Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 Review: Gliding on Gravel
TAYLOR: Mirror mirror, look toward my feet. Who is the fairest that we meet? Based on beauty and wow factor, it’s Craft. The CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is divine. With a high stack and a carbon plate, it’s right up there with the big dogs. Will it perform with the upper echelon? We’ll have to wait and see.
I’ve clearly done one or two reviews too many since I’m resorting to poetry in the introduction. Crazy as it may seem, the new Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is just as wild. From a camo-dazzle design to an aggressive stance, this shoe is billed as a long-ranger packed full of highly responsive and durable materials.
As for features, this is a modern-day super shoe meant to tackle all sorts of speeds and terrains — including the trail. It’s similar to Craft’s first attempt (which ended up lackluster for the BITR crew), but the midsole foam is slightly retooled, as is the upper. We’re talking a semi-aggressive outsole, 40mm of stack in the heel (30 in the forefoot for a 10mm drop), and a full-length carbon plate for the ride. Even with all these fine ingredients, it’s a Herculean task to attempt such a versatile shoe in today’s high-tech running age. Craft feels it’s up to the task.
MATT: The Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is my first crack at a pair of Craft running shoes. My peers at BITR weren’t big fans of the original, but I found it left me torn. I was drawn to it for the looks — I love the Craft running pieces I already own — but never had a chance to lace it up for myself. Now, it was my time to shine.
Though I had doubts about the shoe as a proper trail offering, I was intrigued nonetheless. I was all set to lace it up and get mixed-use miles in on roads, trails, and whatever else. While it wasn’t perfect, there’s plenty to like about Craft’s sophomore effort.
TAYLOR: This ain’t no Asics Metaspeed Sky or Nike Alphafly, and that’s on purpose. However, it’s hard to come into any review of a $250 shoe and not look for comparisons. Most super shoes arrive with limited shelf lives, but the CTM Ultra Carbon 2 aims for something different. It’s designed for strength and versatility and needs a strong showing in both categories to make a dent.
I can easily say that durability isn’t a concern. I routinely laced up the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 for terrain that the Metaspeed family can only dream of. It tackled pavement, gravel roads, and light trails without issue. Though I put it through the wringer, I’m pretty sure I could skim the dirt off and return the shoe for full price. It’s safe to say I’m pretty impressed.
For what it’s worth, almost all of my runs were on steep gravel roads with some rolling hills. Craft’s super shoe was primarily made for this terrain, and it shows (even though it claims trail prowess). The midsole is a classic super shoe formula: plenty of responsive foam, a dash of a carbon plate, and a topping of rockered geometry. Blend it all up, and you’ve got room temperature butter — smooth, baby.
If you compare it to some road shoes, the smooth, snappy ride will feel a bit different. That’s mainly because the durometer of the foam boasts a medium to firm feel. Based on the rest of the team’s comparisons, I’d put this shoe close to the Hyperion Elite 3. Compared to last year, the foam is a touch softer and more responsive. Don’t worry, it’s nowhere close to the brick-like stature of the Adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra, but it does tend toward the firm side. After a few runs, the UD foam finally softened and showed off its true colors. Boy, it delivered some true responsive feels.
Despite my gauntlet of tests, there are no signs of wear in the midsole. Not a single one. Given the $250 asking price, that durability is definitely a selling point. I’d bet this shoe will go for triple the number of miles most carbon-plated road shoes will. It’ll probably exceed most carbon-plated trail offerings, too. You’ll sacrifice performance if you’re sticking to roads or crushed paths, but the cost is always a factor.
Alright, back to the ride. Wedged into the durable and responsive UD foam lies a forked carbon plate. It has a notch between the big toe and the rest of your foot for extra flexibility. The idea is to give the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 a little more play and bounce if you’re on uneven terrain. Honestly, there’s some truth to it. I found that the plate added not only some extra pop but also some stability that’s not common for carbon-plated shoes. We’ve seen this before in the Hoka Tecton X and The North Face Flight Vectiv, and I appreciate the effort.
Sitting on top of the fancy midsole is a loosely structured mesh upper with a semi-integrated airy tongue. It’s highly breathable, and you can almost see through the entire upper. The heel’s light structure and a light padding rim also give a solid heel lock. We’ll get further into this in the next section…
MATT: Before I say anything about the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 one way or the other, you should know I had a sizing issue. The shoe ran a full size large for me, so I can’t advise as to fit or finish. However, I could still get some miles in and figure out what worked well and what didn’t.
For starters, the CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is certainly versatile. It’s solid on light trails and not a total clunker on the roads. Road-to-trail shoes often set out to do too many things well and fall short. It’s a tall task in today’s landscape to tiptoe the roads and trails, and even more so to do it successfully.
I found the CTM Ultra Carbon 2 to be a solid road shoe for my training days, especially at more relaxed paces. Despite the carbon plate, I don’t think I’d lace it up for race day, but the shoe has enough responsiveness to feel lively when pushing the pace.
Like Taylor said, durability comes above all else in this shoe. The construction is the polar opposite of the nimble and delicate carbon-plated road racers we usually see. You won’t have to meticulously note every mile and conserve each step in this one. Instead, you can get the benefits of a carbon-plated shoe with the durability of an everyday option.
That brings me to the other redeeming quality in the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2: rough conditions. Two of my runs stand above the others as highlights for Craft’s latest offering. I took the shoe out early one morning after storms and downpours and had no trouble traipsing through puddles and bounding over debris.
