What You Need To Know
- Weighs 10.1 oz. (286 g.) for a US M9 / 8.5 oz. (242 g.) for a US W8
- A rocker and a plate, so you feel like you have wings
- The North Face is coming into its own with this one
- We tested both pre-production and finished versions
- Available now for $250
TAYLOR: The North Face isn’t known for its running gear. It never has been. Lackluster would be an appropriate descriptor of its past. That’s why they made some major ripples when they dropped a full line of intriguing trail running shoes.
Three shoes — the Enduris, Infinite, and Flight Vectiv — created a well-rounded quiver that gave runner options from a cushioned daily trainer to a carbon-plated race day shoe. It was a new approach for the trail running world that took apparent inspiration from the roads.
Most attention was rightfully placed on the Flight Vectiv. It looked sharp with this sleek white upper and exaggerated rocker, and it was the first trail running shoe to have a carbon fiber plate. For its time, which is crazy to say since it was only two years ago, it was a pretty wild feeling race day pick for the trails. The model certainly has limitations, but it was a solid starting point for The North Face to build off.
A couple of years and massive amounts of podiums later, The North Face is onto something big. The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro is, in many ways, a completely different beast. If you’re looking for a more direct update to the Flight Vectiv, this isn’t it. You can find that in the Summit Vectiv Sky.
The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro aims to be a highly responsive, moderately stable, and well-cushioned racer. It employs some direct learnings from their initial carbon-plated go. In general, runners wanted more room, a softer ride, and some structure in the upper. All of that happens here… and then some.
ALEX: The North Face has been putting out some beautiful trail shoes lately, and the Summit Vectiv Pro is the best yet. It’s a work of art. It looks good and feels even better. Taylor and I received the prototype of this shoe, which is just the undyed version of the shoe that later hit the market. Was anyone else also trying to zoom in on Katie Schide’s footwear during her win at UTMB? If you successfully caught a glimpse, you’ll recognize this one.
TAYLOR: A few guarantees for a modern-day super shoe are highly responsive foam and a carbon fiber plate. The Summit Vectiv Pro has both, and they’re quite a bit different than what was in the original Flight Vectiv. The foam is a new proprietary blended Pebax. It’s the real deal. It feels lightweight and bouncy, and the added EVA adds some structure and durability, which are not common descriptors of super shoe foams. The foam gives a medium to soft and airy feel that brings comfort over the long haul too.
The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro puts on a clinic for responsiveness. Its foam is a part of the equation, and the rocker plus carbon plate duo creates synergy among the underfoot components. Instead of just a roll, I felt some true snappiness in this one. Upon footstrike, the foam is soft enough to compress and make the plate react, similar to the Saucony Endorphin Edge. Where the Vectiv Pro stands out against other plated trail shoes is that this energy is harnessed in the right way.
The rocker in the shoe is in a different spot than the original version. As I ran, no matter the speed, I felt some real Asics Metaspeed Sky vibes going on. The rocker rolls in the right direction, right over the top of the big toe, and gives a hyper-smooth toe-off to make use of the energy provided by the midsole and plate.
Like the Hoka Mafate Speed 4, Brooks Caldera 6, and Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, the overall shape of the midsole flares out slightly toward the outsole. It’s a natural stability measure. It is not as exaggerated in the Vectiv Pro, but it does make a difference in stability throughout the shoe. Added stability in the forefoot comes from the carbon fiber plate. It has wings extending toward the lateral and medial side of the forefoot that save the softer midsole from caving in on the sides of the shoe — perhaps a little too much. More on that later. Such stability will come in handy the farther you go.
None of this would make a difference on the trail if the upper weren’t in check. A lot of focus went into creating more structure, especially on the shoe’s instep, to use this technology in proper trail running experiences (and not just fire roads). The North Face’s very open engineered mesh creates a web of structure throughout the foot. There’s a higher heel tab and a decently structured heel cup, which both help without issue. Breathability, durability, and overall structure are all strong points. About a third of the upper is supported by an inner “cage” of under and overlays. The upper doesn’t lose its shape even when you’re not wearing the shoe.
Even though the overall shape of the shoe is comfortable and secure, an integrated tongue and half booty system are used to get a rather secure feel over the midfoot and anterior ankle. It’s actually two layers of elastic fabric that hold the foot to the footbed. This gusseted tongue plays a big role in making this shoe one of the few high-stack carbon-plated shoes that can handle hitting some moderately technical terrain with confidence.
Usually, laces are an afterthought for me. These laces are rad, though. Some have called them “Alphafly” laces. To me, they’re “lacey” laces because they look like a ribbon made of, you guessed it, lace. One of the benefits of this style of lace is that they have ridges that catch each other when tied. They won’t come undone while running. Another positive is that it does the same with the eyelets in the lacing chain. I’m typically incredibly picky with the fit to the point that I retie my laces often over the first couple of runs in shoes. With the Vectiv Pro, I didn’t stop once to re-lace because the initial tie never loosened up.
