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Trail Running Shoes • February 13, 2024

The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2 Review: Small Changes, Big Results

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What You Need To Know

Weight

9.7 oz. (277 g) for a US M9/W10.5

Stack Height / Drop

32 mm in heel, 26 mm in forefoot (6 mm drop)

Best For

Race day at any distance

Key Features

Vectiv 2.0 carbon fiber plate, Dream midsole foam, Surface CTRL outsole with 3.5 mm lugs, Engineered mesh upper with gusseted tongue

On The Run
Great stability from the plate wings Dream foam runs like, well, a dream Might be some durability concerns
Price

$250

Introduction to The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2

TAYLOR: The only way I can describe The North Face’s original Summit Vectiv Pro is “close but no cigar.” It had all the right ingredients — a modern midsole foam, lightweight construction, high stack, secure but breathable upper, and a unique carbon fiber plate — but when it came down to rolling it up, the finished product just wasn’t tight enough.

Of course, I’m saying all of this, but I really have very little experience with cigars. Trail shoes, on the other hand, are right up my alley and I’ll stand by my experience with them. And, to that end, the original Summit Vectiv Pro really, really should have been our 2023 pick for trail racer of the year. It was the only trail shoe to truly rival the carbon-plated performance of road shoes while handing in a solid experience on varied terrain.

Unfortunately, the reason it didn’t take our top honor came down to one of its key ingredients. The full-length forked carbon plate sat immediately below the insole, which forced the carbon fiber wings that were meant for stability up into the sides of the foot a la pincers from an exotic insect. Sure, the wings were effective stabilizers, but they caused too much discomfort for too many runners. I’d dare to say you had a 50/50 shot of getting to the Summit unscathed. It was a true Achilles’ heel because everything else about the North Face Vectiv Pro was so. dang. good.

One year later, we’re back with The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2. As hoped, it’s largely the same recipe with some incremental changes to perfect it. The upper is now a recycled engineered mesh with a debris-catching inlayer, the heel collar construction is slightly different, and (drum roll, please) the carbon-fiber plate sits further in the midsole. All of this points toward an even better fit and a better experience with TNF’s already stellar technology on the trails. It sounds nice on paper, but it really only matters when rubber hits the dirt.

MICHAEL: When The North Face’s Summit Vectiv Pro 2 arrived at my doorstep, the feeling I got was probably as close as I’m ever going to get to picking up a pair of the Air Jordan 1 when MJ was in his prime. I mean, Zach Miller is basically just as cool as MJ in his own Zach-Shack-driving, UTMB-crushing sort of way.

Seriously though, this is the shoe of superstars. Katie Schide, Seth Ruling, and others have piloted this thoroughbred racehorse to ridiculously fast times in some of the world’s most iconic races over a variety of terrain and distances, really showcasing this elusive, exhilarating, high-performance luxury race-day shoe to all of us amateurs who might be willing to shell out the cash to race in the best of the best. Of course, you can count on the BITR trail team to keep the hype in check or maybe even add to it. We’ll see.

What we like about The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2

TAYLOR: Unlike Maury, I’m gonna rip this envelope right open — no messing about with he-said-she-said. I put a bunch of miles in the Summit Vectiv Pro 2 to see if its claims were legit, and the verdict is that yes, The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2 is the father. It’s time to embrace the fact that TNF is trying to play a legitimate role in trail runners’ lives.

Though it’s subtle, pushing the plate down into the midsole to get a little more material between the footbed and the foot makes all the difference. After 90 minutes in the first iteration, I’d be very conscious of the growing blisters on my medial forefoot. I tried to redeem it by swapping in Inov-8’s Boomerang insole, but even that couldn’t fully take care of the rubbing. Now, I’m flippin’ ecstatic to say that’s no longer the case with The North Face Vectiv Pro 2. I experienced no rubbing on the medial or lateral side of my forefoot, so it’s game on.

While we’re on the topic, this 3D carbon fiber plate is a very unique design. It’s the same as the previous version, with a full-length plate, but uses visible wings in the forefoot for greater stability. Kind of like the Nike Ultrafly or Saucony Endorphin Edge, the plate is also forked in the forefoot for adaptability along the trails. Both measures help diversify the terrain that this shoe is accessible to, which I welcome. Whereas the previously mentioned shoes are best suited for the rather smooth stuff, The North Face Vective Pro 2 joins the ranks of Hoka’s Tecton X 2 in being able to run comfortably on buffed-out to moderately technical trails without hesitation.

For a carbon-plated shoe to really take flight, the foam has to be the right density. The North Face’s new Dream foam is just that. It’s the same foam found in the Altamesa 500, Altamesa 300, and in the previous Vectiv Pro. The Dream midsole compound is a supercritical EVA blend that falls on the soft end of medium. It really is a comfortable cushioning and is surprisingly responsive.

I also liked the fact that there was a comforting subtle squish before the rigidity of the plate took over. On smoother, faster terrain, The North Face Vectiv Pro 2 felt like a true super shoe. The combo of putting energy into the plate and an aggressive rocker made the ride quite reactive and buttery smooth. This is easily one of my favorite trail running sensations.

