First Run: Craft Pure Trail, Reviewed

This article originally appeared on Trail Runner

  • Price: $170

  • Weights: 8.5 oz. (women's size 8), 11.1 oz. (men's size 9)

  • Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (35mm in the heel, 29mm in the forefoot for men; 36mm in the heel, 30mm in the forefoot for women)

  • Pros: Cushy, responsive, and stable ride, with high marks for durability, breathability and underfoot protection

  • Cons: The airy mesh upper isn’t very protective against sidewall abrasions and the wide toe box and high-volume interior could be challenging for runners with narrow feet

Swedish sportswear brand Craft has been a key player in the U.S. endurance market for more than 20 years, primarily as a maker of lightweight apparel for cross country skiing, running, trail running, and cycling. But over the past three years, it's pushed hard into the running shoe realm and has received strong reviews for its road racing models and hybrid gravel running shoes.

On August 30 amid the pandemonium of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc week in Chamonix, France, Craft unveiled its new Pure Trail shoe, its first all-around trail running shoe designed for running rugged mountain trails. Built around a breathable and supportive upper, an energetic superfoam midsole, and a durable, grippy outsole rubber, it excels running long distances on a wide range of technical trail surfaces.

I spent the next several days wear-testing a pair of Pure Trail shoes on the classic trails on each side of the Chamonix valley, including a rocky 8-mile route along the north balcony, portions of the UTMB and Marathon du Mont Blanc courses, and a morning grinder up the steep rocky zig-zags of the VK route. My first take, after five runs covering about 40 miles on technical trails, is that it has the key elements, functional construction, and performance criteria to make it an exceptional mountain running shoe.

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The Pure Trail fits true to size with a high-volume interior that coincides with the wide, stable shape of the outsole/midsole chassis. Runners with wider feet will appreciate the extra room, and I did, too, especially when my stride banged into rocks while maneuvering over rocky trails. The step-in feel, enhanced by a high-rebound Ortholite sockliner, was soft and smooth against the mostly seamless interior. The dynamic structure of the featherweight one-piece TPU mesh upper is one of several key features of the shoe. It's both very breathable and very supportive: It produced a light airy sensation while also helping keep my feet locked down to the midsole/outsole chassis along with the thin, reinforced tongue and moderately reinforced and padded heel cup.

The Pure Trail features a single layer of Craft's high-rebound supercritical Cr midsole foam that provides a soft, responsive, and very stable ride. With near-maximal stack heights of 36mm in the heel and 30mm under the forefoot, it served up a well-cushioned and moderately energetic ride. It doesn't have a carbon-fiber propulsion plate, but it does have a flexible plastic rock plate embedded in the midsole of the forefoot that, along with the thick foam, helps mitigate the impact of pointy rocks underfoot. Even with the protective plate, the shoe still has an easy-flexing forefoot and isn't at all laterally tippy like some shoes with carbon plates.

The full-coverage rubber outsole has an array of 4mm directional lugs that provided reliably secure traction on dry rocks, dirt, loose scree, and talus, wooden stair steps, grass, and the small bits of wet terrain through creek crossings I ran on. The low-profile outsole works just fine on gravel paths and can suffice for short sections of paved or concrete paths as necessary.

Bottom line: Running over rocky, rooty terrain for two hours in Chamonix can beat you up, but the combination of the cushy ride, reliable traction and reassuring stability was a divine, energizing mix.

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While it's hard to pick the best singular aspect of the Pure Trail, its combination of the resilient cushioning, traction, and secure fit make it a great all-around mountain running shoe. Although it's not a featherweight shoe (11.1 ounces for men, 8.5 ounces for women), it's not heavy, either, and the weight isn't noticeable on especially rocky terrain. The extra-wide footprint gives it a lot of inherent stability without sacrificing agility or making it cumbersome in the forefoot. The airy mesh upper is light and breathable, but it isn’t very protective on the top or sides. The reinforced toe bumper did a good job protecting against toe bang, but it left my feet a bit vulnerable to sidewall abrasions.

As much as I'll continue to use this shoe for 45-minute to two-hour technical trail runs in Colorado, it could be sufficient for longer races on varying terrain. (Craft athlete Ida Nilsson wore a pair of Pure Trail prototypes en route to finishing second in the 80K race at the 2022 World Mountain and Trail Running Championships.) Overall, I'd say it compares favorably with durable workhorse training shoes like the Salomon Ultra Trail, Hoka Speedgoat 5, and Nike Zegama, even though it's not quite as light as some of those models.

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