Summary

We spent 8.2 hours reading reviews from experts and users. In summary, this is what runners think:

4 reasons to buy

  • A good number of buyers commented that the shoe fitted well on them.
  • According to some runners, the North Face Ultra Cardiac II was comfortable.
  • A handful of customers noted that the shoe was stylish.
  • Several wearers were impressed with the North Face Ultra Cardiac II's stretchable and smooth laces.

2 reasons not to buy

  • One of the testers said that his foot kept sliding when going downhill.
  • It was not durable, based on some reviews.

Bottom line

The North Face Ultra Cardiac II was admired enough by a significant number of purchasers who have tried it. A lot of them appreciated the comfort and style the shoe provided. Aside from its fantastic design, runners gave recognition to the shoe's excellent structure and construction. Although some of the runners have problems with its durability, others still recommend the shoe because of its performance. Overall, the North Face Ultra Cardiac II has made a lot of runners satisfied and happy because of its perfect fit and comfort.

Facts

Rankings

Among the better Trail running shoes
A popular pick
It has never been more popular than this June
Better rated than the previous version The North Face Ultra Cardiac

Expert Reviews

80 / 100 based on 9 expert reviews

  • 86 / 100 |

    Will your heart love The North Face Ultra Cardiac II?

    More photos

    According to Running Warehouse, the Ultra Cardiac II from The North Face is, “A great pick for less technical trail adventures… (this model) delivers an all new design with versatile cushioning and traction.”

    Do we agree? See the verdict below.

     

    The shoe

    The Ultra Cardiac II weighs 11.2 ounces, which is a touch heavier than the original Cardiac (11 ounces). It’s categorized as a neutral trail shoe with a 6mm drop.

    It offers a perfect true-to-size fit, which is – yes, also sock-like. The shoe is snugly comfortable while offering enough room so that one can enjoy the padding offered by mid-weight socks, such as balega Enduro socks.

     

     

    The shoe is extremely attractive in appearance – stylish but not garish – in the Grey/Ibis and Fiery Red/TNF Black colorways.

    (The Grey/Ibis shoes look great when matched up with The North Face Men’s Flight Better Than Naked shorts in similar colors!) The silver shield toe guard is a nice looking touch which is also functional.

     

     

    As with most running shoes, these days, the supplied Ortholite Ultra Series insole is somewhat thicker than needed for its intended purpose. So I replaced it with a Superfeet black insole. These fit perfectly, without any need for trimming, which is another indication that the Ultra Cardiac II fits as it should.

    The very rounded laces appear, at first glance, to signify trouble. Usually, round laces are slippery. In this case, the laces offer some elasticity. In practice, once tied, they stay tied. Whew.

     

     

    Although labeled as a neutral shoe, the Ultra Cardiac II offers some stability due to what The North Face calls CRADLE heel stability technology.

    This is a very firm piece of rubber which wraps around the rear of the shoe and assists in keeping one’s feet moving straight ahead. It works well and is similar to the heel brace found on the Brooks Asteria, a mild stability racing flat.

    Some will like the well-padded heel counter, as I did, while others will wish for less foam around their ankles. There’s no rock plate in the Ultra Cardiac II, but the highly protective sole comes from Vibram.

    A hybrid performer

    It’s immediately clear with the Ultra Cardiac II that this is a hybrid shoe. It feels fine to walk in and also to run in on city streets and sidewalks leading to more natural surfaces.

    The sole of the matter

    As mentioned earlier, the Ultra Cardiac II comes with a Vibram sole. While Vibram soles are highly protective of sore and potentially injured feet they seem to be quite firm and inflexible.

    I’ve often wished that a Vibram-soled shoe came with flex grooves up front. Well, guess what? The Ultra Cardiac II’s Vibram sole comes with two full flex grooves and a third partial flex groove in the forefoot. Yes!

     

     

    So there’s an admirable amount of flexibility upfront, which means that those with inflexible feet won’t have toes going to sleep or cramping. (A tip: If you want to increase the forefoot flexibility even further, don’t use the far forward centered eyelet.)

    According to The North Face, they’ve added some extra foam under the toes; thus, the forefoot remains well protected despite the flex grooves. I often have metatarsal impact issues. In this shoe, I experienced none at all.

     

    On the road and on the trail

    The Ultra Cardiac II initially feels firm, but like other shoes from The North Face it feels kinder and gentler and softer as the miles add up.

    On concrete, the shoe performs as expected – the landings are flat without punishment. On asphalt, there’s a noticeable amount of bounce-back; perhaps not in the category of Adidas BOOST shoes, but more than expected in a hybrid shoe.

