A veteran trail runner with over 15 marathons, an Ironman Triathlon, and hundreds of other races on her resume, Amanda Loudin has tried (and covered) many different shoes during her career as an endurance journalist. Shortly after we launched the Spartan X CRAFT Nordic Speed Shoe, we sent her a pair to test on her local trail. After putting them through the wringer for two weeks, this is what she found.
As a journalist in the running space, I am in the fortunate position of being able to try running shoes pretty regularly. From speedy road flats to big, workhorse trail shoes designed to carry you over mountains and streams, I’ve tried (what feels like) them all. And as a veteran runner of more than two decades, I have also developed my preferences.
That said, I have never tried a shoe made by Craft, Spartan’s partner in crime for designing unique shoes for both OCR and the trails. I spent a couple of weeks taking them out for some miles on my local single track, and I’m excited to share my thoughts on the Spartan X Craft Nordic Speed Shoe.
Giving It a Go
My local state park — based in the Mid-Atlantic — has hundreds of miles of trails, offering up a wide variety of conditions. They’re hilly, often a bit muddy, and contain a fair share of stream crossings. Like most East Coast trails, they also include a heavy dose of rocks, roots, and tree falls that you must navigate. These conditions require a solid, versatile shoe.
My own personal trail shoe preferences include an agile ride with a bit of cushion. I like to feel in touch with the ground and comfortable hopping from one rock to the other. I prioritize being able to cross a stream and not have my shoe get weighed down. Traction matters, too, as I don’t want to worry about sliding off a wet log or rock.
Craft and Spartan designed a shoe with Nordic influences, where runners deal with natural obstacles and a variety of weather conditions. As a result, the Nordic Speed Shoe truly checked all my boxes. I was afraid it might end up being stiff and unforgiving, but it delivered a really flexible shoe with just the right amount of cushioning.
The outsole of the Nordic Speed Shoe incorporates a carbon infusion, helping to boost its gripping ability. Lugs are thick — 4.5 millimeters and multi-directional for grip. I liked this as I crossed over the mossy rocks of a stream. I felt secure with the traction and never worried about slipping. The midsole features reinforced foam, which provided some bounce and cushion, but not so much that I didn’t ever feel like the ground was far away. Together, the insole and outsole provide a smooth, comfortable, and secure ride that allows you to focus on the trail ahead, not your feet.
The knit upper plays a role in the shoe’s agility and comfort, too. It’s flexible and comes with toggle speed lacing that fastens down at the front once you’ve secured the shoe. I found this to be a nice bonus — other trail shoes might feature the toggle laces, but being able to fasten it down gave it a much more secure fit and lessened the odds that the laces could snag on a passing stick.
I found the shoe size and fit to be spot on, and appreciated a roomy toe box, which isn’t always the case in trail shoes.
Put all the features together and you get a shoe that can go the distance through training, but also makes for a speedy, lightweight ride on race day. My thoughts are that it could work well for the beginning trail runner who is unsure on their feet, on up to front-of-the-pack runners who want performance. It hits that rare sweet spot on versatility that I haven’t experienced from many other trail shoes.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nordic Speed Shoe comes in a teal/charcoal combo — teal on top for women, charcoal for men. Colors are never going to sell me on a shoe, but a fun color like this doesn’t hurt. I ran through some pretty thick, dark mud on one of my first tries with the Nordic Speed Shoe, most of which washed right away when I splashed through a stream a mile later. Speaking of which, the shoe drained nicely, too, so I didn’t feel like I was dragging 10-pound bricks on my feet afterwards.
I originally approached this shoe trial a bit unsure of what to expect. As I said, Craft footwear is new to me. But I came out sold on the solid engineering that emerged from the Craft/Spartan partnership.