Article by Dominique Winebaum, Shannon Payne and Sam Winebaum
Craft CTM Ultra 2 ($165)
Sam: Craft Sportswear of Sweden is a very well respected Nordic ski apparel brand equipping many national teams who have traditionally also made excellent run apparel for all seasons and not just winter.
In the last couple of years Craft launched run shoes. During the pandemic availability was quite sporadic for the first version of the CTM Ultra (RTR Review) as well as their carbon plated CTM Carbon Carbon Ultra (RTR Review) and Race Rebel (RTR Review).
Craft is taking a bit different approach of focusing on ultra distance shoes for what I would call all kinds of “roads” paved and otherwise as well as more mellow trails. For 2022, the Ultra 2 returns with some seemingly minor but as noted in our testing and positive changes to the upper and midsole foams.
The CTM Ultra 2 is a highly cushioned road, dirt roads, and smooth trails hybrid running shoe. Its official (I measure a bit more) heel height of 40mm reaches the maximum allowed by World Athletics for road racing while its forefoot is a stout 30mm so we have a 10mm drop.
We often talk about “super shoes” as those carbon plated supercritical foam high stack racers with thin highly breathable uppers. Well here we have all the characteristics of such a super shoes but without a plate. Instead we have an insert of supercritical PEBA foam in place of the carbon plate in the somewhat lower stack Race Rebel. It is caged or framed by Craft’s UD Foam which is now softer and said by Craft to have more rebound (both confirmed in our testing) and also said by Craft to be more durable. We note as of yet no creasing of the foam.
It is shod with a more prominently lugged multi surfaces outsole than a typical road shoe speaking to its multi surface intent. The upper is thin single layer engineered mesh with stretch gusset tongue and has an excellent TPU beads sockliner as also found in many newer Inov-8.
At about 9.05 oz / 249 g US9 it is not super racer light as many are at below 8 oz but it nonetheless has a superb weight to cushion to outsole ratio and superior versatility to the thoroughbreds..
Call it a racer, call it a trainer, call it a door to some trails it does them all and very well. It competes with road shoes such Saucony’s Ride 15, Endorphin Speed and Endorphin Shift, ASICS Novablast, Salomon’s new Max Glide, Nike’s Tempo Next % and Scott’s Pursuit shoes we will discuss in comparisons at the end of the article.
Dominique: New to Craft running shoes, I feel I am in a new division of runners with my CTM Ultra 2, and though my days of running long distance are over, I plan on enjoying its many perks! CTM stands for Craft Tailored Motion – “a top-performance concept worn by athletes who rule at the highest level of sports.” Designed for long distance running and “ultra” races, and not just mere marathon distances they have a hybrid platform – for both road and trail – the CTM Ultra 2 is a super shoe. I am also excited to be able to run both road and trail in them though this is primarily a road shoe and secondarily a trail shoe. Especially, when in Park City, running to the trailhead as opposed to driving, and on those trails which are quite smooth and obstacles free. Grateful for this testing opportunity – I’ve got some running to do!
Dominique has run for over 40 years, consistently about 25 miles per week at paces between 10 and 11 minute miles. She races rarely, but always surprises more hard core runners in her age group when she does. She has a 1985 marathon PR of 3:16 in her second marathon which at the time put her on the top 10 Swiss women’s lists. She is the mother of two grown children, both runners post college, and also enjoys nordic and alpine skiing, hiking and trekking, and gardening.
Shannon is a Colorado native currently residing in Northern California. NorCal is nice, but Colorado has her heart. Having run competitively for around 20 years, she was a 7x All American at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, was a 2x member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team, 2x winner of the Mt. Washington Road Race, and was 3rd at the 2014 World Mountain Running Long Distance Championship. Her favorite shoes currently include the Hoka Torrent, Saucony Kinvara, and Brooks Launch, and her favorite runs include anything that goes uphill.
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.
A super shoe with a hybrid platform:, primary road and secondarily some trail.
Specificity: ultra runners who seek a maximalist midsole with a high drop (10mm) and rocker.
Lightweight- with an engineered one-piece mesh upper that is highly breathable.
Springy insole made with TPU beads and extremely comfortable footbed.
Lightweight midsole with high rebound.
Very stable, especially on the road.
The ultimate long run shoe? that can also daily train and do trails/dirt roads
Very deep forgiving cushion stack: 40mm heel / 30 mm forefoot, slightly softer with more rebound than v1
PEBA insert makes ride energetic and lively
Very stable heel to midfoot, even with 40mm heel height
Strong cushion to weight ratio
Smooth unplated yet also flexible rocker and toe off impulse
Multi surface, quiet, effective outsole. Light trails worthy
Minimal upper that just works with improved hold over v1
This shoe is lightweight, very amply cushioned, has a very accomodating toe box at my half sizeup, with a simple upper that feels like it’s not even there.
