According to Running Warehouse: “The North Face Flight RKT is an ultralight trail shoe with enough cushioning and grip to handle long trail races over widely varied terrain.”
Do we agree with this assessment? See the verdict below.
The North Face Flight RKT (hereinafter, RKT) weighs 8.3 ounces – which, for some, would not be classified as an ultralight trail shoe. It has an 8mm heel drop. The fit is most definitely snug to tight. I have low volume, narrow feet but I initially doubted that I could wear the RKT in my normal running shoe size.
That’s because there’s virtually no headroom over the top of the feet, which creates a distinctly uncomfortable feeling of pressure. I developed a workaround, but I’m not sure that everyone would want to wrestle with this issue.
With interior space at a premium, it’s puzzling that the RKT comes with a thick perforated insole. I’d expect a trail racer to come with the type of insole – attached or unattached, one would find in a flat. This is not the case.
Walking in the RKT, feels much lower to the ground than its 27mm/19mm specs would indicate. In fact, it feels close to a zero drop shoe, but for the noticeable slab of rubber under the heel.
The sole of the RKT features 11 heel pads or pods. This reminded me of the Brooks PureFlow 2 from 2013. That shoe came with 10 cushioning pads on its sole in a unique 7-1-2 pattern.
From looking at the RKT’s pad-filled sole one guesses that the forefoot will be quite flexible. It’s not. The shoe could use a couple of deep flex grooves up front that actually flex.
Two issues immediately came to mind during runs in the RKT.
Firstly, there’s the overly-strange thin tongue which will not stay in place. A gusset would be helpful. Second, the laces will not stay tied. They continuously come undone.
Taking the RKT to a dirt and gravel covered trail, I was surprised by the minimal grip from the shoe’s sole. Yes, it will keep you upright but I felt more grip running on such a trail in the New Balance 1400v6, which is not a trail shoe.
On asphalt, there’s some bounce-back – some energy return, but not as much as I experienced in two of the RKT’s lightweight competitors: the Salming Distance D5/D6 and the 361 Degrees Chaser 2.
I expected the RKT to be bouncier because when you remove the insole and press on the top of the midsole, the rubbery material seems to quickly rebound. However, for some reason, that rebound fails to make itself known on the road.
On concrete, the RKT feels like a pretty much standard trainer. The midsole of the RKT utilizes FastFoam. According to The North Face, “[This] midsole system combines (1) a soft yet responsive core for improved energy return and underfoot comfort with (2) a firmer perimeter for stability.”
For me, however, the midsole simply felt present. I did not feel a sense of either speed-enhancing firmness or cushioned responsiveness. It is as if the midsole lacks a sense of unique character.
There are some pluses to the RKT. It’s stable enough to meet the needs of the great majority of runners. And the big slab of rubber at the rear of the sole – which looks very much like a rubber tap, provides for comfortable and confident heel strikes.
The manufacturing quality, as with other products from The North Face is exemplary. There are no obvious defects or mars on the surface of the RKT.
The main downside is that for a shoe marketed as being fast and lightweight, it does not feel fast nor is it a fun shoe to run in. Neither does it feel like a trail shoe.
This may be a matter of missing the mark in the marketing campaign. I think the RKT would be more successful if sold as a basic light daily trainer. But then another problem arises, the price.
The RKT sells for $150. This is quite a bit of money, especially when you compare it to the offerings from Salming, Mizuno and 361 Degrees. The Salming Distance D5/D6 retails for $130.
The highly-rated Mizuno Wave Shadow (which evolved from the Wave Sayonara) is priced at $110, and the 361 Degrees Chaser 2 is yours for the surprisingly low price of $99.95. And these hybrid lightweight trainers/racers are particularly enjoyable in which to run.
Most notably, The North Face sells it's excellent, previously reviewed, Litewave Trail II hybrid road trainer/trail shoe for $100. A spread of $50 between that shoe and the RKT seems a tad excessive.
The North Face Flight RKT is a trail racing flat that feels anything but fast. And the RKT, as a trail shoe, will likely impress on only the smoothest of trails and fire roads.
Perhaps a future version of the RKT will provide more volume for the feet of the average runner and more cushioned responsiveness. I think the shoe could be substantially improved with a change of direction, once someone decides what direction in which to take it.
Good to know
- The Flight RKT is a lightweight performance trail running shoe from The North Face Co-designed with Rob Krar. The shoe is equipped with the necessary race-day technologies to survive the toughest terrain.
- Part of the shoe’s progressive design is the use of the Dual-density FastFoam™ midsole. This midsole foam is formulated for comfort, stability, and speed.
- The North Face Flight RKT has a "Podular" outsole which is designed for superior traction on light to technical terrains. These sticky rubbers are also placed strategically for durability.
The Flight RKT from The North Face has a standard running shoe length. It feels true to size and width. It has a medium fit from the heel to the forefoot, and the engineered mesh in the upper offers a snug fit. It is available in standard D – medium and B – medium for men’s and women’s versions respectively.
The Podular outsole of The North Face Flight RKT is composed of 11 sticky rubber pads strategically placed in the outer sole for unmatched grip on various running surfaces. The rubber pads also have multi-directional lugs for reliable traction on uphill and downhill runs. The Podular design also provides enhanced flexibility without adding too much weight.
The shoe features the Dual-density FastFoam™ midsole designed for speed and responsiveness. The foam is lightweight, and it offers long-lasting comfort on the trail.
In the bottom of the midsole is the lightweight EVA foam that also offers comfortable underfoot cushioning.
The shoe also has an OrthoLite® footbed for added comfort. It has anti-microbial and moisture wicking capacity to provide the foot a healthier and odor-free environment.
The upper of The North Face Flight RKT uses an engineered mesh which is lightweight and breathable. It provides the foot a very comfortable coverage by keeping it fresh and dry. The TPU-welded overlays deliver midfoot security and additional upper stability.
The suede tongue which reduces sweat and moisture-retention, lace-up closure and moderately padded collar offers additional comfort while enhancing the overall fit and foot security.
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