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Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 Review: The Ultra 2's Plated Sibling
By Chief Contributor Matthew Klein and Senior Contributor David Salas


In recent years Craft has been bringing some pretty fun upper designs to the ultra racing footwear scene. They continue this tradition with the Ultra Carbon 2. The wild design is just as wild as the rest of the shoe. The Ultra Carbon has proven to be a successful ultra racing shoe on the circuit in the last year and the shoe delivers as a rhythmic high stack ultra racer. The carbon plate and grippy outsole both seem to provide some good stabilization and versatility to the shoe as well.


Price: $250 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 9.3 oz, 265 g (men's size 9), Women's Specs Not Provided
Stack Height: 40 mm / 30 mm
Drop: 10 mm
Classification: Carbon Plated Hybrid Road/Trail Performance Trainer


RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Matt: The Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is a carbon plated hybrid performance trainer and ultramarathon racer for those who like a shoe that can handle almost any surface. The outsole features a solid lug pattern that provides grip on trails but is durable and moderate enough to work equally well on the road. A protective and moderately cushioned midsole is paired with a carbon plate that adds stability and rigidity to the ride. A well-ventilated and high volume mesh upper sits up top providing plenty of room for swelling and toe splay but may be a bit wide for narrow footed runners. Able to handle long training runs and uptempo miles on both trail and road, the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 returns as an improved carbon plated performance trainer/ultramarathon racer.

David: The Craft Ultra Carbon 2 is an ultra-marathon racing shoe that certainly has some all-terrain appeal. The outsole is grippy enough to handle trail situations but still not so aggressive it can't be run on roads with. The shoe provides good versatility and a consistent ride for many miles. The shoe does carry a tad bit of weight but runs much lighter than the listed weight thanks to the geometry and plate design.


FIT 


Matt: The Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 fits me true to size length-wise in my normal men's US size 10. The upper is a thin engineered mesh with a large amount of volume. I immediately had to lace lock the shoe to prevent heel slippage as the fit is slightly wider. There is no heel counter, so those sensitive to those will have no trouble here. The heel collar does have a bit of padding that helps slightly with security, but I still had to lace lock the heel. The midfoot and forefoot have a high volume as mentioned and I had to really tighten down the laces to get a secure fit. The tongue is gusseted and stays securely in place. The forefoot volume allows for plenty of toe splay without being too wide. I did not notice the mild toe guard but would encourage people to wear socks with these due to the mild roughness from the internal aspect of the upper. The mesh upper has small slights throughout its length giving a high degree of breathability. This is a great shoe for warmer weather runs but not for colder weather unless you have warm socks. The lightweight mesh also drains incredibly well with water crossings and my feet dried quickly. The security on the upper lends itself to less aggressive terrain, but the higher volume works exceptionally well over longer efforts when your feet start to to swell. The Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 has a higher volume fit that will work well for those who want a little more room and are not worried about durability or security.

David:
The common thing with the Craft CTM series for me seems to continue. The uppers have a lot of volume dorsally through the forefoot and midfoot impacting some heel security. After a heel lock all the problems go away and things are fine, but the upper dimensions could be worked on. The upper is constructed of an ultra lightweight polyester mesh that otherwise locks down pretty well. The upper is very breathable throughout and relatively thin. It isn't super protective against abrasion for the trail folk but should still hold up ok in most situations. It's reinforced well enough that if you roll an ankle or blow into some turns it should hold up. The width throughout is normal from the heel through the forefoot with the toe box perhaps being slightly wide. The heel does not have a heel counter but reinforced with a suede like material that holds the sock well when running. Overall, it's a really good breathable upper that would be bettered with reworking some of the dimensions. I wouldn't classify this as a trail upper, but I know some people who have shredded quite well with it.



PERFORMANCE 

Matt: The Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is a performance trainer/ultramarathon racer that features a carbon plate, a rockered and a moderately cushioned EVA midsole. The ride is balanced between firm and soft providing a little bounce from the UD Foam and an efficient ride from the rocker/plate.  The heel bevel and toe spring are significant, creating a rolling ride. The plate is integrated well with the sole and balances well with the rocker. This creates inherent stability/rigidity that feels great moving at moderate to uptempo tempo paces on even or uneven terrain. The weight and feel of the shoe lend to being a performance trainer. At 9.3 oz it is not the lightest shoe, but combined with the rocker and plate it is easy to pick up the pace in the Ultra Carbon 2.  Fartleks feel great as the plate comes alive the more force you put into the shoe. However, the efficient ride lends itself more as a long-run and trail speed shoe. Both consistent and changing paces feel great here, making for a versatile performance shoe. There is a 10mm drop in this shoe and it does feel like that. The heel bevel and toe spring offsets that, as someone with stiff calves recently it felt great. The lugs on the outsole are tough enough to handle trail, but are subtle enough to handle road. Thirty of the 60 miles on my pair have been done on road and the outsole is doing extremely well. I have worn down the lugs, but not worn through the outsole yet. Based on my rough mechanics, the durability of this outsole is excellent. The ride is consistent between road and trail, feeling efficient and protective. The setup does make it better over longer distances, so those looking for a varied terrain, long distance/ultramarathon performance trainer or racer should definitely take a look at the CTM Ultra Carbon 2.  