Stable, responsive, peppy ride and a super versatile outsole that’s great for everything from long road runs to hard packed trail surfaces.
Sizing issues in my regular size 9; toes are up at the front edge of the toe box.
Preference for a lower stack height shoe when running trails.
True to size but a bit short with a performance fit. Fine with thin socks for me, and did pack in stretch but if you are close to the next half size up you might consider sizing up especially if you have a wider foot..
Echoing Dominique, this shoe could make the wearer feel as though they lose some underfoot proprioception on the trails due to its high stack height and stiffer ride. For anyone with narrow feet, they may feel as though they are swimming in the toebox due to the light mesh..
Weight: men’s oz 9.05 / g (US9 estimated) / women’s 8.43 oz / 240g (US8 actual)
men’s 8.8 oz / 249 g US8.5
Version 1 men’s US8.5 weighed 9 oz / 256g
women’s 8.43 oz / 240g (US8)
Stack Height: men’s 40 mm heel / 10 mm forefoot :: women’s heel mm / mm forefoot
Available now. $165
First Impressions and Fit
Dominique: CTM Ultra is a highly “crafted” shoe designed for ultra runners. Unlike my recently tested On Cloudmonster, I don’t plan on walking in them, unless I want to really be noticed, andt will wear them exclusively for running. My pair is in the “Crush-White” color, neon red, though the same shoe in “Crush-White” on the Craft website, appears to be a more toned-down color, almost salmony.
The CTM Ultra 2 is surprisingly stable for a fast shoe even with its very high stack height (40/30), racy profile – akin to a speedboat – ultra-high rebound Pebax foam insert and one-piece engineered mesh.
I have experienced no issues with the hold whatsoever, but perhaps this because the sizing is a bit on the short side. To be noted, lately I have been experiencing sizing issues, namely running shoes in my regular size 9 feeling a touch too short for my toes at the front of uppers. This was true for the Diadora Atomo, the On Cloudmonster, and now the Craft CTM Ultra 2.
Here is the conundrum, to size up or not with a shoe with a minimalist upper as it might end up impacting the foothold. Not having enough toe room might create issues for your toenails even if your nail(s) don’t turn black. I bought several pairs of “hyper thin running mini crew” socks from Drymax to give my toes a bit more room, and the shoe has stretched a bit with mileage.
Shannon: My first impression of Craft getting into footwear was one of intrigue. Their apparel has long been awesome, but shoes? That can be a whole different beast. I received the equivalent of a women’s 8.5, which fit true to size although I am often in 8.
My initial impression upon first putting it on was surprise: for feeling like it had quite firm midsole material, this was quite the plush step-in feel. On closer examination, much of this comes from the sockliner, which is thick, plush, and gives a great step-in feel. The toe-box is quite wide, which caused a bit of puckering of extra fabric as I laced them up as my foot is not especially wide. But the fit of the heel was where some magic happened. The entire upper of this shoe is very light, almost flimsy, with no seams, overlays beyond at the heel, heel counters, or other plastic bits and pieces. Yet it fits so securely in the heel that the overall fit is one of extreme security. Out of the gate, this shoe is different, but I like it.
Sam: Angular and at the same time almost bulbous, the giant 40mm heel height really stands out. The rear midsole “outrigger”, multi stepped vertical then scalloped rear side walls and copious thick and lugged rear rubber inspire ( and deliver) stable confidence despite the narrowing tapered and quite narrow on the ground platform.
The upper is a thin non-stretched single layer engineered mesh with a lighted padded stretch gusset tongue and minimal heel counter stiffening. This is an upper and fit you need to work onto your foot as if it was“stretchier and more voluminous at the heel the hold would fail. It does not. Snapped on there is a near total almost sock-like rear hold without any counter but with a few overlays and bolsters in the mix.
The laces are as they should be.. Flat and hard to pull through the lace holes but once there I have not had any stretch or need to re-tie. This along with a now narrower thinner laces eyestay provides a great top wrap of the foot, Although seemingly minor, the change to narrower thinner eye stay and a few tweaks to the heel collars produce a clearly more secure appearing and actual fit.
Fit and hold is clearly improved over v1. In the photo above, my wider left foot in v1 lacing hardly has any gap while my right is broader in lace separation. My right foot with the Ultra 2 is actually considerably narrower than my left. The fit and hold is equivalent, indicating to me that the narrower right foot’s upper is now where it should be. Craft tells us there is no change to the volume of the upper so the tweaks and a very slightly different and potentially less stretchy version of the v1 mesh does the trick.
