10 Best North Face Running Shoes Tested In-Depth

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The North Face is a well-known brand that is making its name known in the running world as well. The brand has made significant contributions to the running shoe market—especially when it comes to trail running shoes.

Their success among runners is attributed to their focus on producing high-performance shoes that are durable, provide adequate protection, and maintain your stability in the rugged outdoors.

They offer a variety of designs that focus on aggressive trail performance. Their experience with making hiking shoes can be seen in their choice of durable materials and unique North Face styling.

The best off-road running shoes are made of high-quality materials for the upper, provide you with appropriate cushioning for the specific running purpose for the shoe, and ensure adequate traction and grip. So, let’s see what this brand has to offer.

Ultra-Marathoners such as Timothy Olson and Dean Karnazes use them and maybe it’s time to see if they are right for you.

Last Updated: June 3, 2018
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By Giselle Killebrew:

This update brings two new additions—the Ultra trail and the Ultra Vertical running shoes. The Ultra trail shoes are an excellent option for long-distance trail runners looking for a lightweight, comfortable, and durable option. The Ultra Vertical shoes are perfect for long distance runners looking for a shoe that they can take both on and off the trails—these shoes are also lightweight, breathable, and minimalistic.

The North Face Ultra MT Trail
  • The North Face Ultra MT Trail
  • 4.9 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Two-Piece EVA Midsole
  • Price: See Here
The North Face Ultra Cardiac
  • The North Face Ultra Cardiac
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Designed for Neutral Pronators
  • Price: See Here
Ultra TR II
  • Ultra TR II
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Ideal for longer distances
  • Price: See Here

10 Best North Face Running Shoes

 

 

1. Ultra MT Trail

This premium offering from The North Face is a stylish and protective option for serious trail runners. All of the positive elements from the other shoes on this list are present in this uncompromising shoe intended for the gnarliest off road adventures and trail races. It offers unparalleled traction and protection.
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Comfort/Stability
If comfort is your primary concern then consider the number 3 entry on this list, the Ultra Guide. The Ultra MT is built to conquer very technical terrain at a fast pace and has a snug cleat like fit in order to accomplish this. The exaggerated lugs combined with the Vibram megagrip outsole offer traction that rivals the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor while remaining lightweight. The 8mm toe to heel drop keeps you low to the ground.

Durability/Quality
The North Face made no compromises in their choice of materials and quality of construction in this model. In return it provides uncompromising performance and longevity. It is built to endure 100 mile races and is gaining a following in the ultra-marathon community. Includes a snake plate rock plate.

Cost or Value
Although the Ultra Mt is one of the pricier shoes on this list, it would be hard to find a shoe that offers everything it does without sacrificing either performance or weight. If you need the best, this is it.
Pros
  • Uncompromising quality and durability
  • Lightweight design with carefully selected materials
  • Excellent traction
Cons
  • Relatively high price
  • Runners with wide feet may find the toe box a bit constrictive

2. Ultra Cardiac

This lightweight cushioned shoe is one of North Face’s most versatile options. From the treadmill to the trails, this gimmick free trainer will keep you running with its breathable mesh upper and comfort focused design.
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Comfort/Stability
Designed to stay comfortable in any situation, the Ultra Cardiac offers less traction then more aggressive designs, but unless you are running on very technical terrain or in icy conditions, you will enjoy this shoe’s lightweight simple design. This workhorse has everything the daily runner needs and nothing they don’t.

Durability/Quality
The Cardiac is less rugged then the Ultra Guide or Ultra MT. It may not be as suited for extremely aggressive terrain but it is a lightweight option for logging miles on dirt paths and on the road. If you use it as intended, then the upper will outlast the plush EVA sole.

Cost or Value
The Ultra Cardiac is unmatchable in its price range in regards to quality and function. For comparison consider this review for the Best Nike Shoes.
Pros
  • Offers an impressive amount of cushioning for the weight
  • Extremely breathable upper
  • Workhorse versatility, can be used comfortably on roads or dirt paths.
Cons
  • The breathable upper is less abrasion resistant then more aggressive models such as the Ultra MT

3. Ultra Trail

3. Ultra Trail
The Ultra trail running shoes are specifically designed for trails--they are durable, comfortable, and provide optimal stability.
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Comfort/Stability
These shoes provide you with optimal comfort on your trail runs. They utilize midsole protection and are extremely lightweight--along them to efficiently carry you on those longer runs. It is minimally cushioned and highly responsive. They feature and 8mm drop and their midsole feature TNF technology. The TNF technology both absorbs impact and provides you wit maximum stability.

