The North Face Single Track Review

The North Face LogoThe North Face is not known in the running community for its trail running shoes. While the company enjoys a reputation of making quality gear and apparel, its trail shoes have been widely regarded as being more about lifestyle and less about hitting the single track. That’s about to change with The North Face Single-Track.

We were lucky enough to have three reviewers (we’ll call the two dudes and a lady, Carter, Gates, and Sierra) put the Single-Track to the test. This review will combine their thoughts regarding initial impressions, fit, features and feel, appearance, and overall impressions.

The North Face Single-Track women's

The North Face Single-Track's women's version in white.

Initial Impression
Carter was the first to chime in with his thoughts on the Single-Track. He shot us a quite note reading, “wore the Single-Track for 11 miles today. Nice shoe. Light and fit is great. Felt like slippers when I first put them on. I used them on a 5-hour run yesterday in the rain. Not bad at all. Not bad at all. I was impressed.”

Fit
Overall, the Single-Track were sized the testers as expected, though one was surprised by the light weight. A men’s 9 hits the scales at a reasonable 11.5 ounces.

As a general rule, Carter runs in shoes that are one full size up from his casual shoe size as he finds it give his feet the ideal amount of room to prevent my toes from striking the front of the shoe too frequently. The Single-Track worked well with his one size up standard. He had plenty of room in the toe box.

Carter also found the shoes fit great. He wrote, “I can describe first putting the NFST on as somewhat like putting on a slipper. Cushy and comfortable, the NFST are slipper-like, hugging the foot just the right amount. The fit right out the box factor was an A+.”

Gates more succinctly noted that the shoe fit nice and snug. He also noted that the shoe was lighter in weight than he expected.

Sierra’s comments combined the thoughts of Carter and Gates. She wrote, “The Single-Track has a glove-like feel on my long, narrow foot in the heel, midfoot, and forefoot areas. The toebox then opens up a bit wider so that you can spread your toes out and use them for natural lateral stability.”

The North Face Single-Track mens

The more subdued men's version of The North Face Single-Track.

Features & Feel
The general feel on the foot, according to Sierra, is “like a road shoe, but with a slightly bulkier, wider, and more protective sole.” She also noted, “the sole is not so bulky so as to prevent it from molding and conforming to the ground surface, and, more importantly, allowing your forefoot and toes to feel what’s going on underneath them. In addition, the Single-Track has a low-profile heel that encourages good posture and running form.”

Gates completely disagreed with Sierra, writing “My complaints would be in apparent height and sole stiffness. I guess I’ve grown rather accustomed to the very low-profile trail shoes by Inov-8 and La Sportiva and the flexible sole that sort of shapes to the rocks and roots beneath my feet. But what I didn’t realize is how much I relied on those features for balance and stability. The short of it is that I feel much less in control in this taller, stiffer shoe that seems to direct my foot into a landing position rather than the other way around.

Sierra gave us the scoop on the shoe’s upper. “It’s made of roughly equal parts thin, stretch-y mesh and a denser, less pliable material, even with the presence of the denser material, the upper performs like that of a road shoe, providing little support when the foot is tilted away from the horizontal footfall plane.”

Both guys pointed out the Single-Track’s tongue. Carter observed, “The tongue has extra padding as well, protecting the base of the ankle from over-aggressive shoelace tightness.” Both noted the gusseted tongue that helps keep debris from slipping into the shoes from between the tongue and the remainder of the upper. Carter praised that the gusseting “certainly works.”

We didn’t get much feedback on traction. However, Gates, who lives in the Pacific Northwest, found it “decent. Nothing that competes with Inov-8s rubber nubs, but still pretty good.”

The Single-Track’s Ortholite insole did not provide enough topography in the footbed for Sierra’s foot, so she traded out for an aftermarket insole.

The North Face Single-Track outsole

The business side of TNF's Single-Track.

