The Gearage: Craft Nordlite Ultra

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Cody Jett in a red jacket and running clothes after finishing a race, holding hands up smiling.

By: Cody Jett

Cody Jett is our East Coast (or, more accurately, Beast Coast) contributor. Cody lives outside of Philadelphia, PA with his wife and two kids. When Cody is not working or spending time with family, he enjoys trail documentaries, his Phillies, and checking out new gnarly trails.

You can find the Gearage podcast on Youtube and wherever you listen to podcasts. Make sure you listen to Cody’s interview with Craft pro-athlete, Tim Tollefson . Interested in trying a pair for yourself – bop on over to grab a pair!

We all love a comeback story. It’s in our nature to root for the little guy. Whether it is Rudy finally making the team, Rocky taking down the champ, a Jamaican bobsled team going for gold, or Craft 2023 giving it their all in their trail running shoe line. While Craft Sportswear has been around for 50-plus years, with strong ties to winter sports apparel, it only recently started dabbling in the trail running scene with some rough attempts. Then (okay some may call us sentimental) Craft quickly became a brand we all rooted for after they showed unwavering support for their pro runner, Tommy Rivs during his battle with cancer. It wasn’t until 2023, four years after their first trail shoe, that Craft started to really make their mark – but is this year’s contender enough to make them a shoe brand runners will reach for? With Craft’s newest shoe, the Nordlite Ultra, did they finally make a shoe that we can celebrate?

The new Craft Trail Nordlite Ultra.

Total Miles: 39

The Good:

  • Foam – The CR foam is just simply wonderful, no better way to put it. The supercritical foam provides a smooth and comfortable ride, and is honestly the foam we have been waiting for from Craft. Previous shoes from them have been too firm but the CR foam is that perfect balance of comfortable, stable, and not too squishy for the trails.
  • Ride – For a high stack shoe I found the ride to be shockingly smooth and stable. The Nordlite Ultra has a 40mm stack, which in many cases would result in me having ankle issues. But the Nordlite Ultra with its wider base, delivered a ride that made ticking off miles enjoyable, and without stability issues.
  • Road shoe option – One huge bonus of the Nordlite Ultra is that it performs as well as a road shoe as it does as a buffed-out trail shoe. In Pennsylvania, we have plenty of trails that have large road sections, and the Nordlite Ultra handled those sections like a champ. I truly think if you wanted a single shoe for road, gravel and trail this shoe excels in across the board making it a great crossover shoe. 
  • Looks – In the past, I may have judged Craft for the look of their trail line… maybe even a little too harshly. But the Nordlite Ultra is really a nice-looking shoe. The current shoe is heathered orange, which is appealing to the eye while ripping down the trail. And in the times of neon being all the rage, I am personally thankful they didn’t make it traffic cone orange. 
Bottom view of the Craft Nordlite Ultra

The Bad:

  • Versatility of Trails – the Nordlite Ultra is made for the road to trail miles or slightly buffed out trail, which means unless you have ankles and running skills of Arlen Glick, who rocked them at Hardrock you might want to keep them to more tame trails. As stable of a shoe as it is, 40mm is still 40mm.
  • Upper – While the upper is extremely comfortable and breathable, if you have narrow feet you may see bunching in the toe box. It may not be a deal breaker, but something to point out.
  • Sizing – While I did not have issues with going true to size in the Nordlite Ultra, other runners I know had issues with the shoe being too short. This might be a shoe you need to go a half size up in to get the correct fit.
Craft Nordlite Ultra

The Pro:

“When I first joined CRAFT I requested a shoe that was lower, softer, and wider. This beauty delivered across the board. The Nordlite Ultra has become my choice for just about any situation and my legs are thankful for the protection they provide after hours of downhill pounding.”Craft Trail Pro Tim Tollefson

“I use the Nordlite Ultra for all ultra racing and most of my day to day trail running. I love the smooth and maximally responsive ride. This thing is the perfect versatile do everything shoe.” – Craft Trail Pro David Laney

The Verdict:

If you love a great comeback story, then this shoe is for you. I know in the past Craft has broken our hearts and, in some cases, busted up our feet. But the Nordlite Ultra has given me faith back in the brand, which is why this shoe is an absolute buy for me.

Craft Nordlite ultra

***Disclaimer – The Nordlite Ultra was provided by Craft for review. Craft did not pay for this review, all opinions are our own.***

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