Durability/Quality
Like all of North Face's shoes, these shoes are highly durable and made of high quality material. Their upper utilizes TNF Flash Dry Technnology--which wicks away sweat and keeps your feet dry.

Cost or Value
These are high in cost but well worth the price.
Pros
  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Highly durable
  • Great for long distance
Cons
  • Expensive

4. Ultra Endurance

If the Ultra MT is overkill for you and the Ultra Cardiac isn’t quite burly enough then the Ultra Endurance is for you. It is the Ultra Cardiac’s slightly beefier big brother that includes a rock plate and more aggressive outsole design. It is a purebred trail running shoe that will offer adequate protection on long trail runs.
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Comfort/Stability
This shoe is slightly heavier than the Cardiac because of the added snake plate and but uses a nearly identical breathable upper. If you want the added protection of a rock plate then select this shoe.

Durability/Quality
Similar to the Cardiac, the upper is not intended to be indestructible like in the Ultra Mt, but rather meant to be breathable. It will certainly last for most every day running if you don’t abuse it.

Cost or Value
The added features mean the Endurance costs slightly more than the Cardiac. You will have to decide if trail running specific features are worth the extra money, or if the versatility of the Cardiac is better for your needs.
Pros
  • Great trail running performance for the average user
  • Flexible snake plate rock plate
  • Vibram megagrip outsole provides excellent traction
Cons
  • The added features make this shoe ill-suited for any use other than off road running

5. Litewave TR II

5. Litewave TR II
The Litewave TR II shoes is one of the best trail running shoes the North Face has to offer. They are simple, lightweight, and perfect for all runners--whether you participate in short or long distance running.
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Comfort/Stability

These shoes can be use for both trail and road running. They are extremely lightweight and minimalistic--they do not use a rock plate, excessive lugging, and provide you with a firm heel counter. They use EVA cushioning and have a 6mm drop--allowing them to provide you with a barefoot feel during your runs.

Durability?Quality.

Like most of the shoes from North face, these are also highly durable shoes made from high quality material. They provide additional midfoot reinforcement and feature a toe bumper for additional protection. They also utilize a thick, dual-density mesh material for added durability.

Cost

These shoes come at a great price--and they are well-worth the cost.
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Great for both trail and road running
  • Great for long distance running
  • Minimalistic design
  • Eva cushioning
  • 6mm drop
  • Highly durable
Cons
  • Water gets trapped in the upper's mesh

6. Ultra Equity

Specially designed for overpronators, the Ultra Equity are the Ultra Cardiac’s purpose built cousin. They share nearly identical features, but these are designed to prevent injuries in runners who need to correct their pronation. If instead, you are an underpronator, consider our list of the best shoes for underpronators.
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Comfort/Stability
Designed for everyday comfort, the Ultra Equity offers less traction then other designs, but unless you are running on very technical terrain or in icy conditions, you will enjoy this shoe’s lightweight simple design. This workhorse has everything the daily runner needs and nothing they don’t.

Durability/Quality
The Ultra Equity isn’t as overbuilt as the less the Ultra Guide or Ultra MT. It may not be as suited for very technical trails but it is a lightweight option for logging miles on or off road.

Cost or Value
The Ultra Equity is an excellent value due to its longevity and ability to prevent injury.
Pros
  • Purpose built for overpronators
  • Breathable and lightweight
  • Versatile on and off road performance
Cons
  • Limited color options

7. WOMEN'S ULTRA MT GORE-TEX

A ladies shoe offering durability, protection and comfort.  To guarantee dryness the shoe provides an impenetrable moisture barrier and for unrivaled traction the shoe features traction for dry and wet environments through the superb  Vibram Mega-Grip Outsole.

The North Face shoe is an exciting running experience, read our review and see if this shoe offers the performance which you are looking for.
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Comfort/Stability

The Womens Ultra MT GoreTex ia a nice weight shoe at  9.1 ounces (258 grams) and the shoe comes with an 8- mm offset.

This shoe is constructed to take on the toughest trail runs, you can comfortably tackle anything that a trail will throw at you.

Great protection for ladies. you can trust the over-lasted ripstop mesh while also be confident that moisture protection is at optimal level.

Featuring awesome all weather foot protection through the built in Gore-Tex membrane, if you want waterproofing combined with breath-ability which you can trust this is the shoe which performs.

As you ascend or descend feel fully protected for the prevention of blisters through the innovative and stabilizing Flash-Dry collar.

This great running shoe is offered in Rocker-Red with dark grey flashes.


Durability/Quality

Quality and durability are very high in this ladies performance running shoe, durability for a hard wearing firm grim comes from the excellent Vibram-MegaGrip Outsole system, feel confident while you run on surfaces which can vary as you ascend or descend.

