Nike Ultrafly Trail review summary: the grip of Nike's super trail shoe is on point, as is the speed and agility of the Ultrafly Trail. Trail runners – you need these shoes.
Nike are doing their thing in 2023, releasing new iterations of fan-favourite franchises, such as the Nike Invincible 3, the Nike Pegasus 40 and the Nike Vaporfly 3, the latter of which I'm yet to test. And while it's all well and good that Nike fans get their usual fix, the Nike shoes I was most excited about testing and reviewing is the Ultrafly Trail.
You see, the Ultrafly Trail is a new franchise from Nike and not just that, but it's designed as a flagship racing shoe for the trails, so therefore, there is a lot riding the success of the Ultrafly Trail. After the so-so reception of the Nike Zegama, which, to be honest, I didn't mind, I wondered what changes Nike applied to make the Ultrafly Trail better suited for racing.
Did Nike succeed? Indeed they did; the Ultrafly Trail might be one of the most exciting Nike releases in recent years. Is it the best trail running shoe? Let's dive in.
(First reviewed July 2023)
Nike Ultrafly Trail review: price and availbility
The Ultrafly Trail was released in limited quantities in Europe beginning 27 July and is available for all runners to purchase starting in August at Nike US, Nike UK and Nike AU and speciality retailers for a recommended retail price of $250/ £230 (approx. AU$ 377). This price places the shoes firmly in the 'super shoe' category, although these days, 'super trainers' (see also: Saucony Kinvara Pro) sell for almost as much as high-end racing shoes.
Nike Ultrafly Trail review: specification
- Weight: W8: 249g; M10: 300g
- Offset: 8.5mm
- Stack Height (M10/W11.5): Forefoot: 30mm; Heel: 38.5mm
- Foam: ZoomX
- Price: $250/ £230
Nike Ultrafly Trail review: design and build quality
There are three main areas worth mentioning: the Carbon Flyplate, the Vibram outsole and Vaporweave upper.
The first one is a biggie; the Ultrafly Trail is the Nike Trail shoe to feature the Carbon Flyplate layered between ZoomX foam and a fabric-wrapped midsole. In Nike's words, "A flat bottom and minimised cross rocker allow runners optimal stability on trail terrain while the heel-to-toe rocker promotes a smooth transition."
The inclusion of a Vibram outsole is even bigger news. The Ultrafly Trail is not only the first Nike trail shoe to feature Vibram but also the first Nike running shoe overall. The bespoke Vibram Litebase outsole design, with Vibram Traction Lugs, made of Vibram Megagrip rubber compound, "offers athletes the extra grip they need on the trails'" as Nike put it.
Finally, the Vaporweave upper uses a classic collar construction, counter and fit system, ensuring "lightweight comfort and reliability for miles and miles of racing on the trails."
As you can tell, the Ultrafly Trail is all about speed, traction and support, and the technologies mentioned above allow the shoes to do just that. To my delight, and unlike other trail super shoes such as The North Face Summit Vectiv 2.0 Pro (a brill road-to-trail shoe), the Nike Ultrafly Trail isn't too tall or unstable; instead, it keeps you closer to the ground and more in control, while pushing you forward.
Nike Ultrafly Trail review: running performance
Before we move on to talking about the running performance of the Nike Ultrafly Trail, let's quickly discuss ergonomics. I was thrilled to see that despite the flagship, race-ready nature of the shoes, the Ultrafly Trail's upper and especially the toe box of very accommodating. The forefoot platform is wide, and the upper, although supportive, isn't restrictive in any way.
The laces are longer, and there are no tabs to tuck them away; however, it's probably for the best, as I found the heel counter a bit loose. The padding around the ankle is more than enough, which is also excellent, as I could tie a runner's knot to ensure my heels stayed in place without putting too much pressure on the tarsals. The low-cut ankle profile helps the joints move freely.
Running in the Nike Ultrafly Trail is... energetic. You feel stable on your feet, thanks to the wide forefoot platform and the moderate flexibility of the midsole – the plate adds stiffness – you'll feel in control of your stride. I tried the Ultrafly Trail on a mixed-terrain forest path with stones poking out of the ground, and I had no issues with either grip or stability.
The grip is second to none on dusty, dry paths. Changing speed is easy, thanks to the Ultrafly Trail not having industrial amounts of foam, which is a strange but welcome move from the company that made high-stack running shoes the norm.
I'm yet to take the shoes on really long runs, and it's hard to tell how long the Nike Ultrafly Trail will be able to carry you due to the comparatively short stack height. I would imagine that experienced trail runners will find the propulsion adequate for longer distances, but some might experience fatigue sooner. Also, the upper is lovely, but I'm yet to see how resilient the thin Vaporweave material is.
Nike Ultrafly Trail review: verdict
The Nike Ultrafly Trail is an exciting concept. It's a first for Nike in many ways, from the inclusion of a carbon plate in a Nike Trail shoe to the first appearance of a Vibram outsole on any Nike running shoe to date. The Ultrafly Trail is also the first truly super shoe from the brand designed for the trail. There is a lot to get excited about.
I'm happy to report that the shoes live up to the hype, although further testing is required to determine the extent of their capabilities. Will the Ultrafly Trail be as disruptive as the Nike Vaporfly NEXT%? Only time will tell. If you'd excuse me, I'll need to go for a run in the nearby forest in the Nike Ultrafly Trail for some more testing...
Nike Ultrafly Trail review: also consider
There aren't loads of carbon-enhanced trail running shoes out there. Saucony have their Endorphin Edge, with its Carbitex carbon plate and 6mm drop that also sells for a horrible amount of money, as most super shoes do. As a non-carbon alternative, how about the Inov-8 Trailfly G270 V2? If you liked V1, you’re going to love the second iteration. It retains all the excellence of the first-gen trail tamer – the speed and agility, balanced protection, great grip, and robust durability – and adds a little extra upper comfort. Read Kieran's full Inov-8 Trailfly G270 V2 review.