The North Face Ultra Vertical

7.0
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All The North Face Shoes
The North Face Ultra Vertical Review Facts
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The North Face Ultra Vertical is a men’s neutral trail running shoe. Designed for trail runners who want to go over the most aggressive terrain, it is able to ascend and descend mountains as well as go over mud, rocks, snow, and even ice. The Vibram Megagrip outsole with 5mm lugs provides durability and traction. The ESS Snake Plate in the forefoot stabilizes the foot when going over technical terrain and protects against rocks. The reinforced toe protects from bruising when going over rocks. The Ultra Vertical also has Cradle Guide foam that is made from two layers of EVA to stabilize, support, cushion, and absorb shock. The OrthoLite Footbed provides comfortable, durable cushioning. The TPU Cable Housing supports the midfoot and protects it from rolling or debris. The Quarter geo cable construction provides a great fit around the foot, and the Welded-suede tongue with derby construction provides a great fit when the wearer is flexing the foot. The FlashDry collar lining helps keep the foot dry and the open mesh has a tight weave for breathability and protection. If you are looking for a shoe for your next rock climb, mountain climb, or technical trail run, read on to see if the Ultra Vertical is the right fit for you.

Pros
  • Comfortable fit with good cushioning
  • Stable enough for larger runners
  • Dries quickly
  • Feels lightweight and breathable
  • Good energy return
  • Excellent traction
Cons
  • Forefoot sometimes rubs or slides
  • Does not drain easily
  • Slightly large fit in upper
Outsole
Outsole

Outsole

The outsole is made from a hard, durable rubber. It uses a technology called Vibram Megagrip in which the 5 mm lugs are pointing downward on the outside edge and heel and upward on the forefoot and inside edge. This pattern gives a perfect amount of grip for ascending and descending tough terrain. It has been tested on many types of surfaces from rocks to mud to ice and is able to easily grip all of them. The outsole also has an ESS Snake Plate in the forefoot to protect against rocks so that the foot does not get injured during descents. The outsole stabilizes landings while being flexible enough to ascend.
Midsole
Midsole

Midsole

The midsole uses two kinds of foam in order to create comfortable cushioning, absorb shock, and lightly bounce the foot back into the air again. The bottom layer is the Cradle Guide, which is an EVA foam with two layers: the softer bottom layer for cushioning, energy return and shock absorption, and the firmer top layer for stability and durability. On top is the OrthoLite Footbed that is durable and comfortably cushions landings. The midsole has a low heel drop for stability and a small amount of arch support to stabilize neutral runners when going up and down the trails. The midsole is stable enough for takeoffs and landings yet flexible enough to move without noticing the shoe.
Upper
Upper

Upper

The upper uses several technologies for breathability, protection, support, and comfort. The open mesh has a tight weave so it is both breathable and protective against debris. The FlashDry lining in the collar keeps the foot dry and cool. The reinforced toe protects the forefoot from getting bruised. The TPU Cable Housing gives a layer of support around the midfoot and protects it from rolling or sliding. It is kept in place by a durable lacing system. The Quarter geo cable construction connects the heel and forefoot for a great fit. The Welded-suede tongue with a derby construction keeps the fit good when the wearer is flexing their foot. The upper is durable and comfortable.
Weight
Weight

Weight

The Ultra Vertical weighs 10.7 oz (305 g) for a size 9 shoe. Although heavier than road running shoes, testers found that they were able to wear this shoe while climbing mountains without noticing them. The lightweight components are the Cradle Guide EVA foam, the open mesh, the FlashDry lining, and the OrthoLite Footbed. The components that add to the weight are the Vibram Megagrip lugs, the ESS Snake Plate, the reinforced toe, the TPU Cable Housing, the Quarter geo cable construction, and the Welded-suede tongue. Although several components add weight to the shoe, they are necessary for traction and stability when going over tough terrain, and do not add so much weight that the shoe is uncomfortable to move in.
Breathability
Breathability

Breathability

This shoe has good overall breathability. The open mesh makes sure that the foot stays properly ventilated on long runs or hot days, preventing blisters and hot spots. The FlashDry collar lining allows it to dry quickly so that the foot stays dry and cool. Testers liked how breathable the shoe felt when running, although a few of them noted that it does not drain easily if it gets soaked, for example, when running over a puddle or through a stream. The shoe does have TPU Cable Housing and a Quarter geo cable that cover the mesh, but they do not take away from the breathability.
Comfort
Comfort

Comfort

The Ultra Vertical has good cushioning and a comfortable fit. It has a medium width, although testers with wider feet also felt comfortable in the shoe because the fit in the upper is slightly large. The toe box is foot shaped in order to allow comfortable splaying and take-offs. The midsole uses the Cradle Guide foam to soften landings and the form-fitting Ortholite Footbed for more cushioning. The Quarter geo cable and TPU Cable Housing create a comfortably supportive fit on the upper. The Ultra Vertical feels lightweight and breathable and has good energy return, making it comfortable to wear on longer runs. The lugs mean that it is not for use as an everyday shoe. The only uncomfortable things are that some testers experienced rubbing or sliding in the forefoot, and that it does not drain easily when soaked.
Style
Style

Style

This shoe's look was popular among reviewers. The color choices are Black/Sulfur Spring Green and Grey/Exuberance Orange. The first color comprises the main part of the shoe. The second color is used on the outside of the midsole and the zigzag pattern on the side of the shoe. The Grey/Exuberance Orange shoe also uses orange for the laces, outsole, reinforced toe, and heel counter. The outsole uses a bidirectional anatomical lug pattern. Both styles were well-liked, but the Black/Sulfur Spring Green was more popular.
Durability
Durability

