The North Face Ultra 109 GTX
After defining themselves as one of the premier winter apparel designers over the past ten years, The North Face has attempted to replicate this same success when it comes to their footwear. And it seems that among their entire catalog of products, their trail running and hiking shoes are their most impressive products with the greatest possibility of achieving higher popularity.
The North Face Ultra 109 GTX, in particular, are extremely impressive due to their excellent weather protection, comfort, and versatility in handling terrain. These shoes also show elements of The North Face’s appealing sense of style, although it’s not to the same degree as other fashion footwear titans. Additionally, a few comments from customers regarding their durability may be cause for concern.
- Extremely durable and hazard-resistant
- Excellent water protection
- Fantastic stability
- High-quality construction materials
- Provides amazing foot protection
- Reasonable price
- Impaired flexibility
- Lackluster breathability
- A lot of positive reviews come from avid hikers.
- The sole is sturdy and provides support and stability on the trails.
- The material of the outsole and toe cap protect feet from rocks and roots.
- According to many reviewers, the Gore-Tex provides a decent level of water resistance.
- A majority of reviewers say they would recommend these to other hikers for their comfort and performance.
- These can handle various terrain.
- Some buyers praise the durability. Some even claim they have lasted years and hundreds of walking miles.
- The lugs provide great traction in both wet and dry conditions.
- Reviewers who claim to be tough on shoes, give these positive reviews for their overall design and quality.
- The upper is easy to clean.
- Some reviewers noted that the midsole is good for flat feet.
- The snug midfoot and heel cup provide a secure hold.
- The fit and height of the ankle can help control pronation.
- There are a few notes on the good lateral stability.
- According to the experience of some buyers, these can handle rugged and rocky trails.
- The fit is good for narrow to average feet.
- There are not many reviews from runners limiting buyer insight as a trail running shoe.
- For many buyers, these are stiff and may take some time to break in.
- The water resistant qualities deteriorate over time.
- The upper doesn't dry quickly.
- These are heavier than previous versions.
- The sizing is not ideal for wide feet.
- Some reviewers complain of foot fatigue after wearing these for a few hours on the trails.
- There are mixed reviews on how water resistant these are.
- The placement of the toe cap can lead to tears in the upper.
- The toe box feels a little snug for some.
- Heavy hikers and runners note that the lugs can wear down quickly.
- One reviewer noted that on long descents the cushioning doesn't hold up under the forefoot.
- The overall durability gets mixed reviews.
- Some buyers who have needed refunds or replacements report issues and difficulty dealing with The North Face customer service.
- There are some reports of traction loss on smooth, wet surfaces.
Durability is also guaranteed thanks to the extremely sturdy and abrasion-resistant properties of UltrATAC; although the same can’t be said for other areas of these shoes, runners can rest assured that the undersides of their feet won’t be exposed to danger.
The major benefit to this style of midsole construction is that it makes this portion of the Ultra 109 GTX more durable, which is extremely important for a competent trail runner.
The drawback to this, however, is a decreased level of comfort and flexibility which can prevent some wearers from feeling as comfortable wearing this product as they would with other trail running shoe models, either from The North Face or from other designers.
Thanks to the Gore-Tex membrane used for its construction, the entirety of the Ultra 109 GTX’s upper is resistant to water damage or penetration. This material is also where these shoes, as well as all other shoes in The North Face’s GTX line, derive their namesake.
Polyurethane-coated leather also comprises large portions of this area, further bolstering its moisture protection while also providing a rigidly stable fit. Other protective features added to this shoe’s upper include a toe cap and midfoot shank.
The 109 GTX weighs nearly an entire pound per shoe on average, placing them firmly in the same category of heavy trail runners. For most individuals who engage in activities such as hiking, spelunking, and trail running, this extra weight is a welcome tradeoff for the excellent protection and comfort these heavier shoes provide. However, it is ultimately going to vary from person to person whether or not this is a worthwhile compromise.
First, the thick padding that covers the upper and lower portions of these shoes prevents air from being able to enter and exit the insides of these shoes without tremendous resistance.
When coupled with the heavier weight, the Ultra 109 GTX’s internal temperature tends to get uncomfortably high as a result. The Gore-Tex membrane on these shoes upper provides a modicum of breathability, but it still isn’t enough to make these shoes viable for use in warm weather.
