You’d think that mimicking a pair of max cushioning trail shoes would be easy, but it’s not. Adding more stack height is only one part of the equation — getting all the components to work in harmony is where the art of a great shoe comes to the forefront. Craft has an extensive history of running shoes and has raving fans worldwide, but the new Craft Endurance Trail Running Shoes are my first foray into their footwear. They are definitely tall, springy and breathable, with plenty of traction, but there’s more to them than meets the eye.
Craft Endurance Trail Running Shoes Features:
- Px Foam™ midsole
- One-piece mesh upper
- Snug in heel and mid foot with excellent lock-in capability
- Contact lugged rubber outsole
- Stack: 36mm heel and 27mm toe (9mm drop)
- Weight: 12.3 oz (each size 11.5, actual)
- MSRP: $159.99
Squishy trail shoes? Indeed.
For 2023, Craft has released the Endurance Trail and the Nordlite Ultra to their trail running lineup. With both in for review, the Endurance Trail is first up. From cold winter trails to dry summer singletrack, the Endurance Trail has been on test for several months now and we’ll start with the squish. With a tall 36mm heel stack, these immediately put me well into 6-feet territory. There’s no way around it, I do feel very tall in these as they have 5mm more stack than the Hoka Challenger 7 tested earlier this year. In fact, at my standing desk, I have to use a wider stance to keep everything on the level.
During the break-in period, it didn’t take me long to size these up. Craft has built them with a one-piece mesh upper and it turns out that is a difficult design to execute to perfection. On one hand, the mesh breathes like a sieve and offers flexible movement, but on the other hand, the one-piece design creates a lot of toebox volume. In fact, there is so much excess volume in the forefoot that I have to wear thicker socks like the Runderwear Anti-blister Mid or CEP Hiking Merino Mid Cut Compression Socks just to keep my foot from moving up-and-down in there. Lest you wonder, the length and width is great, it’s just the excess toe volume that has to be filled.
Using standard laces, the high-volume uppers feature a narrow-gauge tongue that offers limited cinching should you have narrow feet. My average-volume feet and low arches come close to maxing out the laces once cinched down for a run. I’ll add that the laces don’t slide smoothly through the eyelets, which does offer pinpoint fit adjustments that will remain, but it doesn’t allow the laces to be fluid with each step. Because of the eyelet situation, putting them on and taking them off requires significant loosening down to the third eyelets. This is particularly difficult when wearing the thicker socks mentioned above. The structured heel does help, but a heel pull tab would help even more.
Craft is pretty bullish on the Px Foam midsole — touting its lightness, cushion and non-toxic construction. These midsoles do have the appearance of a cheap styrofoam cooler. I was skeptical that they would be durable enough for trail use, but they absolutely are. After months of use, the Px Foam looks as good as new, in spite of extensive rock strikes and abuse. Durability is impressive, but how is the cushioning? That’s where things get a little bit nuanced.
At slower speeds, the cushioning feels much like wiggly Jello being compressed. You step, settle and in that process the foam seems to jiggle ever-so-slightly until the next step. While walking does highlight this character, running lessens that sensation. That said, I do still feel like the cushioning lacks the right density for both smooth compression and proper rebound. Each step is met with foot-cradling squish, but toe-off feels sluggish. If you’re interested in speedy shoes for fast paces or competitive events, these are definitely not your shoe. Ultimate comfort at a mid-range pace is just about right with the Endurance Trail shoes and the ample cushioning does do wonders with my old bones.
Traction is superb for all terrain and smooth enough for modest road approaches, as needed. A smooth stride is possible, but a rockered outsole would deliver an even better experience. The separated forefoot and heel areas allow each to compress and rebound independently, which can sometimes create an inchworm effect.
Above it all, in spite of the tall stack height, my feet settle into the shoe nicely for superb stability. Technical terrain and off-camber trails feel natural and responsive and my heel stays put on rolling terrain and while ascending. On the downhill, I can’t seem to cinch them down just right to avoid some fore/aft movement. It’s not terrible, but does highlight the worst part of the lacing design. At the end of the testing period, I did abandon the lace guide in the tongue, which did allow for an improved lacing experience. It’s not really needed to keep the tongue centered due to the elastic mesh which anchors either side of the tongue to the midsole and adds midfoot compression.
Fit: The size 11.5 US / 45 EUR shoe fits the length of my feet perfectly — with ample wiggle room in the toebox. However, the high volume forefoot does present some
- Breathable mesh uppers
- Superb traction on all terrain
- Cushioning for old joints and bones
- Great stability
- Feels lightweight under foot
- Excellent toe-off
- Extra width in the toebox
- Excess volume requires thick socks
- Hard to put on and take off
- Couldn’t ever get the lace tension right
- Midsole feels jiggly as it compresses — especially at low speeds
- Separate heel/toe can “inchworm” on you
The Bottom Line: Craft Endurance Trail Running Shoes
Clearly, there has been a lot of design cycles on these shoes. The one-piece mesh uppers are unique and offer seam-free fit and tons of breathability (granted you don’t have to wear thick socks like I did). Traction is excellent and overall cushioning does provide comfort for long trail runs. But, the way the midsole compresses is a little jiggly and rebound is lacking. Plus, I did find it hard to settle on the proper lacing tension. If you have a high-volume foot, these would likely fit better for you.
Buy Now: Available from REI.com