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Trail Running Shoes • April 30, 2024

Dynafit Ultra DNA Review: Mont Blanc or Bust

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What You Need To Know


9.9 oz. (280 g) for a US M9 (Unisex sizing)

Stack Height / Drop

35 mm in heel, 27 mm in forefoot (8 mm drop)

Best For

Tackling trails with an ultra-secure fit

Key Features

Speed Plus midsole, Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole, recycled knit upper, Double Speed Lacing system

On The Run
Very secure fit Flexible outsole configuration Consistent sizing remains an issue
Price / Availability

Available now for $219

Introduction to the Dynafit Ultra DNA

TAYLOR: There’s one specific day in August when many trail runners from around the world choose to stay inside and glue themselves to a screen. Even with multiple championship series, this is the one that brings the highest density and quality of contestants over multiple race distances. The flagship UTMB event never disappoints in terms of dramatic plotlines and incredible competition.

Ranking top 10 at any of these races is for the elite of the elite in our sport. This past year, typical brands like The North Face, Hoka, and Salomon were well-represented in the pinnacle results. Also, a surprise brand showed up at the party. Dynafit’s Hannes Namberger performed incredibly to nab an 8th-place finish in our sports “world championship” event. On his feet was the Dynafit Ultra DNA.

The design principles are both brand-compliant and very new for Dynafit. The Ultra DNA is still meant for traversing technical mountainous terrain, as is the rest of their lineup. They’re also designed for the long, arduous demands of ultra-distance running. Very few companies have been able to pair the two categories together really well.

To do so, Dynafit brought together a lineup of components that, on paper, should have the means to achieve. We’re talking about a spankin’ new supercritical Speed Plus foam, Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole, booty-like sock liner, engineered woven mesh, and Double Speed Lace system. It’s all there. As we Dirt Diggers know well, it’s one thing to have the ingredients; it’s another thing to execute the recipe. Oh, how I hope this one turns out!

SAM: Taylor has us off to a rolling start, and since this is my first time sliding (or, in the case of the Ultra DNA, literally wrestling) my feet into a Dynafit shoe, I’m going to follow in the way of the master — the master of trail shoes, that is — and let him take the lead on all things Dynafit.

I approached the Dynafit Ultra DNA as a blank slate. I knew next to nothing about the company other than some hype from Taylor. It was, however, because of that hype that when he asked if someone was up for a pair, I jumped at the chance. I was instantly impressed by the ingredients and construction. This is a shoe for mountains, the kind of mountains that chew you up and spit you out and wash you over in wonder. We like to at least think we’re in the shoes-for-mountains business here, although I think most everyone wishes they could have more of Taylor’s runs featuring sunrise over the Rockies. So see below for our thoughts.

What we like about the Dynafit Ultra DNA

TAYLOR: First stop, colorway. I know this won’t be for everyone, but the neon pink and yellow set on top of a black canvas really does it for me. It’s bold. It’s beautiful. It’s one of those colorways that makes you want to run fast. Even the more subdued gray/lime green colorway looks pretty sweet.

Color aside, there’s no way a shoe can be considered a race shoe, in my opinion, if it’s not secure enough to roll with most trail conditions. I knew security would be a non-issue based on the fact I was having flashbacks to slipping on Naked Tr. The fit really sets the tone with the Dynafit Ultra DNA.

Overall, the Ultra DNA is on the slimmer side of fits, which aids in the glove-like feel for technical performance. The inner booty-like liner pulls the foot into place while an engineered mesh outer holds it in place. Subtle details like a well-padded tongue and mesh lacing closure really aid in a wonderful overall fit. The Double Speed Lace system gives thrice the amount of security which makes the Ultra DNA one of the more technically sound ultra-intentioned shoes on the market — especially when considering shoes with similar midsole stack.

Speaking of that midsole, this is the first time we have experienced a supercritical foam from Dynafit. Speed Plus is the name. It’s a rather dense formula when considering all of the others available nowadays. Why that matters is twofold: First, Speed Plus is less of the mind’s eye of modern supercritical foams. Think less of the super shoe bouncy ride like in the Nike Ultraflly and more of the lighter, more durable recipe found in the La Sportiva Prodigio and Nnormal Tomir 2.0. Even though you do get a hint of energy return from the foam, the biggest benefit is that the midsole feeling will be available for quite some time. Durability is top-notch for a race day option.

