I believe this is the debut of Craft’s new supercritical foam compound which is also found in the Nordlite Speed. While it lacks the cushy goodness of some other supercritical foams such as some of the PEBA , it provides a solid, energetic, smooth and responsive ride. 

Bryan: If this is Craft’s first foray into supercritical foams, I can’t imagine what’s to come! The NU features 40mm of this CrFoam goodness. It is much nicer to run in than its staple UD Foam which is EVA based.

The Ultra-Rebound insole is Pebax based and certainly complements to the moderately soft ride of the CrFoam by adding some bounce.

The 6mm drop hits the sweet spot for a road and trail hybrid shoe as it promotes a midfoot strike especially for undulating terrain. With that moderately soft but protective ride, there is some ground feel which I like. This is surprising for a 40mm stack shoe. There is also ample flex which extends the shoe’s range on mixed trails, and contrary to a plated shoe intended for fast and long road efforts.

To add, the wide platform base, as you can see in the image above, has significant midsole flaring especially in the rearfoot is fantastic for providing stability that complements the soft ride. This is a welcome change when compared to the CTM Ultra 3 which has a narrow base.

Jeff V:  The supercritical CrFoam midsole, while not the lightest out there, is perfect for the door to trail crossover intent of the Nordlite.  

It is moderately soft and compliant for maximal comfort, but strikes a great balance of support and structure for stability and a predictable ride.  

Protection underfoot is very good and even on rocky rough trails, I never have an issue with any surprise jabs.  

Ground feel and flexibility are also surprisingly good, even with the big 40/34 stack height, as I always feel in touch with the terrain underfoot.  Despite the 11+ oz weight in my US men’s 10, they feel reasonably quick and responsive running uphill, downhill and on the flats.


Peter: The outsole is simple and efficient. It’s also pretty versatile. It’s a really good road shoe , but has some extra traction that makes it great for light trails as well. 

Bryan: Having tested the NU on moderately steep climbs and descents on the road and on compact gravel, and in the wet, the outsole is one of the best I’ve run. It’s not so aggressive and the lugs aren’t so deep to ride intrusively on the road while also providing ample traction on fire trails and similar. The grooves are sufficient and decoupling of the three pieces of rubber work well in providing significant flex for such a high stacked shoe. In a nutshell grippy, quiet, versatile and efficient are words that come to mind when describing the outsole in a nutshell.

Jeff V:  While the outsole is designed and intended for roads and dirt paths, I found traction to be surprisingly good on most typical trails, even on reasonably technical trails, as the outsole compound sticks really well to rocks, on slab and the lugs are just enough to give some decent grip on semi loose surfaces.  

Of course I had to test them on steep, off trail and I was impressed how well they did on uphill loose terrain, though my confidence was not nearly as high coming back down (some of that was also due to the upper foot hold and big stack height).  Wet traction is marginal, good enough on easy terrain, dirt and pavement, but I definitely found myself being cautious on steeper, more technical trails and on rocks.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Peter: The Nordlite Ultra rides really smoothly. It feels stable and turns over pretty well. There’s definitely a lot of foam underneath, but I can still feel the road. Overall it’s a solid and enjoyable shoe from Craft. There are some “super trainers” out there that I enjoy running in more, but this is a nice step forward for Craft. It’s certainly worth a try. The upper is extremely breathable and the CR foam rebounds pretty well off the road. 

Score: 9/10  Upper could lock down a bit better and energy return could improve. Overall a comfortable and durable daily trainer from Craft. 


Bryan: Aside from the weight penalty, the NU is close to the perfect shoe for me, in that it fills a void in my rotation for hybrid road/trail runs of all distances. The ride is smooth and is also not slow. I took the NUs for a hilly Parkrun with varying efforts during and it held up just fine at sub-4 minute/km (6:30/mile) pace. It also runs a treat at slower paces (around 5:35/km / 9:00/mile). The ride is close to faultless for me for its intended purpose; cushioned, stable, protective and versatile. I would take it out for easy runs on the road, and especially in the wet.

Bryan’s Score: 9.6 Ride (50%): 9.5 Fit (30%): 9.5 Value (15%): 10 Style (5%): 10
Smiles Score: 😊😊😊😊😊

Jeff V:  I really enjoy the Nordlite Ultra. It is a great pick if you do a lot of door to trail running, dirt paths, dirt roads, or smooth non technical singlet rack that are gently rolling (best to avoid steeps).  

