Three weeks before a 50K race, I started wearing the North Face Ultra Vertical. I put this comfortable trail running shoe to the test on just about every surface for this review.
Right after I took these shoes out of the box, I went for a 30-mile run. It was an extreme start to a new pair of shoes, but one with virtually zero blisters, joint pain, or blackened toenails.
For Fall 2017, The North Face introduces the Ultra Vertical, a $120 trail running shoe for steep, technical terrain. They have a 6mm drop, moderately aggressive lugs, and a thin, sleek, speedy build.
The shoes are comfy, and that’s thanks in part to its “geo cable” construction. The yellow cords (cables) line the side of the shoe. They wrap the center of the foot, hugging it for a snug fit when you tighten the laces. It’s subtle but effective, and I found these shoes exceptionally comfortable over long distances.
Over the course of three months, I’ve put in over 100 miles on rooty trail, slick mud, loose talus, and pavement.
The North Face Ultra Vertical Review
Tested through a range of mileages, the Ultra Verticals have become my benchmark for how comfortable trail running shoes can be.
The shoes really shine when pushed past 10 miles. These are a good shoe for runners training for marathons, ultras, or simply logging a ton of miles.
I wore these during The Rut, a 50K in Big Sky, Mont., and 10–30-mile training runs in the Midwest. Three months later, the shoes are still in good shape. There’s still rebound in my step, no holes in the upper, minimal wear on the tread, and the laces are all intact.
Ultra Vertical Shoe Components
Laced up, the Ultra Verticals hug my foot nicely with space in the toe box. Its mesh upper, suede tongue, and OrthoLite footbed were all satisfyingly snug without abrasions.
Note, I have narrow feet with medium arches.
The brand calls the technology on the side “geo cables.” Yellow laces line the side of the shoe and connect to the laces. Tighten the laces, and the side of the shoe conforms to the side of your foot. The result is a superb fit, one not too tight or too loose.
When running, the shoe’s narrow profile led me to take the trails quickly and navigate hazards with ease. The 5mm lugs and Vibram Megagrip sole gripped well on rock, loose dirt, and roots.
I wasn’t able to step as confidently as I’d like in steep mud, and if your area sees a ton of rain, you may want more aggressive lugs.
The front of the shoe features a reinforced plasticy lining for extra protection. The shoe protected my toes well, but kick a rock above the reinforced toe and you’ll definitely feel it.
Its 6mm drop, dual-density midsole, and EVA cushion underfoot provide a responsive ride, but still allows you to feel the trail. At 10.7 ounces per shoe, it’s right in the middle of the trail running weight spectrum.
The laces are grippy and long. They stayed in place from the middle of the foot to my ankle and did not untie mid-run. An EVA “Snake Plate” protects against sharp rocks under foot.
Who’s It For: Ultra Vertical Trail Running Shoes
As its name suggests, the shoe is built with attention to steep terrain. Ascending and descending talus, where slips mean injuries or worse, requires confident and accurate foot placement.
For me, the shoe performed well on both steep terrain and flat ground. So I’d recommend Ultra Verticals to flatlanders and mountain runners alike.
For a moderately priced, supremely comfortable trail running shoe, check out the Ultra Vertical. I’ll continue to run in these until the tread wears out and the rebound gone, but I suspect that might be a while.