Verdict from 7.8 hours of research from the internet

5 reasons to buy

  • Several people noted that The North Face Litewave TR II offered a suitably lightweight ride.
  • The outsole unit’s performance on the trails left positive thoughts on many of those who have tried it.
  • The general design of this running shoe was lauded for being appealing.
  • The majority felt that it was true to size.
  • A runner stated that the cushioning system ensured responsive performances on the unpredictable terrains.

2 reasons not to buy

  • Some testers reported that the fit was a bit narrow for their liking.
  • The materials used in this running shoe made it look cheap and flimsy.

Bottom line

The North Face Litewave TR II garnered mostly positive reviews from runners. They liked that it lived up to its name as a lightweight trail shoe. They also appreciated the appealing design and the agreeable performance. On the other hand, some purchasers didn’t like the apparently narrow fit, as well as the cheap-looking construction of this product.

Tip: see the best running shoes.

Our reviews

/100 by Joseph Arellano, posted on .

Back in 2013 – a time that now feels like it was decades ago, I discovered a very nice running shoe known as The North Face Hyper-Track Guide.

The Guide was a great shoe because it was a well- cushioned neutral trainer on hard city surfaces, as well as a grippy confidence-inspiring shoe on country trails.

And so when I came across a photo of The North Face Lite Wave Trail II, it reminded me of the Guide and I was very much inclined to give it a go.

Thanks to The North Face for providing a sample model for review.


A Hybrid?

The Litewave is said to be “a versatile trail shoe best suited for a mixture of well-groomed trails and road use” (Running Warehouse). In translation, it’s a hybrid shoe meant to be at home in town and country, city and suburb.

Is the Litewave actually suited for both types of surfaces? See our verdict below.

The Shoe

The Litewave weighs 8.9 ounces – which is light for a trail shoe, but the II is eight-tenths of an ounce heavier than the original Litewave Trail. The Lightwave is slip-lasted and built on a semi-curved last. It’s made to fit medium to low-volume feet.  

A shock absorbing, odor-fighting Ortholite insole is provided. Fortunately, it’s thinner than the ones found in most running shoes these days.

The shoe has a 6mm drop which feels like a 6mm drop on the run (some shoes feel higher or lower than their stated drop).

The Litewave has a compression molded EVA midsole which is intended to provide “durable, smooth cushioning.” It has a dual layer mesh upper and an UltrATAC rubber outsole for “sticky traction.” There are four flex grooves in the forefoot.

There is no rock plate in this model.

The fit of the Litewave is just right, not too snug or loose. One’s toes are free to splay at will, and there’s a curve-out on the side of the forefoot which provides room for the small toes. The toe box is somewhat low but not enough so to be a problem.

The Litewave has a unique lacing pattern which permits one to properly tighten the shoe before a run, without producing unwanted pressure on the top of the foot. The laces stay tied.


On The Road

The Litewave provides excellent stability – keeping in mind that it’s a neutral shoe – and protectiveness on smooth but hard city surfaces. It’s a good shoe for fast tempo runs on concrete sidewalks, the most punishing of urban and suburban surfaces. 

And it feels responsive yet cushioned on asphalt roads. Because of this, I would have no hesitation in selecting the Litewave to use in a 5k to half-marathon road race. It’s light and fast while protecting one from the agonies of the feet.

The Heel

Nike Pegasus trainer with the beloved Polyurethane heel.

With the PU heel, you never lost track of a heel strike, something that can happen in trainers with overly soft heel landing pads. Contra, the more miles run in the Lightwave, the more I came to experience some heel bone soreness.

I suppose this explains why running shoe companies are increasingly producing shoes with softer landings at the rear.

I wound up going back and forth about liking or disliking the firmness of the Lightwave’s heel. My conclusion is that The North Face should consider softening the heel strike by 10% to 20% in future editions of this shoe.

As I noted earlier, I loved The North Face Hyper-Track Guide and that shoe was noticeable at the time for its soft yet protective heel cushioning.


On Trails

On a dirt and gravel covered trail, the Lightwave offers very good grip on a sometimes-slippery surface.

The shoe’s lugs dig in and prevent sideways sliding. And yet there’s still proprioception – you can feel the road surface and your place on it. This sense – what athlete Bill Bradley called “a sense of where you are” – is critical for confidence on uneven and sometimes challenging surfaces.

The Lightwave is nothing less than excellent on hard-packed dirt trails. The inherent stability of this shoe permits one to confidently build up speed on such trails. With the Lightwave on my feet, I found myself searching out dirt trails instead of avoiding them.

