The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX Review Facts
Any experienced camper, hiker, or off-road runner will say that a good pair of trail shoes can make a world of difference. In fact, choosing proper footwear can not only make the difference between a comfortable and uncomfortable trail running session; it can even mean the difference between a safe run and a potentially life-threatening disaster. In order to ensure that trail runners and hikers avoid any of these negative scenarios, The North Face has designed and manufactured shoes that will provide a running experience that is both safe and comfortable. Their Ultra Fastpack III GTX shoe accomplishes this impressive feat by incorporating extremely durable and stable external components with generous amounts of internal padding for support and comfort.
The key feature that separates the high-quality trail runners from the mediocre ones is the outsole. This one portion of any offroad footwear is going to encounter the most resistance and sustain the most stress
, meaning that it needs to be extremely grippy and resilient to meet these guaranteed hazards. The way that The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX faces these needs is by using Vibram material to form its outsole: a high-density plastic commonly found in high-end athletic gear due to its excellent durability. This material has been further enhanced with Megagrip technology, ensuring that it is able to provide an impressive amount of traction on slippery and unstable surfaces, facilitating complete control for the wearer regardless of the weather.
As is custom for just about every modern running shoe, The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX comes equipped with EVA foam cushioning for its midsole. The reason for this material’s ubiquitous inclusion in modern running shoe design is that it provides a perfect balance of weight
and functionality. Every ounce of additional weight added to a pair of shoes from this material is met with an impressive degree of responsiveness and underfoot comfort, with the Ultra Fastpack III GTX being no exception to this rule. However, The North Face
did see fit to deviate slightly from the traditional design by implementing a dual-density FastFoam design. This has the intention of further improving responsiveness and speed for the wearer, although the effect of this design feature is dampened due to the heavier weight of the final product.
Depending on the environment in which a trail running shoe is meant to best perform, its upper design can take on one of several different styles. As can be surmised with the slip-resistant design of this shoe’s outsoles, The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX is clearly meant to perform well in icy or wet climates. To meet the specific needs of this potentially hazardous environment, its upper half features design elements that complement its lower, such as a water-resistant Gore-Tex membrane and the option for an extended heel collar that covers the ankle. Aside from these features, the Ultra Fastpack GTX features several additional plastic components that provide greater stability and protection around the wearer’s forefoot, midfoot, and rear. As a result, these shoes are built like an armored truck for the foot.
With all of the impressive safety and stability features baked into the design of these shoes, it should come as no surprise that The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX is a fairly heavy shoe. To be fair, they aren’t the heaviest trail running shoes on the market; however, at almost an entire pound of weight for each shoe, runners who aren’t used to wearing such heavy footwear should expect some calf soreness for the first few weeks of wearing them. While this may be a design aspect that will alienate potential customers, it should provide some comfort
to know that none of this substantial heft is wasted. Every ounce of weight implemented into the design of these shoes provides a valuable purpose, whether it’s to ensure comfort, stability, or protection for the wearer and their sensitive feet.
Regarding these trail shoes, something that needs to be made abundantly clear is the fact that they are designed mainly for use in wet or icy environments. These locales tend to be very cold
, and The North Face is a brand known for making excellent cold-resistant apparel. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that their Ultra Fastpack III GTX trail shoes stress insulation and heat retention over breathability and cooler internal temperatures. This isn’t to say that these shoes offer no ventilation whatsoever; in fact, their upper material impressively manages to be both waterproof
and highly breathable. However, this wasn’t a major focus in the shoe’s design and it won’t provide an adequate level of airflow for running in warmer climates.
In order to ensure that the Ultra Fastpack III GTX provides the most comfortable running experience possible when covering some of the most uncomfortable terrain, The North Face added some key features to its design. One of these is the aforementioned Gore-Tex membrane, which keeps water from leaking inside the shoe while still providing decent breathability. This element ensures that the wearer’s feet stay dry even when the inside of the shoe is warm, which will help prevent the accumulation of foot odor or skin irritation. Additionally, The North Face added an OrthoLite footbed for the underfoot which provides excellent comfort with the side benefit of additional support.
The North Face is a brand known for their stylish winter apparel, with their newest product launches resulting in huge lines and inflated reseller prices. Because of their well-known and highly praised sense of fashion, it should come as no surprise that their trail running shoes are similarly visually impressive. Although not the kind of product to likely result in the same level of hype as their jackets
, the Ultra Fastpack III GTX is well-coordinated and offers a decent amount of variety. Customers looking to spice things up can choose from four different colorways and a low or mid ankle cut.