    The shoe feels most at home on hard-packed dirt trails, dirt and gravel covered trails, fire roads, and newly mown grass roads.

    Despite the sole’s flat looking appearance – flatness alleviated by pods which make it look like a cousin to The North Face Flight RKT fast trail shoe – the shoe offers fine purchase (grip) when running up and down hills.

    I never experienced any slipping or unwarranted sideways movement while in motion on less technical – but sometimes challenging, surfaces.

     

     

    In my neighborhood, luckily, a newly paved dirt road has been created. This is the type of surface on which one feels he or she could run at least 25 miles in the Ultra Cardiac II!

    There’s no discomfort when the Ultra Cardiac II is used for runs on hard rock trails. No rock plate? One would never suspect that’s the case. Thanks, Vibram. And, thanks, The North Face for the amount of cushioning underfoot, even if it results in a slight weight increase. It’s worth it.

    Too heavy?

    While the Ultra Cardiac II is not going to be confused with a trail racing shoe or racing flat, it never feels heavy on one’s feet. In fact, it feels lighter in action than most standard trainers. I guess I’d say that the shoe feels lighter than its actual weight.

     

    The Plantar Fasciitis Issue

    I was fortunate enough to receive these shoes just as a brutal case of Plantar Fasciitis (PF) was about to – and did strike. The Ultra Cardiac II was one of two pairs of running shoes that I found did not aggravate my painful symptoms.

    And these shoes – the other one being the Mizuno Wave Sky 2 - have helped to nurse me through the war against PF. (It helps, of course, that I used an upgraded insole intended to prevent and alleviate the irritations of PF.)

    The name?

    I’m not sure what the word Cardiac has to do with this shoe. Perhaps The North Face wants runners to think about their heart health as they pile on country and town miles in the Ultra Cardiac II. Well, there are worse names for running and trail shoes. Far worse.

    The verdict

    For $110.00, The North Face Ultra Cardiac II is a very good buy. The shoe is well designed, well manufactured, and protective. With a good amount of rubber in the midsole and a Vibram sole, it ’s demonstrably an extremely durable shoe. (I doubt one would see much wear on this shoe before the 400+ mile mark.)

    Yes, the Ultra Cardiac II shines on less technical trails, where it can add some fun and confidence to a daily run. And the shoe will not make you groan if you have to run over sidewalks and city streets to get to the nearest trails.

    All in all, this is a try and/or buy – not a why? or bye! - shoe. Good work, The North Face!

  • 70 / 100 |

    The North Face Ultra Cardiac II. Much promise...but in the end...falls flat

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    lightweight trail runner with the versatility to handle both road and trail surfaces.

    In many ways, The North Face nailed it with a shoe that performs well on many surfaces and distances. However, The North Face has missed the target.

    As you continue to read, you will come across 3 sections: Why?, Why Not?, and Conclusion. My review will focus on the reasons the shoe could work for you (Why?), what may not work for you (Why Not?), and some final thoughts (Conclusion).

     

    Why?

    1. The Upper

    I love almost everything about this upper. (except for the colors). The North Face has constructed a durable, breathable, and comfortable upper. Accomplishing all 3 of those at the same time is quite a feat.

    Upper durability

    I have put 75 miles on this shoes over the past couple of months and I cannot find a stitch out of place. No rips, no snags, no overstretched fabric.

    The series of crisscrossing overlays provide strength without sacrificing breathability or comfort. Also, the toebox overlay seems to provide plenty in the way of protection and durability.

     

    Upper Breathability

    I never felt as if the shoes were too hot or got uncomfortably sweaty feet with this shoe.

    It is not the airiest upper, as seen in some road shoes or racing flats but it is breathable, unlike many other trail shoes, for example, the popular Brooks Cascadia.

    Upper Comfort

    My feet never felt restricted or lost in the upper, it just worked.

    The padded ankle collar was an added bonus. At first glance, I was skeptical, but as the miles ticked it became one of my favorite features.

     

    2. Outsole

    This was the most pleasant surprise of the Ultra Cardiac II. At first glance, the outsole which lacks aggressive lugs appears capable of handling no more than a dirt road.

    Whoa, was I wrong! This sole griped almost every surface. Dry rocks, check. Dirty, check. Wet pavement, check. Wet rocks and roots, check again.

    The only surface it proved subpar was thick muddy sections of trail. In these sections, it lacked grip, and the mud tended to stick to the sole for a  mile or two.

     

    3. The Fit

    The North Face has built a shoe that is true to size. I am a true 11.5 and this shoe fit as if it was custom sized.

