REVIEWER: KATE DZIENIS
IMAGE: SUZANNE POLI
VERDICT ON THE VECTIV
DID SOMEONE SAY CARBON PLATES IN A RACING TRAIL SHOE? Well, yes. Road shoes have utilised carbon-fibre plate technology for a while now, and The North Face was one of, if not the first, brand to put the same tech into a trail shoe – the Flight VECTIV.
Taking a brand new pair out of their box, the Brilliant Coral/TNF White colour came straight at me and I immediately put them on. Instantly I could feel the carbon-fibre plate doing its job, providing almost a spring in my step and ready to protect everything underfoot; I’m guessing that feeling was also due to the rocker shape of the shoe too, propelling me forward…and which took a little getting used to, I must admit.
On the technical side of things, VECTIV is the name of the midsole tech which is a combination of dual-density foam, rocker and full-length carbon plate all working together. The Flight Series™ VECTIV™ range are the lightest and most responsive of The North Face’s elite trail running shoes, specifically made for ultra distances because of their durability thanks to Kevlar®, polyamide and Matryx® fabrics. It’s these materials combined together that make the Flight VECTIV a notable model for trail shoes.
Because of the carbon-plate though, which provides stabilisation and reliability, the shoe is stiff to the touch when brand new. It does take some time to ‘break them in’ so to speak – I’d say about 20km, so in hindsight it’s not too bad. Cushioning is of the medium range and quite comfortable, and I felt very comfortable running in this particular pair. Ability to pick up pace was done easily, and I felt stable enough when hitting the downhills on pea gravel and hard-packed dirt.
Worth noting that because of the rocker, which is specifically designed to propel the body forward, I felt a bit of additional stack. For me, this wasn’t an issue though. The combination of the plate, midsole and high tech fabric in the midfoot means there is plenty of security, whilst the knit upper provides enough wriggle room for toes.
Let’s talk heel lock now, as I love to do with all reviews. There is no extra heel lock eyelet in the Flight VECTIV, so when combined with the loose knit upper in the heel I felt slippage and had to switch to a higher length ankle sock (yes, I carry extra socks with me when testing out shoes) to ensure a decrease in friction against my skin.
What’s interesting with the Flight VECTIV is that the tongue is incorporated into the shoe, meaning it’s not gusseted so there are no gaps between it and the lace cage; the laces are tight and flat, they won’t stretch or become longer. Personally, I love springy, bungee-like laces but they did their job on the Flight VECTIV and didn’t undo themselves.
The outsole features a barrage of directional 3.5mm lugs for traction, which means it’s not necessarily suitable for muddy terrain, however I was still comfortable hitting a bit of pedestrian or bicycle path while wearing them, so going from road to trail or vice versa is no issue.
Please note, this is a fast shoe, and it’s a precision shoe. It’s designed for confident trail runners who are quick and who lead front of the pack; when making comparisons to other shoes on the market, in particular the design-work, they are a vastly differently shoe. Suited for narrow feet in mid and fore foot, the Flight VECTIV is true to size but if you’re prone to foot swelling I’d suggest trying on a half size up to allow for extra space. It has a 6mm drop and a stack height of 25mm at the heel, so a large midsole for your landings.
Women’s Flight VECTIV shoes are available in Brilliant Coral/TNF White and TNF White/TNF Black, whilst for the men they come in Brilliant Coral/TNF White and Chlorophyll Green/Monterey Blue.
A neutral shoe with a specifically designed rocker plate to add stability, The North Face Flight VECTIV is an efficient ride that does best on longer runs. The brand has done well to introduce the technology into trail shoes, and those who run in the Flight VECTIV will not be disappointed.
THE LOW DOWN
GREAT FOR: Long distance, most all terrains
NOT SO GREAT FOR: Muddy or high technicality
TEST CONDITIONS: Hard-packed dirt, limestone, pea gravel
TESTER: Kate Dzienis
TESTER MECHANICS: Severe overpronator with wide feet
RRP: $330 AUD / $350 NZD
WEBSITE: thenorthface.com.au / thenorthface.co.nz
CONDITIONS: Shoes provided for testing by The North Face