Verdict from 24 experts and 42 user reviews

7 reasons to buy

  • Propulsion: All trail runners notice the carbon plate spring from the start. It feels like the shoe “wants to do the work”, helping you pick up the pace and push forward with greater ease. More than a few noticed an up to 60-second improvement per trail mile.
  • Rocker roll: “Buttery smooth,” the Flight Vectiv helps to maintain an easy stride on both light and technical trails. It “rolls like a boss,” with some runners even reporting to feel noticeably fresher after long runs in the shoe.
  • Fit: The sock-like bootie upper hugs the foot from the very step-in. It has a “fast,” “racer fit” to it, which makes you feel secure throughout speedy runs with lots of turning.
  • Versatility: The Flight Vectiv feels almost like a road shoe on harder surfaces but becomes protective and sturdy once you get back on the technical trail.
  • Stability: The shoe feels much more steady than the famous carbon road racer, Nike Vaporfly. It is attributed to its wider platform, protruding carbon flanges on the heel, and all the supportive overlays on the upper.
  • Durability: Trail goers who ran past 150-300 miles in the trainer claim that the pair still “has good life left” in it. The upper is also holding up well thanks to the unbeatable Kevlar fibers woven into it.
  • Traction: Even though it has short lugs (3.5 mm), their shape, positioning, and sticky nature bite a variety of surfaces admirably: wet, rocky terrain, ice, dirt, and more.

6 reasons not to buy

  • Narrow toebox: It is not a good pick for wide footers as the forefoot runs medium to narrow, with very little wiggle room.
  • Not for mud: The NorthFace Flight Vectiv is not the best pick for mud and boddy slogs. The short lugs get clogged up easily and just don’t have the grip needed for trails like that.
  • Heel counter issues: Some runners complained about the stiff material that “digs into your Achilles and ankle,” while others griped about heel slippage. The point is that its unusual design may feel unpredictable depending on your foot shape.
  • Retains water: When it gets soaked, the Matryx material doesn’t drain easily and the moisture “stays there like a pool.”
  • Takes some getting used to: If you have not experienced the ride of carbon-plated shoes, it may feel contradicting to have a soft midsole at the bottom with a stiff, propulsive plate on top of it. The rocker design may aslo feel off for heel strikers.
  • Won't stay white: First Brooks Catamount, now this. You have to be mentally prepared to besmirch “that beautiful hyper white mesh upper.”

Bottom line

Although The North Face has been present in the trail running scene for years, it hasn’t been taken very seriously. But its bold move with the first-ever carbon-plated shoe for the trails seems to put it on the map.

The NF Flight Vectiv is “intriguing,” “exciting.” It delivers a ride comparable to that of an elite racer while keeping the essentials of a reliable trail shoe. It has some homework to do for version 2, but runners still recommend it for marathons and ultras if you want to try "something else."

Tip: see the best trail running shoes.

The North Face Flight Vectiv: the first carbon-plated trail shoe

After two years in the making and testing, the North Face entered 2021 with the cutting-edge Vectiv series. Topping the lineup is the North Face Flight Vectiv, the first-ever off-road shoe with a carbon plate. But what’s so special about it?

Propulsion. The stiff nature of the plate allows it to rebound much faster and return significantly more force than any traditional foam midsole. This not only helps runners to maintain consistent paces on races but also feel less fatigued after ultra marathons.

This technology was originally introduced to the world of road racing by Nike in 2018, setting a new benchmark for the other brands to follow.

The Flight Vectiv carries this feature over to the trails along with a few more benefits.

What is it good for?

  • advanced to elite-level trail running
  • any distance up to an ultra marathon
  • mixed terrain, from paved surfaces to rocky trails

What is it NOT for?

Cooperation with athletes

  • The North Face collaborated with Kaytlyn Gerbin, Dylan Bowman, and Coree Woltering (all elite trail runners) in the development of the shoe.
  • At least 14 athletes (including the ones mentioned above) have set FKTs wearing different Vectiv prototypes.

Rankings

How The North Face Flight Vectiv ranks compared to all other shoes
Bottom 46% trail running shoes
All trail running shoes
Top 24% The North Face running shoes
All The North Face running shoes
Bottom 7% carbon fiber plate running shoes
All carbon fiber plate running shoes

Popularity

The current trend of The North Face Flight Vectiv.
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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