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The North Face Flight Vectiv Review
Review by Editor Matt Klein 

As carbon fiber plated road shoes have increased in prevalence, trail racing shoes have remained fairly consistent. They have (at least previously) continued to be on the heavier side, although some featured rock plates. The North Face is the first to debut a series of full length plated trail shoes for both racing and training. Enter the Vectiv series. The Flight Vectiv is the lightest of the group, featuring a full length carbon fiber plate and is the first carbon fiber plated trail RACING shoe to hit the market (the Nike ACG Mountainfly is technically the first carbon fiber plated trail shoe, but feels far more like a hiking boot than a running shoe). The Flight Vectiv is designed as a ultramarathon shoe with a carbon fiber plate that is not only meant for propulsion, but also stability and fatigue resistance.



Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 10.4 oz  / 295 g (men's size 9) 8.9 oz / 252 g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 34 mm / 28 mm
Drop: 6 mm
Classification: Carbon Fiber Plated Trail Racing Shoe





RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

The North Face Flight Vectiv is a trail racing shoe for ultramarathon distances and those who want a carbon fiber plated ride. Featuring a moderate rocker reminiscent of the Pearl Izumi trail series and several stability elements from the plate, the Flight Vectiv can pick up the pace on the trail and works extremely well bombing downhill. The plate and the Vectiv midsole provide a slightly firmer ride, A kevlar/matryx reinforced midfoot provides some security while a knit upper allows for some toe splay and swelling accommodation. The fit is fairly average with a little wiggle room from the knit, although a thick toe guard tapers the toebox. For those looking for a plated ultramarathon racer or a daily trainer for those used to running in lighter shoes for shorter distances, the Flight Vectiv is an interesting first attempt from The North Face.



FIT (LENGTH / WIDTH / COMFORT)

The North Face Flight Vectiv fits me slightly long in my normal size 10 men's. However, the thick toeguard tapers quickly and makes the shoe feel a little shorter. The width overall is medium to slightly higher volume. The knit upper in the heel collar and forefoot provide a great deal of flexibility. The forefoot, proximal to the toe guard, has a large amount of flexibility and will stretch quite a bit (this is a great shoe for those with bunions). There is a heel counter in the rearfoot, however it is somewhat flexible and has additional padding that has protected my Achilles insertion very well. I have had zero issues with it. The heel counter is stiff lower down where it interacts with the elevated carbon plate, but I did not notice this while running. 

 


     The midfoot is reinforced with a kevlar/matryx material. This is extremely durable, but doesn't provide a great deal of structure. There is no tongue as the upper is one piece, but there is some additional padding where the tongue would normally be. The padding isn't quite enough as the thin laces do dig into your foot if you tie them too tight. The laces are extremely long and thin. They are a little difficult to work with and get a good lock down. There is no last eyelet to lace lock the shoe, so combined with the loose knit upper in the heel, I had a great deal of heel slippage. This wasn't a problem because the knit upper at the heel collar is so soft, but it didn't provide much security. Outside of the heel counter and toeguard, the upper is a bit loose and does not have the best lock down. It does accommodate swelling on longer runs, but overall isn't very secure. I did get some chaffing from the thick toe guard, which does taper the toe box. I would never think about wearing this shoe sockless, even while walking. There are a large number of overlays in the shoe, so make sure you wear thicker socks with the Flight Vectiv. So overall, while the knit feels nice against the skin and the upper is durable, it fits a little higher volume and is not the most secure. Those with a bit more voluminous feet that don't need too much toe splay should be fine in this shoe.



PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)

The North Face Flight Vectiv features a rockered, firmer and stiff ride. The carbon fiber plates sits right underneath the foot and comes up around the heel and a bit of the forefoot to act as stabilizing side walls. The Vectiv midsole and the plate create a firmer feeling ride. The rocker feels similar to the Pearl Izumi trail series where it takes a few miles to figure out how to use the shoe. The heel is nicely beveled and flared for a smooth landing, but then you hit a midfoot bump which combined with the plate feels a bit jarring. However, once you figure out to land a hair forward, then the shoe rolls nicely over the forefoot, which has a moderate amount of toe spring and a smooth toe off. There is still some flexibility in the forefoot, but it is still snappy at the front. However, it should be noted that it took me almost 20 miles to get to that nice, semi flexible but snappy ride. The Flight Vectiv is best for longer efforts and tops out at steady uptempo efforts. I have used this shoe for longer runs, daily runs and some uptempo efforts on trails. Trying to pick up the pace past marathon is difficult except on downhills. The heavier weight holds the shoe back from really flying normally. However for going long, this shoe is really efficient and feels like it helps you roll along when you figure the ride out. With uptempo efforts, the plate is noticeable and gives a nice snappy toe off. The ride on uphills is fairly average, but the plate is most apparent on faster downhill efforts. I have noticed much less post run soreness after long downhills in the Flight Vectiv as it feels like the plate transfers impact into propulsion very well. Picking up the pace on downhills feels even better. There is an apparent kick forward the faster you go bombing downwards. Even with hard impacts, the ride still feels smooth and keeps your legs turning over.


