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Trail • February 9, 2023

Kailas Fuga Elite 2 Review: A Big, Green Monster

kailas fuga elite 2 cover

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What You Need To Know


10 oz. (284 g.) for a US M8.5 / US W10


PEBA on top, EVA on the bottom, and a carbon fiber plate slapped in between

Stack Height

41 mm heel / 31 mm toe (10 mm drop)

Notable Changes

One of our first Kailas experiences, but it has plenty of high-end components

On The Run

A firm ride with some lacing… quirks



The Intro

TAYLOR: Over the last decade or so, the sport of trail running has soared up the exponential curve of worldwide growth. We live in an exciting time where even the largest companies in the sporting goods industry have put a considerable amount of research, product development, and dough into the discipline.

Since trail running itself is a diverse sport in the sense of conditions, terrain, and distance, many product designs are more open to interpretation on how to solve problems X, Y, and Z. There’s no doubt that some companies have found more success in this endeavor than others.

Some of the most successful companies have their beginnings in mountains and mountain sports. Kailas is one of those brands. With its roots in the climbing world, Kailas has somewhat recently added trail running to its resumé and has a full lineup of gear to support dirt seekers.

At the helm of the performance lineup is the Kailas Fuga Elite 2. The elite tag suggests many of the same components you might find in a road counterpart that would carry the same name: premium lightweight upper, high rebound midsoles, and a propulsion plate. Then, Kailas adds a Vibram Litebase outsole to the mix and a couple more trail-specific measures to create a race-day shoe that, on paper, is ready to rip.

Since this was my first experience with Kailas, I was admittedly skeptical. There are a couple of other companies with similar backgrounds that have tried the whole carbon fiber race day shoe and have had mixed results. Pretty quickly in the review process, I had a good idea of the performance and where the Kailas Fuga Elite 2 would fit best.

MATT: After years of testing shoes and staying on top of the latest developments across established and upstart companies, it’s pretty rare that a brand is totally off my radar, but that’s exactly where I was when presented with Kailas and its latest trail offerings. As Taylor mentioned, Kailas was pretty well established in the climbing world, but it wasn’t until a number of their sponsored athletes started finishing on the podium across international UTMB-level races that I really took notice.

If one model of their trail line jumped out at me, it was the Fuga Elite 2. This looked to be their premier racer. Carbon plated, multi-layer midsole, Vibram outsole, and a lightweight upper. On paper, the shoe seemed to check all the boxes. So it was time to lace them up and put them to the test.

MICHAEL: Recently, Sam and I really enjoyed reviewing the Kailas Fuga EX 2, a relatively simple trail shoe from an exciting and new (to us) brand with a knack for all-mountain performance and protection. Now, it’s time to get into the wild stuff. In the review of the Fuga EX 2, we mentioned that the shoe looks pretty similar to some Solomon offerings. Such is not the case with the Elite 2. Instead, this loud green machine is really quite unlike anything else in an already slim market for carbon-plated trail racers.

kailas fuga elite 2 laces

The Good

TAYLOR: What’s best about the Kailas Fuga Elite 2 is on the top and bottom. So, I’m going to take the sandwich approach to this review.

First, let’s stop and gawk. This shoe pops with unique and bright colors — the Fruit Pink Green colorway is mouth-watering.

Up top, a premium feeling mesh and really nicely mapped out upper gives the initial feelings of comfort and performance. Being that this shoe is aimed at being an ultra-distance racer, I think Kailas made an incredible choice. The airy engineered jacquard mesh is bolstered with TPU overlays that run around the rim of the midsole and like a rib cage between that and the lacing chain. Again, the balance of technical and comfort is on point.

Fit and feel go hand-in-hand here. The overall shape of the Kailas Fuga Elite 2 gives a nicely secure midfoot in which the modestly padded gusseted tongue comes into play. Heel comfort and lockdown can be traced to a very structured, quite padded, elf-ear-styled heel collar. Personally, I love everything about it.

The forefoot also feels semi-roomy, similar to a Saucony Xodus Ultra, Brooks Catamount 2, or Salmon Ultra Glide. When the lacing system held tightly, it was an easy shoe to run gravel roads to moderate trails rather well, and a lot of that can be attributed to the upper. In fact, I think of the full-length carbon-plated trail shoes available (which include Craft CTM Ultra Carbon and The North Face Flight Vectiv), the Kailas Fuga Elite 2 can handle trails the best. There is a caveat to that, though. Refer to lacing in the next segment.