The Lightwave is also a good choice for another type of well-groomed trail, namely fire roads.

The one type of trail that is more problematic for the Lightwave is a hard rock trail. Because of the lack of a rock guard in the forefoot, a runner will feel some pressure when stepping on large rocks but there’s no pain or serious discomfort.

One thing should be mentioned about the Litewave’s sticky outsole. The bottom of the shoe will pick up small items and pebbles, so a couple of minutes of post-run time should be reserved for removing these trail souvenirs.

The Appearance

I ran in the dark shadow grey/blue moon colorway which is somewhat dark, but not as gloomy as the black/phantom grey option. The zinc grey with yellow colorway is cheerier, and the original Litewave came in a colorful blue quartz/lantern green colorway.

I mention this because trail running shoes are trending toward brighter colorways, and away from the darker colorways (“The shoe is only going to get dirty, anyway.”)

I’d like to see The North Face join the crowd on happier, less serious and pragmatic colors.

I have no data to support this, but I imagine that younger runners today gravitate towards fun colors – and ones that get them noticed, instead of covert ones.

The Lightwave has the appearance of a shoe that would sell for $120 or $125. This is a pleasant surprise considering its list price of $100.


The Lightwave still looks new despite traversing and pounding over many miles of rough roads and trails.

And its sole displays little wear. Based on my experience with the Hyper-Track Guide, I expect it will hold up for hundreds of miles.


The Verdict

The North Face Litewave Trail II is indeed a versatile shoe that can be used on both well-groomed country trails and on urban/suburban roads. It’s also light and fast enough underfoot to be used in competitive runs.

At a list price of $100, it’s a great bargain as well as a quality product; even more so when you consider that it can eliminate the need to buy a pair of trail shoes and a pair of city trainers.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano | Level 4 expert Verified
Joseph Arellano has run in and reviewed running shoes produced by more than 20 different brands. When he finds a "perfect" running shoe, he picks up about six pairs. He believes that most problems can be solved through the purchase of a new pair of running shoes.

  • The North Face Litewave TR II is an update to a fresh series of lightweight running shoes that are meant for the trails. It’s designed with the neutral pronator in mind. Compared to the first version, this one features a mesh material that has a more open construction. A handy pull tab is added to ease the on-and-off process.
  • The midsole employs a full-length foam that aims to deliver a responsive underfoot experience. Covering it is a rubber compound that’s engineered for the trails. There are trail-optimized gripping lugs, but they’re not too aggressive as to hinder traversal over more even ground.

The North Face Litewave TR II has a standard running shoe length. It accommodates the usual choices of people regarding size. The available widths are D – Medium and B – Medium for men and women, respectively. The last mimics the natural shape of the human foot.

The outsole unit of The North Face Litewave TR II features the UltrATAC™. It’s a rubber compound that delivers traction and protection against the abrasive nature of the trails.

Gripping lugs adorn the external pad’s surface. They heighten traction, especially when it comes to traversing uneven surfaces.

Flex grooves are placed in the forefoot and heel sections. They make the entire platform more flexible, thereby accommodating the natural movement of the wearer’s foot.

A compression molded ethylene vinyl acetate is used for the midsole of The North Face Litewave TR II. This single-density foam offers responsive cushioning, shock absorption, and durable underfoot protection.

An Ortholite® footbed is placed right above the primary foam unit. The purpose of this add-on is to provide more cushioning. It also has anti-moisture and anti-microbial capabilities which help in maintaining a clean and healthy in-shoe environment.

A dual-mesh construction is employed in The North Face Litewave TR II. It brings extra durability to the upper, preventing rips and tears from affecting the experience of the wearer. Its ventilation pores allow environmental air to cool and dry the foot.

Midfoot support is given by the TPU-welded overlays. They make sure to hug the foot, keeping it secure and preventing it from exiting the shoe unintentionally.

A traditional lacing system is used in this model. The shoelaces are held together by thick lace-loops that are directly stitched to the mesh. Making some fit-adjustments causes these loops to influence the tightness or looseness of the whole upper unit, thereby giving a secure yet customizable coverage.

A pull tab in the heel section permits the runner to put on or remove this running shoe with ease.

Size and fit

True to size based on 7 user votes
Small (0%)
True to size (86%)
Large (14%)
Add rating

Calculate size

How Litewave TR II compares

This shoe: 89
All shoes average: 85
58 99
This shoe: $100
All shoes average: $130
$60 $250
This shoe: 8.9oz
All shoes average: 10.4oz
5oz 24oz
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen

Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.