A No-Nonsense, Well Priced Door to Trail Running Shoe. 5 Comparisons

Puma Fast-Trac NITRO ($110)

Pros:

Low cost: Renee/Markus

Versatile daily trainer for road to light trail: Renee/Markus

Relatively lightweight and runs lighter: Renee/Markus

Cons:

Restricting forefoot and toebox: Renee

High sitting heel counter: Renee/Markus

Not the most exciting ride: Renee/Markus

Needs a few miles to soften: Markus

Stats

Official Weight: men’s 8.94 oz / 272 g (US9)

  Samples: men’s 10.08 oz  / 286 g (US10.5)  women’s 8.31 oz / 236 g (US8)

Stack Height: men’s 29 mm heel / 21 mm forefoot

Available now. $110

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Renee: The PUMA Fast-Trac NITRO is a huge improvement from last year’s PUMA Voyager NITRO. The name is a bit misleading, it’s not that fast of a shoe. What PUMA has here is a no-nonsense, well-priced door-to-trail option. 

The upper is not a GTX (coming in 2023), and although it looks like it has some weather-resistance It is  a “ripstop mesh upper.”  I have the black-metallic silver color, which I think looks sharp and it hides dirt well. I ran in some light snow during single digit temperatures, and despite having on wool socks, moisture and cold air entered the forefoot. 

The fit is snug, which did not bother me as someone who is between half sizes. I wore a women’s size 8, which is slightly shorter and more narrow in the forefoot than comparable shoes in other brands. If between half sizes, definitely go with the half size up. Wide footed runners might find the fit too snug. The lacing stays put and tight without any adjustments, and the tongue is well padded.

The heel and heel collar sit higher on my foot than I would like, which might help some runners with stability, although I found it somewhat constricting for ankle movement while navigating through tree roots. 

Markus: I also got the black and gray version and like the design. The majority of the upper is the gray ripstop mesh upper with the overlays, midsole and laces black. The upper feels quite substantial out of the box. It is not as soft as your usual engineered mesh. I agree here with Renee, it feels as if it has some weather resistance. I didn’t have the chance to test it during heavy rain, but running through some small puddles was no problem and my feet  for the most part kept dry.. Furthermore, I also found the upper breathable and warm enough for temperatures from the thirties into the fifties. Around the toe and lacing area are some welded overlays to aid with protection and increase the tearing resistance. 

The tongue is fully gusseted and Puma added their so called “Formstips”, which are run vertically from the laces to the midsole on both sides. Both aid the lockdown of the midfoot. 

Speaking about lockdown, the overall fit is on the narrower side in the fore foot, which was no problem for my average to narrow wide feet. The lockdown is great with standard lacing. The ankle collars are quite high and are really at the limit for me. I sometimes tend to feel ankle collars at my ankles, but not to the point here where it cause any irritation. While the upper does not feel that soft out of the box, it was really fine on foot and quite comfy. 

Rounding off the upper, at the heel there is a loop out of two shock cords and on top of the tongue there is an elastic band to tuck the laces in.  

Midsole

Renee: The midsole features a full-length NITRO foam and a layer of ProFoamLite. NITRO is a nitrogen-injected foam, meant to have “superior responsiveness and cushioning in a lightweight package.” The shoe is relatively lightweight and it runs much lighter than the weight suggests. The midsole is not what I consider responsive from a speed standpoint, but it does provide a good balance between cushion and ground feel for a daily trainer meant for light trails or road to trail. 

Markus: The midsole consists of ProFoamLite, an EVA based foam, and supercritical Nitro foam. The construction of the midsole has a Nitro core with ProFoamLite around it to stabilize for trail use.

I agree, with Renee, that it runs lighter than the scale weight would suggest. Out of the box, the midsole feels a bit firm, which could be the majority of EVA in the midsole or the substantial Pumagrip outsole. More on that in the ride section.

Outsole

Renee: The outsole is PUMAGRIP ATR. I’ve enjoyed PUMAGRIP on many road outsoles, and overall the tread pattern is suited for light trails. The outsole pattern does not seem as grippy as the pattern on the PUMA Deviate NITRO 2, and I had some slipping while running in light snow. I think that was caused more by the shallow depth of the lugs.

For a $110 trail shoe, the outsole is fine, and especially so for a shoe meant for light trails while still being comfortable on road. If running through debris (leaves, loose dirt, mud), I’d choose another shoe. 

Markus: Since its inception, Puma’s proprietary Puma Grip outsole compound has been one of the top ones out there. The grip and lug pattern are able to handle road and lighter trails. When it gets muddy, the shallow lugs struggle and whilst not bad, the grip on roots and rocks could be better in wet conditions. The grip seems to be a bit better on their road shoes sucha as the Deviate Nitro 2. I don’t know if it’s a different compound overall or if the lug pattern makes for the difference.

Left: Deviate 2 / Right: Fast-Trac

Above, you can see the Deviate Nitro 2 and Fast-Trac Nitro’s outsole side by side. The tread on the Deviate 2 has some small nubs, whereas the Fast-Trac lugs are smoother and flatter larger surfaces. This could be the reason for the difference, but this is only speculation.