    The midfoot and toe box both have medium volume. In addition, my heel was locked down with the padded ankle collar.

    Why Not?

    1. Performance

    The performance of the Ultra Cardiac II is a huge disappointment. Especially after, taking into account a great fit, a solid upper, and a grippy outsole. There is no other word to describe it than BAD.

    At a slower pace, the shoe feels difficult to turnover as if it was a highly cushioned trainer, however, the cushioning just isn't there for me. At quicker a tempo there is no snap or responsiveness.

    Running in these shoes feels like someone took a great upper and glued some cardboard to the bottom. The EVA foam just feels dead.

     

    2. Weight

    The North Face as marketed this shoe as a lightweight trail shoe.

    However the shoe doesn't feel lightweight, it does ride like many lightweight trail shoes. And at 367g or 12.9oz there is room to shave some weight to make this truly a lightweight trail runner.

     

    3. Colorway

    The grey and olive green combination just don't do it for me.

    They have too much of a hiking boot look for my taste. However, there is a red and grey option that looks much more like a traditional running shoe.

    4. Laces

    To be frank, the laces stayed tied and were functional. I am just not a fan of round laces.

    The laces have a microfiber soft feel. I could see durability issues in the future as this fabric wears.

     

    Conclusion

    The North Face Ultra Cardiac II has really frustrated me. I really wanted to love it.

    The fit is great. The upper was on point. The outsole outperformed expectations. However, the performance and ride were so bad, I had to force myself to put some miles on these to give them a fair review.

    The North Face has a great start here. With some changes to midsole foam and maybe the addition of a plastic shank to provide a snappy response, a 3rd version of the Ultra Cardiac could be a winner. It's just not quite up to par at this point.

  • 85 / 100 | Aaron Dye | Level 2 expert

    I can see this--due to the Vibram outsole--lasting a long time.

  • 87 / 100 | Ultrarunner Podcast | | Level 4 expert

    Overall, the Cardiac II is a good value door-to-trail option for folks who don’t need a lot of protection and like a consistent ride.

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  • The Jacquard mesh upper is integrated into the North Face Ultra Cardiac II. It aims to provide added breathability during the running activities.
  • Featured in the midsole area is the high energy return foam. The purpose of this material is to deliver a more consistent, responsive cushioning system. It is also centered on providing additional comfort to the foot.
  • The updated heel cradle is used in the shoe to deliver proper foot placement. This technology is essential in securing the foot.
  • Utilized in the upper area is the Quarter geo cable construction. The goal of this material is to provide a more improved fit.
  • Added protection is offered by the Molded TPU Toe Cap. It shields the platform from hazardous materials including hard rocks and roots when running on the trails.

The North Face Ultra Cardiac II follows the standard running shoe length when it comes to sizing. This shoe is strategically designed for runners who have neutral pronation. Because of its semi-curved shape, it can follow the natural shape of the foot. The available widths are B –Medium for the women’s version and D – Medium for the men’s version.

The Vibram Megagrip outsole is integrated into the North Face Ultra Cardiac II. It features a sticky lugged design which aims to provide increased traction. This kind of outsole also offers stability, support, and responsiveness to various types of running activities. This material has been used in the outsole of other North Face running shoes and other durable running footwear from other brands.

Utilized in the midsole is the single-density CMEVA. This durable material is described as an industry standard foam that is focused on providing a smooth cushioning system.

In the forefoot area lies the High energy return foam. This component of the shoe offers a more consistent and responsive heel-to-toe transition.

Proper heel positioning is encouraged by the Heel Cradle technology. North Face added this feature to support and keep the foot in a secure and stable manner.

The OrthoLite footbed is used to provide comfort that is long-lasting. It also offers the right amount of underfoot support.

The Jacquard mesh is utilized in the North Face Ultra Cardiac II. Paired with seamless support, it also provides lightweight breathability. The fabric allows the moisture to be adequately and effectively transmitted through the mesh material.

With the use of the Quarter Geo Cable construction, it aids in the creation of a snugger and more secure midfoot fit.

Featured in the upper area is the Gusseted Tongue. This material is essential in keeping the debris out of the shoe.

The FlashDry collar is integrated into the North Face Ultra Cardiac II. This quick-drying material helps to increase comfort during the running session. This collar is significant in reducing the possibilities of foot irritations.

With the use of the Cushioned Collar Lining, a more comfortable upper fit is encouraged.

The North Face Ultra Cardiac II uses the Molded TPU Toe Cap. This material adds protection to the foot from the dangerous rocks and roots that can be found on a wide variety of trails.

Author
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.

jens@runrepeat.com