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Road Running Shoes • March 5, 2024

Craft Pacer Review: Let’s Xplor The Roads

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What You Need To Know


Weight currently unavailable

Stack Height / Drop

Men: 36 mm in heel, 30 mm in forefoot (6 mm drop)

Women: 34 mm in heel, 28 mm in forefoot (6 mm drop)

Best For

Road runs with a wide, reliable base

Key Features

Px Foam midsole, Hexagonal lug outsole, Lightweight upper

On The Run
Excellent formulation of Px foam Surprisingly solid traction Once again, the upper needs work
Price / Availability

Available now for $135

Introduction to the Craft Pacer

MATT: So far, most of the Craft shoes I’ve tested have fallen into the hybrid/gravel category, either by design or as a result of my careful evaluation. What I’ve learned is that these hybrid shoes are typically a hit when they can do a bunch of things well, but they’re not really masters of any one category.

Craft then rolled out the Pure Trail partway through 2023, which, for me, was easily their best true trail shoe to date. They went all in on one specific segment and ended up with a great shoe that did one thing really well — handle trails. Then, I got my first preview of the Craft Pacer when David Laney presented it at The Running Event in Austin, Texas. I found myself wondering if this might be Craft’s best effort at going all-in on the pavement with a true road daily trainer.

After all, Craft marketed the Pacer as an everyday option, but one that was light enough to pick up the pace and even try workouts. It arrived on my porch alongside another Craft model, the Xplor Hybrid, which has more than a little bit in common with the Pacer, so let’s get into the company’s latest and see if it’s their greatest.

MELISSA: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Never underestimate the power of a daily trainer. We spend the majority of our runs in them, so it’s best to make them count, am I right? The Craft Pacer is one of those tried-and-true options — a lightweight trainer designed for plush comfort on the roads.

When it comes to road trainers, I want a shoe that’s soft on impact, comfortable, and durable — something that will feel great when I’m sore from a workout or long run the day before. If it’s lightweight, I’d call it a bonus. My go-to trainer for the last five years has been the Hoka Clifton, and I swear I’ve gone through at least 20 pairs.

I began this review with an open mind since this was my first Craft shoe. Fortunately, California’s winter rains had me running on roads for the last few weeks, creating the perfect opportunity to log some solid miles. After trying out the Craft Pacer, I’m officially a converted fan, so much so that my Clifton streak might finally be over. Well done, Craft, well done.

What we like about the Craft Pacer

MATT: The Craft Pacer’s timing was ideal, as I was actually looking for a new daily trainer to bear the brunt of my road miles. So, like it or not, I was going to rack up the miles in the Pacer and more than double my usual testing mileage by the time I started writing.

The ride underfoot was soft and bouncy from the get-go, so I knew I probably wouldn’t be sending this one back to the shelf for a while. In fact, Craft recently introduced a softer version of its Px foam in both the Xplor Hybrid and this shoe, so I had a feeling this would be just as comfortable as its slightly more rugged counterpart. It’s by far the best that Craft has made so far, and it just might be one of my favorite non-super foams on the market.

The Pacer doesn’t have a plate, so it rolls through the miles with plush comfort from start to finish. That said, it’s not so squishy that I’d compare it to a marshmallow like the Asics Gel Nimbus. Craft’s Pacer actually has identical measurements to the Xplor Hybrid (yes, another point of comparison between the two). It has 36 mm of stack in the heel, 30 mm in the forefoot, giving an approachable 6 mm drop. Honestly, I think the road shoe that the Pacer most reminded me of was the New Balance SC Trainer 2. It didn’t have the pop off the toe, but the ride was really similar to New Balance’s FuelCell, providing a soft yet springy landing.

The other really interesting feature of the Pacer is the minimalist outsole design. It’s laid out in a hexagonal pattern on the portions of the outsole where the foot would typically come into direct contact with the ground. This design shaved off precious weight, allowing the shoe to come in just north of 8 oz. Of course, the risk in this design is that the portions of the outsole that are left exposed have no protection from the small stones and broken glass that litter the streets of Baltimore.

My initial impression was that this is too risky of a choice and probably not worth the weight savings — after all, runners have different gaits and strike patterns, so there’s no way people could avoid destroying the exposed foam and shortening the life of their shoes. Well, Craft, you proved me wrong. After 60-plus miles, there’s not a single sign that the outsole is wearing down or that the exposed areas have been compromised. On top of that, I’ve run in the rain a few times, and the rubber is both stable and tacky to the point you wouldn’t even know that only a portion of the shoe is protected.

Finally, in typical Craft fashion, the Pacer has a wide and stable base. This provides a comfortably roomy toe box while also offering a secure landing point. It’s actually really impressive that the shoe is only 8.1 oz when you think about all of the midsole foam and flares underfoot.

