The North Face Ultra 103 XCR
Price Paid: $79.95
Purchased based on review from TrailRunner magazine and an attractive sale price for last year's color. High marks for waterproofing--the GoreTex liner has kept my feet dry as long as I didn't get into anything deeper than the shoe tops. The toe box is roomy, which I like, and overall the shoes were pretty comfortable out of the box.
That said, let's move on to the negatives. The biggest issue I have is that these shoes SUCK on wet rocks. If your trails are relatively free of large-sized flat-topped exposed rock, you're okay, but if not it's like ice skating and not in a good, controlled way. TNF states these use UltraTAC rubber soles, but I was wishing for something stickier the other morning. I took one spill that could have ended badly had I not landed okay and I experienced several other close calls on rocks and roots that were wet. Watch your step out there!
The shoes also tend to be a bit on the stiff side, so those looking for a shoe that let's them "feel" the trails better would do well to search elsewhere. If you're looking for shoes that are built like a tank, you might give these a try, just use 'em when it's dry!
Price Paid: $110
Lasted thru 3 months of light use. This included 4-5 days of off road use in the woods and the rest of the time just going to work and walking around town. They saw about 50% use during these 3 months.
After this the soles started delaminating. Coworker has exact same shoe but a year old, his are doing the same thing but much worse.
Returned to EMS (which was super Pro on handling the return) and they said they have seen a lot of this model com back for the same reason.
Looks like NF has dropped this shoe from the current line. Just don't get suckered into a clearance deal on this shoe. They will not last long enough to make paying more then $20 worth it.
Materials: Gore-tex, mesh, fun
Use: walking around the store
Break-in Period: 1.5 minutes
Weight: not overly heavy, but not light.
Price Paid: $115
I didn't buy these shoes, but after searching for a week and a half for a decent pair of trail runners, I figured I'd post my minimal experience.
These shoes fit very well, nice and roomy in the toe without being too big. They do still fit a little big compared to Montrails. The biggest downfall was how stiff the sole is. It really feels more like a hiking "shoe" than a trail runner. Maybe it would break in, maybe it's not a big deal when you're not in the shoe store, but there was little to no flex, and that just wasn't what I was looking for. I would highly recommend trying a pair on before going mail order.
My shoe break down after some months. Horrible I was doing nothing.
Price Paid: $112
The best trail shoe I've ever had. Done some mountain hiking in them. About a half-dozen adventure races of varying lengths. They no longer seem to be waterproof after being through the mill. But all in all a pretty bomb-proof trail shoe. In fact I've ordered another pair!
Materials: gore-tex, agion, no leather
Use: hiking, walking the dog
Price Paid: $92.46
I like the look of these shoes, the black ones, anyway. For hiking and walking, these are the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned. I am not a runner, but wearing these shoes makes me feel like I should be.
Where to Buy
The North Face Ultra 103 XCR is not available from the stores we monitor.
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