It took a while to break this one in. I am 30-plus miles in, and I feel I’m just getting into the goods. When the Dynafit Ultra DNA finally broke in, it was such a smooth trail shoe run that it was on the firm side of the spectrum. The foam softened up just enough to feel a slight squish and release, which made way for a more aggressive toe spring to do its work. Overall, the Dynafit Ultra DNA’s ride offered a lot of protection, a good amount of cushion, and a hint of liveliness that will be able to go the distance quite a few times. I reckon the ratio of price/per mile is pretty economical.

The underside continues the high-quality ultra-distance calling. First, a wider platform and moderate arch support offer the natural stability that is reminiscent of that found in Norda 001, Hoka Mafate Speed 4, and Merrell Agility Peak 5. Of course, it’s not going to be as soft as any of these offerings; the footprint will offer muscle-saving stability over technical terrain and long distances.

Full rubber coverage is a brand standard for Dynafit. Just because the Ultra DNA is their race offering, it doesn’t mean they are trimmed back on the allowance. Vibram Megagrip Litebase wraps the whole bottom side. This absolutely means that grip over various terrains is at the high end of industry standards. Durability, as with the rest of this shoe, is also on point. I could wipe the bottom of my pair and sell it like new based on the no-wear appearance.

3.5 mm lugs are, admittedly, not the deepest for digging into all trail conditions, but they do offer a satisfactory grasp on a wide variety of terrain and conditions. Another perk is better runnability on smoother terrain like roads and non-technical terrain. The Vibram outsole all the while maintains a satisfactory amount of grip on just about

SAM: Even after my test miles, I have to admit I’m still amazed at the fit of the Dynafit Ultra DNA. Taylor casually mentioned the Naked Tr above as a comparison, and he’s not wrong. What he didn’t mention, for all you weirdos who don’t obsessively read every review posted on Believe in the Run like the rest of us, is that the Naked Tr was a technical trail runner with no laces. The Dynafit Ultra DNA fits almost as securely as that but with plenty of structure and a sturdy dual quick lace system that locks this shoe onto your foot. It’s almost as if it were a suction cup, and your foot has some smooth, flat surface like a shower tile. It does all this and manages to be very comfortable (mostly… see below for a caveat) due to the sock-like collar and a tongue that has the perfect amount of integrated padding.

The whole upper is seemingly bulletproof. In fact, this whole damn shoe appears to be bulletproof. Clark Kent could lace these up and worry less about his proximity to Kryptonite because of their toughness. At least on his feet, which is maybe the least useful place to be bulletproof.

Regardless of the effects of Kryptonite on Superman, particularly around villains sporting guns and backward foot fetishes, this is a shoe review. So, let us return to the subject at hand. Between the knit and ripstop of the upper, the chunk of firm Speed Plus, and the full coverage Vibram outsole, this is a shoe that should stay ready to grind out miles well after most other race-day shoes have given up the ghost. On top of that, this is a shoe for long miles that’s also perfectly adept to technical trails because of the fit of the upper and the geometries of the midsole and outsole. I agree with Taylor; this is a smooth, clean-feeling shoe underfoot.

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What we don’t like about the Dynafit Ultra DNA

TAYLOR: A frustrating part of this shoe (and many Dynafit shoes) is finding the right fit. I tried on a few sizes of the Ultra DNA and still couldn’t quite find the right size. My normal US M10.5 was way crunched on all ends. Sizing up a half size relieved the length issues, but I still felt a pinch in the toe box. Don’t count on the upper or overlays to make more room. A full size up feels too long. I went for the half-size up that would get me through daily and weekend long runs. With that being said, if I were to be racing long ultras, the full size up would probably be the way to go. In an ideal world, I would want to go up three-quarters of a size.

Part of the reason fit is particularly frustrating in the Ultra DNA is because of the heel cup. First of all, it’s very firm, and it was a little aggressive with my heel. Second, it is angled forward more than the typical shoe, which makes it hard to pull the heel into its pocket. I resorted to cinching the lacing system down considerably to do so which can bring on some other issues. I felt like I found a sweet spot, thanks to the heavily padded tongue, but it certainly took some searching to find it.

