The Gearage: Nike ZoomX Ultrafly Trail

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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 pro-athlete, Ryan Miller. Interested in trying a pair for yourself – bop on over to grab a pair!

When Eluid Kipchoge took on the breaking-2 challenge in the marathon, the world was in awe of the feat and infatuated with the shoes on his feet. As the dust settled, we collectively moved our attention to a new question, “What if a super shoe could be made for the trails?” Fast forward to Tyler Green and Drew Holmen going 2-3 at Western States 2021 in a shoe that raised a few eyebrows – a shoe we all wanted on our feet. The cries became louder, and Nike kept promising the masses that a release was coming. Much to our dismay, the release kept getting pushed back. Finally, the wait was over at the Western States Endurance Run this past summer (2023). The world was introduced to the Nike ZoomX Ultrafly Trail! So was the Ultrafly trail worth the wait? Did Nike deliver the ride we all dreamed of with a trail super shoe… or did it just make a shoe with a high price tag and little delivery?  

Nike UltraFly Trail 1

Total Miles: 39

The Good:

  • Vibram Outsole – A day we never thought would come, Nike finally has a Vibram outsole! In my opinion Vibram is tops when it comes to rubber outsole. The material is grippy, the lug patterns are spot on, and the durability is off the charts. The running scene has been clamoring for years for Nike to replace their oh so slippery rubber for Vibram. Happy to report we got our wish, and I am happy to report it works like a charm. I took the Ultrafly on multiple rainy/muddy runs and at no point did I slip or slide.
  • Fast – While this shoe will not make you Kipchoge-breaking-2 fast, I did feel fast and nimble in the Ultrafly. The Ultrafly wants to move; whenever I hit the buffed out single-track section of my run, I found my pace dropping into the 6 min/mile range. 
  • Stable – Any shoe that has ZoomX will raise my eyebrow for attention. In some cases, ZoomX can feel squishy and unstable, which was a huge concern of mine when I received the Ultrafly (could my ankles handle the instability that comes with ZoomX). But as with many things about the Ultrafly, I was completely shocked when it felt very stable. If you’re worried about this shoe’s stability, I am happy to put your fears at bay.
  • Looks – One thing you can always count on with Nike is they always deliver on style, and the Ultrafly is no exception. I know for many runners, a white shoe for the trails is a no-no, but I love the look of a white shoe (trails or road). The prototype colorway of Nike (white, orange, and black) is a classic!
Nike UltraFly Trail 2

The Bad:

  • Price Tag – One trend I hate seeing in the running shoe industry is the cost of shoes skyrocketing. While I found the Ultrafly to be a joy to run in, there’s no way around it, $260 is a lot of money. If you want to buy this shoe, better start saving up that birthday money folks. It will cost a lot, but so far these shoes are handling enough miles that might make biting the bullet worth it.
  • Lugs – While we finally received a Vibram outsole, we also received the shortest lugs I have seen on a trail shoe [3-3.5mm which is actually common on many ‘fast trail’ shoes]. I wish the lugs were a little deeper and not just designed for those west coasts buffed out trails. A little deeper lug would really open up the possibilities of what the Ultrafly can do, until then you might be a little short on traction.
  • Technical Terrain – As mentioned above, the lugs are not terribly deep which for me makes it difficult to take it out on some of the gnarly east coast trails. This shoe is made for those race days on less technical terrain where you’ve always thought, “Should I do this thing in a road shoe?” Not a deal breaker, just know before you buy.
Nike UltraFly Trail 3

The Pro:

“I typically reserve the ultra fly for special occasions like races and big key workouts for a confidence boost. They are super responsive and nimble and the new Vibram sole makes the traction so trustworthy. I really feel their power on long runnable climbs.” – Nike Trail Team Pro Addie Bracy

The Ultrafly has been the only shoe I’ve raced in over the last couple of years. I normally reserve it for race-specific training sessions, so usually longer runs at a higher intensity where I can ‘practice like I’m going to race’. I never want to become too reliant on a super shoe in training. Instead, I really like lacing up a shoe that is reserved for fast days where I put them on, run a few steps, and know it’s go time. This is the shoe that does that for me.” Nike Trail Team Pro Tyler Green

I really like the shoe for faster days on trails that are flowy and non technical. For me it’s been a very good 50-kilometer shoe. I’ve also been surprised how well it does perform on some more technical trails while running fast. The Vibram outsole has made a huge difference in giving me the confidence to move quickly and freely over terrain at those speeds. Having the carbon plate and being light weight makes for a fun shoe to just rip in!” – Nike Trail Team Pro Matt Daniels

The Verdict:

While the Nike ZoomX Ultrafly Trail may not be a super shoe like the Vaporfly it sure does hit the mark for a fantastic race day trail shoe! The Ultrafly is an absolute buy if you have the funds and if you plan to race some non-technical races and you are looking to push the pace. It’s an undeniably fun shoe and does start to bridge the gap to a super shoe for the trails.

Nike UltraFly Trail 4

*** Disclaimer – The Nike ZoomX Ultrafly Trail was provided by Nike for review. Nike did not pay for this review, all opinions are our own. ***

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