Durability

The Ultra Vertical was designed for durability so that it can maintain support and stability while going over technical terrain. The Vibram Megagrip lugs were designed to go over rocks and mud without wearing down or breaking off. The midsole's Cradle Guide has the denser layer on top for durability and the Ortholite Footbed maintains its shape while still providing comfortable cushioning. The upper has FlashDry Lining to make it dry faster and minimize water damage. The tight weave mesh helps keep debris out and improves the durability of the mesh. The reinforced toe helps the front of the shoe last longer. The TPU Cable Housing, Quarter geo cable, and Welded-suede tongue all improve the durability of the upper. The Ultra Vertical can last a few hundred miles before starting to wear down and become less supportive.
Protection
Protection

Protection

This shoe has many protective features. The Vibram Megagrip protects against sliding on rocks, mud, snow, and ice. The ESS Snake Plate protects against rocks during descents. The Cradle Guide and Ortholite Footbed cushion landings in order to protect joints from injury. The open mesh with tight weave protects against heat, cold, and debris falling into the shoe. The FlashDry lining protects against moisture. The TPU Housing and Quarter geo cable protect the heel and midfoot from rolling or sliding.
Responsiveness
Responsiveness

Responsiveness

Testers found that the Ultra Vertical has good energy return. The lugs do a good job of gripping and stabilizing so there is a good amount of ground feel and the energy can come back to the runner. In the midsole, the bottom layer of the Cradle Guide helps bounce the foot back into the air. The upper is stable without being too constraining of movement. The drop is low enough to stabilize but is not a zero drop, so it adds a little bit of energy return.
Support
Support

Support

This shoe surrounds the foot with support. The outsole and midsole provide support to the bottom of the foot, with the OrthoLite Footbed surrounding with support that is shaped like the foot. The amount of arch support is perfect for neutral runners. The upper supports the top of the foot, with the TPU Cable Housing supporting the midfoot, the Quarter geo cable supporting the heel and midfoot, and the heel counter supporting the heel.
Terrain
Terrain

Terrain

The Ultra Vertical was designed to go on just about any terrain. Its 5mm lugs make it impractical for road running or use as an everyday shoe, but the lugs make it great for ascending and descending mountains, hiking over rocks, and running on trails and paths. Testers were even able to go across mud, ice or snow without problems. The only terrain testers had problems on was going over water because the inside of the shoe does not drain very well.
Price
Price

Price

The Ultra Vertical is at the upper end of the average running shoe price range. Although it costs slightly more than many road running shoes, it has excellent stability and is able to go over just about any terrain, even things that most other shoes cannot do, such as climb mountains or go in mud, snow, or ice. Reviewers who wanted to be able to do those things were happy to pay such a great price for this shoe. The Black/Sulfur Spring Green shoe is still full price, but the Grey/Exuberance Orange shoe can be found for up to 30% off.
Traction
Traction

Traction

This shoe has excellent traction. Its Vibram Megagrip 5mm lugs have fantastic grip on just about any surface. It can ascend and descend mountains, grip rocks well enough to go over them without slipping, and even maintain footing on slippery surfaces such as snow, ice or mud.
Flexibility
Flexibility

Flexibility

The Ultra Vertical is more stable than flexible. The outsole has a few shallow grooves that allow the shoe to bend while going over technical terrain. The midsole cushioning stabilizes landings but also bends enough to cushion the foot and allow the toes to push back off into the air. The upper is lightly flexible so it can allow the foot to move side to side but stable enough to go over rocks or descend without having to worry about sliding or twisting the ankle.
Stability
Stability

Stability

This shoe has good stability. Although it is categorized as a neutral shoe and does not slow over-pronation, it has enough stability that taller and heavier runners can safely go over technical terrain. The outsole has lugs to grip and stabilize the bottom of the shoe. The midsole has the top layer of Cradle Guide to stabilize the foot during landings and a small amount of arch support to stabilize the ankle. The upper has TPU Cable Housing to stabilize the midfoot and a heel counter to stabilize the heel.
Drop
Drop

Drop

The heel is 25mm high and the forefoot is 19mm high, giving the Ultra Vertical a drop of 6mm. This is lower than a standard drop, which helps add stability while going over technical terrain, ascending and descending. A drop above zero means some forward momentum, just not as much as a higher drop.
Key Features
Key Features

Key Features

  • Vibram Megagrip outsole provides durable traction with 5mm bidirectional lugs

  • Cradle Guide dual-layer EVA foam has a firm top layer for stability and a soft bottom layer to cushion landings and absorb shock

  • TPU Cable Housing supports and protects the midfoot

  • Quarter geo cable construction provides a great fit

  • Welded-suede tongue with derby construction creates a good fit while flexing the foot

  • Open mesh with tight weave allows the foot to breathe and protects from debris

  • ESS Snake Plate protects against rocks

  • Reinforced toe protects from bruising

  • FlashDry lining helps keep the foot dry

  • OrthoLite Footbed provides durable, comfortable cushioning
Bottom Line
Bottom Line

Bottom Line

The North Face Ultra Vertical is an excellent shoe for trail running and mountain climbing. It is lightweight, responsive, and comfortable enough to climb a mountain without really noticing you are wearing a shoe. It has enough stability even for heavier runners and gets great traction on surfaces that most shoes cannot go on without slipping. The styles were well-liked by reviewers and the price is very good for all of the features. Possible ways to improve are adding a way for water to drain, sizes for narrower feet, and less sliding and rubbing in the forefoot. Overall, the Ultra Vertical is a great shoe and just about every tester said they would recommend it.