The North Face Ultra 109 GTX Review Facts
If you’re used to hiking through the woods using high-profile boots that are relatively heavy and you want to make the transition to a lower profile hiking shoe, one that you probably want to consider is the North Face Ultra 109 GTX hiking shoe. It’s relatively heavyweight when it comes to hiking shoes, and it offers a great deal of protection from both the elements and the trail. Plus for many people, these shoes offer a great and flexible alternative for those times when a simple athletic shoe simply won’t make the cut.
is where this shoe really does perform well. The combination of the TPU Snake Plate and the Ultratac rubber provides both great protection from rocks and debris underfoot as well as a fairly good flexibility when needed. The material is thicker than most outsoles on the market today, but the overall weight of the shoe is still pretty manageable. While there were some issues with the tread wearing away too quickly for some, most users didn’t find any problem with the outsoles keeping up with them even through the roughest of terrains.
If the outsole is where the rubber meets the road, as it were, the midsole can truly be considered the place where the connection between the hiker and the environment comes into play. Finding a nice balance between comfort and responsiveness can be a bit tricky, but the North Face Ultra 109 GTX does a fairly good job of it. The compression molded EVA material combined with a lightweight yet sturdy mid-foot shank provides a good bit of stability
and support without being too bulky. It should be noted that some users might prefer a bit more cushioning from the midsole area, but a good pair of socks or a quality insole should more than make up the difference.
While both the outsole and midsole area show themselves to be highly durable and able to take on just about any normal hiking adventure with ease, the upper portion does give us some pause. First, the PU coated leather and mesh material combination provides for phenomenal ventilation but unfortunately doesn’t last as long as we would expect. There were numerous reports of fraying and tearing of the upper portion of the shoe even after a few hikes. If your trails
take you into some very rugged terrain, these hiking shoes from The North Face may not be the best option available.
While the durability of the upper portion of this hiking shoe may leave a bit to be desired, the overall ventilation and breathability of the shoe are one of the best on the market today within a comparable price range. The mesh material provides plenty of pore space for air to travel through, and moisture is wicked away from your feet quite easily with the interior material that is designed to keep your feet
dry. Plus, the leather framework allows for your feet to naturally expand and the shoe can easily adjust to your changing feet to allow for the maximum amount of moisture control.
The majority of users found these shoes to be a welcomed transition between their normal heavy hiking
boots and the lighter, more nimble hiking shoes that are becoming more and more popular. The sizing is fairly true to fit, with only a few minor complaints here and there about the shoes being slightly larger or slightly smaller than expected. In most cases, the sizing issues were easily handled by ordering a half-size different or wearing slightly thicker socks.
Unfortunately for some, the heaviness of the shoes overall proved to make them increasingly uncomfortable, especially on longer treks, or ones with a more rugged terrain. The thicker outsoles and relatively lightweight midsoles did prove to be a bit of a disadvantage, especially for those where support and cushioning were needed in larger amounts. If you require shoes with good arch support or even a design to promote ankle stability and comfort overall, you might want to look at other options in addition to this one.
This hiking shoe
is clearly one to be used in the great outdoors, on the trail or near the campfire. The coloration and materials while fashionable for the dirt probably won’t be acceptable in most office settings or in the club scene. That being said, these shoes do have a classic look that can travel well in just about any outdoor environment.
In truth, the durability of these shoes tells two different stories, depending on which part is being discussed. The outsole and rand area of these hiking shoes are some of the toughest, most durable ones we’ve seen on the market without stepping into construction footwear or steel toe boots. While we certainly wouldn’t suggest stepping on a large rusty nail, there is a good chance that the thick rubberized outsoles could handle a small one with ease. Debris commonly found on the trail including rocks, pebbles, sticks, and the occasional broken glass bottle really doesn’t phase the bottom half the shoe.
The upper half, however, could use a bit of work, in all honesty. Whether it’s a combination of the relatively lightweight material, overall construction, or simply a design that needs to be re-thought, the toughness of the upper portion simply does not match the lower portion of the shoe. There were numerous reports of fraying, tears, places of wear through and just general weakness much sooner than anticipated.
