Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Craft Xplor Hybrid Multi Tester Review 5 Comparisons

Article by Renee Krusemark, Jana Herzgova, and Sam Winebaum

Craft Xplor Hybrid ($140)


Sam: The Xplor Hybrid is positioned by Craft as the “gravel bike” of running shoes. It even incorporates a stout radial design outsole from well known bike tire supplier Vittoria.  Underfoot we have a single density midsole of Craft’s always energetic Px supercritical expanded TPE beads foam. 

Due to the outsole and broad platform it is not the lightest of trail shoes, or even hybrid shoes, checking in at 10.3 oz  / 292g (US men’s 9). Taking into account the big max class 38.5 mm heel / 32.5 mm forefoot stack height and the outsole the weight is reasonable. By way of comparison the mountain trails focused Speedgoat is considerably lower at 32mm heel /29 mm forefoot  with a heel platform that is 10mm narrower and a mid foot 5 mm narrower yet weighing only 0.5 oz /14g less. All of this to say we have a lot of shoe underfoot at not much weight. 


Topped with Craft’s customary roomy and light upper I noted right away a beefed up rear hold which gave me hope it might have more terrain range than usual for a Craft.

I tested extensively on hard packed snow trails often bordering on ice, road, and non paved rail and golf cart paths in Utah and New Hampshire. Jana tested hers in Utah while Renee tested on gravel roads and trails in Nebraska.

Jana: I have never tested Craft  before, so when the opportunity came, I took it. When the spec sheets came, the very first thing that caught my eyes was the difference between men's and women's stack height in both heel and forefoot - 2mm in each (stack height heel is 36mm for men's shoes and 34 mm for women's shoes; and 30mm stack height forefoot men's, and 28mm for women's shoes respectively). Both shoes have the same drop - 6 mm. I also very often run from my home (road)  to trail/fire roads, making hybrid shoes perfect company for me - another reason for me to test Craft Xplor Hybrid. 

So let's see how it performed in our review.


Comfortable, light and breathable  upper: Renee/Jana/Sam

Plenty of midsole for long runs: Renee/ Jana

Energetic supercritical Px foam and plenty of it (somewhat masked by outsole): Sam

Great grip on any terrain, outsole not in the way on smoother terrain or road: Sam

Strong value at $140


Weight: Renee

Loose upper (on  more technical terrain): Renee/Sam

Mellow trail terrain only: Renee

Overly broad, blocky, somewhat firm back weighted heel area, weight and agility impacted, although mainly at slower paces: Sam

Most comparable shoes (see comparisons in detail at the end of the article)

Merrell Morphlite

On Cloudsurfer Trail

Hoka Challenger 7

Nike ZoomX Zegama

Salomon Glide Max TR

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


Approx. Weight: men's 10.3 oz  / 292g (US9)  /  9oz / 255g (US8)

  Samples: men’s  10.05 oz / 285g US8.5 

                 women’s 9oz / 255g (US8)

Stack Height: men’s 38.5 mm heel / 32.5 mm forefoot ( 6 mm drop spec) 

                      women’s  36.5 mm heel / 30.5 mm forefoot

Platform Width: 100 mm heel / 85 mm midfoot / 110 mm forefoot

$140  Available now

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Renee: The Xplor is my fourth Craft including the original Ultra and Carbon Ultra along with the recent Nordlite Speed. My experience with these Craft shoes has been okay, always with a little left to be desired in the upper fit and midsole. The Xplor has its benefits for those running long distances on crushed rock or gravel. 

The upper is a basic one-piece, engineered mesh with a lot of volume and width. My foot is swimming in the upper, but for cruising miles on easy paths (not single track) I didn’t mind the fit. The upper very much has a road shoe fit with a simple overlay and form around the heel. 

While not labeled as a wide fit, the shoe has a wide platform and lots of give in the upper. Too much give for me to run with the shoes on anything single track or remotely technical. For hilly gravel and dirt roads, the upper was fine. The generous fit is an asset for those whose feet swell during ultras. I suggest true to size. 