Over moderate and technical terrain, the plate took on a stability-oriented role. As much fun as the zippiness is, if you’re an ultra runner, the dynamic stability will be of equal or more benefit the farther you go. Such stability gave confidence on just about all terrain as well.

Upper modifications give the Summit Vectiv Pro 2 an updated fit that’s two thumbs up. Most carbon-plated trail shoes suffer from the upper feeling like an afterthought when, in reality, it should be one of the primary concerns, but not this one. A recycled engineered mesh and reconfigured heel collar seem to do the trick in The North Face’s case. This shoe also has an expansive toe box — maybe larger than any other shoe in its category. The volume allows for comfort and control through each stride, especially on longer runs.

Despite the room, I was able to achieve a very performance-oriented fit right out of the box and was most impressed with how the elf ear heel tab with strategically placed padding held my foot comfortably in place. The North Face’s lightly padded, fully-gusseted tongue and serrated Alphafly-styled laces finish off the rock-solid fit.

As for grip, most of the outsole is covered with Surface CTRL rubber, which does the job nicely.

MICHAEL: Despite it being a recovery week from a race, my lackadaisical legs had no trouble picking up on the magic in the Summit Vectiv Pro 2. From the first step in, a wide smile spread across my face, and after just a quick jog around the apartment, I knew this shoe was something special. On the run, the intoxicating midsole zip is all there — there’s no doubt that this is the most “super” I’ve ever felt in a trail supershoe.

It’s easy to point to the positioning or tuning of the plate — but I think the real magic here is the perfectly tuned midsole durometer. Not too soft, not too firm, this Dream midsole compound would make Goldilocks herself proud. At faster paces, this shoe really rolls through your stride with that snappiness and spring from the midsole foam that I’ve only truly experienced before in today’s modern-day road racing shoes.

At slower paces, it still feels soft and supple. In some other carbon trail shoes we’ve tried, the foam and plate were almost too propulsive, but the Summit Vectiv Pro 2 feels appropriately bouncy. I never felt like fast descents in the shoe were uncontrolled on the propulsion front.

Through the midfoot, the fit of the Summit Vectiv Pro 2 is superb. Other trail super shoes have suffered on this point, but The North Face gets it right. The extra fancy laces top off the shoe with even more of a high-performance, race-day ethos, as if it wasn’t already soaked in it.

Additionally, I had no issues with the plate wings giving me blisters in the forefoot, so they add nothing negative to the experience, which is great, considering they don’t add anything perceivably positive to the experience either except for looking awesome.

I could go on about how well-rounded this shoe is, but I want to take the time to mention how impressively capable the outsole is for this category of shoe. The 3.5 mm lugs punch above their height on traction, and a near-full coverage of SurfaceCTRL rubber adds extra tackiness over rocky surfaces.

If you’re someone who’s looking to spend top dollar for a race day shoe, these aspects of versatility and technical trail capability should not be overlooked. Nobody wants to spend $250 for shoes that immediately begin underperforming when it starts raining, or the trails get a little muddy, so in comparison to the Nike Ultrafly or the New Balance Fuelcell Trail, the Summit Vectiv Pro 2 (and maybe the Saucony Endorphin Edge) immediately have a leg up on the competition.

ALEX: I loved the first iteration of this shoe, so I was pretty excited to test out version two. My favorite thing about the first version was the rocker, which was smooth and fast across all terrain.

First and foremost, the comfort level of the Vectiv Pro 2 is exceptional. From the moment I slipped my feet into it, I was met with just the right amount of plush cushioning, which is critical for long training runs or races. For those who dread the break-in period, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by ready-to-go comfort.

I’m a big fan of the support and stability the Summit Vectiv Pro 2 delivers. The Vectiv technology, which includes a 3D dual-density Pebax footplate, midsole rocker geometry, and SurfaceCTRL grip, combines to deliver a really great blend of responsive durability. On steep climbs and technical terrain, I found the Vectiv Pro 2 offered reliable traction and security.

Aesthetically, I love the look of this shoe, too. While the white didn’t exactly stay white, it has a clean yet rugged look. Also, I’ll always take a moment to express my appreciation for not assigning pink and purple to the women’s colorways.

The shoe is super breathable, which is great during the warmer months, and we’ll just say… noticeable during the winter months. The minimal, lightly padded, gusseted tongue kept debris out, and the heel collar is well designed to achieve a secure lockdown.

Shop The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2 - Men Shop The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2 - Women

What we don’t like about The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2

TAYLOR: I really don’t have a lot to say here, but durability is somewhat of a concern. The lugs toward the toe end of the shoe are starting to wear down after around 50 miles in. I have a couple of tiny bits of foam missing immediately below the lateral forefoot wing, too, but they aren’t performance-inhibiting.

Even so, I’m going to suggest buying it. So, maybe there’s your negative. 250 bones for anything is something to bat an eye at. That’s top-tier pricing for performance running shoes these days, you just have to be ready to stomach it.