As can be imagined, the North Face Ultra 109 GTX hiking shoe provides a great deal of protection, especially in the underfoot area. However, that’s not the only level of protection that users enjoy. These shoes also offer a surprisingly amount of protection from the elements, even with the highly breathable upper portions. The interior material is designed to keep moisture away from the skin, both by wicking perspiration away and keeping precipitation out. While we wouldn’t consider these shoes to be truly waterproof, they certainly do offer some protection overall.
This is a truly rugged hiking shoe, and as expected, it may not be as responsive as some on the market today. While it will certainly move quite comfortably, the thicker sole and stiff interior framework make it less than ideal when it comes to quickly change directions or angles of ascent or descent.
These shoes provide great support if you require a shoe that is fairly neutral or if you're dealing with mild overpronation. The combination of the midsole shank, thicker outsole, and relatively ridged ankle and heel sleeve helps to keep the foot from wiggling around too much while on the trail.
According to The North Face, the Ultra 109 GTX hiking shoe is designed for trail running and light hiking. Truthfully though, most people found that the idea of running in these relatively heavy shoes wasn’t all that appealing. The shoes offer great protection and stability for hikes through the woods or near the foothills of mountains, but if you’re planning on doing some serious racing, you’ll definitely want to consider lighter options.
While not the most budget friendly on the market today, these shoes are moderately priced at most retail stores, both online and in the brick and mortar establishments. Overall we found the price to be slightly steep considering the durability issues of the shoes, but for a weekend warrior that simply wants a pair to last a few years, this is certainly a viable option.
In one sense, the tread on these hiking shoes is truly impressive. They can easily grip the ground surface, be it concrete, gravel, wooded trail, or even a rocky mud with a good amount of consistency. They even perform quite well in both wet and dry conditions.
However, the longevity and durability of the tread do leave quite a bit to be desired. The lugs themselves were shown to wear down remarkably fast, even under normal use, and if you’re a frequent hiker there is a chance that you’ll be looking at getting the shoes re-soled within the first year due to tread wear and tear.
Surprisingly enough given it’s relatively thick outsole, these shoes do offer a moderate amount of flexibility. While not as adaptable as lighter shoes
, they do offer the ability to move without too much trouble. While we wouldn’t suggest scaling a cliff in these shoes, going traveling down a trail with roots and strewn rocks won’t be too much trouble at all.
Comparison to Other Brands
When compared to other brands on the market today, the North Face Ultra 109 GTX provides a mixed bag of results. It’s definitely one of the heavier hiking shoes on the market today but is by no means the heaviest. For example, the Keen Targhee III WP offers both a wider foot base and is heavier, but the North Face Ultra 109 does provide better ventilation overall. While this shoe has remarkably more heft than the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX, it also provides more stability overall.
In comparison in regards to the price or affordability, these shoes fall into the middle of the road overall. There are certainly those that are cheaper overall, and more expensive, but for hiking shoes that fall into the moderate price range, it’s hard to beat the overall quality of these shoes.
The overall stability of these hiking shoes are quite good, which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise looking at their overall construction and design. The North Face Ultra 109 GTX hiking shoe was clearly put together as a shoe that can easily match the overall stability of a more robust hiking boot at a fraction of the overall material or weight. The combination of the thicker outsole, the leather upper framework, as well as the midsole
structural stint helps to prevent a good deal of rolling, ankle turning, or instability in general.
With that being said, the increased stability of these shoes does come at a bit of a price. Simply put, they are heavier, less responsive, and somewhat less flexible than they could be under the circumstances. If you need a shoe that provides ample support and stability while hiking, this shoe is certainly one to keep on your radar. However, if you want a shoe that offers better overall performance and responsiveness, other options might be better.
The Bottom Line
The North Face Ultra 109 GTX hiking shoe is a solid choice for most hikers. It is fairly heavy overall and makes for a nice transition between the bulky hiking boots and a more streamlined hiking shoe overall. It also offers fantastic protection from both trail debris and weather and helps to promote the overall stability of both the feet and ankles. Most found these hiking shoes to be a welcomed and comfortable addition to their equipment list.
There are of course a number of disadvantages that come as part of the package with these shoes. The first, and probably the most troublesome is the fact that the upper portions do not compare favorably with the bottom when it comes to durability. The second is the decreased amount of flexibility and responsiveness with the shoe, caused primarily by the increased in weight and overall ridged framework and construction. Generally speaking though, if you’re looking for a moderately priced hiking shoe that offers great support, this is certainly one to take into consideration.