Aside from traction and protection, durability is a major concern in the design of any trail running shoe. For The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX, all three of these core design elements have been implemented to an impressive degree. Thanks to the high build quality of these shoes, particularly in regards to the outsole, trail runners and hikers should expect them to provide a smooth running experience for well over 250 miles. To be fair, regular maintenance and cleaning will be necessary in order to ensure this longevity persists for this long, but it’s a small price to pay for a wealth of benefits.
In order to protect the wearer from a variety of potential hazards, The North Face implemented a few different features into the design of their Ultra Fastpack III GTX trail running shoes. One of the most important forms of protection offered by these shoes can be found on the outsole, where a highly durable Vibram material is coated with a Megagrip slip-resistant coating. The result is a level of traction and control that is absolutely essential to protecting the wearer from losing their footing: an action that has the potential to be life-threatening during a hike or trail run. Aside from this, several supportive design accents around the front, middle, and rear of the shoe, all on top of an orthotic insole, ensure that the wearer of these shoes is also protected from road hazards and repetitive stress injuries.
When considering the higher than usual weight of these trail running shoes, it makes sense that they wouldn’t be as responsive as a more lightweight pair of footwear. Coupled with the considerable effort that went into providing exceptional underfoot traction, the end result is a shoe that may take a while when responding to the wearer’s finer movements. This will likely take some adjusting for individuals who are used to wearing casual running shoes and have grown used to the instant response time provided from these kinds of footwear. However, the tradeoff here is worthwhile due to the safety and comfort it provides for the wearer.
While it wasn’t one of the primary focus points in the design of the Ultra Fastpack III GTX, The North Face added a few elements to these shoes that improve its overall support. The most obvious added feature is the OrthoLite footbed, an orthotic insole that helps to support the wearer’s underfoot and avoid stress injuries. Aside from this, eyestays and underlays were welded to the sides of this trail runner for the purpose of improving its midfoot support, which will come as a great benefit to runners who struggle with overpronation.
Since The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX is a trail running shoe, it should be fairly obvious that they are designed to work well on trails. The type of terrain these shoes are best suited for as a result of this design focus are those with excessive debris or intimidating elevation. In addition, these shoes are able to handle wet or icy terrain without any difficulty due to the Megagrip outsole coating and Gore-Tex upper membrane. For this particular reason, these trail runners are highly recommended for anyone interested in hiking or trail running in colder climates or during the winter.
Although these shoes have a price that is more or less in line with other trail shoes of its caliber, they are much more expensive than most casual running shoes or generic hiking boots. This may be a dealbreaker for more frugal individuals, but the higher cost for this product from The North Face is justified. When considering the impressive protection, durability, and traction offered by the Ultra Fastpack III GTX, let alone its excellent comfort and sense of style, this monetary cost is a small price to pay for long-term peace of mind and a fantastic addition to any outdoorsman’s wardrobe.
What more can be said about this shoe’s traction? Thanks to the powerful combination of Vibram outsole material and a Megagrip coating, the aggressively designed underfoot of The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX will ensure that the wearer has the maximum possible grip on the ground beneath their feet, no matter how slippery or unstable it may be.
As one may expect from a shoe that is so heavy and places so much emphasis on protection and comfort, The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX is not very flexible. Based on reviews left by verified customers and information listed by the manufacturer on various retailers, it appears that no effort whatsoever has been placed into providing any semblance of flexibility in the design of these trail running shoes. This will likely cause some discomfort for new wearers and may turn off casual runners entirely.
While little to no effort seems to have been placed into providing these shoes with flexibility, one thing that The North Face placed considerable design emphasis on is endowing them with extremely high stability. From the exceptionally sturdy and resilient outsole to its dual-density EVA midsole and OrthoLite footbed, the wearer of these trail running shoes will not have to worry at all about losing control while wearing the Ultra Fastpack III GTX.
Unfortunately, precise measurements for the heel drop of these trail running shoes can’t be found. However, a visual examination of the Ultra Fastpack III GTX reveals that the difference in elevation between its heel and forefoot is very low, if present at all. This is the standard course of action when designing trail running shoes, since it ensures the highest possible stability and can prevent stress injuries by evenly spreading the force of each foot impact.
- Vibram outsole with Megagrip slip-resistant coating
- Dual-density Fastfoam EVA midsole cushioning
- Gore-Tex moisture-resistant upper membrane
- OrthoLite internal footbed
- Eyestays and underlays for midfoot stability
- Choice of low or mid-length ankle cut
The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX is a trail running shoe that doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, it takes design features that have worked in trail runners made by other companies and honed them, creating a product that is derivative but exceptionally functional. Newcomers may be intimidated by its lack of flexibility and high price tag, but these are some of the best shoes for climbing up one side of a mountain and running down the other.