Appearance
“Style, style, style,” was Carter’s main thought on the Single-Track’s look. He continued, “Isn’t it NOT about how you run, but more so about how you look. Well, if that is the case, the Black/TNF Red line is sure to catch some attention. They are cool, stylish, sleek, eye popping.”

The North Face Single-Track mens white

Carter's "eye popping" model of Single-Track.

Usage/Overall Impression

Steering away from TNF shoes’ more burly past, the Single-Track appears best suited for a mix of roads and mild to moderate trails. In fact, its hybrid characteristics are the Single-Track’s greatest success. These are not, however, the pair of shoes you want to throw on before a long day of running mountainous single track (no pun intended). They offer neither the lateral support nor the underfoot protection that you’d want for such adventures. Here are the overall impressions that The North Face Single-Track left with each of our reviewers:

  • Carter – “The shoe feels fairly light, and gets great traction over rocks, but you can certainly feel [the rocks] more so than you would with a heavy-duty trail shoe. I think it could use a little more work as far as cushion goes, although I have been very impressed with how it feels over roads.”
  • Gates – “I probably wouldn’t buy a pair, but I was more impressed than I thought I would be.”
  • Sierra – “These performed well for me on pavement access to trails, dirt roads, and several different trail types. I do recall lamenting its presence on my foot one day on a particularly uneven trail in New Mexico, as the upper couldn’t stop my foot from sliding in different directions when my foot hit the ground off of horizontal.”

Questions/Comments
If you’ve run in the Single-Track, we’d love for you to share your candid opinion. Got a question about the Single-Track? Ask away and the iRunFar staff or our readers will chime in with a response.

[Disclosure: The North Face provided free sample pairs of the Single-Track. Also, the link to Amazon in this post is part of an affiliate program that helps support iRunFar.com.]

There are 9 comments

    1. Bryon Powell

      Hi Jon,

      At this point I won't be racing this year. I'll run a few La Sportiva Mountain Cup events that I'll be attending (RothRock, Jupiter Peak Steeplechase, Up and Over 10k in Taos), but that it. Plantar fasciitis was severely limited my training since Thanksgiving and I've got no interest in racing without decent fitness.

      Thanks for asking. I hope your racing season goes better!

  1. Anonymous

    I can't decide between these and the Cascadia 5 by Brooks. Has anyone tried both? Which has more cushioning? I had Cascadia 3's and 4's, great shoes.

  2. Larry

    I have the Cascadia 5 which is a great shoe but the Single Track is, in my opinion, a much better shoe. I found the Cascadia 5 a bulky shoe by comparison, and in warmer conditions my feet would become too warm in them. The cushioning on the Brookes seems more akin to tarmac, as they can feel unresponsive on soft terrain. In answer to your question, the Brookes has more cushioning, but I think the Single Track would be a much better choice.

  3. Ben

    Ok I'll weigh in on these now that I've had a couple runs in them.

    Just picked the North Face Singletracks up last week as a cushioned trainer for weekend long runs. These shoes are neutral and are very cushiony. They are a stable, comfortable ride.

    As a disclaimer, I am 5'5" and 130-135 lbs. I also am a forefoot/midfoot striker and prefer faster tempo runs on technical trails. This should be considered as it is the basis of my opinion of these shoes.

    My weekday shoes are lightweight trainers for shorter and faster miles and I wanted more cushion for the back-to-back weekend long runs. These shoes fit the bill well in that category, but I would NOT consider them to be performance shoes.

    They are fairly light, but for my build and running style, they are not stable enough on technical trails at faster speeds. Jogging along, they provide great traction and stability, but for smaller framed runners, these shoes will roll and not hug the foot enough for high speed stability.

    The rock protection is above average for shoes of this weight. Stone bruising shouldn't be a problem unless you are over 200 lbs. In that case, you may want a more substantial shoe.

    I've not yet had them in water crossings, but I've heard from several others that the North Face Singletracks do not drain well and the soles hold water. Time will tell. Hope this helps.

    Cheers!

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