     There is a 6mm drop, which I did not notice at all thanks to the rockered sole. The traction is fairly good and I have not lost my footing on any surface. The sole is thick enough that I have also used this shoe on road, however have already chewed through the lugs on the posterior lateral heel on my left side after 50 miles. I have not worn through the outsole yet, so I expect a normal number of miles for a training shoe out of these. However I would only suggest using these as trail, short door to trail, and not road shoes given how fast the lugs wear down on man made surfaces. Overall, the North Face Flight Vectiv will work for those looking for a little firmer, snappy and rockered ride that works best for long runs and hard downhill efforts.



STABILITY

The Flight Vectiv is a neutral shoe, but has a few elements that add stability. The carbon plate wraps up around the heel, creating carbon fiber side walls on both sides. This ends in the midfoot (unlike the Infinite and Enduris) and there is a small piece on each side of the anterior forefoot. The heel is quite stable with this along with some sole flare that also resists lateral and medial motion. The plate and rocker roll the foot forward fairly well, particularly when the pace picks up. The forefoot sole is also a hair wider, which combined with the plate and rocker provide decent stability. However, the loose upper detracts from this as there is some movement up top, especially on technical terrain. The midfoot as mentioned does not have much structure in the upper, so this is particularly noticeable at that point. Those who need a bit more stability at the heel will do well in this shoe, but those who need more in the midfoot may be at a loss here. Thus, those with neutral or mild stability mechanics who want a shoe that is stable mostly from the rocker and the plate will do well here. Those who felt the plate from the Enduris or Infinite pushing into their arch will like the shorter plate sidewalls in the Flight Vectiv.



THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE
 
     I really like that The North Face intentionally designed the plate to add stability. There are not that many shoes that have plates that come up round the foot, the Xtep 160X being another example (REVIEW). This is the racing model, so I wouldn't expect the plate to come up around the entire length of the shoe, almost like it does in the Infinite. However, the design is such that the North Face Flight Vectiv will benefit runners most who need some rearfoot stability. Those who do not, who may have a rigid rearfoot, may not like this design as much. Remember that each person has unique mechanics, so some features may work for some and not for others.

    Overall I am really excited that companies are starting to move on from only focusing on economy improvements with plate designs. There are SO many other things you can do with these. Plates are a GREAT way to provide stability and a fantastic alternative to posting.

    The plate sitting right under the foot does add additional stiffness, which reduces flexibility of the sole in multiple directions. This will add some inherent stability, as long as it isn't too stiff, in which case the foot will compensate more for the lack of motion. People often ask if carbon fiber plates are right for them and answer is it depends. Each plate design is different, has a different level of stiffness, which will work for certain people and not for others. A study I reference often is by Mcleod et al. (2020), which demonstrated that each person has a unique level of shoe bending stiffness that is optimal for them. It is for that reason that I encourage anyone interested in the Vectiv series to check out all the shoes. Each one uses a slightly different plate and has different levels of stiffness. The Flight Vectiv uses a carbon plate, which is the most rigid, whereas the Infinite uses a PEBAX plate and the Enduris uses a TPU plate. Like Saucony's Endorphin Pro (REVIEW) and Endorphin Speed (REVIEW), which Mcleod's study (Jared Ward was part of it) was the background for, there are different levels of plate and shoe bending stiffness available. I encourage you to not get caught up with carbon fiber plates and experiment to see which level of stiffness really works for you. I personally found the Infinite worked better for me. I like shoes with carbon plates, but my body (n=1, which is not research. This is a testimonial) tends to do better with shoes that aren't totally rigid. So I love the Endorphin Pro, Vaporfly, Speed Elite and more, but I can't handle too much time in them. Other people LOVE them. Some individuals do great with carbon plates in all their shoes. We don't yet have evidence to suggest what body types, feet, etc benefit most from these shoes. What we do know that is that most people should train in a variety of shoes as that is one of the few ways footwear interventions can decrease injury risk (Malisoux et al., 2015). So while these carbon fiber shoes are cool (yes... I geek out on these more than I can explain. We have several models we are testing right now that I am SO excited to review... but can't talk about now), variety in footwear is best.


References

Malisoux, L., Ramesh, J., Mann, R., Seil, R., Urhausen, A., & Theisen, D. (2015). Can parallel use of different running shoes decrease running‐related injury risk?. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 25(1), 110-115.

McLeod, A. R., Bruening, D., Johnson, A. W., Ward, J., & Hunter, I. (2020). Improving running economy through altered shoe bending stiffness across speeds. Footwear Science, 12(2), 79-89.





RECOMMENDATIONS

While a good first attempt, I have several recommendations for improvement on The North Face Flight Vectiv. The first is to redo the toeguard. While the knit upper provides some nice give, this is completely undone by the thick toeguard that tapers the toebox. That was the first thing I noticed when I put them on and I did get blisters on my big toes after runs over 10 miles in this shoe. If this is supposed to be a 50 to 100 mile race shoe, that needs to be changed. It causes pressure and gets in the way of good toe splay. The second is the heel lockdown. The knit heel collar is nice, but it doesn't lock the foot down well. I didn't get any chaffing like I did with the Vectiv Infinite, but I still had a decent amount of heel slippage. Unfortunately, despite the super long laces, there was no place for me to do a heel lock. I think adding additional reinforcement around the heel will lock the foot in more. I am not sure exactly what the material compound is, but the Vectiv midsole is a bit too firm for a plate. Given that the plate sits right underneath the foot, it does a great job of providing some mild stability, it makes the ride a bit too firm. Those who like really firm rides and want a plate directly under their foot will like this, but many others will find this shoe way too firm for how heavy it is.

