Craft Nordlite Speed Review

by | Feb 7, 2024

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Specs and takeaways:

  • Name: Craft Nordlite Speed
  • Weight (men’s size 11): 10.1 oz / 285 g
  • Stack height: Heel – 40 mm // Forefoot -34 mm // 6 mm heel-toe drop
  • Sizing: Runs small – go up a half size for the best fit. Wide feel.
  • Pros: Comfortable; good room in the upper; stable
  • Cons: Heavy-ish for a carbon-plated racer; no tongue gusset; achilles inset can rub
  • Best for: Race day and speed days; up to a marathon though better from half-marathon and below
  • Price: $235 $220

Where to buy

Craft Sportswear and their running shoes like the Nordlite Ultra have quickly become a staple amongst big running brands but, until recently they’d yet to really head in the direction of a “super shoe” for road running. Then came the shoe we’re looking at today, the Craft Nordlite Speed. Combining Craft’s supercritical foam (their Cr foam) with a tuned Ultra Carbon plate, the midsole of this shoe aims to provide not just cushion for distance but the propulsion to get you there. Does it all work? Let’s see.

Craft Nordlite Speed Outsole

Craft Nordlite Speed Review | Outsole | Gearist
Craft Nordlite Speed Review | Outsole | Gearist

Smooth and simple, the outsole rubber of the Nordlite Speed is broken into three segments; an overall covering of the front half of the shoe and a heel broke up into two pieces. The front rubber is covered in small holes presumably for cutting a bit of weight. Through the midfoot, there is raised, exposed Cr Foam and a small peek at the Ultra Carbon plate™ embedded in the midsole foam.

[Brandon] I like the simplicity of this outsole. I did think it could result in a bit less traction that some shoes but I really didn’t find that to be the case – though other reviewers have commented on slippage in wet conditions despite them being grippy on dry pavement. On first glance I was also curious if the holes cut into the outsole rubber would wind up with small pebbles stuck in them but that never happened.

On their website, Carft says that the Nordlite Speed is, “…made for road or light trail surfaces…” I have to say that unless you’re talking about a dirt road or super smooth single track, I would put these on a trail first, because of the traction being so smooth and second because the model I have is basically sparkling white and I wouldn’t want to get them filthy. There aren’t many trail shoes out there that are so clean looking!

Craft Nordlite Speed Midsole

Craft Nordlite Speed Review | Midsole | Gearist
Craft Nordlite Speed Review | Midsole | Gearist

Made primarily from Craft’s specialized Cr Foam™, the Nordlite speed boasts some pretty hefty stack height which comes right up to the line allowed in competition by World Athletics at 40mm in the heel of the shoe while the forefoot comes in at 34mm of stack for an overall drop of 6mm. There is a bit of rocker at the front and back of the shoe but through the middle half, it seems to be pretty flat.

Though it appears as one solid piece of Cr Foam, we actually find embedded smack in the middle of the foam Craft’s Ultra Carbon Plate, a bit of which is visible from the underside of the shoe.

[Brandon] For a high stack shoe I think the Nordlite Speed is quite stable thanks to the wide base, especially through the heel and midfoot material underfoot.

As always, I’ll get into more of the ride below but I’ll say that the feel of the foam isn’t as cushioned for the height as you’d think. Part of this is because the foam is firmer than some other high-end materials. Another part is that the carbon fiber plate embedded in the middle of it seems to for something of a ground feel of its own with only half the actual foam above it.

The rocker of the midsole is a bit deceptive in that you feel a great toe roll but it’s seeming so stable in all four directions in the midfoot that there’s a bit of a pause before that pitch forward initiates.

Craft Nordlite Speed Upper

Craft Nordlite Speed Review | Heel | Gearist
Craft Nordlite Speed Review | Heel | Gearist

The body on the upper of the Craft Nordlite Speed is made from a one-piece engineered mesh. The external finish has a quite open weave ripstop which is essentially see-through, showing the interior “holes” and support structures. Internally – and yes, it’s still a one-piece mesh, the main mesh is backed by a uniform series of small holes which are also softer and ostensibly more foot friendly the the exterior ripstop feel.

At the toe of the shoe there is an internal toe cap for structure and a bit of protection which surrounds the front of the toes and extends to the metatarsal heads. The throat and lacing structure is made with a welded TPU (it feels like) overlaying a free-floating tongue made from similar mesh as the main upper material.

The rear of the Nordlite Speed – heel cup and heel counter – is backed by a soft microfiber while the foam just below the lip of the collar is an lightweight mesh backed with soft foam. 

[Brandon] The upper on this shoe is very nice to look at – and, since mine is sparkling white, is one reason to stay away from dusty, dirty trails. 

From a durability standpoint, the upper on this shoe performed exactly as well as I’d like to see in a pricey shoe. No nicks or scrapes – despite getting into a run-in with some errant tumbleweed; true story – have marred the material. 

