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10.6 oz. (300 g) for a US M9,
9.3 oz. (263 g) for a US W8
Men: 36 mm in heel, 30 mm in forefoot (6 mm drop)
Women: 34 mm in heel, 28 mm in forefoot (6 mm drop)
Short, speedy trail jaunts
Supercritical Cr midsole, rock plate, lightweight TPU mesh upper, 4 mm lugs
MATT: My relationship with Craft Sportswear has been an interesting one, to say the least. If this was 2017, I might have a few drinks, log onto my Facebook profile, and update my relationship status to “It’s Complicated.”
The issue, historically, has been that while I love the company, and they make amazing clothes, roster my favorite runner, Tommy Rivs, and their shoe designs are eye-catching, Craft’s performance just hasn’t been there. This finally started to change in 2023, and if you read my review of the Craft Nordlite Ultra, you see that it was one of my favorite shoes of the year. However, it still wasn’t perfect. The one persistent issue, even with the Nordlite Ultra, was that Craft didn’t have a proper trail shoe — just a stable of solid hybrids and gravel grinders.
Then, along came the Craft Pure Trail. With a name so literal, it has to be tailored for the trails, right?
EMILY: When was the last time you found yourself running solo at two o’clock in the morning, in the woods, under a Cheshire moon? If you’re me, it happens too often. On those nights, listening to the guys and gals on The Drop will only quiet your mind for a while, and then you think to yourself — these guys and gals are nuts. Wait, am I nuts? Was that a wolf? Do deer have rabies? Did they catch that bear raiding cabins a few states away, or did she head to Baltimore County for a change of scenery and some candy-colored trail shoes?
I jest, but in all seriousness, the Craft Pure Trail feels engineered for these types of spooky treks, providing a supernatural blend of comfort, stability, and protection — a shoe that’s perfect for chasing shadows and conquering the darkness on your Halloween adventures.
SETH: I won’t lie — I didn’t always know much about Craft Sportswear’s shoes. In fact, I always put them in the same category as Skechers, assuming that they were kind of a budget brand. Now, I’m not sure why I thought that, because looking at their website, everything seems about even with the competition. Anyway, it’s always been a foreign brand to me.
I do agree with Matt that their designs have always been on-point, though. Now that I finally have a chance to try the Craft Pure Trail, let’s see how the rubber meets the trail.
MATT: First off, in true Craft fashion, the Pure Trail nails the coolness factor in both design and colorway. It’s simple and clean but with some distinct features that make it stand out. The first thing I noticed was how drastically different the upper was from previous Craft models. Most of the upper is a super thin and pliable TPU mesh that’s so thin it’s see-through, and it’s not a stretchy material, so once you slip your foot in, it feels supported, locked in, and stable.
There are overlays strategically located around the heel counter and the lacing area, and a comfortably padded Achilles area, which all combine to provide a really comfortable fit. While my test runs have been in cooler temps, I think the upper would really shine in hot weather, with how thin and breathable it is.
The other trait of the Pure Trail that jumped out at me was just how wide the base of this shoe is. The extremely broad platform provides stable and secure footing and allows for the minimalist nature of the upper, as the counterbalance between the two forms a nice synergy.
Before I talk about some of the other components of the Pure Trail that I liked, I want to call out a pretty surprising comparison to another model on the market right now, the Nike Ultrafly. I know, I know, the Ultrafly has a carbon plate and a fancy ZoomX midsole, but I couldn’t help noticing some similarities — the sheer mesh upper and the broad platform, and it doesn’t stop there. The Ultrafly has a 38mm/30mm stack, whereas the Pure Trail has very close 36mm/30mm dimensions. Both shoes have similar outsole lugs (4 mm for Craft and 3.5 mm for Nike), and while the Pure Trail tips the scales at about 320 g to the Ultrafly’s 300 g, they feel pretty close on foot.
I’ll stop with the comparison and get back to what else I liked about the shoe, but considering how highly anticipated the Nike Ultrafly was and how much hype surrounded its release, I was pretty shocked to find just how similar the much more unheralded Pure Trail was.