The fit is true to size if a bit short. I solved the short part by wearing thin socks appropriate for a shoe designed for long road and dirt road runs in heat. No front toe jamming issues and less pressure as the TPU beaded sockliner has also packed in a touch so for me true to size.
Dominique: The one-piece engineered mesh upper is sleek looking, extremely lightweight and highly breathable. Made from 100% Polyester Ultra Light Mesh, this is probably the most breathable upper that I have ever run in.
It is “see-through” single layer breathable, which is perfect for long distance running, especially in the heat.
The collar has a fairly narrow entry to balance the one-piece mesh upper so as to create a solid foothold.
The shoelaces are a bit tedious to lace and unlace, one row at a time, but comes with the “territory” of having a minimalist upper. In fact, the shoelace system is narrower compared to most brands; again this to ensure a better foothold given the minimalist upper.
Breathable, thin and stretchy, the gusseted tongue creates a comfortable and secure foothold.
The denser mesh around the heel is reinforced with overlays that double as brand labels with specs, which is kind of neat.
Sam: Dominique has described the upper well. I have nothing much more to add beyond that the TPU beads insole (often also found in Inov-8) while it is not as light as some adds clear bounce to landings and take offs.
Dominique: From the top down, the midsole is incredibly well designed with a racy outlook – it’s a rocker style shoe with a high stack (40/30). The footbed is surprisingly springy and comfortable; this is my first insole made of TPU beads and the rebound power from this top layer is noticeable as you foot strikes the ground.
Two types of foam make up the midsole: UD Foam,™ which is a lightweight EVA with high durable rebound, and a Pebax foam midsole insert that is “ultra light with ultra-high rebound”. Not a plush feel but well cushioned and comfortable with plenty of rebound that is very stable. A midsole that is high drop (10mm) and maximalist in stack height are both elements I look for and even more so given the energetic platform that comes with it.
Sam: Geometry and foams come together in a midsole that is very highly cushioned, energetic, stable, and easy to roll along at all paces and that is not easy to pull of on a max 40mm heel and relatively narrow on the ground rear platform.
The outer UD foam acts as the main midsole with the PEBA insert replacing the carbon plate of the CTM Ultra Carbon. Craft says the main midsole foam is now slightly softer and with more rebound than in v1.
In my A/B test run with v1 this is easily felt yet the new softness does not impact the stability of the relatively narrow heel platform on the giant 40mm stack. Whereas in v1, the midsole felt snappy and responsive, now we have a slightly more mellow and softer rebounding effect but still this is not a super soft midsole.
The main midsole feel is similar to Nike React or Saucony PWRRUN, and is now in v2 a touch softer and more rebounding. The central PEBA insert provides another and welcome element of energetic rebound while at the same time also reducing any dense feel from all the rest of the giant stack, so unlike the dense all of a piece feel of say an Endorphin Shift.
I also note compared to a v1 with more miles on it that the Ultra 2 now for sure has more flex starting at the midfoot . This delivers a combination of the big 10mm drop, rocker (as before) but now with more flex. The front rubber helps stabilize the 30mm forefoot allowing a smooth any paces roll to toe off. This is a combination I really like in a trainer/racer.
Shannon: If soft and squishy is your jam, this isn’t the shoe for you. If firm, fast and lively is more your speed (ha), you’ll love the feel of this midsole material. In many shoes with this sort of stack height, an overly soft midsole material can leave the wearer feeling a little unstable. Not so with the CTM Ultra as this firm material gives an extremely stable, sure-footed ride.
Dominique: The outsole is designed for road or moderate trail surfaces. Yet, the high stack height, fairly narrow heel and minimalist upper are not trail “friendly” features. Hitting the trails, I need to recalibrate my expectations as this is a hybrid shoe and not purely a trail shoe.
In New Hampshire, my options are fewer for nearby well groomed smooth dirt trails; just hinting that I have run mostly road in my CTM Ultra 2. By all means, the 3 pieced lugged traction rubber outsole is well designed and provides good underfoot protection and traction on smooth dirt paths. The outsole, with its versatile, durable, and stable platform, gives the CTM Ultra 2 its traction as a hybrid shoe.
Sam: Substantial for a road shoe with 2-3mm lighter duty trail shoe grade lugs, the outsole is grippy on dry surfaces of all types, not in the way or noisy, and should prove durable. It is apparently unchanged from v1. Undoubtedly it adds some weight but I think it is worth it. I have not run this version on wet surfaces yet where with v1 some but not all of our testers noted poor grip, even for some on pavement. I can say dry trail and sand over pavement grip is excellent and given the high stack the outsole is not a noisy bother on road as trail shoe type outsoles can be.