Flip it over, and there’s a similarly performing component. We all know the Vibram sets the industry standard in grip. Lately, many high-performance shoes have been reaching for the Megagrip plus Litebase formula that keeps the outsole rubber thinner and lighter but doesn’t sacrifice the amount of grip. The lugs are on the shallow side to support a light racing feel, but they clung to smooth dirt segments and moderate rocky trails and ran well over packed ice and snow.

In between the highlights comes a dual-density midsole with a full-length carbon fiber plate sandwiched between. For the most part, I think the Kailais Fuga Elite 2’s midsole recipe is spot on. Our race shoe of the year, the Hoka Tecton X, had a similar tactic with a lighter, more responsive foam up top and a firmer, more resilient foam on the bottom. In this case, the feel is quite different from the Tecton X but has similar goals in mind. Really, the highlights of the Kailas Fuga Elite 2 are the PEBA top layer which is a truly bouncier/softer feeling foam, and the carbon plate (at certain times). These two components are responsible for the smooth, surprisingly stable, and consistently responsive ride.

Lastly, the weight of this shoe is a bit heavier than others in the carbon-plated category. The Fuga Elite 2 comes in at 11.6 oz. for a US M11. Comparatively, the Hoka Tecton X and Saucony Endorphin Edge come in at the mid 9 oz. range. The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro, North Face Fight Vectiv, Speedland SL:PDX, and Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 all come in at the mid-10 oz. Mid 11 oz. is fair for a typical trail shoe in my size, but for a race day option, it’s a harder sell.

MATT: As Taylor mentioned, straight from the very nice packaging that the Kailas shoes come in, complete with a shoe bag, the Fuga Elite 2 is a really good-looking shoe. The colorway is unique and pops, and the design of the shoe resembles some hybrid combination of a Salomon Ultra Glide and a Hoka Speedgoat 5. Honestly, not a bad set of parents if trying to create a trail shoe in the lab.

I’ll spare repeating, as I very closely agree with the majority of what Taylor outlined above as the positive qualities of this shoe. I do love the construct of the upper. It fits well, it breathes great, the foot feels secure, and the quick lacing system, complete with a lace pocket to tug the ends of the lace out of sight, is a feature after my OCD heart. When fully locked in, the Elite 2 provides one tight and clean set-up.

I have nothing bad to say about Vibram Megagrip Litebase. This was an amazing choice by Kailas to go with an industry standard for the outsole and mitigate the risk of delivering a sub-par outer rubber. The lug pattern on this outsole was a bit different than what I’ve seen from other recent models that use the Litebase compound, but while quite minimal, it seemed to stand up to a variety of terrain and shed mud and debris pretty easily.

On the stretches of gravel and blacktop I encountered, you could feel the snap of the carbon plate, and I would agree that I think, for that use case, the Elite 2 actually felt more natural and peppy underfoot than the original North Face Vectiv Flight or the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon, but not on the level with the Hoka Tecton X.

MICHAEL: Taylor and Matt have covered lots of the great aspects of the shoe, so I’m going to try to keep things short and offer my thoughts on some of my favorite specific design decisions Kailas made with the Fuga Elite 2.

First off, full coverage Vibram Megagrip/Litebase outsole. Need I say more? The bite on this shoe is fantastic, and while the lugs are shallow (3 mm), I think the decision to make the outsole full-coverage significantly increases the shoe’s capabilities on technical terrain, especially over some other carbon plated racers with similar lug height like the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon. Kailas’ lug design here is great as well. While the pattern felt most natural on gravel roads and buffed trails, each lug is shaped such that there is a sharp leading edge of litebase cutting into the terrain, making these 3mm lugs feel much more substantial than they actually are.

Second, I love the overall shape of the midsole of this shoe. At first, I was expecting the Fuga Elite 2 to be an unstable, ankle-turning mess. Instead, the firm EVA bottom layer and hourglass shaping of the heel and forefoot kept me locked in, stable, and upright, even when I felt like I was pushing the limits of the shoe at fast paces on really uneven, mixed terrain.

