The North Face Ultra Vertical Trail Running Shoe Review

The North Face Ultra Vertical is the newest trail shoe offering added to the performance lineup of North Face trail running shoes. This shoe was built to take technical trails at breakneck speeds, maximize energy return and protect your feet while tackling steep ascents and descents.

First Look

The Ultra Vertical reminded me immediately of the Ultra MT, minus the waterproofing. This version comes with FlashDry as opposed to the Gore-Tex, a thicker mid-sole cushioning, and a different out-sole tread pattern. From afar, the shoes look quite similar. This changes, however, from the first lace-up: the Ultra Vertical is slightly lighter, extremely breathable and a lot more cushioned.

The Vertical is a comfortable shoe right out of the box. The toe box is anatomically correct allowing for toes to splay naturally upon ground strike. There is a bit more room in the Ultra Vertical, so for those of you with narrower feet or right on the edge in sizing, I would suggest going down a half size.

Having abused the Ultra MT’s for a year, I was excited to seeing what the Ultra Vertical could do.

Upper

The upper of the Ultra Vertical is a tight weave open mesh, surrounded by the TPU cable housing. The soft, stretchy mesh upper, backed by the cable housing held my feet comfortably and securely in place. The soft tightly woven mesh was breathable and along with fast drying.

Breathable Mesh
Supportive TPU Cable System

The upper is finished off with a reinforced toe cap, FlashDry collar lining and a gusseted suede welded tongue that provided a smooth, flexible feel around the top of the foot.

Reinforced Toe Cap
Gusseted Welded Tongue - Keeps Out Trail Debris

During some of my muddy and wet trail running, I cruised through numerous puddles and while the FlashDry collar didn’t completely repel the water, it did keep the wetness to a minimum.

The Vertical has a nicely molded heel counter and with the support of the mid-foot cables, provided the shoe with a good heel lock down and secure stable fit.

One of the things that I appreciated most about the upper was the nicely rounded anatomically correct toe-box. I enjoyed the ability to have my toes splay and move freely during my runs.

  • Open mesh on the upper uses a tight weave to prevent debris from entering the shoe while maintaining breath-ability to keep feet cool and dry.
  • Quarter TPU Mid-foot Cables provides extra durable, rugged support.
  • Suede welded tongue provides a smooth, flexible feel around the top of the foot.
  • FlashDry collar lining is quick-drying for increased comfort and reduced irritations.
  • Toe Cap protects feet from rocks and debris.

Mid-Sole

The Ultra Vertical has a dual density cradle mid-sole; which combines two EVA foam layers, the top being more resilient, and the bottom being more cushioned, delivered a soft heel cushioning and a firmer forefoot spring for an ultra smooth foot transition. Add in the OrthoLite foot bed and that is everything one would expect from the North Face line, a level of support that holds up well to trail running without feeling flimsy or lacking in cushioning.

Not once did I feel as though the cushioning wasn’t enough for what I was demanding. The cradle guide in the mid-sole was responsive and flexible, allowing the gait of the shoe to feel natural and quick.

Standing 25mm high at the heel and 19mm at the forefoot, the Ultra Vertical offers a 6mm heel-toe drop. Which is the perfect height that will allow some runners to transition down to a more minimalist shoe, while others will find it allows them to rack up more miles without over stressing their calves or achilles.

  • Cradle Guide Mid-sole uses dual density foams for supportive cushioning that responds well to changes in terrain.

Out-Sole

A full-length Vibram MegaGrip out-sole resides on the bottom of the shoe, built with 5mm lugs are anatomically oriented for ascending and descending.

5mm Lugs Built for Ascending and Descending

This lug pattern proved to work superbly and provided great traction on anything that I could throw at it. From muddy trails to ice roads this shoe claws the ground and allows you to run confidently no matter the condition.

Icy Roads

One thing that I found particularly agreeable about this design was its adaptability on pavement, there were times I would have to hit the road before getting to the trail head and it never felt awkward.

Finishing off the shoe, is the built in snake plate that serves as ample protection against trail debris. Without loosing much flexibility, this stone plate offers a ton of protection in the forefoot of the shoe. I was pleasantly surprised how I could attack debris ridden terrain in the Vertical and not get repeatedly poked by sticks, rocks and roots.

Snake Plate

  • Vibram Megagrip outsole provides durable and sticky traction in a variety of conditions.
  • ESS Snake Plate provides forefoot protection against stone bruising.

Tech Specs

  • Upper Material – Synthetic Mesh, TPU
  • Lining – FlashDry
  • Foot bed – Ortholite
  • Mid-sole – Dual Layer EVA, Cradle Guide, ESS Snake Plate
  • Sole – Vibram MegaGrip
  • Support Type – Neutral
  • Cushion – Moderate
  • Drop – 6mm
  • Weight – 10.7oz

Final Thoughts

The North Face Ultra Vertical delivers on its promise of comfort, stability, protection and durability. Providing an excellent ride, the Vertical supplies solid traction through dirt, mud, snow and even ice. Bottom line, these shoes are versatile, useful, and ready for any distance. If you are in the market for a trail shoe, the North Face Ultra Vertical is an excellent choice.

For more information or to purchase, visit  www.thenorthface.com       MSRP  $120

Mark Ranum: Mark is an outdoor adventure seeker, living in the beautiful state of Michigan. He loves trekking hundreds of miles through the wilderness, whether on two feet or two wheels, always looking for the next new trail or road to see where it will take him.

View Comments (2)

  • The north face website has the ultra vertical listed as a stability shoe in their filters. Many 3rd party sites say it's a neutral shoe. What are your thoughts? Neutral or stability? Thanks.

    • Hey Josh,

      Thanks for the question, in my opinion the Ultra Vertical is a Neutral shoe as far as pronation goes. I will bet the filter on North Face sorted it out by stability because of the "CRADLE™ heel-stability technology", which is simply designed to hold the rear of the foot more secure and stable.

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