Shannon: While I certainly can appreciate a nichey shoe, I do love a good, versatile outsole that allows a shoe to be more do-everything. This shoe is fantastic for jumping on the roads, and equally great on packed dirt and less technical trails. There is just enough aggression happening with the outsole here to make me feel great about running on everything except maybe the most technical, muddy surfaces. I loved it for doing workouts on the bike path with it every bit as much as I loved running around on the Western States 100 trail here in Auburn.
An enjoyable, energetic, smooth, and stable ride. More shoe that I need for my five-mile runs as I am not going to run much further or faster, only a bit, yet I am really enjoying running in them. The heel to toe motion is very smooth with much rebound, from the insole to the midsole, and the outsole adds some firmness and good traction as well as versatility. Transitioning from road to moderate trail surfaces in my CTM Ultra 2 adds to my running experience by mixing things up, such as terrains, without compromising the ride.
Sam: What a marvelous max ride! Ultra 2 is nimble, energetic and remarkably stable for its narrow platform. Given its reasonable weight and the now softer more rebounding foam, the Ultra ride becomes more versatile allowing the shoe to not only be a road ultra racer but, as it is a tiny touch more mellow and pleasant, a yet better daily trainer leaning long run shoe. It is also a great choice for the marathon racer seeking a max cushion non plated race ride.
The combination of firmish yet now softer yet more energetic outer carrier and central PEBA core, the high drop and effective geometry now with some flex at midfoot deliver a smooth any pace ride .
Shannon: The ride of this shoe was terrific. It feels speedy, snappy and energetic. I generally don’t care for shoes featuring any sort of plate in them as I’ve found that they make my footstrike feel like something I just can’t get used to. This is not a soft and squishy ride, this is a highly responsive yet also as equally forgiving shoe.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Dominique: The “marketing” target audience of the CTM Ultra 2 is quite specific: long distance runners but even more so ultra runners, who gravitate towards a maximalist midsole with a high drop, with the option to run both road and moderate trail surfaces. Add to the mix, a highly breathable upper, yet minimalist, and to be expected, high performance we get in the Ultra 2 – a hybrid super shoe.
Yet, for all its specificity, it does not preclude runners like me from enjoying running in the CTM Ultra 2. At $165, it is reasonably priced for a shoe of its caliber that is also durable. My only concern is the sizing given the minimalist upper. The shoe was a tad too short in my regular size 9. With mileage, there has been some expansion and softening, yet I would have prefered a bit more room for my toes. Sizing up might impact the foothold given the minimalist upper. I plan on running in my CTM Ultra 2 throughout the summer and on plenty of gentle Park City trail surfaces.
Deduction for the fit (a tad too short/small at the toebox)
Sam: The CTM Ultra 2 is a top pick if you are seeking a max cushion, stable, reasonably light, any paces and many surfaces, smooth and energetic trainer/racer.
You can’t get more “legal” heel cushion stack height than here with the design not compromising utility (or stability) in any way to get there.
This version clearly extends the model’s versatility by softening and energizing the ride a touch to make it more training paces and leg friendly.
The upper fit if improved with subtle changes in what is for sure a more minimal upper and is a consideration as we are not in plush upper far here but one that is performance fitting, light and breathable in nature.
When one also considers its dry light trails and dirt/gravel worthy outsole that does not get in the way on pavement and reasonable $165 pricing it is also a very solid value for its versatility and fun and reliable ride.
Sam”s Score: 9.32 / 10
Ride: 9.65 Fit: 8.9 Value:9 Style:9.5
Shannon: I really dig this shoe and it threw me for a loop how much I ended up liking it. The only thing I’d dock it a point for is a bit of a sloppy fitting upper. To be honest though, due to how secure the heel, is the fit itself was extremely secure and I do appreciate ample space in the toe box, so it was easy to overlook a bit of bagginess in the upper in my half size up from normal pair. It can be tough to create a wider toe box yet still make a heel that really locks you in, but they’ve certainly done it here.
My two favorite shoes are the Saucony Kinvara 13 and the Hoka Rincon 3. This feels like an exact combination of those two shoes although they are stiffer than the Rincon and beefier than the Kinvara and with a higher price point than either. I can see being able to put quite a lot more miles on this shoe versus the other two however..
I loved the versatility of the CTM Ultra both in terms of the surfaces I ran it on as well as its lightness and cushion that allowed for a huge variety of uses. I did everything from fartleks to a long run in this shoe and loved it for both.