Jana: As I mentioned above, Xplor Hybrid is my very first Craft shoe. I have heard great stuff from my running friends about Craft lineup, so my expectations were high. As a hybrid shoe, the Xplor Hybrid delivered

It is a comfortable shoe, straight out of a box. The very breathable engineered upper mesh provides a comfortable and stable feel - I felt a breeze around my toes when I ran in them a couple of times, which means they will also be a great company  for hot summer days keeping toes and forefoot cooler. They also remain light when wet, and dry out fast. 

Toe box is on a wider scale, but not as overly wide as Altra or Topo. It is a perfect fit for my mid-wide range foot - providing a great shoe choice for ultrarunners and long distance hikers as well. 

Even though it is advertised as a hybrid shoe (road/light trail), the upper feels more like a road shoe style of upper rather than a trail shoe upper to me. Not a problem there, it still performs very well on non technical trail and gravel type of roads - just a note. It has just enough padding around the heel, ankle collar, and on the tongue to make it comfortable enough without feeling too cushioned, or bulky. No complaints. 

The fit is true to size.

Sam: The upper is the usual from Craft: high volume, light and airy.and when combined with the wide platform and deep stack height making it ideal for long distances on dirt roads and non technical terrain in warm weather.  

I did find the rear hold and stability good, and better than usual for a Craft, and better than the very similar Pacer road shoe (RTR Review) as we have a stout high heel counter with below the wide platform and deep stabilizing outsole rubber. 

The midfoot is clearly voluminous as you can see how tightly I have to lace for my narrow to medium feet in the image above. We have a gusset tongue, thank goodness. which, in combination with the lightly padded tongue and laces surprisingly had no bite or discomfort.  I was more than adequately held for the “gravel” purposes, on actual gravel and bumpy near icy snow. I do think the midfoot would benefit from underlays ( to not spoil the beautiful simple design) and/or a beefier mesh or a more substantial last lace area design.

The toe box is quite broad with soft pliable mesh making it roomier yet.  

Overall hold and fit is fine for the intended "gravel" purposes. Craft obviously thought about a fit for a variety of foot volumes and swelling feet in heat here. I do think overall volume as with all Craft shoes could be reduced or the mesh made a bit more substantial and reinforced with underlays so what is clearly a totally any long run, pretty much any trail or distance underfoot platform and outsole could be used run beyond non technical terrain.

Midsole & Platform

Renee: The offset is 6mm, which is much more friendly than the 10mm drop of the original Ultra and Carbon Ultra. The women’s stack is listed as 34mm/28mm, and it feels like plenty of underfoot midsole for ultra distances. 

The shoe feels light underfoot, but at 9 oz in a women’s size 8, this isn’t a light shoe especially compared to other hybrid road-to-trail shoes. Most of the weight is within the outsole (more on that later). 

My first run was 18 miles, the second of my weekend back to back long runs. I was feeling the weight. The next week, I ran a 20 miler on somewhat fresh legs, and had a great experience on gravel/dirt with only mild vertical(about 110 feet per mile, very mellow ups and downs). The midsole is a bit firm but rolls forward smoothly. Craft states the midsole is a softer version of their Px foam. I don’t find the midsole soft at all (likely I was feeling the extensive outsole), but it’s not harsh. 

While I didn’t run more than 20 miles at a time for review, the midsole stack and feel is plenty for ultra distances as long as the runner doesn’t need a soft feel underfoot. 

Jana: The midsole is a pleasant combo of energy return and soft comfort. It feels stable and responsive on roads, as well as non-technical trails or a gravel surface. It provides an overall great road to trail underfoot experience. 

Even though this is not the lightest of shoes, it does not feel heavy. Considering that the outsole is made out of a tire material, it feels quite  light. In my opinion, Craft nailed the midsole part well. 

Sam: As covered in the introduction we have a max cushion grade stack height of 38.5 mm heel / 32 mm forefoot on a very broad 100 mm heel / 85 mm midfoot / 110 mm forefoot platform so we are considerably higher stack and broader than even a Hoka Speedgoat at a weight just over 10 oz at 10.3 oz  / 292g (US9) even with the stout Vittoria outsole.