Forefoot pinch was my main grievance with the Dynafit Ultra DNA. My forefoot measures to be in the average/slightly wide category. I do not mind a sculpted fit and can run in most shoes that are deemed “narrow.” I would put the Ultra DNA in that category.

The issue that sets this shoe apart is the placement of the bottom lace eyelets and the stitching that goes along with them. They end up aligning right on top of the knuckles of the big and pinky toes. Not only did this exasperate the “pinchy” feeling of the narrow toe box, it also put pressure on those joints causing more irritation. Shifting these eyelets upward into the midfoot, even by mere millimeters, would help open up that toe box and reduce irritation. I do not think it would mess with the overall technical performance, either.

One last thing with the lacing system: The idea of the dual cinch laces is great, it just isn’t all that practical. It is a lot of lace to figure out how/where to store it. Also, the upper is so secure through the midfoot and heel that it feels like overkill. The same lacing system in the Ultra Pro 2 would easily suffice.

SAM: Taylor is right, the sizing in the Dynafit Ultra DNA is absolutely wild. My pair is a half size up from my US M10 — an M10.5 — and I feel I could use at least another half size more room. My toes could be wanting for some of that room because this shoe is oh-so-very narrow in the toe box. I really like moderate to wide fits in my toes and balls of my feet, and my two littlest toes were screaming at me by the end of every run. Maybe this is because of the way the webbing for the bottom eyelet is run, as Taylor mentioned above, but the shoe is tight all around. Pulling it on sometimes felt like a wrestling match between me and the sock-like upper. The pull tabs don’t have much space for fingers, and the rest of the upper is stiff and resistant.

While the firmness of the midsole is definitely going to give this shoe life through many, many miles, it’s uncomfortably firm for me even after my test miles. I’m hoping to get back the break-in period Taylor mentioned above soon.

As I mentioned above, the lockdown from the dual quick lace system is epically good, but it’s also epically difficult to manage and feels way more complicated than laces should be. Once you get them arranged, the security of the sock-like upper makes fitting all the lacing and tabs into the tongue pocket a chore.

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Final thoughts on the Dynafit Ultra DNA

TAYLOR: For Dynafit’s first try at a truly modern race-day trail shoe, there are a lot of good things going on. Foot security, highly technical ingredients, durability, and versatility lead the way in the positives. This shoe has a lot of potential for both ultras and shorter runs that cross a lot of different types of terrain. The Ultra DNA has proved that it can run on the smooth stuff and the off-camber technical terrain, too. Though firm, Dynafit’s new Speed Plus midsole creates a consistent underfoot feel that only boosts technical performance.

My main concerns come with overall comfort for going the long haul. With irritating spots in the forefoot and the heel because of the highly durable materials and overall fit, it’s hard for me to give a clear answer as to whether the Dynafit Ultra DNA is the race day choice for you. I think it will come down to a narrower foot anatomy to consider this for your all-day ultra shoe.

SAM: I’m forever fascinated by the kind of shoes that can pair performance with durability that lasts over hundreds of rocky miles. It often feels like we’ve been swept up in a tide of foam and mesh that doesn’t have much to offer after a couple of races, and the Dynafit Ultra DNA feels like the beginning of an antidote to those kinds of shoes. It’s durable and highly capable on all surfaces, with a fit to envy. However, unless you have properly narrow feet, you might have a hard time finding comfort here.

You can pick up the Dynafit Ultra DNA for $219 using the buttons below.

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Taylor Bodin
Lead Trail Reviewer
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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.

More from Taylor
Shoe Size


Fav. Distance


  • 27:03

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Sam Edgin
Mid-Atlantic Trail Reviewer
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  • Strava

Sam lives in Baltimore with his wife and two kids and spends his days fixing espresso machines for Ceremony Coffee Roasters. He runs with the Faster Bastards when he can, races ultras, and has been working on completing the AT section by section. He thinks the best days are made of long miles on nasty trails, but that a good surf session, a really stunning book, or a day of board games are pretty all right too.

All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Xodus Ultra, Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, Altra Lone Peak

More from Sam
Shoe Size


Fav. Distance


  • 6:15

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    Half Marathon
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