North Face Litewave TR Review Facts
The North Face Litewave TR is a simple, stripped-down hybrid trail running shoe (great for road runs as well) that is known for being lightweight and versatile. It is geared for neutral pronators, and the cushioning and smooth ride help you run faster than ever. The shoe features many exciting additions, including UltraATAC™ rubber in the outsole, comfortable foam plus an Ortholite® footbed in the midsole, and a breathable dual-mesh upper. The shoe doesn’t provide much protection—there is no rock plate, and the upper is not heavily reinforced—and the colorway options are unimpressive, making the shoe look cheap and unappealing. But overall, the Litewave TR is a solid shoe that works for both light trails and long roads.
The outsole package is a strong and solid one. First of all, it features UltrATAC™—a rubber compound meant to provide both traction and protection even on intense terrain such as abrasive trails. Next, the outsole has gripping lugs on the external pads; these are trail-optimized and are meant to enhance traction, especially if you are running on rough or irregular surfaces. However, these lugs are not so aggressive that they hold you back—if you’re on flat ground, you will still be able to move quickly. And finally, the shoe includes a few flex grooves in both the forefoot and heel sections. These serve to make the entire outsole unit more flexible, thus adding more responsiveness and complying with your natural foot movement. The outsole does not perform well in wet or muddy conditions
—the lugs slip, creating a dangerous situation.
The Litewave TR’s midsole has a full-length foam material (compression molded ethylene vinyl acetate) specifically designed to provide more responsiveness and give you a top-notch underfoot experience. Besides responsiveness, this material also provides shock absorption, comfortable cushioning, and underfoot protection; plus, it is very durable. On top of this foam sits a rubber compound that is especially meant for trails. This Ortholite® footbed adds even more cushioning. Furthermore, it contains anti-moisture and anti-microbial capabilities. These help with sustaining an environment for your foot that is healthy and clean—something that is overlooked in many running shoes.
The upper is dual-mesh and has an open construction for more breathability, including ventilation pores for a better airflow. The other aspect of this dual-mesh construction is the durability: the construction of the upper blocks rips or tears. TPU-welded overlays hug the foot and keep it secure in the shoe, preventing slippage. Strangely, the tongue of the Litewave TR is very thin and has an odd shape. The lacing system of the shoe is traditional; the shoelaces hold together with thick lace-loops that are stitched right onto the mesh. These loops are also customizable—adjusting them adjusts the fit of the whole upper. A final feature of the upper is the pull tab included on the heel that makes it easier to quickly put on the Litewave TR. The only drawbacks of the upper are the thin tongue (which is probably not very durable) and the fact that, if the upper gets wet, it takes quite a while to drain. Furthermore, the upper is not heavily reinforced, meaning that it does not protect your foot well.
A men’s size 9 is 8.2 oz. This is very lightweight and provides a ride that feels extra smooth and responsive. The Litewave TR is a shoe designed to help you go fast and feel agile, and a big reason why it succeeded is because of the light weight—much lighter than comparable shoes. The thin, low-profile tongue and the collar foam are very light to help eradicate excessive weight. North Face showed minimalist leanings with the Litewave TR, so it should come as no surprise that the weight of the shoe is minimal as well.
The mesh upper is designed specifically to provide more breathability because of its open construction. The upper has multiple ventilation pores that serve one important purpose: allowing environmental air to keep your foot both dry and cool. Another feature that aids in breathability is the Ortholite® footbed in the midsole—this has anti-microbial and anti-moisture capabilities to keep everything clean and healthy. The Litewave TR has zero problems with breathability.
The midsole is very comfortable thanks to both the foam material and the accompanying Ortholite® footbed. Both of these materials are firm but soft, and they provide excellent cushioning. The upper is comfortable as well, and the lace-loops allow you to adjust the fit (making it looser, or more secure). So even if the shoe doesn’t feel comfortable right out of the box, you can adjust it however you like. The heel collar and tongue are padded and comfortable, and the toe box is just wide enough to be perfect.
The women’s Litewave TR comes in turbulence gray with nasturtium orange accents on the outsole, upper, and pull tab, plus a small blue North Face logo near the front of the shoe; another option is blue coral/budding green. The men’s shoe comes in blue quartz/lantern green and phantom gray/TNF yellow. The color options don’t seem to fit together well, and many reviewers think that the material of the shoe looks cheap and inferior. The Litewave TR is cited as being comfortable enough for everyday wear, and while this may be true, it’s also true that the style of the shoe is so unappealing, you may not want to be seen wearing this one on the street.
