Let’s start off with who these shoes are not for: they’re not for minimalists. Too much cushioning, too…squidgy…underfoot. And silver, I mean really. It’s so 1980s Tron. But back to the squidgyness. That’s a technical trail term for cushioning, people. These loafers are comfy. Walking around, damn comfy. On the trail they just make you float. Especially in the heel. Pounding down an incline – if you happen to be the kind of runner that lands on your heel running downhill (the cautious type) – is like being on a jumping castle. Slight overstatement there, but you get the point. Comfy, people, comfy. Lots of give. I wonder with so much movement in the cushion if the cushion will be quick to deteriorate? But that’s something only time will tell. The energy return is great.
The forefoot feels the stones a smidge more but there’s still plenty of protection for most conditions. Overall, however, the last is loose and free up front, allowing a lot of torsional movement – this shoe isn’t dictating to your foot how it’ll go through the motion of heel and toe – your foot is doing what it damn well pleases. Less 80s, more 70s attitude there I guess.
Up back underfoot is much more rigid (in a good way) – it’s as though the designers have gone to town from the midfoot back. Grip is good but not overly aggressive, a reflection of the fact that these were designed to verge on crossover between trail and a little road action (if you can even say that there’s action to be had on road). The name – Doubletrack – suits them for Australian conditions, because it makes me think of fire trails, where there’s two lanes, the ground has in general been flattened by the wheel of a 4WD, and there’s just a little rough stuff to endure, but nothing technical. The North Face’s Doubletrack are perfect for this kind of environment, where grip is less an issue, as is the requirement for constant twisting and turning – it’s more about dealing with some mud, dirt, a stray bit of gravel; a little grip needed for the uphills, and some good cushioning for the longer haul.
Where these shoes really worked for me was in their ‘Terrain Harness’ (dontcha love marketing nomenclature?) – I’ll quote from inside the shoe: “engineered for the medium arched pronator to create stability…”. And it did, for me, thanks to its X-Dome Cradle support with an integrated medial post to correct overpronation. That support, while good through the last, wasn’t as solid in the forward upper – the mostly mesh material on the plus side making this a lightweight shoe that panted well (wicked away watersheds from my sweaty slabs). The heel ‘Dome Cradle’ supplied a positive story at back, holding my heel in snugly and offering some firm support. A great shoe for beginners to intermediates and excellent for more experienced trail runners wanting to use them specifically for those longer runs along bush fire roads. May start to struggle in super duper technical terrain, however.
I’m not the only one to give this shoe the overall thumbs up: US-based adventure rag Outside put it through its paces saying “Just about everybody loved this shoe. It was light and fast enough for high-tempo workouts on pavement. But, thanks in part to a lightweight and flexible rock plate, it was just armored enough to handle rocky and rooty trails.”
In a similar vein to this edition’s Salomon Crossmax and Mizuno Wave tests, the Doubletracks are a great core shoe; the go-to suitable for most trail runs you’ll tackle, and a winner for those who like to feel the cushion beneath.
See The North Face Double-Track in action:
Great For>Middleweight single trail, fire roads, packed or gravelly trails and short bursts from trailhead onto the bitumen to the front door. Another good shoe for those just getting into trail running.
Not So Great For> Aggressively technical trail, colder conditions.
Test Conditions> Mixed single trail and fire-trail, some technical trail with rock conditions, some rock hopping ~55km
Tester> Chris Ord – middleweight (if that) everyman trail runner, completed the Oxfam 100k, a half TNF100, a bush marathon in the Grampians knocking off four highest peaks, and shorter distance trail runs for multisport events. Regular outdoor gear tester for myriad outdoor magazines, including Australian Geographic Outdoor magazine.
Tester mechanics> Runner’s knees, mild pronation and midfoot strike.
RRP> AU$219.95 / NZ $269.95