David:
I was really pleased with the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 in the performance category. The shoe is very rhythmic and very smooth in a variety of footing. There is plenty of protection with underfoot stack and the carbon plate helps keep the ride moving forward even when fatigued. The shoe feels very good for long efforts and I could easily see someone looking to grab this for an ultra race. The Ultra Carbon 2 really shines in controlled rhythmic efforts and can still handle some uptempo work as well if called upon. I don't race ultra, but I could easily see this going into my long run rotation for my 18-20 milers. It isn't quite marathon and down racing fast, but could really be used well as a performance trainer or ultra racer. The carbon plate does firm up the ride quite a bit and I feel like it may make the shoe a little too rigid for me for every day usage, but something I really like for my long runs, especially if I find myself in multi terrain situations throughout the run. The ride relies on the geometry and is reinforced with the plate to keep the rocker moving forward. I think the Ultra Carbon 2 plants itself in a pretty versatile position being a competitor to a shoe like the Carbon X, but more applicable to trail as well.


STABILITY 

Matt: The CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is a neutral shoe but has several elements of stability. The heel features solid sidewalls on both the medial and lateral sides that act to keep heel transitions guided forward. The heel bevel and toe spring are significant and along with the plate keep the foot moving forward. There is also a solid amount of medial and lateral sole flare at the heel and forefoot. This combined with the torsional rigidity from the plate seems to resist frontal plane motion. The midfoot does narrow and does not have any additional stability elements other than the plate and the rocker moving you through that area. There upper is not as stable, although it is comfortable. There are no reinforcements, which again required me to lace lock and tie down the laces significantly. The sole elements mentioned previously do a decent job at overcoming the upper, particularly with the sidewalls at the heel and the plate adding rigidity to the sole. Overall, the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is a neutral shoe, but has elements that will make it work for those with mild stability needs.

David:
The stability of the Ultra Carbon 2 is done quite well. The traction underfoot compared with the firmness of the midsole and plate provide plenty of ground feel for the ride of the shoe. The upper volume and dimensions could be reworked a little bit but are reinforced well enough once heel locked. I like that the focus is more all terrain than just road or just trail. Outside of the upper integration I am really happy with the stability throughout. One thing I'd like to note as well is the forefoot is very stable up front. Thanks to the wider platform and good traction the cross sectional area is really good. The sole flaring both medially and laterally through the forefoot is also integrated really well and helps both on road and trail.

THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

Matt: Running shoe weight is important when talking about efficiency. For every 100g taken off the shoe, there is about a 1% improvement in running economy (Franz et al., 2012). However, several other variables come into play when traversing multiple terrains or going over ultramarathon distances. When factoring in trails more underfoot protection can be of benefit to protect the feet from hazardous obstacles. Plates are beginning to be seen more in trail shoes, doubling as rock plates and potentially improving efficiency (although this will be about 1% or less (Roy & Stefanysyn, 2006)). These further add to underfoot protection. Then more rockered soles come into play. While these have not been shown to improve efficiency, they do reduce the workload of the foot and ankle (Brown et al., 2004; Sobhani et al., 2014). This may reduce fatigue in the smaller more distal joints and shifting it up toward larger muscles groups proximally.

As distances increase, protection, stability, fatigue reduction and efficiency are all important factors. Protection is important on technical or even terrain to reduce tissue damage from being on the feet for so long. Stability is important so less effort is wasted attempting to balance. Fatigue reduction is important given the high level of endurance needed. This relates to efficiency as the more efficient one is, the less energy used/wasted.

A question we get asked frequently is when will there be a superfoam trail shoe. The answer is complicated. At the time of this writing there does not appear to be any major contenders for this, but the number of carbon plated trail shoes is increasing each month. The reasoning behind this is although the weight may decrease, the stability of these superfoams is often not good. Combined with the fact that you are already running on softer surfaces may sacrifice stability further, that might increase injury risk due to trail hazards leading to ankle sprains, losing footing, etc. Footwear designed for racing road marathons are going to have different characteristics than trail ultramarathon racing shoes because the terrain, distances and needs are different. The Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 has a solid EVA foam (UD Foam) that holds up well over longer miles with some mild bounce but remain stable/resilient over long distances. The carbon plate further protects and stabilizes the midsole, giving the runner what they need as they start to fatigue. The efficient rocker and higher drop both unload the calves and ankle, which may work well for some people that want that (most of the rockered, maximalist trail shoes are frequently lower drop).

