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Did The North Face Develop the World’s Best Shoe Rubber?

The North Face EXTS Rubber Hiking Shoes 2019
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The North Face launches new hiking boots and trail running shoes next year with what the brand claims is the best rubber system yet.

The North Face EXTS Rubber Hiking Shoes 2019

For spring 2019, The North Face set lofty goals for its new footwear line. The California-based brand sought to create the best-in-class rubber that surpassed the competition.

With the Exploration Trax System (EXTS) outsole, The North Face claims it’s done just that. The EXTS is a three-tiered approach to traction: Proprietary rubber, strategically placed lugs, and lug shape are all crucial to grip.

Shoes’ rubber quality can greatly impact one’s outdoor experience. Trail runners and hikers rely on traction to prevent injury in the wilderness. Whether it’s a shoe failing to grip on a sheer ridge or the simple slip on a rainy trail, loss of traction can quickly turn into a trip to the hospital.

The North Face EXTS Rubber Hiking Shoes 2019

The North Face claims shoes with the EXTS grip better on wet and dry ground than anything on the market. The rubber will be in multiple hiking and trail running shoes for 2019.

We spoke with Ethan Fried, product manager of footwear at The North Face, for the scoop on the brand’s upcoming hiking and trail running release.

TNF 2019: EXTS Outsole System Makes Shoes Stick

VF Corporation, The North Face’s parent company, used its Global Innovation Center for development of the rubber compound. That means it wasn’t conceived and prototyped in a factory.

In producing the rubber, the brand focused on three tenets for the rubber: durability plus grip on wet and dry ground.

The compound is a mixture of chemicals that the brand won’t release in full. But 42 percent of the formula derives from renewable, plant-based sources.

The North Face EXTS Rubber Hiking Shoes 2019

Fried said it was a challenge to produce a compound as sticky as the EXTS while retaining durability. Workers at the Global Innovation Center performed in-house lab testing until the formula proved itself to be the best.

And that’s not to say the rubber is too sticky. The facility paid attention to stickiness and developed the compound for optimal trail performance.

But the rubber is only one part of the traction story. Along with proven performance-maximizing lug shapes placed in specific zones to follow natural gait cycles, the EXTS can provide exceptional grip.

Safien Mid GTX: Next-Gen Hiking Shoe

Along with the rubber, The North Face integrated other cutting-edge technologies into its hiking and trail running lines. The Safien Mid, an ankle-high hiking boot pictured here, is a standout in the collection.

The North Face EXTS Rubber Hiking Shoes 2019

To reduce weight and increase protection, The North Face used melt-coated yarn in the Safien — a first for the brand. These yarns coat the structure of the shoe, holding details and components without the use of overlays or films.

The brand sought to create a more progressive, modern-looking hiking shoe. Along with other shoes in the hiking collection, the Safien borrows inspiration from running silhouettes.

Additionally, the Safien uses The North Face’s XtraFoam, a max-cushioning, dual-density midsole. The North Face debuts the Safien Mid at OR, with availability in January 2019 for $150.

Future of Rubber: EXTS Outsole

The North Face has made its own rubber before. But the brand thinks it hit a home run with the EXTS Outsole. The outsole will be available in three hiking shoes and three running shoes.

As for the EXTS Outsole in other footwear, like climbing or mountain bike shoes, The North Face didn’t reveal any concrete plans. But it did say the EXTS Outsole has applications beyond running and hiking.

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