MELISSA: The Craft Pacer is a good-looking shoe with a great design, a few nice colorways, and a lovely fabric accent at the midsole. It’s extremely lightweight despite the higher stack, thanks to Craft’s reworked Px formula and interesting outsole design. I knew from my first steps that this had the potential to be a great shoe — the upper is breathable and roomy with just enough stretch to it, and I had no issues with lockdown.

However, the midsole definitely steals the show on this shoe. Craft’s Px Foam is so soft, light, and bouncy. Like Matt, I had my initial doubts about the durability of the exposed midsole, but also, like Matt, I’ve seen no signs of breakdown or damage. This seriously could be the softest, bounciest ride I’ve experienced in some time. The foam is so soft that I could literally feel it molding around uneven sidewalk seams. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of, and despite its softness, the Px Foam still returns energy. I was able to try out a few workouts with a lot of success, and I really think this could work as a workout or tempo shoe.

As for the outsole, despite its lack of coverage across the entirety of the sole, it still gets the job done. The hexagonal tread held up extremely well on wet surfaces, and I had zero slippage, even during a four-mile progression workout in the rain. The Pacer performed so well in the rain that I found myself subbing it for my usual workout shoe that tends to slip on wet surfaces.

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What we don’t like about the Craft Pacer

MATT: Can I just copy and paste my complaints from the Craft Xplor Hybrid? Alright, while I’d like to picture all of our readers as loyal fans who celebrate our catalog of reviews the same way that Michael Bolton (the office worker) celebrated Michael Bolton (the musician) in Office Space, I realize that I need to treat each shoe independently.

Craft’s engineered mesh does breathe well, and it is nice and light. However, it’s still not the most form-fitting or supportive. I think it’s a little thicker than that of the Xplor Hybrid, which helped with a little of the bagginess but didn’t get rid of it entirely. I think with the right choice of socks, I could get it dialed in decently, but this one is a no-go with thin socks.

And yet, I’ll probably keep lacing this one up. It’s a testament to how great the Pacer is overall that I still love it despite the fit of the upper. In all seriousness, the upper was my only complaint with the Pacer. I really hope that Craft swaps it out next year because there’s a ton of potential in this shoe.

MELISSA: There’s not really a lot to say here besides a couple of minor thoughts. I had a hard time putting this shoe on, but only because my toxic trait is that I like to slip my shoes on and off rather than having to re-lace them every time. This is a shoe I had to unlace to remove and re-lace to put on each and every time, which was slightly tedious for me.

I experienced some initial ankle soreness in the Pacer, but it went away after a few runs. I’m guessing it was a short break-in period or that it took some getting used to.

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Final thoughts on the Craft Pacer

MATT: Yes, the upper needs an overhaul, but the ride underfoot is so sweet that it almost makes you forget about that major shortcoming. It’s that good. The Pacer is an everyday trainer that can rack up miles — you can go long, or you can wear it for a workout and not feel heavy. There’s a ton of value in this shoe for $135. If you love a highly cushioned, soft ride like the New Balance FuelCell line, or if you have wider feet that don’t agree with Nikes, then the Craft Pacer might be a winner for you.

MELISSA: The Craft Pacer is a plush, easy ride, making it the perfect daily trainer or recovery shoe. It’s lightweight, surprisingly fast, and has a great grip for when you want to mix things up. The soft yet bouncy Px foam midsole is, without a doubt, the highlight of this shoe. Feel free to give this one a shot if you think you can fight the desire to run in it every day.

You can pick up the Craft Pacer for $135 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below.

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Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Bob S. says:

    Thanks for the review. Curiously, the Craft website omits the weight and stack height of this shoe but do include the heel drop, which is of little use without the stack height. Anyway, they might update their website. David Laney very nicely replied to my email.

    My men’s size 10 weighed 8.95 oz., so it is indeed very light for a shoe with that much stack height. My only complaint is that the insole is pretty flimsy, not offering much support or cushioning. But that keeps the shoe light I guess. Replacing their insole with a more supportive one added another 0.7 oz. , but that’s still pretty light for a cushioned distance trainer like this. Was nice and roomy too for those with wide feet like me. Didn’t have any big issues with the upper, at least not yet.

  2. Frank Field says:

    It’s weird to me that a company that makes running apparel sized perfectly for “long and lean” people as they say on their website, makes shoes for feet that are…not long and lean. I have tried all their shoes, and they’re all sloppy in the upper.
    I won’t bother with this one, given this review gives me no reason to try.

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Matt Kucharski
Mid-Atlantic Trail Reviewer
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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.

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Melissa Guillen
West Coast Trail Reviewer
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East Coast raised and West Coast trained, Melissa truly enjoys running, especially ultra distances. She currently lives on the Southern California coast and can be found exploring Santa Barbara front country on the weekends.

All-time favorite shoes: HOKA Clifton, Nike Vaporfly NEXT %, Altra Lone Peak

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