Overall, they ride smooth, energetic and fun.  While the upper and the shoe is not intended for technical trails, I was surprised to find that I could take them there for short tech sections without being overly careful with the upper hold being the primary limitation.  That said, the upper is so comfortable, soft and breathable. It is perfect for moderate running and warmer days.

Jeff V’s Score: 9.2 Ride - 9.5 (50%): Fit -9 (30%): Value - 9 (15%): Style - 8.5 (5%): Traction - 9 (15%): Rock Protection - 9.5 (10%)
Smiles Score: 😊😊😊😊


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Craft Nordlite Ultra vs. Craft Ultra CTM 3 (RTR Review)

Bryan: The NU is the superior shoe over the CTM 3, even though it it is close to 40g (1.4oz) heavier. It is more cushioned and stable and has a superior fitting upper fit . The NU is also able to run quicker than the CTM 3 notwithstanding its weight, as the supercritical CrFoam is just that much more responsive than the EVA UD Foam. I would pick the NU over the CTM 3 for just about any run. The CTM 3 is by no means a bad shoe; the NU is just an amazing one!

Craft Nordlite Ultra vs. Hoka Challenger 7 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  While the Challenger 7 lists a stack of 9mm less at the heel, they do not feel like they have that much less heel at all.  The Challenger is significantly lighter, feels faster and is more responsive, with a slightly softer feel underfoot, and has a more secure upper.  The Nordlite however does have a more grippy outsole overall in most conditions.

Craft Nordlite Ultra vs. Asics Novablast 3 (and TR) (RTR Review)

Bryan: Whilst I've not worn the TR version of the Novablast 3, I have worn the standard version on easy trails and it has worked a treat. The Novablast is also a high stacked shoe that's fast, protective and is maybe a little bouncier than the NU. The TR version is the same but for an outsole suitable for non technical trails. So, the Novablast TR comes into the same class as the NU. Both are capable of long runs, trail runs and all sorts of runs generally. The Novablast 3 however would be the quicker shoe of the 3 but the Ultra 3 would have superior range notwithstanding its heavier weight.

Craft Nordlite Ultra vs. Asics Fuji Lite 3 (RTR Review)

Bryan: The Fuji Lite 3 is in a similar class as the NU being a road/trail hybrid shoe of sorts. The Fuji Lite 3 has more aggressive trail specific lugs as compared to the more road friendly outsole of the NU, making it more trail friendly and less road friendly. The Fuji Lite 3 is also lower stacked, and is firmer than the NU, and has a lot more ground feel. The Fuji Lite 3 is more suitable for more aggressive trails and the NU for fire trails and roads. The longer the run, the more advantage the NU provides over the Fuji Lite 3.

Craft Nordlite Ultra vs. New Balance SC Trainer 2 (RTR Review)

Peter: The NB SC Trainer is my favorite super trainer at the moment. It feels more flexible than the Craft and is a bit easier to take up to tempo. 

The Nordlite Ultra is available now at our partners

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Tester Profiles

Bryan is a road and trail runner living in Melbourne, Australia. He picked up running as a stressed out law student back in 2016 and has never looked back. He runs and coaches a social track club, Glasshouse Run Club. His most recent race times include a 1:22 half marathon. Parkrun is his thing, and Bryan tries to run a sub-20 minute tempo effort every Saturday, and maintains a 50-70 km base mileage when not training specifically for a race. He is presently chasing a sub 3-hour marathon. He is 176cm tall and weighs about 68kg / 150lbs. 

Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:21 half marathoner in recent years.

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.

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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1 comment:

70's Teen said...

I have about 20 miles on my NUs and agree with your review. A bit hard to get on but easier after several runs and better than the Pro Endur (or the Alphafly!). Excellent outsole for mixed uses, plus a really sweet midsole for daily training or easy runs. The upper is fine for anything other than going fast on fairly technical trails. Yes, it's not the lightest high stack shoe, but it doesn't run heavy. For example, it feels much lighter and more flexible than my Caldera 6's, plus has a superior midsole. And it feels less clunky and more fun than a Fresh Foam More v4. In short, I can now wear the same recovery/easy day shoes on either trails, grass, or road/gravel.