A Performance Trail Running Shoe from The North Face
Trail running shoes provide a nice contrast to the rugged and heavy leather boots which accompany me on multi-day hikes. For day hikes and of course trail running I prefer the simplicity of a lighter constructed shoe which are breathable and kinder to your feet. Recently, I invested in a pair of North Face Ultra Guide GTX which I’m pleased to report have stood up to some pretty fierce and at times downright filthy trails. Like my Mammut Redburn GTX’s which I have also given a pummelling I have tended towards the GTX model which refers to the GORE-TEX waterproof membrane. While the GORE-TEX isn’t suitable for all conditions particularly in the mist of summer it’s in wet wintery conditions where these shoes shine through. Over the course of the past few weeks I have put the shoes to the test and the following review highlights some of their finer attributes.
Lacing up a pair of the Ultra Guide GTX for the first time felt like putting on a new pair of slippers. Their lightweight construction was noticeably apparent and could sense the outsole lugs would provide just the grip and traction I was seeking. While the upper isn’t as flexible as some other trail shoes it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. The tongue scree collar provides nice cushioning though some may find it a little short as it tends to move about.
The Ultra Guide GTX incorporates proprietary Cradle Guide technology in the midsole which improves foot stability over a wide terrain. On downhill sections the shoe’s supportive platform means your footing remains secure and also enhances your natural foot strike. The shoe has good grip through the midfoot with Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) welded midfoot support.
A strong point of these shoes are evenly spaced V-shaped rubber lugs on the outsole which provide fantastic traction and confidence on the trail. The shoes for the most part are super grippy and remain so even in muddy conditions. The drawback is the shoes aren’t particularly suited to running long stretches on the pavement as the lugs have a tendency to grab on concrete and asphalt which feels a little jarring.
The TPU welded midfoot support provides a dual compression midsole protecting your feet from stone bruising when hammering downhill sections. The section around the forefoot is well enclosed helping keep your toes protected against rocks and roots.
Whilst The North Face doesn’t command the same brand loyalty as some other trail running brands I think this perception maybe a little misplaced. The Ultra Guide GTX are a well thought out and executed trail running shoe which excel best in technical mucky terrain. While the GORE-TEX waterproof membrane works well in the wet, I suspect like my Mammut Redburn GTX’s they will ‘sweat’ in warmer conditions so the regular Ultra Guide may be a better fit so to speak. The shoe is aesthetically nice and should be robust enough to last a season or two out on the trail.
The North Face Ultra Guide GTX key features:
Colour: black / dark shadow grey
Weight: men’s 9.5 size 640g (pair)
GORE-TEX waterproof membrane
Abrasion resistant, tight weave mesh
C-Delta metatarsal fit system
TPU welded midfoot support
Tongue scree collar
Dual compression midsole platform
TPU forefoot protection
Grip sticky rubber outsole
Country of origin: Vietnam
Country of origin: Malaysia
The North Face Ultra Guide GTX A1D8: ($58 USD) (as at Feb 13, 2014)