North Face Ultra Trail General Info:
The Ultra Trail is part of TNF’s growing line of trail running specific shoes. In the past it seems that much of what the company has produced has been very bulky and resembled nothing more than a “short boot”. That seems to have changed as TNF has taken the advice and input from actual trail runners and are focusing on developing light and fast trail shoes.
The Ultra Trail is uniquely different in that it is not quite a minimal or racing flat, nor is it a built up cushioned shoe either. The Ultra Trail has all the nimble responsiveness that you would like out of a race shoe with the right amount of protection to keep you moving along at a fluid pace.
With its 8m drop and firm responsive midsole the Ultra Trail will be an easy choice I think for most competitive trail runners as a marathon to 50 mile race shoe.
North Face Ultra Trail First Impression:
Upon unboxing the shoe the first thing that stood out was how low profile the shoe was. It was nice and light weight, and had great flexibility after giving a good twist several times. The tight array of lugs reminded me of a couple other shoes that I have also worn in the past that I really enjoyed. Once on I was really pleased with the overall fit and comfort of the shoes upper.
North Face Ultra Trail Sole Unit:
The Midsole of the Ultra Trail features TNF’s cradle technology. The midsole naturally absorbs impact while stabilizing the foot, thus promoting a more biomechanical correct and efficient stride. The midsole is firm and that may not bode well for runners that prefer a bit more cushioning.
However, this firmness makes the shoe super responsive with a quick smooth turn over. The firm midsole foam also gave the shoe just the right amount of protection that instilled me with enough confidence to not have to worry too much about foot placement.
The Midsole features an 8mm drop with a slightly widened forefoot that made the shoe great for climbing in that I never really noticed any calf fatigue.
A full-length Vibram outsole finishes off the sole unit of the shoe. The outsole is a collection of small but varying sized hexagonal lugs. This lug pattern proved to work superbly and provided great traction.
One thing that I found particularly agreeable about this design was its adaptability on pavement making it a great choice if for runners head out across stretches of pavement before hitting the trailhead.
North Face Ultra Trail Upper:
The upper of the Ultra Trail features TNF’s Flash Dry technology. This allows moisture to slip off the shoe while wicking sweat away. The end result is a dryer happier foot. Trust me it really works.
The upper cradles the foot with no pressure or hot spots to speak of. The material and overlays were very flexible and supple. While this material keeps the weight down and flexibility up it offers no protection to the top or side of the foot especially on rockier technical terrain.
The heel of the shoe was secure, with a reasonable amount of cushioning around the ankle, keeping it in place during ascents, descents, and over technical terrain.
The Upper was capped off with a simple flat tongue that stayed in place, and secured with flat laces that remained tied on all my runs.
North Face Ultra Trail Opinion:
If you are like me and enjoy a light fast trail shoe then I think the Ultra Guide will be a perfect fit into your repertoire. I will have to say that all of my preconceived notions about The North Face shoes are becoming a thing of the past, and I am continually impressed with each shoe that I see. The Ultra Trail is no different, and would definitely be one of my first choices for my next trail marathon, 50k, or 1st 50 miler.
We thank the nice people at North Face for sending us a pair of Ultra Trail to test. This did not influence the outcome of the review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.