Ride

Renee: The ride is no nonsense and very much what I expect from a daily training, road-to-trail shoe. The ride is not particularly fast, but the shoe runs light and can handle a variety of paces. The cushion might not be enough for quality long runs, but even up to a casual 20-miler, it’s fine forme. The toebox is a bit narrow and shallow, so the shoe is best for shorter distances. I liked it the more I ran it. The heel collar sits high against my ankles, which prevents some of movement and rotation to stay balanced on uneven surfaces. As a positive, the collars provide some stability on smoother surfaces.

Markus: As Renee put it, it is a no nonsense ride. Out of the box, they seemed very firm. But after only a few miles, they loosened and softened up quite a bit. This could be due to the majority EVA foam or the more substantial amount of Pumagrip of the outsole breaking in. 

Personally,  I would not take them a lot further than 15 miles, since I prefer a bit more cushioning for anything longer than that. The ride is not overly snappy or bouncy, which convinces me even more that there is only a small amount of Nitro foam in the midsole’s construction. But as a daily trainer it’s more than fine. Durability also seems to be a strong suit here. After 40 miles, the outsole has almost no signs of wear and the same for the upper. This rounds out my overall impressions that it is a good daily trainer.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Renee: I appreciated the Fast-Trac the more I ran it. At $110 (relatively low for a trail shoe), it provides everything a runner needs in a daily trainer for a mix of road to easy trail surfaces. There are a few comparable shoes I would choose over the Fast-Trac, but they retail at higher prices. For a more casual trail shoe, it’s a solid choice. My only real negative is the high sitting heel collar and counter and I also think some runners will find the forefoot and toe box a bit restrictive

Renee’s Score: 8.9/10 (-.25 smooth trail usage only, .50 high sitting heel collar/counter, .35 narrow forefoot/toebox)

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Markus: Overall, I find the Fast-Trac to be a very good daily trainer for a mix of road and light trail. If you don’t run in too technical terrain and want a road to trail shoe, it is worth checking out. Especially at the low MSRP of 110$, which makes this shoe a great value buy. I would recommend trying them on, though, if you are on the fence to a more wide forefoot. You could find it a bit too restrictive.

Markus’ Score: 8.1/10 (Ride: 7, Fit: 9, Value: 10, Style: 9, Traction: 7, Rock Protection: 8)

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Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

PUMA Voyager NITRO (RTR Review)

Renee: The Voyage NITRO is a heavy shoe better suited for hiking than actual running. The Fast-Trac is the better option for running. Sizing is comparable.

Brooks Divide 3  (RTR Review)

Renee: At a retail of $100, the Brooks Divide 3 is another low cost option. As a trail shoe, the Divide 3 has a more stable ride thanks to the lower drop. The upper of the Divide 3 is more generous and roomy (almost too roomy for me). The upper of the Fast-Trac is better for narrow and low volume feet. 

Saucony Ride 15 TR  (RTR Review)

Renee: The Ride 15 TR is another road-to-trail shoe with a 8mm drop. The midsole of the Ride 15 TR has more bounce and more cushion for long runs. The Fast-Trac has better ground feel and has safer traction on deep inclines or declines. Neither are technical trail shoes. For calmer trails or roads, the Ride 15 TR is the better choice. I wore a women’s size 8 in both. The Fast-Trac runs smaller and has less room in the forefoot. 

Nike React Pegasus Trail 4  (RTR Review)

Renee: Probably the closest comparison. The Peg Trail 4 also has high drop, and it runs like a higher drop shoe. Despite that, the Peg Trail 4 navigates technical terrain better than the Fast-Trac, and its midsole/ride are faster and more fun in run feel. The outsole of the Peg Trail 4 is not great on wet terrain-the non GTX version with the GTX having improved rubber compound traction  (RTR Review). The Peg 4’s tread traps mud and small gravel, which is not an issue with the Fast-Trac. The Peg Trail 4 is my choice between the two, although it costs slightly more. In the same size, the Peg Trail 4 has more room in the forefoot and toe box. 

Inov-8 PARKCLAW G 280  (RTR Review)

Renee: Both shoes have short/constricting toe boxes, with the PARKCLAW G 280 running a half to full size short. Otherwise, the midsole and responsiveness is better in the PARKCLAW G 280, and it offers better traction, all at much higher cost of $180.

Puma Velocity Nitro 2 (RTR Review)

Markus: The Velocity Nitro 2 is a dedicated road shoe, although its outsole also makes it applicable for lighter trails and gravel. Both shoes seem to build on the same last. Though, the Velocity 2 has a much softer engineered mesh upper and the softer ankle collar does not go quite as high as the Fast-Trac one. Weight wise, both of my 10.5 US weight the same. The Velocity 2 overall has a bit softer and more energetic ride than the Fast-Trac. The outsole of the Fast-Trac is the better one, if you want to use the shoe more on the trails than on the road. If the majority of your running surfaces are hard packed trails and the road, I would recommend the Velocity 2. 

Puma Fast-Trac NITRO is available from PUMA US HERE

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TOP4RUNNING EUROPE

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Tester Profiles

Renee is a former U. S. Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon.

Markus from Germany is mainly a recreational runner, currently running about 5 times per week. He runs about 50:50  on trails and roads. He is also an avid hiker with a focus on ultralight and fast. This is where his geek for gear and shoes comes to light. Likewise, he loves the mountains and tries to spend as much free time there as possible.

His only preference in terms of shoes is that they are not too heavy. Other than that, he runs in everything, from zero drop Altras to high stack Vaporfly. Racing times for the 10k are 39:48 min and 1:51:32 for a half-marathon.

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