The North Face Single Track Review
April 30, 2010 by Bryon Powell · 11 Comments
The 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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.]