Today we’re discussing the Nike Ultrafly Trail shoe.
When it comes to trail shoes Nike does have a reasonably wide selection, with the Trail Pegasus, Wildhorse and Zegama among others.
That said, despite these shoes, the brand isn’t considered a serious off-road running option in the same way as Hoka or even Altra.
Even with shoes on the feet of many of the world’s best road runners, trail runners just don’t look at Nike as a serious off-road option.
Perhaps with this in mind, Nike has teased us with this shoe for several months.
The images of what many expected to be a Vaporfly for the trails were seen across social media way before any official release.
The shoe does retain some of the features of the carbon-plated super shoe, but there’s more than simply a trail outsole here.
The Ultrafly Trail does feature the ZoomX midsole as well as a carbon plate and has a Vibram outsole, a first in itself for Nike. But this shoe is also built on a different last with different dimensions, so it is basically a new model.
Nike Ultrafly Trail – First Impression:
There’s a Vibram outsole. For many trail runners, a Vibram sole is seen as essential.
With a reputation for great traction on a variety of surfaces, the combination of Vibram’s rubber compound and stud design is as good as you can get.
There’s a ZoomX midsole but here it’s wrapped in a fabric shroud.
Great as ZoomX is, it isn’t the most durable when faced with anything other than smooth tarmac, so Nike has wrapped it in a lightweight, durable fabric to provide protection.
The fit is much roomier than a Vaporfly. The shoe is broader across the forefoot yet fits snuggly around the midfoot.
The Vaporweave material used in the upper has a translucent property to it and being white, this isn’t going to stay looking new very long!
Step-in comfort is great, the soft, responsive nature of the ZoomX is apparent right away and I’m keen to get outside and give the shoes a try.
Nike Ultrafly Trail – The Tech
A Vibram Metagrip Litebase outsole provides the traction. With 3.5mm lugs and a bi-directional stud pattern, it’s a sole that should prove ideal for ‘light trails’, forest tracks and gravel paths.
ZoomX foam provides the midsole cushioning and just like in the Alphafly and Vaporfly road racing shoes, it’s soft yet highly responsive with a very ‘springy’ feel to it.
The midsole is wrapped in a textured fabric to protect it from the abrasive surfaces of the trails.
The Carbon Flyplate is described by Nike as being ‘Flat-bottomed’.
I assume this to mean it has a slightly less curved nature and this helps create more stability for the trails. A flat bottom would naturally give a more balanced feel and the shoes do feel more stable than the Vaporfly.
A Vaporweave upper provides a durable, ripstop design that has highly breathable properties and provides a non-stretch, supportive fit.
The upper has additional support straps incorporated into the laces for a secure fit.
Nike Ultrafly Trail – Test:
Being a trail shoe, for my first run in the shoes I wanted to try to cover as many different surfaces as possible.
I am lucky in that where I live, with just a couple of hundred metres I am onto the trail. This trail offers most types of terrain the longer it goes.
So starting with a little road, then gravel paths, I can quickly be onto a fire road (firm gravel/stone path) and then forest tracks.
The shoes are rather soft from the initial step-in and the ZoomX is evident.
The carbon plate is less obvious and I think this is probably because, being a trail shoe, there’s that full coverage of Vibram rubber sole. Trail shoes are usually naturally a little more stiff than road shoes.
Setting out at an easy pace the shoes feel great, although heavier than most road shoes, they don’t feel too heavy and are pretty light compared to many trail options.
The upper is a good fit and any concerns I had about that lacing being stiff and intrusive have gone within the first mile.
At the first sight of any mud thoughts of keeping this gleaming white upper has disappeared, along with the gleaming white finish!
At 3.5mm deep the outsole lugs aren’t going to be able to offer traction in the deep mud that I could encounter on these trails in the winter, but for now, when simply hopping over the occasional puddle it will be adequate.
On the gravel sections and forest path, the lugs bite into the ground and provide enough traction. I prefer comfort and cushioning on my trail shoes over deep lugs, except when racing.
The ZoomX feels great and further into the run or some firmer sections the carbon plate makes itself shown, adding to the responsive toe-off.
Nike Ultrafly Trail – Conclusion:
The Nike Ultrafly Trail is undoubtedly a great shoe. But as with all trail shoes, it’s ‘horses for courses’. The danger for Nike is that based on the success of the ZoomX and Carbon-equipped Vaporfly, runners may flock to this shoe expecting more of the same.
While the shoe offers that great ZoomX cushioning it’s designed more with specific surfaces and perhaps even distances in mind.
For all-day comfort, it is undoubtedly a great choice and the benefits of the relatively low weight, great cushioning and traction will be welcome.
For short day-to-day type runs, I think it could be possible that runners simply just don’t get the most out of the shoe.
The shoe is a collection of great features that come together beautifully on longer off-road routes. I fear that many will simply expect the versatility of the Vaporfly in a trail shoe.
The Vaporfly can handle any distance from 5k to marathon and beyond as well as tempo and interval sessions on the road and track. It’s a truly versatile and amazing shoe.
The Ultrafly has all the components of the Vaporfly but needs to be used in more specific conditions to release its full potential.