The Craft Nordlite Speed running shoe is designed for both road and light trail running, which to me is really interesting, as it’s not very often that a premium race day shoe like this can handle such variance in terrain, even if they are only suitable for light trails, and I mean VERY light, more on that in just a bit.
The key features include a specialized Cr Foam™ midsole for cushion and stability, and an Ultra Carbon Plate™ for enhanced efficiency and propulsion and the single-layer engineered mesh upper offers a balance of comfort and durability. These are the 3 standout features that I’ll be focusing most on in this Craft Nordlite Speed review.
Craft, a Swedish brand known for its high-quality sports gear, ships orders within the USA from its Washington location, and although they aren’t hugely popular over here yet, I have no doubt they soon will be, based on the Craft Sportswear gear we have reviewed in the past.
Our past experiences with Craft products have been positive, highlighting the brand’s commitment to quality and performance. An example would be the gravel bike of road/light trail crossover running shoes, the Craft CTM Ultra 2.
It’s worth noting that the Nordlite Speed is a CTM shoe, which stands for Craft Tailored Motion and includes the most advanced materials and the latest innovations for the most demanding athletes – hence the high price tag; okay let’s get started with this Craft Nordlite Speed review.
The key specifications of the Craft Nordlite Speed
- Price: $220 at craftsports.us
- Sizing and fit: True to size with a medium width fit. Their US website recommends sizing up a half size but in my experience this isn’t the case.
- Weight: 9.2 oz (216g) for a size US(M)9 (my pair)
- Drop: 6mm
- Toe box width: Medium
- Stability: They feel pretty stable thanks to the wide midsole, and carbon plate.
- Cushioning: This is a cushioned yet responsive running shoe
- Best for: Speedwork, race day, very light trails
- The competition: HOKA Rocket X 2 Review, Saucony Endorphin Pro 3, On Cloudboom Echo 3 review
Craft Nordlite Speed Video Review
The features of the Craft Nordlite Speed that I really like and how they help improve performance
The CR Foam and Ultra Carbon Plate work very well together, providing a quick response, propulsion and efficiency
Craft’s CR Foam is at the heart of the Nordlite Speed’s midsole; it’s an ultra-lightweight foam that brings a unique blend of cushioning and responsiveness to the table. The foam itself provides great energy return, meaning that with each step, the foam compresses and bounces back quickly, propelling you forward.
This energy return is crucial for runners who are looking to maintain a consistent and efficient stride over long distances, and that’s probably you if you’re reading about a running shoe that costs more than $200.
The environmental-friendly aspect of the foam adds an extra layer of appeal, especially for those like myself who are conscious about sustainability in their gear.
Now, let’s talk about the Ultra Carbon Plate that runs through the top layer of the midsole, hidden from every view except for the outsole where it is exposed for all to see (see photo below).
This thin, yet strong carbon fiber plate works almost like a spring, designed to flex under pressure and then snap back to its original shape, providing a powerful push-off with each stride.
The plate is split to allow for a degree of torsional flexibility, meaning it accommodates the natural movement of your toes (especially the independent movement of the big toe) for a more natural, efficient, and comfortable stride.
A carbon plate essentially translates the energy from your stride into forward motion, making each step more effective,and efficient over time and distance.
So, it’s how the midsole foam and carbon fiber plate work together that caught my attention the most. The CR Foam offers a soft, cushioned landing, reducing the impact on your joints, while the Ultra Carbon Plate helps to ensure that less energy is wasted, efficiently converting it into forward momentum.
But whether you’re sprinting on a track, running a marathon, the Nordlite Speed does seem to help enhance your natural running ability, providing a responsive and efficient experience.
I also really like the rocker feel which encourages a quick stride turnover; it’s very noticeable when you first put them on, just how much these shoes want you to move forward.
The one-piece engineered mesh upper is crazy lightweight and breathable but it’s not perfect, not even close
The one-piece engineered mesh upper of the Craft Nordlite Speed running shoes is a standout feature for several reasons, notably its extreme light weight and breathability but as the title up there suggests, it’s not all gravy, and i’ll explain why in the section about features that need improvement.
For those not familiar with all the terminology and parts of a running shoe, the term “engineered mesh” refers to a specialized fabric designed specifically for athletic footwear.
This type of mesh is created through an advanced knitting process that allows for varying densities and structures within a single piece of fabric. As a result, the mesh can be tighter in areas where more support is needed, like around the midfoot, and more open in areas where extra breathability is beneficial, like the toe box.
This design choice significantly reduces the weight of the shoe, as it eliminates the need for multiple materials and seams. The lack of seams in the upper also means there’s less chance of irritation or friction against the foot, enhancing comfort.
Although this holds true for most of the upper, the interior of the heel counter falls short.
Running can quickly heat up your feet, leading to swelling in your feet, discomfort, and ultimately adverse effects in performance. The open weave of the mesh allows for excellent air circulation, keeping your feet cooler and drier.
Additionally, despite its lightweight nature, this engineered mesh is very durable. It can withstand the wear and tear of regular running, maintaining its shape and support over time. The mesh is also flexible (not stretchy) and moves with your foot, allowing for a natural range of motion while providing the necessary support.
Now for the bad; these are the features I feel could be improved for the next version
1. The inside of the heel counter rubs
I’ve seen this design whereby some running brands use a cushioned ledge so to speak, that wraps around the interior of the collar and heel counter as a method of locking your foot in place.
I’m just going to come out and say it, this design is awful, and never really locks your feet in as planned, and it’s not very comfortable either.
In fact, it’s quite uncomfortable, and if you’re unlucky enough to be wearing particularly thin socks, you may also feel some of that stitching above the padded area, rub on your ankle and heel.
2. They’re annoying to put on
Although this doesn’t affect performance when you’re actually running in the Nordlite Speed, there’s no denying they’re somewhat annoying to put on.
This happens because the one-piece upper doesn’t have a huge amount of structure to it, so when you start to slide your foot into the shoe, it collapses in on itself, made worse by the fact that the material around the collar and under the tongue seems to cling to your socks.
This soft grippy material is, however, a good thing when the shoes are on because it helps stop your feet moving around in the shoe.
My advice to making them much easier to slip on would be to really loosen the laces, more than you normally would on a pair of running shoes, so that there’s ample room for your foot to slip into it.
Craft Nordlite Speed review summary
The Nordlite Speed is going to be for you, if you’re in need of high performance running shoes for speedwork and race day.
There’s no denying that they perform very well in terms of stride mechanics and efficiency when running longer distances but that does come at the cost of some comfort issues outlined above.
At 9.2oz for a men’s US size 9, they’re not the lightest premium running shoes in this class either, and for up to $50 more you could step into the realms of the On Cloudboom Echo 3 or the HOKA Rocket X 2 which offer more comfort and arguably better performance – but then you’re paying around an extra 15% for the pleasure of that.
Craft does market these running shoes as being suitable for light trails to, although after testing them out myself I wouldn’t personally recommend running on anything other than forest trails or dry hard packed trails.
The outsole just hasn’t gone any substance to it to be able to tackle anything more than that but I can say it performs very well in wet and dry conditions on road surfaces.
Where to buy the Craft Nordlite Speed
The Craft Nordlite Speed is currently available for $220 at craftsports.us.
Are they worth the money?
I do believe the Nordlite Sped is worth the money for the right person, but I feel like for that price, they should be comfortable for everyone who wants to wear them, and because of the rather specialised performance design, they’re not.