The North Face Flight Vectivs are not cheap but they are nicely designed and offer good levels of comfort and cushioning for the trails.
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Taking the North Face Flight Vectivs out of the box and putting them on my feet, my initial thoughts were, “Wow! These are very white – but lightweight and comfortable.”
The launch of The North Face’s new Flight Vectiv trail running shoes is likely to turn heads for two reasons: the price (high!) and the claim they have been worn by 14 athletes who have set 17 running records between them.
Brands often make big claims when launching new products, especially when they feature fresh, innovative tech, and TNF say the combination of the 3D carbon-fibre footplate, midsole rocker geometry and SurfaceCTRL grip in the Flights (the most responsive of the new Vectiv range) will maximize energy conversion on the trail, and deliver increased propulsion.
We are testing a pair of white-and-black North Face Flight Vectivs (there is one other choice of color for women and men, respectively) and white really is the worst color for trail shoes in the UK (and let’s be fair, most other places too). They won’t stay that color for long.
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The North Face Flight Vectivs are lightweight and feel comfortable to wear. The seamless sock upper is a great idea and although fairly wide at the forefoot (I have a narrow foot), the upper fabric and lacing system mean they are well-fitting and supportive. The heel cup comes up very high at the ankle, which might or might not be an issue depending on foot shape and personal preference, and there is an unusual internal pad inside the heel cup.
The soles look to be made for hard-packed trails, rather than hill mud, and I was interested to test how grippy the shoe is on wet gravel and rocks. The 6mm heel-to-toe drop feels good, as does the slight rocker motion of the sole from heel to forefoot. The lacing system locks down across the midfoot for a good grip, and cushioning is medium: not too solid and not too soft.
• RRP: $199 (US) / £180 (UK)
• Weight (per shoe): Men’s: 285g / 10oz; Women’s: 245g / 8.6oz
• Drop: 6mm
• Materials: Knit uppers, Kevlar, polyamide and Matryx fabrics, EVA foam midsole, Ortholite sockliner, 3D carbon fibre footplate, bio-based rubber outsole
• Colors: Men’s: White & Black / Sulphur Spring Green & Black; Women’s: White & Black / Fiesta Red & Black
• Compatibility: Best for people who like to run clean and tidy trails very fast
On the trails
Within 10 minutes of my first run wearing the North Face Flight Vectivs, I sploshed into a puddle and the white fabric turned grey. I expect that the more trails I run, the greyer the shoes will look. The choice of color for a trail shoe is poor, in my opinion, but maybe it’s because the brand imagines no one runs on wet and muddy Scottish trails, only on dry and slightly dusty Alpine trails in summer.
Let’s get on to the positives, however. The shoe is a comfortable fit. The ‘seamless circular knit’ upper is easy to wear and causes no irritations. The fit is what I would call ‘normal width’, although the heel area seems a little too generous.
There is a cushioned insert at the rear of the heel and this is meant to secure the heel in place. I have narrow heels and they didn’t feel too secure. I would prefer a narrow heel cup overall. The rear of the heel cup also rises up quite high on the ankle. I thought this would be an annoyance but in reality I didn’t notice it at all when running. On the trails, my heel did move a bit in the shoe so I had to tighten the laces a bit more than I might normally to give a secure fit but, as I say, I do have narrow feet and especially at the ankle area.
The North Face Flight Vectivs are lightweight, which I like, and the soles are medium thickness – not too thin so you can feel the rough ground under your foot and not so thick and soft that they are too cushioned and spongy.
The 6mm heel-to-toe drop suits my running and I could notice a slight rocker motion of the sole from heel to forefoot. TNF promise ‘increased propulsion’ and say that ‘energy is turned into momentum’, but it’s hard to determine the real difference in this. Running in a new shoe often feels good because it is new and still nicely cushioned, both in the insole and outsole. However, I did feel as though I was running well on the days that I chose to wear the North Face Flight Vectivs.
The soles are best suited to hard-packed trails, rather than hill mud, but they offer good traction in both the dry and the wet.
I have to say, though, $199 / £180 is a lot to pair for a pair of running shoes.
Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors (opens in new tab).
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