Third, I thought the flexibility of the carbon plate was perfectly dialed in the Fuga Elite 2, something I had an issue within the only other carbon-plated trail shoe I’ve tested, the Speedland SL:HSV. The plate is firm and helps accentuate the rocker of the shoe without feeling stiff and harsh when the terrain gets dicey underfoot. I felt like it really helped smooth out the ride of the shoe, specifically on fire road sections when the pace stayed consistent around 6-minute miles. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how well this holds up on the shoe’s intended ultra race distance, but it was a welcoming feeling considering how disjointed the shoe could feel at slower paces.

Lastly, while the fit of the shoe isn’t perfect, I think the upper materials are a perfect choice. The midfoot and gusseted tongue did a great job of providing lightweight comfort and a solid lockdown while the laces stayed tied. Also, it took me way too long to notice that the TPU overlays that help to lock down the midfoot actually spell FUGA, and I’m always a fan of nice touches like that. When the laces stay tied and the paces quick, the Fuga Elite has all the right components to be a real competitor in a competitive market for carbon-plated trail racers.

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The Bad

TAYLOR: I’m going to be blunt. This shoe could use some work. If you’re paying 290 bones for a shoe, it better be top-of-the-line across the board. I do believe the Kailas Fuga Elite 2 has very high-quality components, they just don’t come together in a seamlessly high-quality package as you might get with a Speedland GS:TAM, Hoka Tecton X, or even the new North Face Summit Vectiv Pro.

The biggest mistake is the faux lacing system that doesn’t really work in the first place. The Quick Lacing system, not to be confused with Salomon’s Quicklace system, works the exact same way — pull the single laced chord to tighten the laces, slide the “buckle” down to secure, and store the lace in the lace garage on the tongue. Sounds simple. It would be the ideal, but over a two-hour run, I had to stop at least every 20 minutes to resecure the laces. All the times when you need to depend on a secure consistent fit (downhills, steeper uphills, more technical terrain, and corners) ended up loosening the lacing significantly. Not only is it frustrating, but it could also be dangerous come race day when you would simply try to push through those types of gear faults.

As mentioned previously, the idea of a dual-layered midsole sandwiching a carbon plate is phenomenal. It’s not all that well executed here, though. I think there is one real culprit. The EVA used on the bottom layer of the midsole is a brick. Unless you’re leaning forward on an uphill or doing the same while bombing downhill, the 10 mm drop makes the heel wedge noticeable every stride. The midsole only softened slightly over my miles in the Kailas Fuga Elite 2.

It’s also so rare to find a 10 mm drop in a trail shoe because you need so much more than just a forward lean.

Straight ups and downs are also the only cases where I could truly feel a little bit of that carbon plate in action. The firm EVA is preventing the plate from working how you would hope in a shoe like this. As it is, the carbon plate is a glorified rock plate. If it could talk, the carbon plate would probably speak of feeling a lack of purpose in the workplace. It deserves so much more than that.

MATT: The Kailas Elite 2, while having some really nice features and materials, as I mentioned in the section above, falls super flat for me, and that can be traced back to two major issues with the shoe.

First, as Taylor mentioned, the Quick Lacing system just does not work. It looks amazing in theory but fails horribly in practice. This really stinks because, for the 10-15 minutes you can dial things in before they start to slip and loosen, you can catch a glimpse of how nice the fit could be. Similar to Taylor, I had to stop and re-tighten my shoes about 6 or 7 times over the course of a 90-minute run. With the variety of options on the market these days, lacking confidence in your lacing seems like a deal breaker.

The other major issue has to do with the midsole, specifically the bottom EVA layer. This foam was so dense and firm, that any of the benefits from the above-placed PEBA and carbon plate were basically neutralized because all I could feel with each landing was the slap from the EVA foam that felt like running on 2 x 4s. I know I have been spoiled of late by gravitating towards some super nice, max cushion, high-stack shoes, but this ride just felt dead.

As Taylor said, it’s a shame that the midsole formula wasn’t configured better, as it’s a waste of the carbon plate.

MICHAEL: As I said in the conclusion of the Fuga EX 2, Kailas is working with all the right materials here. Unfortunately, the Elite 2 has some serious kinks to sort out, especially before we can recommend the shoe for a steep $290.

First off, the sizing runs a bit long. Similar to the Fuga EX 2, there was just a bit too much room in the front of the toebox on this one, and unfortunately, it affected the ride of the Fuga Elite 2 more so than the Fuga EX 2. When my foot was (briefly) locked in the heel counter, the rocker of the shoe felt off, and when the laces loosed up eventually over the run, the shoe felt more smooth as my toes slid forward.

