My first pair of The North Face (TNF) shoes were the Double Tracks which Jez Bragg gave me in Squaw Valley in June 2012 to wear at the 6k Montrail uphill challenge, from the base of the resort and the start line of the Western States 100 to the top of the Mountain, called Escarpment.
This is held the day before the 100 itself and is typically a fun run for family or crew members of the actual racers (unless you are Michael Wardian, who elected to race this as well as the 100 a few hours later!).
I loved these shoes, but found them a little on the bulky side. I went on to use them for my first 50 mile race later that summer but then moved on to lighter and more minimalist shoes. It was then I tried TNF Single Tracks, which are the slimmed down, lightweight cousin of the Double Tracks. I instantly loved these and ran them into the ground until the lugs wore away and they looked like road shoes.
Even though I was, I know some people haven’t been fans of TNF shoes in the past and they haven’t always been at the top of most peoples wish lists, but I think that might change with the new Ultra Guide.
The technical info and stats can be found here.
But stats can only tell you so much.
At an 8mm drop, these are more than I am used to, but they don’t feel like a traditional running shoe and I think that is the trick here. I haven’t run in anything this comfortable since the Pearl Izumi Trail N1’S, but the Ultra Guide’s offer more support which gives a lot of confidence- and are designed to be almost minimalist but offering more than traditional minimalist shoes.
They are very lightweight, although not in the same league as something like the Salomon Sense, which is about as light as they come- but lightness is not the be all and end all to mid-pack runners or ultrarunners. Whilst heavier, they do not feel heavy in comparable to other shoes I own like the Newton BoCo AT or Hoka Stinson Evo.
I used these for a few short and fast six mile hilly runs to break them in and instantly loved them. I then made the decision to wear them last weekend when buddying (pacing) Sam Robson the last 23 miles of the GUCR. This is a flat run, but does have areas where the ground was very muddy and slippery so would be a perfect test for the shoes, as well as their transition to gravel and tarmac.
They have pretty much risen to the top of my shoe list after this run. The absolute best thing about them is the sticky rubber outsole which grips in the wet and mud amazingly, but also shakes excess mud quickly so to transition from trail to road or wet trail to dry trail is a joy. I am not sure how long this type of sticky rubber would last if I used them primarily for this purpose all the time, but they do feel much like a road shoe even with so much grip. The lugs simply squish down and you don’t notice them at all.
Like the Single Tracks they are highly breathable and allow any water from puddles or streams to escape as easily as they enter.
I think what I like the most about this shoe, aside from the outsole, is the fact I don’t need to categorise or caveat it as to whether it is a summer or winter shoe. For England, where the ground can often be saturated, even in the summer, they are a purists dream as they offer all of the summer breathability I am after, but all of the grip for those slippery sections of trail. Likewise, hold very well on dry trail like most of the latter part of the GUCR last weekend.
Equally, I would use these in winter. Your feet are going to get sodden in winter whatever you wear, so having the drainability these have but with the grip needed for winter terrain, they are excellent.
Whilst at RRP £110, they are not cheap, like all TNF products they are built to last and rather than spend £55 on some average winter shoes and £55 on average summer shoes, you can have just one excellent pair in the Ultra Guide’s.
I can highly recommend these shoes and these will certainly not be my last pair. You can see them in more detail and by them directly from The North Face here.