Of course the light upper keeps the weight down but the key is the Px supercritical expanded TPE beads midsole foam.  Several Craft shoes have featured this energetic foam which resembles Saucony’s PWRRUN + expanded TPU beads foam but here with a quicker less mushy a bit firmer return. It is one of my favorite training shoe road foams of the moment and here it does not disappoint especially at the forefoot where the combination of reasonable flex and rebound joins deep deep forgiving cushion. 

The heel is a bit of a different story as the 100mm wide landing combined with the big Vittoria outsole makes the rear super stable (helping the upper’s shaky hold) but for my tastes is overly broad, a bit back weighted and firm at slow paces (the rubber)  and not particularly agile. 

I do think a more reasonable width rear platform width and more crash pad decoupling in the outsole would improve the ride by rolling faster off the heel, lower the weight, and make the shoe a bit more nimble.


Renee: Many brands advertise shoes with a “gravel bike” style outsole, and the Xplor is by far the shoe that delivers the most on that statement. 

The shoe featured a Vittoria™️ outsole that feels and looks like a bike tire. Even the tread it leaves in dirt looks like a bike tread. For gravel and dirt terrain, the outsole works great. That said, often a basic road shoe works fine for that terrain too. The shoe would be much lighter in weight with less outsole rubber. Not a complaint, just a note. For runners who need generous outsole coverage, the Xplor is a good option. Between the loose upper and wide platform, I wouldn’t choose the shoes for technical single track. However, the outsole itself has good qualities for that type of terrain.   

Jana: When I flipped the shoe and looked at the outsole for the first time, it immediately resembled a tire thread. Let me just say, it is outstanding. Incredibly grippy - road and trail; it sticks well to a dry or wet surface (especially road), and seems indestructible. 

Vittoria is a well known bike tire maker, so I am expecting a long lasting and durable outsole, I have put 40 miles on them so far, with zero wear/tear. 

As I mentioned above, this choice of outsole does not make them the lightest shoes, but I am willing to sacrifice a little extra weight for great durability, outstanding grip, and longevity. 

Very happy with this outsole performance!

Sam: The outsole is outstanding. I tested on hard snow that was near ice where I think it outperformed Vibram MegaGrip and Salomon Contagrip as well as VJ’s butyl rubber. I could really feel the front lugs gripping on climbs and the deep rear lugs keeping me stable and  secure on downhills. 

On looser fine gravel crushed granite its performance was equally as fine and on always tricky sand over pavement one of the best if not the best I can recall.

On pavement, as covered in the midsole commentary, the rear rubber and wide platform felt overly broad, quite firm and somewhat back weighted at slower paces while upfront the outsole stayed out of the way. At faster paces, around 10 min miles and faster the heel area felt much better. 

I do think this outstanding rubber and pattern could be toned down in height at the rear in particular  for “gravel”, and even most trail uses, with also less overall coverage to help better decouple the rear of the shoe and reduce weight.

Bottom line: Vittoria rubber is a true contender with the best out there.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Renee: For long runs on rolling gravel and dirt paths, the Xplor is a nice option at $140. It’s basically a road shoe with a hearty quality bike-like outsole. 

The ride is smooth. The contoured chassis is meant to give high rebound and stability. With the broad platform, the Xplor is stable, but I wouldn’t choose it for technical terrain or any terrain when a nimble and quick landing is needed. 

The midsole is a bit firm, so the rebound itself comes from the roll forward. I was able to run faster than tempo paces during my 20 mile run, so it’s not a slow shoe on fresh legs. The overall weight is a bit heavyh as compared to most hybrid specific shoes. The biggest asset of the shoe compared to a road specific shoe would be the outsole. For ultra runners who train or race on crushed rock or mellow terrain, the Xplor is a good buy. 

Renee’s Score: 9.0/10 (-.60 weight, -.20 loose upper, -.10 firm midsole, -.10 mellow terrain only)


Jana: Renee sums up the ride well in her comments above. I have not much else to add.

For $140, this is a very well made shoe, providing comfort, secure fit, and durability. 

I can see hikers, especially long distance ones, benefiting from Craft Xplor Hybrid pleasant ride and stability as well. 

Jana's score: 9.5/10 - all 10 points, except the weight (-0.5 points). 

😊😊😊😊😊 - I like this shoe a lot.