Next up on the diss track is the EVA foam, specifically the copious quantity of it in the heel of the shoe. Remember earlier how I said the Fuga Elite 2 really only felt good to me at faster paces? That’s because any time I wasn’t staying up on my toes and forefoot striking (I usually start midfoot striking more at paces faster than 6:30/mile), the heel of the shoe gets to take on more and more ground contact and starts feeling very cloppy. There’s minimal supercritical foam here, and while the EVA has gotten softer and more responsive over the testing period (though not as much as the EVA in the Fuga EX2), it still is just a shame for it to be creating such a harsh ride in a shoe meant for racing the ultra distance.

If you are a heel striker, steer clear of this bad boy. Not only is it firm and unforgiving, but there’s a slight rocker in the heel geometry, causing the forefoot of the shoe to come down and slap the ground audibly on each footstrike.

Not only does the EVA foam feel harsh, but it also negates some of the positive effects of the plate. Don’t get me wrong, the plate is still noticeable on fire roads and the like, where it helps promote good stride mechanics and accentuates the rocker of the shoe. Unfortunately, since the plate sits on top of some dead-feeling EVA, it’s not doing much to assist your foot in the compression of any supercritical foam. The shoe lacks pop, something that could hopefully be fixed with a different compound underneath the plate in version 3.

Assisting the EVA in creating an unpleasant ride is the midfoot cutout of the shoe, which features a very accentuated arch where no ground contact occurs during a midfoot landing. While I’m sure this helps save weight, it really contributed to the disjointed, cloppy feeling of this shoe at slower paces, and again only felt smooth when I was really running up on my toes.

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Kailas Fuga Elite 2 Conclusion

TAYLOR: Honesty is our philosophy. So, honestly, good thing the Kailas Fuga Elite 2 is pretty.

As is, I don’t think the $290 price tag is worth it when considering performance. Yes, it has all the fixings to be a great option for the trails come race day. For the minutes of running when the lacing would stay securely fastened and the EVA foam softened a bit, this became a much more fun shoe. There’s no way around the fact that these are a couple of components that need to be adjusted to make this a viable option to race and train in.

The good news is that the horizon is bright for this brand. Kailas has top-notch quality control and an amazing upper to base this shoe on for models to come. Also, when lacing remains consistent, the Fuga Elite 2 can outperform some of its competitors. There’s a lot to work with!

The best case scenario for the Fuga Elite 2 is having a mix of smooth singletrack and gravel road. It feels quite similar to Craft’s CTM Ultra Carbon 2 (which is one of my favorites for speedy workouts and long runs on gravel). I have much more confidence in the Fuga Elite 2 over trail scenarios.

At the end of the day, there’s so much potential for the Kailas Fuga Elite 2.

MATT: There is a lot of potential in the Kailas Fuga Elite 2. They clearly have a vision and an eye for some of the finer components to make up their shoes. To me, they are new to the Trail scene, and they have some really nice pieces in place, it just seems that they need to be open to feedback and make some fundamental adjustments.

At the $290 price point, and knowing the flaws with the lacing system and the super firm midsole, I just can’t honestly recommend this shoe to those in the market.

There are a number of overall top performers (Speedland GS:TAM, North Face Vectiv Summit Pro, Hoka Tecton X) that you can pick up at that price point that you won’t have to wait around for the company to hopefully address the short-comings in their next version.

MICHAEL: Taylor and Matt have already said it, but I want to echo their sentiment. While the Fuga Elite 2 is pretty much a no-go for us for $290, it still has serious potential. Like I said in the Fuga EX 2 conclusion, Kailas is working with lots of great materials and are demonstrating some great ideas and concepts that, with a little tweaking, will result in some fantastic product. It’s only a matter of time before some of the aforementioned kinks are worked out, and we’ve got a serious ultra-racing contender on our hands from Kailas.

You can pick up the Kailas Fuga Elite 2 for $290 on their website now.


Want to learn more about how our review process works? Check out this guide.

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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.

All-time favorite shoes: Hoka Tecton X, Speedland SL:PDX, Merrell MTL Long Sky 2.

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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.

All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Atreyu The Artist, Speedland SL:PDX

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