My suggestion is to soften the durometer and or embed the plate deeper in the midsole. Another option is to use a lighter and more resilient foam, of which there are several on the market right now. With the plate and price of the shoe, 10.4 oz is heavy for a $200 ultramarathon racing shoe. I think there are many ways to lighten the shoe up, because despite the plate, it really doesn't feel all that fast. Dropping the weight either through a lighter midsole compound and potentially reducing the size of the plate may be beneficial. For comparison, the Hoka Speedgoat Evo is a little over an ounce lighter, yet has a fairly similar stack height. I challenge The North Face to keep the stack height, but get this shoe lighter. If they can do that, this will be an incredibly competitive and fast trail racer. Right now though, I personally would not choose this shoe to race an ultramarathon as the Vectiv Infinite (REVIEW) beats this shoe hands down in terms of responsiveness, stability and fit.  However, that is my personal feel and others may have a different experience based on our unique mechanics However, further modifications are needed for the weight, ride and fit of this shoe to make it worth $200.




WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

The North Face Flight Vectiv is a carbon fiber plated trail ultramarathon racer with a unique rockered ride and a slightly higher volumbe upper. Those who like rearfoot stability will love the plate design that comes up around the foot on both sides of the heel. The ride is reminscent of the Pearl Izumi trail shoes, featuring a rockered sole that takes a little time to figure out. Once you learn how to use it, it becomes an efficient ride that does best on longer runs and mild uptempo efforts. The plate comes alive most on downhill efforts, so those looking to run fast downhill should definitely check the Flight Vectiv out. The traction is fairly good and works on a variety of surfaces. The lugs dig in well on dirt and mud and while this shoe will work on road to trail transitions, I suggest staying off road to save the outsole. Those who may have bunions or want a little more forefoot room will like the knit up front. However, those who want a wide toe box should be cautious as the thick toe guard does taper the front down  quickly. The upper does not have a ton of structure to it, so it will accommodate swelling in the midfoot and heel extremely well. However, it isn't the most secure, so there may be some trouble with slippage on more technical terrain. While this is the lightest on the scale of the three North Face Vectiv shoes, I highly suggest also checking on the Infinite and Enduris. All three are great shoes and will work for different runners. A great job to The North Face on their first carbon fiber plated trail shoe and I look forward to seeing future evolution.



GRADING (SHOE CATEGORY)

Matt

Fit: B- (Good potential. Comfortable knit upper with good accommodation for foot swelling. However, poor security and thick toe guard can cause some chaffing. Heel slippage)                     
Performance: B+ (Nice, efficient, rockered, firmer ride. Great for consistency over longer runs. Can pick up the pace, but not the lightest shoe. Best for bombing downhill) 
Stability: B+ (Good stability from the sole in the rearfoot. Upper not secure and allows a bit of excessive motion. Best for those with neutral or mild stability needs.) 
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (Great use of plate for rearfoot stability. A bit stiff overall. The lack of lockdown limits the use on technical terrain and is a risk for chaffing) 
Personal:  B- (I really want to like this shoe, but the heavy feel and sub par fit really bring this shoe down. Especially at a price point of $200. I much prefer the Vectiv Infinite) 
Overall: B (A great first entry for The North Face as a Ultradistance trail racer. Those who love carbon fiber plated shoes, a firm ride a unique rocker and a bit more upper flexibility will do very well in this shoe. This shoe has a great deal of potential, but some modifications need to be made to the upper and sole to make it as good as it could be)             

Interested in purchasing the North Face Flight Vectiv? Check it out at Running Warehouse here or Fleet Feet here. Using this link helps support our work at Doctors of Running! Thank you so much.

FURTHER READING

Compare
North Face Flight Vectiv Infinite
- North Face's daily trail trainer sibling to the Flight 
On Cloudventure Peak - Light and nimble offering from On Running
Asics FujiTrabuco Lyte - Asics' lightweight option for race day
Brooks Caldera 5 - Like the Infinite, a highly cushioned option for long trail running
North Face Flight Vectiv Infinite Q&A, with Flight Vectiv Discussions

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Asics Noosa Tri 13 - Fast, fun, and soooo good-looking
361 Fierce - New training option from the 361 running brand

Thanks for reading!

TESTER PROFILES:

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 140 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  He is particular to less cushioned shoes and close to the ground shoes, but can handle a little cushion when he gets beat up. IG handle @kleinrunsdpt

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Bach Pham MS
Marketing and Social Media Manager
Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology

***Disclaimer: These shoes were purchased with an affiliate discount in exchange for a review through Running Warehouse. This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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