The RW Takeaway: Buy this if you’re looking to crush your next race on buffed trails.

  • A carbon-fiber plate stiffens the forefoot for a propulsive sensation.
  • The sole grips loose dirt without picking up rocks.
  • It’s too unstable for technical singletrack trails.

    Price: $250
    Type: Road & Light Trail
    Weight: 10.3 ounces (men's size 9)
    Drop: 10 mm

    At first glance, the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon looks like one of the new marathon super shoes and shares many of the same features—thick sole, carbon plate, and even that winged heel everybody’s slapping on shoes since the Vaporfly was released—so it may be tempting to compare it to shoes like the Vaporfly and Adizero Adios Pro. But this shoe isn’t necessarily meant to compete with those on marathon race courses. While still best reserved for race day, for sure, the CTM Ultra Carbon is genuinely designed as an “any surface, any distance” shoe.

    Men’s CTM Ultra Carbon

    • Stiff and fast
    • Lightweight breathable upper
    • Grippy on gravel and dirt

    • Too unstable for technical trails

    Craft claims the shoe is aimed at ultra-distance running, so right out of the box I took the shoes on a 34-mile run with over 12,500 feet of elevation gain on a mix of gravel roads and leafy, rocky singletrack trails. At 10.3 ounces for a men’s size 9, it’s heavy for marathon racing, but compared to many shoes found in trail and ultra races, it’s pretty average, and I could easily see it working as a race day option for ultra races on roads or even less-technical trails.

    Carbon-Plated Propulsion

    Unlike some other shoes that pair super soft foam with a carbon-fiber plate for stability, the CTM Ultra Carbon’s plate stiffens the shoe to enhance the dramatic forefoot rocker. As soon as your foot starts to roll forward onto your toes, you can feel the rigid plate lifting the rear end of the shoe to encourage forward propulsion. I found that running uphill feels easier as the shoe reduces the muscular stress on my legs on steep inclines.

    craft carbon light trail running shoes in zebra with pat heine
    The shoe makes running uphill feel easier.
    Trevor Raab

    Solid Platform on Almost Every Surface

    The narrow sole and tall stack height is unstable on technical singletrack, but that’s to be expected since it’s not a true trail shoe. However, on gravel and pavement the Ultra Carbon is sturdy, responsive, and snappy. The aggressive 10mm drop pushes you to your toes immediately, and the extreme rocker under the forefoot helps each step roll effortlessly. The EVA-based Vault Foam midsole provides enough cushioning to take the sting out of flying downhill, and the directional lugs give just enough grip on loose gravel while being in a tight enough pattern to prevent rocks from getting stuck.

    craft carbon light trail running shoes in zebra with pat heine
    The zebra print does a good job of disguising the see-through upper.
    Trevor Raab

    Ultralight Upper

    The upper fabric is see-through and lightweight, and it’s almost entirely bonded instead of stitched. Naturally this means it breathes well. The single layer mesh was a bit stiff out of the box but broke in quickly. Despite that, the mesh stretches to comfortably wrap over your midfoot and there’s plenty of room in the toe box for stable toe-off. The fit around the heel and ankle is narrow, and keeps your foot locked in place well, much like a racing shoe should, however the tall collar sat flush against my Achilles, which rubbed and caused some blisters.

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