The North Face Altamesa 500 Review

An in-depth review of the The North Face Altamesa 500 trail running shoe.

By on April 25, 2024 | Comments
The North Face Altamesa 500

The The North Face Altamesa 500. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

The North Face Altamesa 500 ($155) is the shoe I never knew I wanted. In fact, when I first got it, I thought it was too much shoe. Its sister shoe, The North Face Altamesa 300 (review), with its lower stack height, seemed more up my alley.

As a result, when I first got it, I only used the Altamesa 500 for hiking and walking. But as I spent more time in the shoe, I grew quite fond of it. And then I started to run in it.

This past year I’ve found myself routinely reaching for my shoes from The North Face. When I’m not testing a pair of trail shoes, I’m training in The North Face Vectiv Infinite 2 (review) or racing in The North Face Summit Series Vectiv Sky (review) shoes. I’ve been incredibly impressed by the lineup of shoes the brand has produced, so when I heard whisperings about the new Altamesa line, I had to test them.

With a 6-millimeter drop and 30 millimeters of foam at the heel, this shoe is all about comfort. But one of the things I love about this shoe — which has an actual weight of 11.0 ounces (312 grams) for a U.S. men’s 9 — is how agile and stable it is for a maximally cushioned shoe. The 4-millimeter lugs combined with the Dream foam midsole, which has amazing rebound, make this shoe a great choice for just about any run — from technical trails to the road.

Shop the Women's The North Face Altamesa 500Shop the Men's The North Face Altamesa 500

The North Face Altamesa 500 Upper

The North Face Altamesa 500 - lateral view

A lateral view of the The North Face Altamesa 500.

The North Face Altamesa 500 is built for comfort and stability, from the top of the shoe to the bottom. The padded tongue envelops the foot in cushioned support, and a sturdy toe cap shields against stubs and impacts. Stability overlays strategically placed throughout the upper provide added support and structure where needed most. The padded heel cup and collar are comfortable, though I observed that while this felt nice, the heel of the shoe was slightly less secure and looser than desired on challenging trails. Nonetheless, the midfoot remains securely locked, and the shoe provides plenty of stability, especially on technical terrain.

Internally, the shoe incorporates wings strategically placed at the midfoot. These internal wings provide a snug fit and enhance lockdown support. Furthermore, the Ghillie lacing system provides a secure and customized fit, allowing wearers to adjust the tension for optimal comfort and performance. The shoe has a slightly roomier toebox than some other options from the brand. I found that my pinky toe appreciated the wider platform, but I did think the shoe was a bit longer than other models. Considering how wide the base of the shoe is, I was surprised at how comfortably snug and secure my midfoot felt.

The North Face has taken steps toward sustainability by crafting the seamless, lofted, engineered mesh upper with 62% recycled materials, which reduces its environmental impact. The material has great breathability and flexibility, providing maximum comfort and freedom of movement.

The North Face Altamesa 500 Midsole

The North Face Altamesa 500 - medial view

A medial view of the The North Face Altamesa 500.

The midsole of The North Face Altamesa 500 is engineered to deliver exceptional performance. A main component of its design is the dynamic stability zone located at the forefoot. The wider forefoot platform is designed to enhance stability on the trail, providing confidence and reassurance with every step. I think this feature works well on mostly smooth or slightly technical terrain, but I found the larger forefoot combined with the slightly swimmy heel caused me to slow down and be a bit more cautious when running down fairly technical trails.

The midsole’s cushioning made me love this shoe, even though initially I didn’t think I would. It is made of ultralight Dream midsole foam, which is known for its super-high rebound properties. This foam offers a responsive and energized feel, propelling wearers forward with each stride while maintaining lightweight agility. I could legitimately feel the rebound effect, though it was more pronounced when I ran on harder, smoother surfaces rather than on trails. It is the real deal. The shoe has 30 millimeters of midsole at the heel to optimize cushioning and comfort. This generous cushioning absorbs impact and minimizes fatigue, allowing wearers to tackle long distances easily and providing essential protection against hard landings and rough terrain.

With a 6-millimeter drop, the shoe strikes a balance between stability and agility, promoting a natural foot strike and fluid movement on the trail. This moderate offset enhances versatility, making the shoe suitable for various running styles and preferences.

The North Face Altamesa 500 Outsole

The North Face Altamesa 500 - outsole

The outsole of the The North Face Altamesa 500.

If you haven’t noticed thus far, The North Face Altamesa 500 incorporates stability and comfort into every aspect of the shoe design, and the outsole is no exception.

Constructed with Surface Ctrl rubber, the outsole is optimized for durability and grip, offering confidence-inspiring traction on various trail surfaces. The outsole grips well on different surfaces and features stable, simple, single-axis, 4-millimeter lugs. While I largely ran on dry trails, roads, and paths, so I can’t say for certain, it seems the moderate spacing between the lugs would prevent mud and debris buildup. I found they did a good job of maintaining stability during transitions. The micro-grip technology embedded within the center and base lugs improve traction, particularly on gravel and loose terrain, providing confidence and control with each stride.

The North Face notes the shoe’s versatility, recommending it primarily for endurance trail running while acknowledging its capacity to venture into the hybrid shoe zone. Its grippy outsole and durable construction make it suitable for light road running, catering to adventurers seeking performance across diverse landscapes. I did enjoy running on the roads with this shoe, and the rebound and modest lugs made it feel like a shockingly fast trail shoe.

Overall Impressions

The North Face Altamesa 500 - top view

A top view of the The North Face Altamesa 500.

At $155, The North Face Altamesa 500 feels like a bargain that punches way above its price point. I’m genuinely surprised by how much I enjoy running in this shoe, as typically, I’m not a fan of highly cushioned shoes.

Transitioning from testing the Brooks Caldera 7 (review) to this shoe, I was astounded by the stark difference. Similar to the Caldera 7, the Altamesa 500 is visually thick. But despite its bulky appearance, the shoe feels quite the opposite in practice.

It maintains a fantastic feel even during sprint intervals and is far from cumbersome. The foam’s rebound is noticeable and welcomed, especially on long runs. Despite its significant cushioning, the shoe remains fairly agile compared to other maximally cushioned shoes.

The shoe does fit a bit longer than other models from The North Face. The laces aren’t anything to write home about and I did have an issue with them coming untied a few times, but that’s what the trusty double knot is for.

Shop the Women's The North Face Altamesa 500Shop the Men's The North Face Altamesa 500

Call for Comments

  • Have you had a chance to run in the The North Face Altamesa 500?
  • Do you have a favorite maximally cushioned shoe that can easily handle roads and trails?

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Check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article to learn about our current favorite trail running shoes!

Reese Ruland

Reese Ruland enjoys spending her time exhausting herself in the mountains and desert, either on foot or by bike. She is a Pop Tart enthusiast, gear addict, science nerd, and mom to two French bulldogs, Loaf and Oatie. When she’s not out on some big adventure, she enjoys working with athletes on developing a healthy relationship with endurance sports and their bodies.