I was VERY unexpectedly impressed with this shoe and it might be my favorite newcomer in a long time. Craft’s apparel is wonderful, but don’t count them out when it comes to footwear, this was one awesome shoe.
Shannon’s Score (9/10)
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE
Craft CTM Ultra 1 (RTR Review)
Sam: Somewhat softer, more flexible with the tweaks to the upper improving fit and hold the Ultra 2 is for sure improved.
Craft CTM Race Rebel (RTR Review)
Sam: Take the Ultra, give it a 5mm lower stack height at the heel and 6mm lower at the forefoot, include a softer than Ultra 2’s supercritical type foam, lighter upper, and not quite as aggressive outsole and you get the Rebel, the Craft racer. At 7.6oz / 216g (US9) Rebel is lighter by about 1.5 oz / 42g . The ride flow is similar but more aggressive being carbon plated and lower stack while its foam actually feels softer. My Rebel test pair was a half size up from my normal and with its lighter more pliable upper with more effective volume, no gusset tongue and fewer rear overlays as in the Ultra 2 I struggled with lockdown. This said in the super carbon plated race shoe category it is among the most pleasant, forgiving, and stable of rides with the Ultra 2 similar in many ways but leaning training.
Craft CTM Carbon Ultra 1 (RTR Review)
Sam: Same 40/30 stack height, clearly firmer, heavier by 0.8 oz, carbon plated and with a more substantial upper, the Ultra Carbon is also a hybrid but for me pales in utility and ride quality to the Ultra 2 although for some it may lean a touch more towards trail.
Scott Pursuit (RTR Review)
Sam: A similar concept of a high stacked light trainer racer the Purusit is at 36/28 so 4mm lower at the heel and 2mm lower at the forefoot and checks in at 8.8 oz so about 0.2 oz lighter. It is less easy to roll forward to its more aggressive rocker than the Craft due to a combination of its softer foam and lower drop. It’s upper was not as secure fitting and locked down as the more performance fitting Craft’s. In this comparison unless mellower daily training is the focus clear preference for the Craft for me.
Nike Tempo Next % (RTR Review)
Sam: Another shoe with a big stack stable heel but followed upfront by a combination of plate and giant air pod. It is higher stacked by 10mm front and back yet actually weighs slightly less than the Craft. The Tempo Next is explosive at tempo paces and very fast as well as noisy and mechanical while the Ultra 2 is smoother flowing up front. I would never take it on any dirt or trail as I would the Ultra 2. For fast, long tempo runs Tempo. For more varied uses and paces Ultra 2
ASICS Novablast 2 (RTR Review)
Sam: Both uptempo oriented trainers, Novablast 2 is softer and bouncier and also sits on a narrow underfoot platform. It is more stable than its v1 but still is not as stable and steady as the Ultra 2.
Saucony Ride 15 (RTR Review)
Sam: The Ride 15 is a close comparison. Somewhat lower stack it has a similar ride feel and cushion if a bit softer than Ultra 2. A more traditional geometry with more flex than Ultra 2, it handles slower paces a bit better. Its upper is more conventional, roomier and more substantial and is not a touch short as Ultra 2’s is.
Saucony Endorphin Speed (RTR Review)
Sam: Nylon plated, lighter by 1 oz and almost as highly stacked with an all PEBA midsole the Speed is more road focused and not as stable or “off pavement” versatile. Its plate and geometry delivers a more aggressive ride that favors..speed somewhat more than the more pace versatile Ultra 2. The Speed 3 (RTR Review), although I have not personally tested, solves many of the stability issues through a new small midfoot extension of its now more substantial nylon plate.
Salomon Glide Max (RTR Review)
Sam: Nearly the same stack height on a broader platform and with a voluminous upper, the upcoming Salomon is comparatively speaking a relaxed long cruiser to the Craft’s more uptempo ride and fit. It is is 0.7 oz / 20g heavier at 9.75 oz. The Craft is snappier, quicker and more agile while the Salomon is bouncier and more energetic but maybe a bit too much so for daily training and faster paces for me as when the generous fit is also taken into account it ends up leaning more towards easy runs and recovery runs.
Topo Specter (RTR Review soon)
Sam: I have just one run in the Specter so far, also an un plated higher stack shoe at 35/30 A 5mm drop shoe the 5mm less at the heel is clearly felt and compared to the Craft requires faster paces and more of a mid foot strike. The front rocker is more aggressive and snappier than the
Craft with no flex so far. it’s upper is more substantial perfect in fit even with my narrower feet and its broad anatomical toe box.
Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’
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