Craft uses its proprietary Cr Foam for the midsole, and I think they really nailed the durometer of this supercritical foam. When combined with the semi-exposed rock plate underneath, the Pure Trail has a really nice balance of cushion and propulsion when rolling through your stride. There is plenty of ground feel but still enough cushion to feel springy when opening things up on flats and downhills.
EMILY: True-to-size, even for us with monster metatarsals, the Craft Pure Trail’s interior perfectly matched its conservatively wide outsole/midsole chassis. As night runs have become sort of a repeat adventure, this stability on most terrain is confidence building, especially while dodging branches and hopping obstacles. From the first mile to the last, the Craft Pure Trail oozes comfort without all the fuss — just enough material to get the job done and do it well without the peacocking. I’m looking at you, high-rebound Ortholite sock liner. Thanks for battling those gravel ghouls.
Perhaps less obvious initially, though top of the class in the end, is a single layer of Craft’s high-rebound Cr midsole foam — that’s a mouthful, but I’m telling you, it worked magic, offering a ghostly soft and responsive ride. Consequently, Craft decided not to include a carbon plate which actually informs how flexible the forefoot is. This was a worthy tradeoff for a few hours, and Craft did include a clever plastic rock plate in the forefoot midsole for protection.
SETH: Unboxing this shoe was a premium experience. I placed my finger in the shoe box that read “For world champions and everyday heroes” and felt a soft foam pad. It was a nice surprise that I’ve never felt while unboxing a shoe — the foam pad and the compliment. It was really nice of Craft to put that on the box just for me. I lifted up the top of the box to see a beautiful, bright orange stallion of a shoe. It looks badass, to be honest. I could see through the ultra-light TPU Mesh Upper. The sockliner of the shoe had a cool diamond-like mountain graphic also featured on the outside of the shoe. It looked mean as a Bengal Tiger. This trail shoe looks SICK, big props to the Craft design team on this one.
My first run in this shoe was flawless. I went out for an easy 3 mile spin at a nearby trail before work. Throughout the entire run, I was a Tarahumara — I forgot I had shoes on. The Pure Trail is super light, and I felt like I could start bombing at a sub-7-minute pace, no problemo. As I continued running in this shoe, that ultra-light feel never dissipated.
The balance of comfort, responsiveness, and weight on this shoe’s Cr supercritical foam was dialed in. When my foot made contact with the ground the cushion felt just the right amount of soft to take the impact off my knees, and also charged up then bounced off the ground like a pair of Moon Shoes. Whether I was running a 9 minute pace or a 7 minute pace, I was bouncing over the trails like a Texas Black-Tailed jackrabbit. I was flabbergasted that this shoe had a rock plate in it, because I surely wouldn’t have noticed it!
I enjoyed these shoes the most when running on moderate or crushed gravel trails. One day I was running at Lake Pflugerville, a super easy crushed gravel trail when it started pouring down rain. Thunder cracked around my head while I pushed the pace. This is when the ultralight upper of the shoe really came in handy. The water drained through the upper like coffee through a filter. This shoe maintained its lightweight and gave me confidence as I raced a couple miles back to my car. I knew I picked out the right shoe to run in that day.Shop Craft Pure Trail - Men Shop Craft Pure Trail - Women
MATT: There’s a lot that I really like about the Pure Trail, but even in a great shoe, there are some drawbacks to be aware of. I have somewhat narrow feet, and for me the midfoot felt a bit on the wide side. With proper lacing and some thicker socks, I had no issues getting a locked-in fit, but if you have long and narrow feet, you might find that there’s a bit too much volume in parts of the upper. On the contrary, those with wide feet might see this as a positive feature.
While Emily experienced issues with the traction in wet conditions (you’ll get there in a minute), I was fortunate enough to do all of my testing in pretty dry conditions, and the couple of stream crossings and rocks that I encountered didn’t cause me any issues, but based on her experience that is something I’d be aware of.
I loved the upper, but back to my comparison to the Nike Ultrafly, the downside is that there isn’t much material standing between you and losing a toenail or two if you kick a few rocks or roots along the way.
