For the past year, prior to testing The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky ($199), I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect non-maximal, cushioned ultra-trail shoe.
I ran the Desert Rats Trail Marathon in the Brooks Catamount — see our Brooks Catamount review — a shoe I loved, but noticed that around mile 18, my feet were feeling the miles and were incredibly sore for days after the race.
Knowing that I had some longer races on the schedule in 2023, I needed to find a new trail shoe. The Brooks Caldera 5 became my long-distance alternative, but with the release of the Brooks Caldera 6, Brooks added even more cushion to the shoe, which is a bit of a turnoff for me. I find that the cushioning in maximal shoes degrades rather quickly, which tends to have a negative effect on my running form. Additionally, I can’t stand how these shoes just feel like canoes on my feet. I don’t know how else to describe it, but they just are a bit cumbersome.
So, while I bought up every last Brooks Caldera 5 on the market, I knew it was just a stop-gap measure. I began my quest for a shoe that would be comfortable at hour 10 of a run, that wasn’t a maximal-cushion shoe, and that was lightweight, snug, but not too tight around my foot.
Enter The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky. On paper, these shoes seemed to meet all the requirements, with their actual weight of 9.1 ounces (258 grams) in a men’s size 9, 4 millimeters of drop, and a purported stack height of 21 millimeters at the heel and 17 millimeters at the forefoot.
Additionally, if this model wasn’t plush enough, the more cushioned version, The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro, might be a good alternative.
I had to give them a try.
The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky Upper
The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky upper is made of a breathable, durable engineered-mesh material that allows air to circulate freely around your foot. The material is less flexible mesh and more tough plastic netting. This material is reinforced with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) overlays in high-wear areas for added durability and protection. Even after 100 miles of trail running over technical terrain, I’ve yet to tear or rip up the mesh.
Toward to back of the shoe near the collar, the TNF Vectiv Sky transitions from the highly breathable mesh to a robust ripstop material. This ripstop material transitions into a sock-like entry and a gusseted tongue that helps keep debris out of the shoe and provides a snug fit around your foot. The laces are slightly offset. I found this positioning entirely secure and as the laces tightened, I didn’t encounter hot spots or pain points. To prevent untied laces or loosening, the laces are braided.
The heel area of the upper features a three-dimensional, molded heel counter that provides additional support and stability. Finally, a padded collar and tongue offer extra comfort around the ankle area.
Initially, I found the shoe a bit tough to get in and out of, but after a few wears, I don’t find that to be the case anymore. The shoe feels incredibly secure in all the right places, while giving more room in the toebox.
The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky Midsole
The midsole on The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky is designed to provide maximum comfort, support, and cushioning for your feet. The midsole is made with a combination of The North Face’s proprietary 3D Vectiv technology and responsive dual-density EVA foam.
The 3D Vectiv technology is a rocker-shaped midsole construction that guides your foot forward and reduces the impact on your joints. This high-rebound midsole features a 4-millimeter Pebax insert at the forefoot, which helps to increase energy return with each step, providing a more efficient and comfortable running experience.
The dual-density EVA foam provides a responsive and cushioned feel, absorbing shock and providing support for your feet. While this shoe doesn’t have maximal cushioning, the lightweight foam offers a shockingly comfortable ride. I’ve only run a little over two hours at a time in the TNF Vectiv Sky, but my feet weren’t feeling any fatigue or soreness.
Finally, The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky’s midsole features a carbon fiber plate that adds extra stability and support to the shoe. The carbon-fiber plate forks in the heel and the forefoot for increased stability on technical terrain. The North Face claims this plate helps to distribute pressure evenly across the foot, reducing the risk of injury and enhancing overall performance. I was skeptical of how much stability I’d feel on undulating terrain, but the plate actually does what it’s intended to do.
The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky Outsole
The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky features an outsole that is designed for excellent traction and stability on a variety of terrain.
The Surface CTRL rubber outsole features multi-directional, 3.5-millimeter lugs, which are strategically placed to provide maximum grip on both wet and dry surfaces. The lugs are also designed to shed mud and debris, helping to prevent slippage and maintaining traction even in challenging conditions. Having run through muddy conditions, I found that they can handle a little bit of mud well, but the peanut-butter mud that is so common in Colorado seemed to be too much for these shoes. About 99% of the time, the 3.5-millimeter lugs were robust enough for the trails I was on, but when I’d encounter a steeper, slickrock-type section, I wanted a little more grip toward the front of the shoe. Otherwise, the outsole was great on a variety of terrain — from dirt roads to technical trails.
In addition, the outsole of the TNF Summit Vectiv Sky features a rocker design that helps to promote a smooth, efficient stride. This design encourages a natural rolling motion of the foot, which can help reduce fatigue and improve overall comfort during long hikes or runs. The slight propulsion from the rocker is noticeable, in a good and welcomed way. You feel a bit snappier and faster on your runs, even if you truly aren’t going faster. (We can dream, though.)
The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky Overall Impressions
I’ve been able to run in The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky on dirt roads, technical trails, buttery singletrack, and roads. I was concerned that the lightweight cushioning wouldn’t be robust enough to provide a comfortable base, but so far, the cushioning has protected my foot against stray sharp rocks and general fatigue from long runs. I’ll be curious to see how they feel after four-hour-and-longer runs.
The sock-like padded heel, offset laces, and gusseted tongue really held my foot in place. I was confident that my foot wasn’t going to slip to the sides on off-camber trails.
The bottom line is, these shoes are designed and constructed for speed. The North Face cut weight where they could, while still making the shoes comfortable, grippy, and stable. I love that it’s not a maxiumal-cushioned shoe. They used just enough cushioning to provide a smooth ride without all the added weight and height.
While I love a good complaint, especially on the internet, I can’t find much to complain about. The color isn’t my first choice, but functionality over vanity generally wins the day for trail shoes. They definitely have a bold and noticeable color in both the women’s and men’s colorways. It does fit the brand for The North Face’s retro trail running product line.
The high cost is a bit of a tough pill to swallow, especially if you’re like me and you’re buying a new pair of shoes every two to three months. If you don’t need the fancy carbon plate, sock-like fit, and mesh upper, The North Face does offer a slightly more approachable shoe, The North Face Vectiv Infinte 2, which is slightly less expensive at $169 — it even has 5-millimeter lugs, compared to 3.5 millimeters on the TNF Vectiv Sky.
The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky is my go-to shoe right now, which considering the $199 price tag, might be a costly move. But I’m willing to invest in a great shoe that performs well in all types of conditions.
Finally, I’d like to see if The North Face has plans for using recycled materials. I wasn’t able to find out any information on this.
Call for Comments
- Have you run in The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky?
- What were your thoughts?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]