Shoe Review: The North Face Flight VECTIV
By Veronica Allan
Veronica is the Manager of Research and Innovation at the Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC) in Ottawa, ON. She holds a PhD in sport psychology from Queen’s University and works with organizations in the sport sector to create and share knowledge widely within the Canadian sport system. She was introduced to the sport of cross-country running in Grade 4 and has been running ever since.
Earlier this spring, I received my first pair of trail shoes from The North Face: The Flight VECTIV. I’ve been sporting gear from The North Face for years, but only recently did I learn that the longstanding outdoor sports company had entered the arena of high performance trail racing shoes. While I wouldn’t describe myself as an “ultra-runner” or even a “trail racer,” I’ve spent my fair share of time battling the rain, snow, wind and mud on hilly cross-country courses. And since moving to Ottawa, Ontario in 2018, cruising the network of trails in and around the National Capital Region has become a favourite pastime of mine. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to try out the Flight VECTIVs.
The North Face Flight VECTIVs are a sleek and lightweight shoe. When I first pulled them out of the box, I questioned whether they were even a trail shoe. The uppers are bright white with black accents (but trust me, they didn’t stay white for long). They consist of a thin, breathable “seamless circular” knit that pulls on easily, like a sock. The uppers felt soft and form-fitted from the first time I tried them on, although the shoes fit about a half-size too big. Unless I wear a pair of thick, coarse socks, my foot slips around in the shoe, causing some discomfort in my Achilles tendons. The moral of this story: Make sure you try them on for size before making your purchase!
In terms of overall fit, the Flight VECTIVs felt snug and narrow through the heel and midfoot but spacious in the toe box. This spaciousness may have been due to the slightly large fit of my particular pair of shoes. While I can’t say for sure, I have a feeling they might have felt more secure throughout the entire length of the shoe had I gone down half a size.
On the trails, the rubber outsole performed well in terms of traction and grip. From crushed gravel and dusty dirt paths to wet grass and shoe-sucking mud, the Flight VECTIVs provided a level of stability that helped to maintain the pace. That said, I didn’t get into any technical trails or serious climbing. With the thin upper and narrow build, I worried about the durability and stability of the shoe on anything beyond flat gravel and hard-packed dirt trails. On the roads, the rubber outsole felt a bit cumbersome stride for stride, but the ride felt comfortable enough for the run to and from the trail network approximately 4km from my home in Ottawa.
The most unique feature of this trail shoe is the 3D carbon-fiber plate built into the sole. While now a common component of high-performance road shoes, the Flight VECTIV is the first of its kind for trail runners. The carbon-fiber plate provides a level of responsiveness and forward propulsion that makes the Flight VECTIVs an obvious choice for trail racing (although the length and terrain of the course may also factor into this equation). In saying that, I should note that I only wore the Flight VECTIVs for easy runs up to 90 minutes in length – I did not use them for workouts or races. But compared to other trail shoes, I would have no issues lining up for a not-too-technical trail race in the Flight VECTIVs.
The verdict: With the right fit, The North Face Flight VECTIV is a great shoe for not-too-technical trail running and racing. However, at $269.99 CAD per pair, the comfortable, lightweight fit and smooth, propulsive ride comes in a significantly higher price point than other trail shoes.
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