When you're burning through steep climbs, crushing technical singletrack and battling erratic weather, the last thing you need to worry about is what's on your feet. So don't.
The training shoe you choose is arguably the most critical gear decision you make. Pick the right pair, and it absorbs the shock (about 2.5X your body weight) you create as you strike the trail, stride after stride. Plus, thoughtful cushioning protects your feet and shields your kinetic chain from brutal stress during long-haul runs. Skimp on your kicks, and you face crappy runs, ruthless recovery, underperformance and maybe even injury.
That’s why we designed the brand new, most badass trail runner of the year: the Spartan X CRAFT Nordic Speed Shoe, for men and women. These runners were born for the wild. Carbon-infused rubber outsoles help you keep pace over wet, slippery obstacles, a reinforced midsole provides max comfort and carry over unforgivable terrain, and a durable upper protects you mile after mile, obstacle after obstacle.
Our ultimate goal? To keep you safe and sharp so you can dominate tough workouts with focus and precision, worry free. Here are four reasons why you should snag a pair of these kick-ass kicks ASAP. Train smarter and race harder, starting NOW.
The Test: Spartan Pros Put the Spartan X CRAFT Nordic Speed Shoe Through Hell, in Real Time
To prove we nailed it, we sent Spartan Pros Erin Sondej and Steve Hammond (who also happens to be our Course Manager) through the obstacle wringer at Spartan Montana, Bigfork, wearing Nordic Trail Shoes. Both rocked the runners all day and evaluated their durability, versatility and all-terrain capabilities as they killed obstacles over unpredictable ground.
PRO INTEL: “There are lots of shoes out there suited to different types of OCR training,” Hammond said. “The Nordic Speed Shoe does very well in a variety of terrain, making it a good pick for a one quiver shoe. I was completely blown away at the comfort of the fit and how my foot felt light, strong and secure.”
Hammond, who was expecting sore feet at the end of a 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. race day, says the Nordic Speed’s cushion was bar none to tackling Montana’s rugged terrain.
“The comfort and lightness of this shoe makes it versatile and durable, and able to cope with distances from a sprint to an ultra," he said. "That’s rare in a shoe.”
PRO INTEL: Sondej, who trains for high-mileage distances, prefers a sturdy shoe with major cushion and stability.
“I need a shoe to last and get me through all those miles,” she said.
And, to her delight, the Nordic Speed outperformed all else out of the gate.
“Spartan races are notorious for their technical trails and bushwhacking, so I think this shoe would be good for anyone transitioning into OCR training who still wants the comfort of a road-running shoe, but doesn't want to go minimalist and feel every rock or root they step on,” Sondej said.
The Takeaways: Why the Spartan X CRAFT Nordic Speed Is 2021’s Top Performing Trail Shoe
1. Lightweight and Flexible, But Sacrifices Nothing in Support
The Nordic Speed Shoe is both ultra flexible and ultra durable. A next-to-impossible contrast that CRAFT was able to engineer in this runner that sets it head and shoulders above other trail shoes on the market. While many athletes think the stiffer the shoe, the more durable it is, that’s not the case when top-tier design can solve for both.
“Things that are durable often come at the cost of sacrificing versatility, flexibility and comfort,” said Eric Sarin, a partner at De Olmsted Footwear and 25-year athletic shoe maven responsible for the engineering and design behind Spartan X CRAFT footwear collaborations. “That was a challenge we wanted to meet head on.”
But how do you get both in one? It’s about precision in design. The Nordic Speed Shoe’s midsole foam is made from lightweight, high-rebound material, supported by a carbon rubber outsole that’s intentionally balanced between softness for grip, and firmness for stability and durability. The end result: a soft, comfortable, lightweight carry, without forfeiting support.
2. Designed with Unforgivable Nordic Terrain in Mind
True to its name, Nordic Speed Shoe’s design is inspired by unpredictable weather and shocking topography in Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Nordic landscapes are some of the most beautiful, but also the most rugged in the world.
“People in Sweden and the Nordic region are very health and fitness conscious, and use the extreme conditions of the nature around them to maximize the way they run and train,” Sarin said.
This shoe was born with exactly that in mind — to assist athletes as they train and compete in variable conditions to their ultimate ability.
“With Nordic trails and mountains and natural obstacles as our muse, we created an extremely versatile trail running shoe,” he said.
Not to mention, harsh terrain often involves unpredictable weather in the way of torrential downpours, hail, wind, and worst of all (to an OCR athlete) MUD. In any case, drainage is key—and without superior H2O expulsion in your shoes, you screw yourself into carrying extra pounds on your feet that can drastically slow you down. Not so, with the Nordic Speed Shoe.
“I tested them in Montana’s very hardy terrain with lots of steep ups and downs full of water crossings and muddy sections,” Hammond said. “There was no problem with the drainage — the water dispersed quickly. I set the [Montana] course in them and that usually destroys shoes! These stood up great.”
3. Carbon-Infused Rubber Provides Superior Traction
Spartans pride themselves on charging HARD, but no one wants crappy shoes to cause them to slip and fall. So, a solid carry over rough obstacles like roots, rocks and different types of gravel — especially when you’re running at speed — is a must. The good news? Thanks to clever engineering and thoughtful ingenuity, there’s a solution for that. Carbon-infused rubber outsoles built into the Nordic Speed Shoe hold grip over wet terrain just like your tires do on slick roads, without fail.
Here’s how: Rubber performs best when it’s soft, mechanically hugging surfaces and subsequently graduating on to more terrain as you stride forward. But because it’s tender, it can also wear quickly. Adding carbon to the picture helps softer rubber maintain durability and avoid tears over time.
Sondej vouched for it, saying the Nordic Speed Shoe’s traction was superior beyond belief — especially while she trampled Montana’s brutal course.
“The venue was rocky, technical and involved LOTS of bushwhacking,” she said. “The ground was often uneven and there was a lot of debris in the way. The shoes felt so good climbing and running on rocks and logs that I think they would do well on slippery walls and such, too.”
4. Toe Guards Shield Your Foot From Injury As You Tackle Tough Terrain
The thing about a legit trail shoe is that it protects your foot both in grip and in structure. Without proper structure in the footbed, one misstep can lead to a broken toe that takes you out of the game for a few precious weeks. Not good. That’s where the Nordic Speed Shoe’s TPU toe guard comes into play. TPU stands for “thermoplastic polyurethane” and is a technical, pressed material that can be adhered without any stitching or glue.
“The end result is a moderately-rigid zone that provides protection while maintaining comfort, sleekness and flexibility,” Sarin said.
Hammond can attest to that from his field feedback.
“One thing I loved was the slight reinforcement around the toe,” he said. “I did stub my toe and this helped [protect my foot] immensely. Also, the toe guard will help with the durability of the shoe over time that is needed to train hard for OCR. I’ve already logged 75 miles in the shoe and everything feels great so far.”