The Outsole is backed up by the two piece midsole which provides durable long lasting forefoot and heel cushion and gives even more through the high quality performing ESS tech designed into the forefoot which will protect the foot from stones.

The shoes offer maximum comfort and are durably long lasting and very easy to clean after a run on sticky muddy trails.

Cost 

For shoes offering this level of durability, comfort, quality, protection and stability, the price is right and you get a very good investment.


Pros

Vibram-MegaGrip Outsole

ESS tech

Gore-Tex membrane

Flash-Dry collar

Rip-Stop Mesh

Cons

Runners have suggested they would like a winder choice of colors.


8. Track Hayasa II

Named after the Japanese word for speed, these shoes feature reflective elements for low light conditions and materials chosen for optimizing performance in cold environments.
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Comfort/Stability
The Hayasa is more like an “off road vehicle” then a “luxury sedan.” You may find it to be a stiffer ride then other options but if you want excellent traction and control on rough surfaces then it is the shoe for you. If the Japanese mojo is your thing but you want more stability, check out the La Sportiva Bushido for comparison.

Durability/Quality
Very well constructed, the Single Track Hayasa II can hold up to all the training runs you need to do to get ready for your race and still be ready to perform on race day without weighing you down.

Cost or Value
Although they aren’t the cheapest option, these shoes include many hard to find features in a lightweight durable package.
Pros
  • Very lightweight despite the rockplate and generous lugs on the outsole
  • Excellent traction and protection on the trails
Cons
  • Have a relatively tight fit, consider trying them on before buying or ordering a size up if you have wide feet.

9. Single Track II

Don’t confuse this shoe with the Single Track Hayasa because it is a completely different animal. The Single Track II has a steeper heel to toe drop of 12mm and fits like a road shoe. It is very similar to the pair of sneakers you had as a kid, just upgraded with North Face style and trail running features. The vestigial lugs on the outsole give the impression that this is really a road shoe with North Face styling and flare. It is also a great option as a walking shoe.
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Comfort/Stability
With a more relaxed fit in comparison to The North Face’s typical fit, the Single Track II will make you want to wear it as every day shoe. The steep heel to toe drop and thick sole under the heel will satisfy even the most shameless heel striker.

Durability/Quality
Reminiscent of a pair of classic trainers. The Single Track II will hold up well for treadmill use and pavement pounding, but may not be the right choice for muddy and rocky trail conditions.

Cost or Value
In comparison, you may find that the Single Track II is more expensive than some other trainer options, but if the North Face styling appeals to you then they may be right for you.
Pros
  • 12mm heel drop offers plenty of support for heel strikers
  • Forgiving design will protect you if your form isn’t perfect
  • Plenty of plush cushioning that will be very familiar to users converting from shoes such as the Nike Pegasus.
Cons
  • The trail specific features are less pronounced, and shouldn’t be mistaken for a shoe designed for technical terrain.

10. Ultra 109 GTX

Easily mistaken for a pair of hiking shoes, the Ultra 109 GTX are a burly and conservative solution for runners seeking maximum protection and comfort and who aren’t concerned about weight. Durability, water resistant and excellent traction are what this shoe is all about.
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Comfort/Stability
The 109 GTX offers much more stability then the average running shoe and is useful for a variety of applications outside of running. Its comfortable and conservative design would lend itself well as an everyday shoe or a companion on backpacking trips.

Durability/Quality
Durability is the 109 GTX main purpose. It’s not the lightest or flashiest shoe, but it will outlast all of the bright trendy shoes. Built more like a pair of hiking shoes that are meant to last a lifetime than just a running season, you will find use for these shoes long after the running season is over.

Cost/Value
The higher price of the GTX 109 is justifiable if you want one pair of shoes that can take you anywhere. Your morning run, the office, a weekend backpacking trip, the GTX is a versatile tool that will last.
Pros
  • Extremely versatile, beyond use as a running shoe
  • Very sturdy
  • Excellent traction in wet or dry conditions.
Cons
  • The versatility of this design means it is not a purebred training or racing shoe

The North Face offers a variety of running shoe offerings, but they may not be the best choice for everyone, they are intended for long distance trail performance and aggressive traction. If you have a wider foot, then you may want to consider a shoe from our list of 10 Best Running Shoes For Wide Feet


 

Our Criteria For The Best Running Shoes From North Face

This analysis looked very closely at running shoe performance for durability, stability, comfort, protection, unique shoe innovation suitable to the challenges and cost. When a lady or man is taking on the high country, we are talking about a seriously challenging trail, she or he will want a unique pair of trail shoes. trails can offer aggressive surface and ever-changing environments.