With these complex needs, whether a company can integrate a superfoam into a trail shoe remains to be seen. A few prototypes and upcoming models have been hinted at, but whether this can be balanced with the stability and other unique needs of trail shoes remains to be seen.

References


Brown, D., Wertsch, J., Harris, G., Klein, J., Janisse, D. (2004).  Effect of rocker soles on plantar pressure.  
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 85(1): 81-86.

Franz, J. R., Wierzbinski, C. M., & Kram, R. (2012). Metabolic cost of running barefoot versus shod: is lighter better. 
Med Sci Sports Exerc44(8), 1519-1525

Roy, J. & Stefanyshyn, D. (2006). Shoe midsole longitudinal bending stiffness and running economy, joint energy and EMG. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: 38(3), 562-569.


Sobhani, S., Bredeweg, S., Dekker, R., Kluitenberg, B., Heuvel, E., Hijmans, J., Postema, K.  (2014).  Rocker shoe, minimalist shoe and standard running shoe: A comparison of running economy. 
 Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 17(3): 312-316.



RECOMMENDATIONS


Matt: I have enjoyed the CTM Ultra Carbon 2 but highly suggest that additional reinforcements be added to the upper. The volume is a little high for even me, but I did like how much room I had in the forefoot. I would suggest adding more security through the midfoot, especially with how the sole narrows there. I would not mind if they widened the midfoot slightly, as the higher stack height may do better with a wider last in that area for overall stability on uneven terrain. Overall this is a solid performance trainer/ultramarathon racer that has done extremely well for me over all terrain.

David: My main recommendation for the CTM Carbon Ultra 2 is cleaning up the upper dimensions. The fit does seem to have pretty high volume through the forefoot and midfoot dorsally. This resulted in heel slippage for me if I did not heel lock the shoe. Otherwise the midsole protection and responsiveness feels really nice for an ultra shoe and the shoe has good all terrain traction for versatile use.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR 

Matt: The Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is a hybrid road/trail performance trainer and ultra-marathon shoe for those that want a higher drop, rockered, carbon plated shoe with a higher volume upper. The ride is efficient and fun at long and uptempo paces. The outsole transitions easily between road and trail. The shoe has mild stability elements in the heel and forefoot. The upper is higher volume, accommodates swelling well, but will work for those that want more room. Featuring performance and durability for whatever lays ahead, the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 will continue to be a long trail run shoe for me, especially when I don't know what lies ahead. 

David: The Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is an ultra-marathon racing shoe that can be used like an all-terrain 4 wheel drive vehicle. The shoe isn't crazy responsive at high paces but really smooth and stable through the forefoot on a large variety of footing. The shoe is very rhythmic at controlled paces and definitely an ultra racing shoe that I think is worth considering. The ride is very consistent throughout and the ride holds up nicely over longer mileage. This will find a place in my rotation for my long runs.


GRADING 

Matt
Fit: B+ (Higher volume upper. Requires lace locking and tightening down the laces. Provides plenty of room particularly for toe splay, but not always the best lockdown)
Performance: 
A- (Efficient, multi-terrain shoe. Extremely solid over long and uptempo trail/road miles)
Stability: B+/A- [Stable Neutral] (Solid stability in the rearfoot and forefoot. Plate stabilizes midfoot, but narrows slightly. Upper needs to be locked down for security)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (Rationale for grade)
Personal: A- (A go-to long trail shoe for me. The rocker makes the drop feel less, but everything unloads my calves well. The plate maintains stability and an efficient ride. More stability than expected from the sole. )
Overall: B+/A- (An excellent Ultramarathon Racer/Performance trainer that can truly handle all terrains. Great efficient ride. Not the fastest shoe, but definitely a great one, particularly those that want a higher drop rockered shoe)

David
Fit: (Overall fit is good, but does carry a lot of volume requiring me to heel lock the upper)
Performance: 
A- (Everything I want out of an ultra marathon shoe. Still a tad heavy but runs lighter than listed. I like the all terrain aspect as well)
Stability: A- (Good sole flaring integration, traction, geometry, upper could be reworked)
DPT/Footwear Science: A- (I like the combination of plate technology with the ultra focus and all terrain focus. Good sole flaring integration for the high stack.)
Personal: A- (A niche shoe for me but something I will definitely be looking at on long runs day. The plate is a little too much for me for daily usage. Good rhythmic rocker with plenty of protection and good traction for versatility)
Overall: B+/A- (A really well done ultra marathon racer that is really stable through the forefoot. All terrain traction. Still a tad heavy but runs lighter than weight. Very good rhythm with geometry and plate.)
   

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Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.

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TESTER PROFILES:

Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT

Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything. 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Dr. David Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs ranging from 3:54 in the 1500m to 1:08:36 for half marathon. He typically runs 60 to 70 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing, 

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Craft USA and Running Warehouse for sending us pairs.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

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Craft CTM Ultra 2 Review

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