Something that these days is part of the shoe business, is the rumor mill. Since months Alameda, California grounded outdoor powerhouse The North Face, was set to drop a carbon plated shoe. Well, it seems that all major shoe corporations are on the outlook to apprise their respective top range models with this technology. But suddenly it was a brand that is not necessarily known for its shoe building skills, that joined the hype.
Since 1968 The North Face distribute and produce outdoor equipment. It all started with climbing gear and then grew into a brought variety of accessories, clothing and footwear. Personally, I have tested more than a few of their off-road running shoes in the past. Although their jackets, vests, caps and technical gear have been a stable in my wardrobe over the last decade, none of the shoes have majorly impressed me and it seems that technical clothing was more the focus then suitable footwear. Now they released a performance oriented trail running shoe that goes by the name of Flight Vectiv, merging a 3 D carbon fiber footplate, midsole rocker geometry and SurfaceCTRL grip into the first trail specific shoe using the prominet carbon technique.
I had a chance to spot the Flight Vectiv last April as Spaniard and The North Face athlete Pau Capell wore the shoe throughout the 2020 version of the Fjällmaraton around Åre, Sweden where he came 2nd in the 100 kilometer distance. Pau was part of the development process of the Vectiv equipment range and mostly this shoe. TNFs VP of Global Footwear, Jean Marc Djian aimed high when the company took on this project. The company recognized that another try into the footwear market had to be an innovative and exciting.
The Flight Vectiv is the top model of the novel TNF shoe assortment. It is the one shoe that contains full-length carbon plate combined with a rocker geometry. This combination is intended to upsurge the energy return and I was more than keen to see how this mix turned out in a shoe that is intended to be used off the road, a setting where the carbon technology is more to be seen in up-to-date shoe releases. On the picture above some details of the carbon plate are teased on the external.
Even though the sock-like silhouette of the shoe looked like a pleasing feature, I was quite staggered how rigid it was to get into the shoe. The opening is rather small and that undoubtedly created some matters to me. As soon as you’ve entered the shoe, there is not a tense sensitivity. It just appears that the entering part of the shoe is pretty close-fitting. After a while I got used to it and know how to enter as the reinforced, breathable-knit upper is pretty strechable. Running this shoe throughout wintertime, I have the feeling that the body-hugging fitting also stops all sorts of muck to enter the inside. To me something that is very helpful particularly with the heavy use of salt and sand on the local streets. Frequently the small particles find a way to enter a shoe. Not so in this one. Generally the one piece upper that is elasticated and hugs your upper foot and ankle is super nice and fits around the foot like a glove.
With the Flight Vectiv, The North Face planned a shoe for the longer and ultra-distances. The company paid attention to durable ingredients such as kevlar, polyamide and matryx materials that they also tested and used in other equipment. This time it seems that The North Face was able to familiarize their extensive knowledge from mountain equipment into footgear. The Flight Vectiv is an overall quality shoe that is very well made. Till now I spend somewhat over 100 kilometers in this shoe and I’m constantly surprised how it tackles different grounds and weather situations. The picture shows the 3D-molded heel counter for a better fit, another nice detail in a well build shoe with a quality finish.
There were times when The North Face allowed their sponsored athletes to use different shoes and switch from their very own models to the ones that the competition offered. This has clearly changed now with the new shoe range. Several athletes have been smashing FKT’s last year. One of my favorite runs has been the record setting Grand Canyon R2R2R-alt FKT effort by TNF legends Mike Foote and Rob Krar. Check their video here. Time for these two to tackle some SwimRun competitions i guess.
Without a doubt, the climax of this shoe must be the so-called 3D Vectiv plate. It offers momentum and in combination with the stability Rocker shape, the foot placement is optimized. The shoe is not super soft as many other carbon running shoes, but this is something that aims the runner while running on technical ground. At the start it feels like the shoe is rigid as it does not provide much flexibly, especially to the sites. Although it feels stable and the feel for the ground is certainly given. Officially The North Face labels the Vectiv technology as “revolutionary soling architecture.” Fundamentally what they are describing are the layers beneath the feet. These are all the different foams and treads that work together to deliver a cushioned, safe and springy sensation.
Despite the fact there is a lot of advanced and new material that has been incorporated in this shoe, the outsole is known from previous models. Grip on wet and dry terrain has been the attention in the development procedure. If you expect a super aggressive and “deep” outsole, you will be dissatisfied. The lugs are well and smartly placed but come in with 3.5 mm which is not a standard in trail shoes. After some sketchy situations, the design and traction really grew on me. To me it is a great mix of traction and control. The lugs are places in proper distance and that means that snow, dirt, or whatever sticky stuff you encounter, will not get stuck. I try to break in shoes on the treadmill. Until now, this tradition has never been used with trail shoes. It was different with the Flight Vectiv. It certainly is a versatile sole.
A detailed look at the outsole construction that protects the 6 mm toe-to-heel offset. This shoe facilitated 14 North Face sponsored athletes to set FKTs wearing different Vectiv prototypes during a nearly race free 2020.
To me, the Flight Vectiv delivers a high level of comfort and proper cushioning that still allows to feel the ground but not the pounding. Combined with the securely sensation of the sock-fit paired with a minor, cushioned padding at the upper heel region, this shoe ensures thoroughgoing comfort and support.
Throughout the punitive dark and slushy time of the year and now, when all the lovely white stuff is about to dissolve, this shoe has really gotten to me. It’s fun to run due to the pleasant and well thought cushion, the ground feeling is excellent and joint with a well-planned outsole, it generates a certain security during the cold season. I ran the shoe a lot on icy and wintry streets but also took it around the local, technical, trail system. I get to treasure a well thought out shoe that I never saw coming from The North Face. Having run plenty of carbon-based road running shoes, I really valued this innovative tactic and the way it was shifted into a running shoe aimed to hit he paths. It can be discussed if it makes sense to issue a trail shoe that has a white upper, but at the end I felt it was enjoyable that the daily run was able to produce the color line. A very philosophical slant to this debate, I know. Its some sort of a minimalistic approach, even from the design. Typically trail shoes do look a bit unlike. The Flight Vectiv seems more like a road shoe. Yet, I have the feeling the shoe will continue in my daily rotation for a bit longer.
Tune of the day: Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth – It’s Not a Game (Instrumental Version) Read of the day: Cathal Dennehy: Welcome to the age of the super shoes