However, some of the design aspects that make this trail running shoe so comfortable also cause discomfort for other individuals. One example of this is the aforementioned compression-molded EVA foam used for the Ultra 109 GTX’s midsole, which feels much stiffer than other forms of EVA material.
Another comfort problem commonly encountered by wearers of these shoes is excessive heat retention. Still, the general consensus for these trail runners is that they are indeed very comfortable.
The North Face opts for a utilitarian aesthetic in the design of their Ultra 109 GTX, but some stylistic additions have been made to improve its fashionability. The leather trappings found on its upper are one example, as are the intricate grooves and stripes found on each shoe’s heel.
Color options are limited to black, brown, and dark red, with the last two options looking very similar to each other. It isn’t as visually appealing as many popular casual running shoes, and it doesn’t offer the same flair as Salomon’s trail runners, but they are certainly appealing enough to avoid looking outright ugly.
In the case of The North Face Ultra 109 GTX, customers should be very satisfied with this aspect of their design. Due in large part to its UltrATAC outsole and dense EVA midsole, these shoes will be able to withstand some of the harshest possible running environments for hundreds of miles and several seasons.
For starters, the wearer’s feet are protected from slipping on unstable terrain through large lugs added to the undersides of these shoes. The highly compressed foam midsole further protects the wearer by offering additional stability in order to prevent them from losing their balance.
While these shoes upper isn’t as defensive as its lower half, its Gore-Tex membrane is protective when it comes to water, making them effective for use in the rain.
The North Face Ultra 109 GTX still manages to offer a decent response time to the individual’s foot movements thanks to the way in which its upper conforms to the shape of their foot and maintains high stability.
Still, those who are used to lightweight running shoes will want to take some time in order to better acclimate to the change in feeling.
Additional supportive amenities were added to the upper portion, with a midfoot shank providing greater dependability around the forefoot and middle of the shoe. The leather accents around the middle and rear of these shoes also add support for the runner’s midfoot, making these some of the best trail running shoes for people with a proclivity towards foot injuries and pronation issues.
Fortunately, the UltrATAC outsole is designed to take these elements in stride, allowing the wearer to navigate them without losing their footing or sustaining damage to their feet. The large lugs that comprise its tread pattern also contribute to this aspect of their design, although it has the unfortunate downside of limiting these shoes’ effectiveness on other forms of running terrain such as a sidewalk or asphalt road.
If an individual decides to wear these shoes in these environments, these same features that provide an easier ride on a trail will instead inhibit their ability to properly run on more casual running surfaces such as these.
However, even when compensating for the price increase that comes with this form of footwear, The North Face sells the Ultra 109 GTX at a very reasonable cost. This price tag is even more appealing when considering the fact that these shoes are a long-term investment and will last for a long time without needing to be replaced.
For these reasons, many trail runners would consider these shoes to be a bargain pick, despite costing over $100.
The tread pattern added to their UltrATAC outsoles provide a tooth-like grip on the trail, ensuring that the wearer is able to run at their full capacity without having to be as concerned about their footing.
Something that is worth noting, however, is the fact that these treads are designed to only provide adequate traction in one direction; this is unlike hiking shoes, which are similarly designed but will usually offer a tread pattern that emphasizes traction in many different directions.
This sacrifice in design seems to have been made on the part of The North Face in order to ensure greater protection and stability for the wearer. While many trail runners will see this as an acceptable tradeoff, casual runners who are transitioning into trail running may find this to be some cause for concern.
Because of this, The North Face advertises this product as one of their premiere stability shoes, and they are in the right for doing so. Anyone who is interested in trail running that struggles with stability issues will appreciate this aspect of these shoes’ design.
However, these trail running shoes already provide ample midsole cushioning without the heel drop, so its inclusion is difficult to justify. Still, this should come as a pleasant feature for those who are used to a casual road and track runners.
- UltrATAC outsole material with large treading
- Compression-molded EVA foam midsole
- Water-resistant Gore-Tex membrane on the upper
- Toe guard for preventing forefoot injuries
- Midfoot shank for added stability and protection
- 12mm heel drop for heel strike compensation
However, these shoes manage to make up for these shortcomings by being some of the most stable, durable, and protective articles of footwear of its type and in its price range. Runners interested in running safely on some of the most unsafe running surfaces can greatly benefit from adding these shoes to their wardrobe.