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Trail Running Shoes • February 21, 2024

The North Face Altamesa 300 Review: Bouncy Budget Beast

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What You Need To Know


9.5 oz. (269 g) for a US M9,

8.8 oz. (249 g) for a US W8

Stack Height / Drop

25 mm in heel, 19 mm in forefoot (6 mm drop)

Best For

Training or racing on smooth to semi-technical trails

Key Features

EVA midsole with Skycore rock plate, Engineered mesh upper, Surface CTRL outsole with 4 mm lugs, Dynamic Stability Zone

On The Run
Great responsiveness for hill climbs Solid protection underfoot Some issues with rubbing and hotspots
Price / Availability

Available now for $129

Introduction to The North Face Altamesa 300

TAYLOR: The North Face is sticking with a common theme as we roll further into 2024: Establishing a lineup. They’ve been slowly chipping away at the idea of competing on the trail scene and slowly climbing the ladder (and podium). Heck, I reckon it won’t be long until we show up at trail races and see TNF as one of the most represented brands. I know, I know! Slap me in the face, douse me with water, and shake me until I emerge from my seemingly drunken stupor, but I really think The North Face is onto something.

Need me to link some clickbait to show you? I can and I will. The North Face recently added the Altamesa 500 and Summit Vectiv Pro 2 to its lineup, and they’ve quickly become some of my favorites for training and racing. Melissa also reviewed the Enduris 3 pretty recently with similarly high marks, so it’s not just me singing the praises.

Now, there’s another shoe joining the party. Made notable by Zach Miller’s Vision Quest of a race at UTMB last year, the Altamesa 300 is a budget-friendly trail shoe that kind of reminds me of the Altamesa 500’s little brother. It’s a little more technically inclined than the 500 or even the Summit Vectiv Pro 2, and after putting a bunch of miles in the entire series, I can easily see why Zach picked this shoe for the last 50k of UTMB.

JOHN: I’ve never worn shoes from The North Face. Being a 90s kid, I was there when the brand burst onto the scene, and I’ve picked up plenty of clothes from them over the years but never shoes. Since there’s a first time for everything, I was pretty excited to get my feet in the Altamesa 300. I used the shoe for the second loop of the Wild Oak 100 in February, which was the perfect testing ground. My loop covered 27 or so miles with 8,000 feet of vert, so I’ve got a few things to say.

MELISSA: There’s so much emphasis on racing shoes these days. We chase after the latest technology, hunting for promises of improved performance. However, along the way, we overlook the importance of the daily trainer. Although I love a good racing shoe, I have to remind myself that most of my weekly mileage is done in a reliable, comfortable, and durable trainer. It’s that very mindset that I locked into as I tested The North Face Altamesa 300, which is designed to be an everyday trail-running shoe. Overall, this is a solid shoe choice for its intended purpose. Let’s discuss why.

What we like about The North Face Altamesa 300

TAYLOR: If you know anything about the UTMB course, it is (reportedly) fairly smooth terrain as compared to many trail races with massive climbs to and from each town along the way. The crux of the course comes near the end, where your quads are already blown to smithereens by the time the real technical segments begin. Zach Miller, having run this course many times, switched from the Vectiv Pro 2 (which he had raced the first 70ish miles of the race) to the Altamesa 300.

Why? The Altamesa 300, even at $130, can handle a lot of crap. It’s a workhorse of a shoe. The light EVA midsole and Skycore rock plate create a consistent ride that can roll with a variety of terrain. It is also a combo that will not change a whole lot through the life of the shoe.

The midsole is rockered and quite similar to the Altamesa 500 and Vectiv Pro 2, but because of the medium/firm density and slightly lower stack (comparatively), it allows for a little more continuity and control in every step. There wasn’t much compression of the midsole, and I was impressed by the protection. Shoes like the Dynafit Ultra, The North Face Enduris 3, and Hoka Mafate Speed 4 all come to mind as similar options, even though the Altamesa 300 is firmer than all of these. Even a shoe like the Scott Ultra Carbon RC comes to mind with the rocker, moderate stack, and midsole density.