The dual-mesh upper is very durable; it is so thickly woven that it ought to effectively prevent rips or tears. The tongue, however, is thin and may not be as durable as the rest of the upper. The Ortholite® footbed in the midsole is tough, durable, and leads the industry. The overall durability of the shoe is excellent: testers have reported that it will last for hundreds and hundreds of miles. This factor of the shoe is especially nice when you consider how low the price is.
Some reviewers have been disappointed that the Litewave TR does not have a rock plate, which is a big drawback as far as protection goes for this trail running shoe. Because the upper is not heavily reinforced, it does not offer much protection either. There is a rubberized toecap at the front of the shoe, though, which doesn’t offer as much protection as a rock plate would but still offers enough. Considering the lack of protection, it is best to stay off of very intense terrain with the Litewave.
The Litewave TR is very responsive, largely because of the foam that stretches the entire length of the midsole. The flex grooves on either side of the outsole help as well—they add a little extra flexibility, thus increasing responsiveness. The flex grooves support the natural movement of your foot. The responsiveness of the Litewave TR should work for trails, roads, or wherever you find yourself running.
One part of the shoe that provides excellent midfoot support is the upper. It features TPU-welded overlays that hug the foot and keep it secure; these overlays make absolutely sure that your foot is not going anywhere once it’s in the shoe. The shoe does not have a firm heel counter, and this is because North Face was going for a more minimal construction—this minimalist construction may have caused them to sacrifice support. But it all evens out, because the dual-density construction of the upper, including the TPU overlays, offer plenty of support.
The Litewave TR is quite versatile: although it is primarily a trail running shoe and therefore can handle somewhat intense terrain, it also works equally as well for suburban road runs
because the lugs are not too aggressive. The one drawback is that this shoe, even though it is billed as a trail running shoe, does not have a rock plate—something that would be extra helpful when traversing intense terrain. The traction is not up to par for very technical trails, so utilize the shallow lugs on the Litewave TR for easy trails or any type of road run.
Compared to similar shoes, the price of the Litewave TR is on the lower end, offering money-minded athletes a good chance to save.
Considering all of the great materials used in the shoe—such as the UltraATAC™ outsole, the Ortholite® footbed included in the midsole, the fantastic upper package, and more—and the fact that the shoe will last for so many hundreds of miles,
this is a great bargain. The only potential downside is the style aspect of the shoe; the shoe looks like it’s on the cheaper end as well.
The UltraATAC™ material in the outsole is there to give you excellent traction no matter what kind of terrain you happen to be running on. The outsole also features gripping lugs that have just the right amount of aggressiveness: enough to help you grip trails,
but not so much that they hold you back on the road. Keep in mind that the outsole unfortunately does not perform well in wet conditions; although the rubber material is sufficiently sticky on dry rock, the lugs simply aren’t aggressive enough to handle wet roads or muddy trails.
The flex grooves located in the forefoot and heel sections of the outsole help add flexibility in the outsole by supporting the natural movement of your foot. The midsole unit of the Litewave TR is also very flexible; both the full-length foam material and the accompanying Ortholite® are bendy and responsive. While the Litewave isn’t known for its flexibility, the flexibility does not detract from the shoe, either. This is the first North Face shoe where the company has really made an effort to add cushioning, softness, and flexibility by adding the soft EVA layer under the footbed in the midsole.
The EVA foam in the midsole adds a little stability—although it is soft and comfortable, it is also just firm enough to help keep you stable. Another important aspect of the shoe when it comes to stability are the TPU-welded overlays that hold your foot securely in the shoe; no slippage here. The Litewave TR has great stability, which is important in a trail running shoe to keep you safe on technical terrain.
Since the heel height of the shoe is 21 mm and the forefoot height is 15 mm, the drop
(distance between the heel and forefoot) of the Litewave TR is 6 mm. This drop size—which is very low, keeping with the minimalist feel of the shoe—gives the shoe a racing feel.
• UltrATAC™ provides traction and protection on the outsole
• Full-length midsole foam is soft yet firm
• Ortholite® footbed adds even more comfort
• TPU-welded overlays in the upper prevent slippage
• Low drop gives the shoe a racing feel
Because the Litewave TR doesn’t have a rock plate or a reinforced upper, it feels like a minimalist shoe
in many ways. TPU-welded overlays add plenty of support to give your foot a secure fit, and the midsole’s EVA foam helps with stability as well; the outsole has good traction (although not quite good enough for wet conditions or very technical trails). The Litewave is flexible and responsive due to the outsole’s flex grooves and the midsole material. Although the style of the shoe is not up to par, it will last a long time, and reviewers cite its comfort even when running for hundreds of miles. The cushioning, drop size, and light weight make this shoe a great choice for anyone who wants a hybrid trail running shoe with a smooth ride.