ALEX: Durability is critical in the shoe game, and I’m not convinced that the upper material or the outsole is going to be able to withstand the rugged terrain that this one was designed for.

Related, there is also very little to no protection on the top of the toe box, I flipped a rock over onto the top of my foot more than once and cursed the thin material.

MICHAEL: One of my favorite aspects of this shoe is its stability on mellow trails and fire roads (the wide footprint and toe box really help here). However, when the terrain gets to be really technical and the footsteps more and more uneven, I found the plate resulted in more instability than most non-plated models and maybe even a bit fatigue-inducing.

I had concerns going into this review about how the plate would feel being situated directly under the foot (most shoes with a plate, carbon or not, place it much closer to the outsole than the insole). For my tastes, this was fine for most terrain, and I didn’t feel like it made for an uncomfortable foot strike or anything, but when subjected to the most aggressive singletrack I could throw at it, the plate wants to move and dance and glide on top of all that supercritical foam to the beat of its own drum.

Basically, as I’m writing this review, I realize maybe I was just pushing this shoe too hard on the really, really steep and technical stuff and that perhaps it just wasn’t necessarily made for that. Or maybe carbon-plated shoes, in general, just aren’t my cup of tea on my home trails.

For some context, the Summit Vectiv Pro 2 is still certainly more capable than many of its competitor carbon-plated shoes. So, dear reader, if you’re looking to use my review as confirmation bias to justify dropping big bucks for your Western States qualifier, don’t let my critiques scare you. This shoe is still a total crusher.

Shop The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2 - Men Shop The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2 - Women

Final thoughts on The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2

TAYLOR: I know it’s early to say anything about year-end awards, but something really special is going to need to come up to dethrone this one for a race day pick. In my opinion, The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2 is the most capable of any carbon-plated trail shoes available. It has the efficiency and zip that one would want out of a race day shoe. The North Face Vectiv Pro 2 also has the underfoot stability and overall fit needed to back up the underfoot performance on a variety of terrain.

It seems to be a trend these days, with supercritical foams, lightweight materials, etc, that longevity will be a concern, but I’m not overly concerned. I wouldn’t expect all of the performance benefits/feel to last as long as many day-to-day trail shoes — something to note if you’re shelling out $250.

MICHAEL: After writing a little more than I thought I would on the “bad” section of this review, I want to set the record straight — this shoe is freakin awesome. This is a game-changing shoe nearly on the same level as shoes like the Alphafly, but I don’t expect this shoe to be as ubiquitous on the race course, and I wouldn’t immediately recommend it to everyone.

That being said, The North Face has something special here, and if you get a chance to try these on for a lap in your local store or, better yet, your local singletrack, I have a feeling you’ll have a hard time putting it back on the shelf.

At the end of the day, this shoe has pretty much everything you’d want in an ultra-distance race-day shoe and applies modern super-shoe technologies in a measured, beautifully executed means that makes this shoe ready and able to help almost any runner crush almost any course. Not to mention, it looks absolutely fantastic doing it.

ALEX: I’m with Taylor. This is a solid race day package from The North Face. It’s light and fast, and it’s going to match any race day kit. Even yours, Janji. The rocker, underfoot protection, and overall foot will keep you moving fast.

My only caveat, given my comments in the “bad” section, is to save it for race day. I’m not sold on the durability of the upper or outsole.

You can pick up The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2 for $250 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below.

Shop The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2 - Men Shop The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro 2 - Women
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Authors

taylor
Taylor Bodin
Lead Trail Reviewer
  • Strava
  • Instagram

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.

More from Taylor
Shoe Size

10.5

Fav. Distance

100K

PRs
  • 27:03

    100M
  • 13:40

    100K
  • 7:42

    50M
  • 4:34

    50K
ALEX TRACKSMITH
Alex Elizabeth
Lead Trail Reviewer
  • Instagram

Alex is a trail and ultra runner from the upper midwest who loves Minnesota’s long winters and logging miles on the rooty, rocky, steep trails of Lake Superior’s North Shore. She was the first female to set a supported FKT on the 310 mile Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) and enjoys multi-day events and races, especially if they involve snow and -20 degree temps. 

All-time favorite shoes: Hoka Speedgoat Evo, Hoka Tecton X, Altra Timp.

More from Alex
Shoe Size

8.5

Fav. Distance

100M

PRs
  • 94:35

    200 Mile
  • 29:45 

    100 Mile
  • 15:10

    100K
  • 13:42

    50 Mile
michael bio photo
Michael Loutzenheiser
Southern Trail Reviewer

An engineer living with his wife and cat in Birmingham, Ala., Michael loves chill morning runs in the neighborhood, but especially enjoys soaking up long miles of technical southeast singletrack. Occasionally, he’ll get a racing itch and actually string together some “organized” training for a trail race or FKT. In his free time, Michael enjoys books, backpacking, and hanging out with friends.

More from Michael
Shoe Size

9.5

Fav. Distance

13.1 (Trail)

PRs
  • 4:48

    50K
  • 1:16

    Half Marathon
  • 16:45

    5K
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