TAYLOR: So little has been known about the North Face Vectiv series for much of the past year, even though scores of North Face trail runners have been quietly slaying FKTs with the shoe. Following that low-key hype, it’s safe to say that I was pretty excited to finally get my feet in this shoe.
This series has a striking resemblance to that of the Saucony Endorphin line, in that it consists of three shoes serving different purposes: 1) Vectiv Infinite, a max-cushion shoe for any distance from 1 to 100 miles, 2) Vectiv Enduris, a lighter and more-efficient max-cushion shoe, and 3) this shoe. All contain Vectiv technology that seeks to propel runners over any distance and any trail.
The Flight Vectiv stands at the helm of this lineup. It’s the first carbon-plated shoe created for the trails. With the impact plated shoes have had on the road running community, it’s hard not to speculate the performance benefits on the trail.
MATT: Talk about a shoe with some major hype. The promotion and marketing surrounding the North Face Flight Vectiv was on par with a Marvel movie release. The videos, clips and branding that circulated social media had me and many other trail runners geeked out to get our hands on a pair.
TAYLOR: Let’s be serious for a moment. But just a moment. My expectations weren’t very high for the Flight Vectiv. North Face doesn’t exactly produce super dependable trail running shoes. However, this shoe seems to have flipped the script for North Face.
Vectiv is the name of the new midsole technology used in all three models. The combination of dual-density foam, rocker, and full-length carbon plate all work together to create some magic that I’ve never experienced in a trail shoe.
The Vectiv foam itself ranges from a medium-soft to soft feel that’s comfortable, protective and very responsive. It’s a pretty sweet concoction that reminds me of the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6 and the Inov-8 Terra Ultra G-270 (BITR trail shoe of the year 2020).
Rolling gets a whole new definition with the Flight Vectiv. The rockered midsole is where most of the magic happens. On general trail surfaces and roads, the toe-off is buttery smooth. Each stride, whether technical trail or uphill, felt easier because of the rockered midsole.
As for the ride itself, it’s firmed up and stabilized by the carbon plate. But as we’ve all come to expect with carbon plates, propulsion is certainly the main purpose. It ain’t a stallion like you might find in some of the plated road shoes, but it does have a certain “pop” that isn’t found in any other trail shoe to date. Midfoot strikers will get the most out of this shoe.
A racer feel doesn’t only come from underfoot. A reinforced, one-piece knit upper provides a booty like fit as well as some of the best lockdown available. A little extra padding is integrated over top of the foot for lacing comfort.
For extra reinforcement, there are Matryx/Kevlar panels on both the lateral and medial midfoot. Initially, these felt a little harsh on the medial side, but they broke in nicely within a few runs.
A protruding heel-pad around the Achilles and molded TPU footbed really sealed the deal in terms of fit. This combo felt like a cockpit for your foot upon initial step-in and while running. I really believe that this ingredient is what gives the Flight Vectiv some real range when it comes to what terrain it can cover.
And just for good measure, the Surface Control outsole grips just as well as most trail shoes out there.
MATT: The Flight Vectiv, which is the carbon plated shoe in the Vectiv line, arrived in red carpet treatment. Packaged in an oversized black box, the hyperwhite-themed Flight Vectiv felt special even before unboxing.
Based on fit alone, the fit of the Flight Vectiv upper is comparable to the Nike Epic React and React Infinity. The Matryx construction combined with a foam heel insert provides great all-around comfort for those rough trail miles. The upper is also sneaky stable, despite the lightweight construction.
Featuring North Face’s Surface Control outsole, the Flight Vectiv has some of the best grip I’ve experienced. The lugs aren’t overly aggressive, but the shape, positioning and material add up to a winning formula. They’re not going to outperform some of the more aggressive trail offerings on the market, but the Flight Vectiv also weighs a lot less.
Let’s move onto the midsole, which is what really steals the show for this shoe. The all-new Vectiv foam is plenty cushy without being too soft and is quite responsive. A 3D carbon plate runs the length of the shoe and combines nicely with the rocker shaped midsole.
There’s definitely more of an exaggerated rocker feel when running in the Flight Vectiv, but it’s welcome over rough and tumble terrain.Shop Flight Vectiv – Men Shop Flight Vectiv – Women
TAYLOR: The Flight Vectiv fails in its accessibility. This shoe runs fairly narrow. I have a pretty average foot, and the torpedo-like design really pushed my boundaries of comfort. While it worked for me, this will be one of the major gripes from runners world-wide. Perhaps a wide version will come, but it’s not available now. I’m sorry, Jarrett!
Don’t expect the one-piece upper to last terribly long either. After about 50 miles, I’ve noticed some high wear areas on the sides of the shoe. Remember, this is technically a racing shoe, but durability is a high priority when dropping the bag on a shoe like this.
MATT: That beautiful hyper white mesh upper, while striking on day one, does not stay fresh for very long. It’s like when you get a new car and you park far away in crowded parking lots, wash it every weekend. Then you get that first ding in the bumper, and all bets are off. Of course, it’s a trail shoe, and they’re supposed to get dirty, but it’s a damn shame nonetheless.
The rocker/carbon plate combo provides a very different feel than what a lot of people are used to. After the first few runs, I could see someone generating mild soreness in their midfoot and/or forefoot. By no means nothing scary, just something to be aware of the first time you take these out for a spin.
Also, these things are expensive. Priced at $199, the Flight Vectiv is going to cost a pretty penny for all that technology underfoot.Shop Flight Vectiv – Men Shop Flight Vectiv – Women
TAYLOR: I found myself weighing my experiences in the North Face Flight Vectiv against my preconceived notions. Is it truly everything I wanted to have in a carbon-plated trail shoe? I’d say yes. It’s completely different from most trail shoes and familiar at the same time. The Flight Vectiv comes with some limitations, but certainly not in performance.
MATT: If you’re not afraid of a hefty sticker price, the North Face Flight Vectiv is a phenomenal option for your trail miles. The Vectiv midsole and carbon plate combined to make this one of my favorite rides in the trail world.
You can pick up the North Face Flight Vectiv for $199 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop Flight Vectiv – Men Shop Flight Vectiv – Women