Durability

In terms of shoe durability the shoe must be able to perform, high trails on the North will hack away and test the shoe’s outsole, we looked at stickiness, the type of rubber used in the sole construction, can the sole deal with sharp stones, mud, grass, dust, grit and ever-changing surface contours and shallows?

Stability

Ascending, descending, flat surfaces, undulating trials, gritty surfaces, loose stones, rocks, roots make runner stability a paramount issue. We wanted to know id the shoe designers took notice of the need for stability by engineering innovative shoe tech into the shoe to enable solid stability at all times?

Comfort

An enjoyable ride can be wrecked by discomfort. We looked very closely at the level of shoe tech built into the shoe to not only provide comfort but to ensure long lasting durable comfort which evidently works in conjunction with stability and protection.

Protection

We checked out the protective features designed into the running shoe, the North face has a wide variety of surprising surface challenges and we needed to confirm that the shoes feature viable elements constructed into the shoe to protect a runner or hikers foot, especially the outsole. the toes, the heel and also the overall shoe structure.

Unique shoe innovation suitable to the challenges of the North Face was looked at in depth because this environment throws up its own set of unique challenges for both hikers and runners and it’s this fact which attracts people to those trails. We wanted to see that the shoes have innovative shoe tech built into them with full consideration given to the unique environment.

Cost

Looking at cost, we were impressed to see that all the reviewed shoes stayed true in providing shoes which contained the performance needs, durability, comfort, stability, and protection which is needed. These standards were maintained even when shoe models are offered at different price levels. This means that runners can select shoes based on their own preferred style as all the shoe models to perform.

 

Some More Interesting Information

 All you need to know about the history of North Face.

The North Face story starts with a little store retailing in mountaineering equipment at the North Beach, San Francisco, in 1966.

It was not long before locals started to call it the North Face Shop and the name stuck, eventually the shop relocated to Berkley where the outlet started producing its own brands for mountaineering equipment.

In the early 80s interest in Skiing had grown and the outlet started to offer a really broad choice of ski equipment, tents, backpacks and sleeping bags, people were in the mood to explore and the North Face Shop entered a broader market.

In the 90s, athletically minded people sought interesting newer challenges, athletics combined with recreational exploring was ready to take off.

A company called TekWare were quick to join the party and started to offer products specifically for trail runners, hikers, rock climbers, and general products for those enthusiastic enough to go out and up into the wilds. Big rock walls, the ultra high country running and hiking trails, naturally beautiful environment brought many people all of them seeking healthy physical and psychological interaction with nature.

 The North Face was a lot more than the little beach store that it used to be and launched its own brand line of trail running and trekking foot-ware. The approach for shoes was very creative and resulted in two very successful brands, Thermoballstarted the unique shoe styling for the North Face with shoe insulation provided by synthetic fibers which looked like “down” and FuseForm brought in new approaches into how shoe tech can be built into foot-ware.

Here we are now fifty-three years since that little humble beach store opened and only sold mountaineering goods.

Among their customers, they can now list famous mountaineers, extreme adventurous skiers, hardy seasoned and novice trail runners wearing excellent trail running shoes, swift snow-boarders, endurance racers and people who just want to test their limits and explore a challenging environment.

What will the next fifty years bring?

 

FAQ

Q: I have not yet tried North Face shoes, how long have they been around?

North Face as an outlet started of in the 1960s selling mountaineering stuff, they are a recent comer in quality running shoes and they are proving to be good.

Q: Can North Face shoes be used for snowy trails?

The company offer a broad selection of hardy trail shoes, you want water protection and grip, if you read runnerclick reviews you can see which choices are best.

Q: Which shoes provide the best cushion for trail running?

There are so many choices for running shoes with excellent cushion. Check out this link and you can choose whats best for you.

Q: Which running shoes give the best grip/traction for running on high country trails?

This depends on your running style and what type of performance you want on which type of trail, your questions can be better answered by clicking here.

Q: I have flat feet, am I ok for trail running?

Certainly you can enjoy trail running, you have a really wide choice of good shoes for flat footed runners.

Q: I’m a lady and I really enjoy running, I have tried a few brands but still not found the ideal running shoes for me, can you suggest?

Ladies have a fantastic choice of shoes and finding that perfect pair means checking out a reliable review, this way you will find your best choice of running shoes for ladies.


Take a look at a few sources we used:

Sources

  1. The North Face, 50 Years of Exploration & Innovation, Brand site,
  2. Competitor.com, Choosing A Trail Running Shoe That’s Right For You, Running publication,
  3. Runner's World, How to Buy the Right Running Shoes, Running publication,
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