Both Altamesa shoes have a slight bulge to the medial side of the big toe, which is the Dynamic Stability Zone. It’s not so much something you’ll notice, but you’ll still appreciate it. It added some really smooth toe-off, no matter the terrain, and I’ll always welcome stability on uneven terrain.

The North Face has also been nailing the fit department in recent months. Their most recent offerings boast a nicely secured midfoot and heel, while the forefoot boasts a more accommodating persona. This is true for the Altamesa 300, too. Even though it’s not quite as voluminous as the Altamesa 500, I found the fit to be consistently comfortable throughout, though there’s one exception I’ll save for the next section.

Some runners have complained that the Altamesa 300 lacks grip, given its midsole that’s strikingly similar to the Nike Terra Kiger of old, but I’m not sure I agree. Sure, it looks similar, but I can safely say that Surface Ctrl rubber is so much better than anything Nike has used in the past. It’s pretty tacky, and the 4 mm lugs were long enough to dig into almost any trail, with the exception of soft snow and extremely muddy sections. Does anything really grip into those surfaces anyway? Not much.

JOHN: The North Face’s Forest Olive colorway is awesome — I immediately got GI Joe vibes all around. It’s just a great-looking shoe. Oh, and I love the fit, too. My US M11.5 is true to size and extremely comfortable. I’ll note that the cushioning is a little bouncy, but that honestly just helps to push me up hills. More importantly, it doesn’t feel heavy in the heel, nor do I notice anything shifting around, even on tricky surfaces.

We’ll get to the downhill sections in a minute, but I’ll say that for the 27 or so miles I ran in the Altamesa 300, it always felt like the shoe could go further. I put it through hell, and it came out without a noticeable scratch. It drains water nicely, and the collar holds debris out pretty well despite not having a sock-like closure.

Overall, there’s a lot to like for just $129.

MELISSA: It only took a few miles before Altamesa 300 gave me all the Hoka Challenger vibes. Previously, I used Challenger for my weekend warrioring of logging long training runs in the mountains. Just like the Hoka Challenger, Salomon Genesis, and Altra Lone Peak, the Altamesa series is The North Face’s version of an everyday trainer. We’ve already discussed the 500, but the 300 is a nice mid-stack trainer with adequate cushioning and a rock guard.

Starting with the upper, it’s roomy and well-made with durable material. I can really appreciate the wider forefoot design that allows extra room for the big and pinky toes, as well as the fact that it ventilates nicely. I also had the opportunity to test the Altamesa 300 in the rain, and it drained quickly. The upper has great lockdown with its traditional lacing, tongue designed with padding and internal stability wings, and smartly designed heel cup with padding.

The Altamesa 300 is designed with The North Face’s standard 6 mm heel-to-toe offset and a lightweight and durable high-rebound 25 mm stack in the heel. The added forefoot width flows from the upper to the midsole to enhance the overall stability of the shoe. The outsole is lined with a Skycore rock guard and 4 mm rubber lugs designed to grip the trails and keep you nice and protected. They aren’t as aggressive as other trail shoes, making the Altamesa 300 a great shoe if you’re planning to mix it up with some road and trail.

Overall, this is a solid shoe. The Altamesa 300 would be an easy sub-in for future long training runs and possibly longer race distances. Best of all, this shoe is an absolute steal at $130.

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What we don’t like about The North Face Altamesa 300

TAYLOR: My only real complaint about The North Face Altamesa 300 is that it reminds me of a beginner’s woodworking project — rough around the edges. Most of the shoe is a fairly seamless design and runs smoothly together. Much like my experience in the Altamesa 500, I had to search a bit to find a comfortable heel lock, but I was able to do that with some creative lacing.

The real issue came thereafter. Both the heel collar and tongue are rather rough, so I had to choose between securing my heel or avoiding irritation. I chose the heel security and faced the music. I always wear crew-length socks, so I never bled or got blisters from my runs, but I was constantly aware of the thin tough tongue poking into the anterior side of my ankle joint. I kept hoping it would soften up, to no real avail.