The midfoot of the shoe has a truly good lockdown when you get the laces right. That said, I’d like to see a gusseted tongue which does have the tendency to fold over on itself when tying – which happened just about every time. 

Now for the rear of the shoe. I’ll touch on aspects of fit specifically below but for now it bears mentioning how the actual upper interacts with the achilles. For a bit of context, it’s very rare – especially for someone who tries SO many different shoes – that I get a blister at all, much less on my achilles. However, in this shoe I did. As I’ll get into a bit more below, the top of the heel counter comes in so far that when it’s combined with the exposed stitches in that area definitely gave me a blister and/or hotspot each time I ran without tall socks. Don’t get me wrong, the stitches are soft but even the softest stitching, given enough time and friction, can produce some wear and tear.

Craft Nordlite Speed Fit

Craft Nordlite Speed Review | Fit | Gearist
Craft Nordlite Speed Review | Fit | Gearist

[Brandon] The Nordlite Speed running shoe has a sizing that could be true to size for some but it seems to fall in between sizes on the small end. I’m in a men’s size 11 which works perfectly well but on runs which are a bit faster, I find my second toe (yes, I’m one of those people with a longer second toe) feeling a bit dinged.

As far as width goes, the Nordlite Speed’s engineered mesh upper gives plenty of room to my very average width foot. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that there is almost too much room. Finding the right amount of lace tightness is a bit tricky and getting that dialed to feel secure yet not tight enough to cut off circulation could be tricky.

From the front of the shoe, the toe box has good room and despite coming to a point, I didn’t feel pinched. Moving into the metatarsal head area is where a lot of extra room in the Nordlite Speed shows up. This gives the foot a lot of room to splay and do it’s thing. I’m curious how those who normally opt for a wide platform would feel in this running shoe.

Through the midfoot – in a bit of a callback to the upper section above – the tongue needs to be gusseted. It didn’t slide so much for me – though it did a bit – but when lacing up the shoe, the sides of the tongue have a tendency to fold over and if this isn’t fixed before lacing up the shoe, it can result in some pressure points.

I commented on the challenges with the heel counter above so you know what’s going on with the heel cup. I’ll also call attention to the horizontal depth of the heel cup here. The top of the heel counter sits about a full inch forward of the furthest back point of the heel and while this makes for a nice, deep heel cup, when I’m standing upright, that is more difference than that of my achilles and that pointy part of my heel. It seems like this could contribute to the aforementioned need for taller socks.

Craft Nordlite Speed Ride

Craft Nordlite Speed Review | Midsole | Gearist
Craft Nordlite Speed Review | Midsole | Gearist

[Brandon] Right away, let’s acknowledge that the word “speed” is right there in the name of the Nordlite Speed. That said, how speedy is it? 

First, while this shoe is certainly not the lightest thing in the world of carbon-plated race day shoes, the overall responsive nature of the sole unit and the lightweight, one-piece engineered mesh upper makes for a shoe that seems to want to just go. I didn’t take much notice of the weight of the shoe by any means at all.

Next, that midsole with its supercritical Cr Foam and its Ultra Carbon Plate. The midsole in the Nordlite Speed feels firm and while that can, for some, lead to a lot of efficiency and propulsion because the foot doesn’t sink down into spongy foam, for others it may be a bit too firm. Now, being a heavier runner, I found myself a bit underwhelmed by the carbon fiber plate in this shoe. It seems a bit muted and I can’t tell if that’s because it’s too fat away from the bottom of my foot or too close. Based on other experiences, I’d say that if it were higher up in the sole unit – or if it had a slightly softer foam above it – it feel more responsive.

As for grip and traction on days where speed work was on the menu, I found the high performance nature of this shoe come alive in that pace zone. Add to that the breathable upper with plenty of room and speed days were some of my favorites.

So what is this going to be good for? Well, while I it works best for me on speed days, I do really enjoy a more long distance run in the Nordlite Speed as well. For me, it’s a road shoe that can step up for a marathon easily though a half and under would allow me to lean into the materials more and get some of that speed going.

Craft Nordlite Speed Overall

Craft Nordlite Speed Review | Hero | Gearist
Craft Nordlite Speed Review | Hero | Gearist

The Craft Nordlite Speed is a generally good road racing shoe and while Craft alludes to it, I don’t see it being a true road-to-trail shoe. For those speedy days and race day in particular it’s a shoe that can deliver the goods. That said, there is some decent room for improvement here and I can’t wait to see what Craft comes up with in the next version.

Originally coming in at $234 and now available for just under $220, the Craft Nordlite Speed is pricey to be sure and while I do find it to be quite durable, keep in mind that it is a race shoe and that category of shoes is not known for their longevity.

What are you running in on your easy and recovery run days? Have you tried this shoe?

Where to buy

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