ALEX: The incredible attention to detail that went into designing every aspect of The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro makes this shoe so much fun to run in. The overall fit and thoughtful midsole materials and design come together for a fantastic experience on the trails. In fact, some of my favorite runs this year were in this shoe. Don’t tell my Hoka Tecton X.
The first thing I noticed about this shoe was the rocker. It’s pretty prominent both visually and on foot. I love a good rocker, and the placement and design of this one are what make the Summit Vectiv Pro so much fun. It helps to continuously facilitate forward momentum and really performs well at faster speeds.
To increase stability, the midsole is equipped with a full-length, forked 3-D carbon plate. It’s also supported by a proprietary Pebax and high-rebound EVA foam. The result: comfortable, durable, and responsive. Combined with that rockin’ rocker, this might be my favorite midsole combination. The shoe feels energetic even when I don’t.
Another thing that immediately caught my eye was the serrated laces (think Nike Alphafly). Designed to support a secure fit and eliminate any slipping or loosening, I got a secure lockdown on the first try. Plus, they give the shoe an even more refined look!
The upper is made of a dual-layer TPU mesh that is durable and breathable. This material is ideal for hot summer creek crossings. They drain incredibly well and impressively fast. The integrated tongue and unobtrusive yet secure heel collar design further support a great lockdown and secure fit.
Last but not least, The North Face brought you a high-performance shoe with (drumroll please) a roomy toe box. I’ve found that some brands equate performance with a slimmed-down, narrow fit which immediately takes them out of the running for me for a 100-plus mile race shoe option. Your toes have ample room to splay (and swell) in this one as they keep rockin’ through the miles.Shop The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro – Men Shop The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro – Women
TAYLOR: I wish I didn’t, but I have some bad news. Terrible. Mortifying. No, I didn’t commit a murder, but The North Face still has some cleaning up to do.
One small part of the shoe can be the difference maker for a lot of runners. A surprising aspect is that the full-length carbon plate falls immediately under the footbed making your initial contact with the shoe the plate itself. Over the long haul, this will likely feel rather harsh.
Even more problematic is the application of the carbon wings. The theory is great, and the stability measures are outstanding. However, the medial wing and big metatarsal joint simply do not agree with each other. After the initial run in both prototype and production pairs, I acquired some pretty hefty blisters — the kind that come underneath your callous and stay around for a few days. Heavier-padded socks and Body Glide couldn’t even keep them at bay. I think someone could get away with using the shoe for four to five hours for races, but it’s hard to see your feet not tapping out after that without taking serious measures.
It’s simply a shame that this happens. Could the wings be modified or completely left out in the next version?
It’s also possible that this won’t be an issue for you, like for Alex. But if it is, it’s basically a death sentence for your desire to wear the shoe for a 100-miler or other super-long race.
The North Face Vectiv Pro is a shoe that I’d recommend carefully sizing. If the race or run you go for is four-plus hours, purchase a half-size smaller. The upper on my US M10.5 was both lengthy and roomy throughout. If you’re going for long ultra-endurance days (and possibly nights), your normal size should be enough room to accommodate foot swelling.
I’m going to throw this out there. The latest prototype that I received does not have the exact same feeling foam as the production, and sizing was off between the two as well. In both categories, I prefer the prototype. I don’t often prefer the softer foam, but I do in this case. The fit was also more predictable and secure.
ALEX: The TPU mesh upper is too breathable for late-season and winter runs. This shoe ain’t made for walkin’ — that rocker feels awkward to walk in for prolonged periods. Now that I think about it, it might be my ticket to a 100-mile PR. Well played, The North Face. Finally, the lacy serrated laces started to fray a little prematurely.Shop The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro – Men Shop The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro – Women
The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro Conclusion
TAYLOR: The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro pokes its head into the conversation when considering any carbon-plated trail shoes. It falls between the Hoka Tecton X and Saucony Endorphin Edge in many ways. The best way to put it is that it has the predictability and consistency of the first with the excitement of the latter.
The only potentially deal-breaking flaw is the friction found with the carbon wings. I know that some testers have completely hacked that part of the shoe off, which gave them relief. So, there are options to work with.
The fit, the smooth ride, the peppy step, and the ability to head into some moderately technical terrain and long days with confidence put The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro at the top of the high-performance list. This one should give many runners the experience they’re hoping for in a trail racer.
ALEX: Now that the snow is flying, I’m not reaching for this one as often, although I cannot wait to train and race in it next year. The Summit Vectiv Pro checks all the boxes for me, and the thoughtful design and attention to detail spark both excitement and confidence.
You can pick up The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro for $250 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro – Men Shop The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro – Women
Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultrarunner living in Estes Park, CO, with his wife and daughter. He and his wife both love running the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. When not running, Taylor is a Kindergarten/1st grade teacher, running coach, and youth leader for his church.