JOHN: I’m not going to be extremely critical of a $130 shoe because it is a bargain. It does a lot right; however, I want to point out a few things that impacted the loop I ran at Wild Oak. When running technical downhills, my toe jammed at times, which was very unpleasant. I actually let out a GI Joe war cry on the trail once or twice. It’s strange because I feel like the shoe fit properly and felt good on the rest of the run, but it just struggles on rough downhills. Also, I’d prefer a slightly more aggressive outsole to help tackle tough trails.

MELISSA: I had a lot of trouble finding anything I didn’t like about the Altamesa 300. Both John and Taylor have mentioned minor fit/lockdown issues with the Altamesa’s upper, but my wide forefeet and I had no issues. If I had to find something I didn’t like about the Altamesa 300, I would wish that the midsole was more responsive, given how firm it is. And although the shoe’s weight falls somewhere close to the average for a daily trainer, it feels heavier. Come on TNF, you guys couldn’t sneak a little slice of that Dream foam in there?

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Final thoughts on The North Face Altamesa 300

TAYLOR: Where does this one fall? Right smack-dab in the middle. The North Face Altamesa 300 strikes a familiar chord as a solid all-around trail shoe that can handle anything from smooth to technical trails fairly well. I could just as easily take this on my daily door-to-trail loops or lace up for a mountain scramble.

The ride is a little firmer than most shoes at this similar stack height, but I don’t mind a firmer shoe in this case because it will only mean better control on the more technical stuff, and the ride will remain spritely for quite some time. Like its chonky counterpart, the Altamesa 500, the rockered profile and comfortable fit steal the show. Just make sure that the whole collar scenario can work for you.

JOHN: This is a solid box-checking value for a $130 shoe. I really like what The North Face has done here. I’m mainly going to use this one locally for easy-to-medium trails, but it can definitely hang on hard trails in certain aspects. I mostly just wasn’t a fan of the way the toe feels on rocky or steep downhills, and the outsole could be slightly beefed up. It’s not bad, but on harder trails, it is lacking and doesn’t instill confidence. Overall, it just lacks some toughness. I just want to have a little more stability out there that will make me more confident.

But with that said, it’s extremely hard to make a $130 trail shoe do everything. I wouldn’t label it as a West Coast shoe either because it did alright on technical terrain here in the East, and there’s also great potential for The North Face to push even further with the next update. Once I load it up with miles and can’t run in it anymore, I’m definitely using this one as a lifestyle shoe since I love the overall look that much. If I had to rank this shoe as a GI Joe character, it’s Flint — just a solid character. It looks the part and has some cool weapons. With a better toe area and outsole, this shoe could be Snake Eyes.

MELISSA: I agree with John that you get a lot of bang for your buck here. This is a great shoe choice for weekend warriors and for toeing the line at 50k races alike. I’m really curious to see how much mileage I can get out of the Altamesa 300, and I have no reason to doubt that it can hold up as long as its competitors. Looking forward to logging more miles and finding out.

You can pick up The North Face Altamesa 300 for $129 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below.

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Taylor Bodin
Lead Trail Reviewer
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Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultra runner living in Estes Park, Colo., with his wife and daughters. Trail running is pretty much the only hobby he can manage right now and loves it. Every so often, he will pop off a race or FKT attempt because competition is pure and the original motivator for him getting into running anyways. When not running, Taylor is a 1st grade teacher, running coach (track & field, Cross Country, and Trail/Ultra athletes), and volunteers at his church.

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John Calabrese
Habitual Ultrarunner
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An obsessed runner, John has run in most ultra races in the Mid-Atlantic area. Since he’s an ultra runner, it’s no surprise he’s also a lover of food. He’s also a dedicated father, caregiver, and veteran.

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Melissa Guillen
West Coast Trail Reviewer
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East Coast raised and West Coast trained, Melissa truly enjoys running, especially ultra distances. She currently lives on the Southern California coast and can be found exploring Santa Barbara front country on the weekends.

All-time favorite shoes: HOKA Clifton, Nike Vaporfly NEXT %, Altra Lone Peak

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