Finally, while it is certainly fair for Craft to label the Pure Trail as a proper trail shoe, it still doesn’t quite feel equipped to tackle highly technical terrain. I think it would expose some shortcomings if it was used on really technical mountain trails or in sloppy, muddy, wet conditions.
EMILY: My first five runs cavorting through the woods in the Craft Pure Trail covered approximately 54 miles of rocky, rooty, hilly terrain from dusk til dawn and everything in between. While the Craft Pure Trail consistently delivered comfort from step one to the end of each run, I did not experience particularly good traction.
This was especially true during water-crossings that involved even barely wet rocks. Of the twelve water crossings I tackled, I came out with soaked feet 10 times. Not a huge problem as wet feet kind of come with the territory — like snot-rockets and annoying early morning enthusiasm, but the lack of grip extended to run-ins with rain-slicked roots as well.
I should note that while I’m not terribly graceful when it comes to many things in life — like walking and talking — historically, I’ve done “okay” when it comes to rock hopping, and still do in most trail shoes. Thanks to the breathable upper — the Craft Pure Trail drained faster than most- noticeably so, and so the slippage was quickly forgiven — all ten times.
SETH: As much as I really liked this shoe, there are some downsides to it. As I mentioned, I enjoyed this shoe most when running on easy-to-moderate trails. When the terrain got nasty and technical, I definitely started to feel the ankle wobble and felt my foot moving around in the shoe quite a bit. I’d run at Lake Georgetown (one of the more technical trails in Central Texas) and found it pretty easy to roll my ankle. When running uphill on steep, rocky terrain, I’d have to stop and walk.
With that being said, most people would walk up that trail anyway. But I’ve also run up that same trail with shoes like the Hoka Speedgoat and felt more supported and stable. This shoe definitely has more of a speedy feel to it rather than a daily trainer feel to it. So if it’s pretty technical where you plan on running, I think you’d want to go with a different shoe. Unless your ankles are much stronger than mine.
Pure Trail? No. I think Pure Moderate Trail.Shop Craft Pure Trail - Men Shop Craft Pure Trail - Women
MATT: Overall, I really like the Pure Trail, and I think it’s another solid win for Craft in 2023. I would be happy taking this shoe out in moderately technical conditions, and it feels zippy enough to run on gravel paths, grass, dirt, and even roads as well. If you’re ok sacrificing a carbon plate for a rock plate and picking up a few grams in weight, you could save $100 and pick up the Pure Trail instead of the Nike Ultrafly and likely get 90% of the performance out of it.
EMILY: I’d call it a delight to run for two to three hours on trails in the Pure Trail — it’s instantly comfortable — like soft broken-in jeans comfortable, and it provides perceptible rebound when climbing. However, beyond the 20 miles, when tired legs first start to pipe up, I started to crave a little more cushion and support. The rock plate was effective at protecting sensitive feet from too much abuse, but the Craft Pure Trail did not prevent slipping on rocks and roots adequately. I still wear it weekly, though not when water crossings are on the map.
SETH: If you aren’t running on trails that are super technical, you’ll probably love the Craft Pure Trail. It looks great, feels great, and performs even better. It’s not a shoe I’d run in every single day, but this shoe is a must-have in your trail rotation. For those days you want to just cruise on a nice buffed-out trail, this is the one. I don’t think I could have a better introduction to Craft, and I’m definitely a fan. I’m excited to see what they have lined up for the future, and I can’t wait to see another on my doorstep. Easy to say these kicks were well Craft-ed.
You can pick up the Craft Pure Trail for $170 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below.
Seth Epley is an ultramarathoner and avid outdoorsman. After graduating high school, Seth struggled with drinking and was ultimately unhappy with the way he was living. Running became a remedy, and 3 years later he ran his first 200-mile race and has maintained a 100% sober lifestyle. In addition to running, he enjoys archery, videography, photography, and all things outdoors.More from Seth
Born and raised in Smaltimore (Baltimore), Emily relishes running for hours in the woods. It’s where she works out the kinks in her approach to being a mother, partner, writer, and a better human being.More from Emily
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.More from Matt