My other run was at a local running haven here in Maryland, the NCR trail. It’s an old rail trail layered with crushed stone and packed dirt as the miles go along. More than any other, this seemed to be the home that the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 was asking for. The terrain often feels too rough for carbon-plated racers and light trainers, but the CTM Ultra Carbon 2 soaked it up with stable, speedy ease.Shop Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 – Men Shop Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 – Women
TAYLOR: We’re gonna pick right back up where we left off — the upper. Unfortunately, it’s the main point of contention on the CTM Ultra Carbon 2. My pair came in a full size too big, but I can’t hold that against Craft, in all fairness. It probably played a role in my fit issues, but that’s not a design flaw.
Even still, the upper felt so loose that it was almost baggy. I had to cinch the shoe up as far as possible, to the point where the eyelets were practically touching. Despite my best efforts, I still never got quite the lockdown I wanted. Going a size down would help, but I don’t know if it’s enough.
The lightweight upper combined with the dense underfoot package offered an unbalanced sensation for me. It almost felt like the same sensation we got from the Altra Mont Blanc: there’s too much of a contrast in weight and structure from top to bottom. I’ll be curious to see if the non-plated version, which has more structure in the upper, provides a better experience. Almost all of that weight is underfoot at about 11 oz. for a US M11.5 (I usually wear a US M10.5).
Another issue I can tie back to the upper is the laces. When I got the shoe tight enough for a comfortable fit, the laces were far too long. I ended up tucking the extra loops under the last lace bridge to make sure I didn’t lasso my feet together while on the go.
Craft claims that the CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is at home on the trails. Given my issues with the upper, you could probably guess that this feels like a stretch. First, a 40mm stack is downright dangerous on the trails. Only a few shoes have made it work (Brooks Caldera 6 and Hoka Stinson ATR 6) because of their massive footprints. The CTM Ultra Carbon 2 feels solid on smoother terrains like roads and gravel, but it becomes a death wish for your ankles on anything remotely technical.
Going along with that, the outsole is another potential source of danger. It’s moderately versatile and succeeds on roads and dry dirt. However, wet and firm surfaces spell trouble, and you’ll have to be extra careful with your footing. It’s not as bad as Nike’s outsole, but still scary enough.
MATT: I used two runs to highlight the positives of the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2, so now it seems fair to do the opposite. One of my runs managed to shine a big ol’ spotlight on some of the shoe’s most pressing issues.
I set out on a trail run that included one of my regular routes, mainly single track with the occasional fire road for spice. Basically, a route I know by heart. Some of my issues are due to incorrect sizing, but my downhill segments felt unsafe. I struggled to get much lockdown from the upper, and the high stack emphasized it further. Combine that with the firm midsole, and I was staring at a recipe for disaster.
In total, I experienced at least three near-ankle rolls in about an hour.
Despite the minimalistic outsole lugs and pattern, I had no real issues with traction. I wouldn’t blame the rubber for the shortcomings this time around.
Movin’ on up, the upper was a mess. It’s super breathable, but the fabric doesn’t stretch at all. It doesn’t form around the foot, either, it’s kinda like slipping a sack on your foot and trying to tighten it. Again, one size too big, but still. Like Taylor, I found that the laces didn’t do much to help out. I ratcheted them down as tight as possible and found that it just left me with pain across the top of my foot. While the material is nothing like the knit upper of the Hoka Carbon X 3, the struggle with the loose and saggy fit was all too familiar.Shop Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 – Men Shop Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 – Women
TAYLOR: Gravel Grinder. That’s the best way to describe the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2. It’s not a trail shoe, that’s for sure. It’s not a road shoe either, but it does fit very, very nicely somewhere in between. Craft managed to make a solid road-to-trail option, even if it doesn’t nail either discipline. I found the shoe to be a safe bet for workouts and long runs as long as the terrain isn’t chunky, loose, or involves hard turns. Consider that your warning.
The CTM Ultra Carbon 2 combines a light upper and a stellar underfoot ride that offers cushion, protection, roll, and a little pop. Overall, it does give a pseudo-super shoe experience in a firmer, more durable package. In fact, if you’re trying to get a lot of miles out of your super shoe, this is one to look at.
MATT: Taylor took the words right out of my mouth for about the fifth time. The Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 was made to run on gravel and rail trails. If you live in an area where that sounds like your type of trail, it might be a solid choice, especially since it won’t hold you back from road miles.
What this is not is a trail shoe. It’s unsafe at any speed any time you get technical.
You can pick up the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 for $250 directly from Craft, and you can save 15% with the promo code BELIEVEINTHERUN15 at checkout by using the shop link below.Shop Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 – Men Shop Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 – Women
Want to learn more about how our review process works? Check out this guide.
Have something to say? Leave a Comment
Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultra runner living in Estes Park, Colo., with his wife and daughters. Trail running is pretty much the only hobby he can manage right now and loves it. Every so often, he will pop off a race or FKT attempt because competition is pure and the original motivator for him getting into running anyways. When not running, Taylor is a 1st grade teacher, running coach (track & field, Cross Country, and Trail/Ultra athletes), and volunteers at his church.
All-time favorite shoes: Hoka Tecton X, Speedland SL:PDX, Merrell MTL Long Sky 2.More from Taylor
Matt is a recovering triathlete who fell in love with running and left the dark side behind. Trail and ultra running are where he is most in his element, but he can still be found routinely running the streets in and around Baltimore with the Faster Bastards. Aside from running, he is a lover of coffee, mezcal, beer, and 90s country music.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Atreyu The Artist, Speedland SL:PDXMore from Matt
I was just in Estes running the trails in RMNP! Beautiful trails. I’m glad I read this review first before making my purchase. Thanks, guys for your honest and expert review. Carbon-plated trail shoes just don’t cut it on the technical stuff and most of us don’t run on gravel terrain. Craft is a great company, but this shoe is not for everyone.
Any idea why the coupon code isn’t working? Maybe this shoe is excluded?
Likely excluded, or code may have expired.