Sam: The Xplor Hybrid needs to decide what it wants to be. Its upper leans road and very mellow trails while its entire undercarriage from deep, deep energetic midsole to super gripping outsole for sure makes the platform any trail and ultra worthy. I think a not as broad rear platform, potentially a bit less aggressive rubber pattern at the heel and more substance and support in the upper could bring its already reasonable weight down moving it to top top tier for both more technical trail long runs and ultras and as a hybrid “gravel” and even as road shoe while increasing its already solid value.

Sam’s Score: 9.2 / 10

Deductions: -0.5 for upper support, -0.3 for overly broad rear platform


5 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE Roadtrailrun 

Merrell Morphlite (RTR Review)

Renee: The Morphlite is a $100 shoe, so it gets major bonus points from me for that reason. Both shoes have a road-like upper, with the Morphlite having a more narrow fit and thus a better ride for more “trail” like terrain as compared to the Xplor. Its outsole is basic as compared to the beefier and gripper Xplor's.

The Morphlite is a very lightweight shoe as compared to the heavier Xplor. For true ultra distances when a decent grip is needed, the Xplor is better. For everything else, I’d go with the less expensive Morphlite. Sizing is comparable with the Xplor having an overall looser and more generous fit. 

Hoka Challenger 7 (RTR Review)

Renee: Another hybrid option, the Challenger upper is a bit more dialed in for a trail fit while the Xplor is softer and more accommodating. The Challenger is a much lighter shoe with enough stack for an ultra. The Xplor rolls forward more smoothly on flatter terrain although I’d choose the Challenger for anything more technical despite the simple (and not very durable) outsole. I wore a half size smaller for the Challenger. 

On Cloudsurfer Trail (RTR Review)

Renee: If you want a lifestyle shoe that's also a runner, the Cloudsurfer Trail is your option. The midsole is more forgiving and fun, although unstable as compared to the Xplor with its firmer midsole and much broader platform. Sizing is comparable. The Cloudsurfer Trail has a generous upper, but the lacing tightens better than the loose upper of the Xplor. For long distances, the Xplor has a better underfoot stack. 

Nike ZoomX Zegama (RTR Review)

Sam: Fairly similar in stack height with the Zegama a bit lower at the heel as a 4mm drop shoe. Despite the magic of Zoom X foam the Nike weighs a few tenths of an ounce more. The difference likely comes from its considerably more supportive upper which runs for sure warmer than the Craft and snugger with a lower if still quite broad toe box.  Both are clearly true to size for me. 

For gravel and road especially in heat the Craft upper is clearly superior while on more technical trails the Nike is a more solid option. The Px foam feel and cushion is actually more pleasant and about as reactive on non pavement as Zoom X and on road about equal. Version 1 of the Zegama has Nike’s customary shaky on wet rubber. The Craft Vittoria outsole is clearly superior. V2 of the Zegama will see Vibram MegaGrip so that advantage will shrink. 

Salomon Glide Max TR (RTR Review)

Sam: Almost the same in stack height and 0.5 oz / 14 g lighter,  the Salomon is strong competition and a close comparison to the Craft. It’s upper is on the roomy side but better held. Its midsole does not have the energetic feel of the Craft and its platform is not quite as stable. Outsoles are comparable although I would give the edge to the Craft in grip but not in decoupling as it is more lumbering off the heel with less of a rear rocker. Due to its lighter weight and superior upper I give the nod by a hair to the Salomon in this match up. 

The Craft Xplor Hybrid is available at our partners

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Tester Profiles

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.

Jana Herzgova took up running in 2016, after a back injury. Prior to that she was a speed skater, but due to back pain and doctor's recommendation, she transitioned into running. Since then, starting with shorter ultra distance races she quickly evolved into an avid long distance and unsupported mountain runner. She also loves to take on challenges/races in arctic and subarctic climates, mainly in unsupported and semi-self supported style. She currently lives in Utah/Wyoming.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2023 was Sam’s 51th 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 very very lucky. Sam trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run, hiking or on nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

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'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This or the Nordlight Ultra (if they were the same price)? Seems like they cover pretty much the same areas, especially with neither being good at off-camber trail.