The North Face Vectiv Pro Trail Review: The North Face’s mountain-focused carbon super shoe provides a convincing and versatile ride…
The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro Trail
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$250 / £225, thenorthface.co.uk
- Seamless energy return
- Great low-volume grip
- A locked-in, sock-like fit
- Noisy lugs on pavement
The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro Trail is a shoe to help you connect with your inner mountain goat. Made for long-distance trail running it delivers a surprisingly comfortable ride with noticeabl eenergy returns. Yet despite its mountain pedigree, it adapts with aplomb to urban streets and park runs too.
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The first time you run in these, you’ll feel the midsole giving your strides more spring and forward motion, especially if you’ve worn the previous iteration. With every step you’ll feel the shoe flexing the stability wings of its 3D carbon-fibre plate through the edges of the rockered midsole.
The North Face has been scoring podiums in the ultrarunning world, and it’s endurance efforts where the energy return of this design really pays off.
The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro Features
That’s partly due to the comfort of the fit, which incorporates an updated D-width, good arch support and additional cushioning for ‘23 that feels plush without being too bulky or squidgy.
Pushing this shoe on loose, rocky terrain, the carbon-fibre frame softens the hits without losing traction. This could well be because of its forked design in the heel and forefoot, which aptly enough looks like the cloven hoofs of a chamois.
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Taking a look at the outsole, I initially thought that the 3.5mm lugs might not hold on testing off-road descents, but the Surface CTRL™ rubber locks onto terrain like a shoe with much deeper lugs. And on steep, uneven climbs the carbon frame gives you an aggressively stable platform to launch off from the forefoot.
I suspect the Vectiv Pro is less optimised for muddy winter conditions, but then that’s true of any shoe built with a nod to speed. The lugs are well spaced, though, so should shed dirty clods well enough. However they do tend to be noisy when running on pavements.
The shoe feels reassuringly sure-footed, even when cornering, and I felt confident pushing my pace in varied terrain that included dusty, loose dirt.
The comfort-giving sock fit of the upper, combined with ‘serrated’ laces that refused to work themselves undone, even in the wet, is another plus. We all know having to retie sodden laces with numbed fingers is zero fun.
The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro Trail weight
Weighing in at 10.3oz / 293g in a size 9.5 shoe, the Vectiv Pro doesn’t actually feel that clunky underfoot, thanks to the energy-returning frame. I wasn’t planning on entering any sprint events, but that’s not this shoe’s wheelhouse anyway.
With a 32mm / 26mm stack height and 6mm offset, the Vectiv Pro always feels fairly grounded, and allows you to sense and adapt to the terrain as it changes beneath your feet.
The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro Trail performance
The best technique when running or training for long distances is actually to shorten your stride length. That’s because it places more load on your endurance-focused slow-twitch muscle fibres, rather than your more explosive fast-twitch fibres.
Try this technique with the Summit Vectiv Pro and it’ll really warm to the task. It allows you to sit in a sweet spot of running effort where the trail or pavement just seems to spool away under your feet without much stress.
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But when you shift into a higher gear, the Summit Vectiv Pro responds, becoming lively and agile over testing terrain. It’s all the encouragement you need to go with the gradient and plant your feet confidently, even when the going gets loose. You’ll still have lots of spring off the toe to maintain forward momentum.
The Summit Vectiv Pro is a good choice for the fussy-footed runner. It has a forgiving toe box, good arch support and reliable grip around the heel without your feet feeling straightjacketed. And the additional foam above the heel works well to avoid heel lift without any pressure points.
It delivers a decent amount of cushioning underfoot, without feeling wobbly on uneven terrain, and that’s thanks to the carbon fibre frame.
Having run boulder fields, mountain trails, pavements and park runs in these road-to-trail shoes, the Summit Vectiv Pro feels a significant upgrade on the previous version. In fact they’re one of the most versatile off-roaders currently on the market.