The North Face Ultra Endurance shoe is designed to be very durable for running ultra distances, and we believe it fully accomplishes this goal. While we loved the Ultra Trail shoes that we tested last year, we found them to be flimsy, not very durable, and so un-protective that we didn't think many people would be able to run longer distances in them. The Ultra Endurance is built on the same comfortable last, but include much more cushioning, great protection both underfoot and on the upper, and is very comfortable. It also includes a single-peice Vibram Megagrip outsole that is simultaneously grippy and highly durable. In short, if you want a shoe that you can put a ton of miles into or for very long runs, this is a shoe for you.
Another fine destination brought to you by a great pair of running shoes. This is South Crestone Lake in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of southern Colorado.
Check out the following chart to see how the rest of the shoes in our lineup compared with our Best Buy award winner, the Ultra Endurance
This shoe was among the most protective in our review, and thus we awarded it 9 out of a possible 10 points. While it doesn't feature the mega cushioning of the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 3
, it does have a very solid rock plate, termed the "snake plate," that takes the abuse from the rocks and roots of the trail without letting them damage the feet. It also has 17mm of cushioning in the heel, which is no small amount, and gives these shoes a very comfortable ride.
This shoe also shines when it comes to upper protection. We found its molded-TPU toe bumper to be the most solid, durable, and protective bumper of the entire crop of shoes, a feature we really appreciated since we often bash our toes while running over the rocks. Its suede and plastic TPU reinforcements to the upper also help to protect the sides of the feet while ensuring that the lightweight mesh doesn't prematurely rip, as often happens in lighter weight trail running shoes. All of these features worked together to make this one of the most durable shoes that we tested.
Very similar styles of shoe. Both are light but provide exemplary cushioning and underfoot protection, and are extremely comfortable. These are shoes that can really eat up the miles. Top is Pearl Izumi EM Trail N2 v3, bottom is The North Face Ultra Endurance.
The single piece Vibram Megagrip outsole on this shoe features somewhat sticky rubber with arrow shaped lugs that are multi-directional for grip going up or down hill. We liked that the outsole isn't made of many separate pieces, like the Mizuno Wave Hayate 2
or ASICS GEL-FujiTrabuco 4 Neutral
, because we have found that single piece soles tend to last longer before pieces start to rip off.
It seems that the patterning of the lugs is modeled after the very best outsole, that of the Salomon Speedcross 4
, although we have to admit that the rubber isn't as sticky as the Speedcross. We really had no complaints when it came to the traction on this shoe, although it wasn't the best one in the test, so we gave it 8 out of 10 points.
The one peice vibram sole of this shoe doesn't allow for any tearing or ripping off of smaller glued pieces. It has widely spaced lugs that are sticky on all surfaces and durable.
We awarded this shoe 9 out of a possible 10 points for stability, which may come as a bit of a surprise for a shoe that has a 8mm heel-toe drop. In general, shoes with low drop and low stack heights tend to be the most stable, but when it came to the Ultra Endurance, that wasn't the case. With only 9mm of cushioning under the forefoot, this shoe rides pretty close to the ground, and it has a wide forefoot to boot, giving that extra platform to land and push off of.
We didn't feel nearly so connected to the ground as when we were wearing the Altra Superior 3.0
These shoes give great sticky traction on the rocks, are supple underfoot, and provide a very stable platform for launching off from and landing.
This shoe might have the most cozy upper of any shoe in this test. Sometimes our feet felt like they were being gently rocked to bed in a pair of slippers rather than bombing down a steep trail. The single piece, unsewn Flashdry liner on the inside of the upper, combined with a perfect amount of heel and ankle padding, and the gusseted tongue, makes it a candidate for comfortable sockless running. That said, we had a slight issue with the location of the highest laces, as they sometimes bit into the top of our foot, often inspiring us to run with the laces only laced through the second highest grommet, a problem easily fixed for us.
These shoes were also among the bottom third of all the shoes in all aspects of the water test. They retained a relatively high amount of water, and were slower to shed that water than most of the shoes. Those small complaints aside, we thought these were very comfortable shoes and were happy running in them all day.
The thin felt gusseted tongue also sports some thin padding sandwiched inside. We really like this style of tongue as it sits well within the shoe, not creating pinch points like some other shoes. The wide and thin laces were not as awesome as some other shoes, but still worked well enough.
At 24.5 ounces for a pair of size Men's 11 shoes, these were not what you can call light and fast shoes. We could only award them 6 out of a possible 10 points for weight. They were roughly the same weight as the Montrail Caldorado
, but over seven ounces heavier than our lightest offering, the La Sportiva Helios 2.0
. It seems that all the extra reinforcement on the upper cost these shoes a bit when it came to weight, but they didn't feel excessively heavy while out on the trail, and a couple of extra ounces, in this case, is enough to prejudice a person away from buying and loving them.
With the firm rockplate underfoot, these shoes didn't offer very much in the way of sensitivity. They were much less sensitive than the Saucony Peregrine 7
, a shoe that ended up with the exact same final score. To be fair, they were also more protective than those shoes, so a person really needs to decide how they want their shoe to feel and what aspect is more important to them when considering what to buy. We could feel a lot more of the trail when running in them than when we wore our Top Pick for Light and Fast Running, the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4
, so these shoes weren't actually at either end of the spectrum, but rather fell right in the middle.
Like their name suggests, these shoes are designed for ultra running, and they will best suit that application. We also feel that they will have the endurance to live up to many hundreds of miles of abuse, making them a good trainer as well. We can't think of an application where they wouldn't work well, although they are best suited for someone who values foot protection over sensitivity.
Running through the pinon and juniper forests on the Escarpment Trail in the Ultra Endurance shoes. In the background are the town and ranches of Ridgway, Colorado, and the Cimarron Range of the San Juans beyond.
At a low, low price of only $120, these are some of the most affordable shoes in our review, and thus we chose to award them our Best Buy. It seems like pretty much all quality trail running shoes these days are roughly the same price, and unfortunately that price has been creeping upward. Besides being ever so slightly cheaper than the rest, these are among our favorite shoes in this year's test and are highly durable, meaning you will get great value from your purchase.
The Ultra Endurance is our Best Buy award winner because it is a quality shoe that is durable, while checking in at a price slightly lower than the rest. It is a traditional shoe with 8mm of heel-toe drop, but rides low to the ground. This is a shoe that is good for nearly every application and all types of runners, and should easily have a much wider following than the Ultra Trail shoe that we reviewed in the past. Overall, you can't go wrong by buying this shoe, which is why we are happy to recommend it.
Out for an evening run on the Oak Creek Trail above Ouray, Colorado. This classic loop provides tons of vertical and not too frequently traveled single track through aspen forests and elk filled meadows. The Ultra Endurance shoe was a perfect cushioned choice for the huge descent and couple of creek crossings.