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Hiking Boots

Long Term Test: The North Face Vectiv Fastpack Insulated Futurelight

These boots are the only ones you’ll need all winter long

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Price: $195
Size: Men’s 7-14 / Women’s 7-11
Weight: Men’s 16.7 oz / Women’s 13.9 oz

Men’s Women’s

I’ve tested winter boots for years now, and over that time I’ve come across many hiking boots that were good at keeping my feet warm and dry—a prerequisite for winter hiking. But too often, boot makers have focused on solely these aspects of the design while forgetting that they also have to hike well. I’ve seen bulky builds that try to cram in too much insulation and leave the boots feeling clunky; overbuilt boots that walk like I’m wearing lead weights; and boots that don’t fit well because the designers were too preoccupied with warmth and water-resistance.

So my testers and I were pleasantly surprised when we came across the Vectiv Fastpack Insulated Futurelight. From the very first wear it was obvious The North Face designed these boots as hikers first, and then went about figuring out how they could smartly make them warm, waterproof, and breathable.

They perform well as hikers for a couple key reasons. Most importantly, they come with a rockered, high-rebound EVA midsole that doesn’t stiffen in the cold and yields a propulsive, poppy ride. This design is enhanced by a rockered sole and a high-rebound EVA midsole that’s designed to boost forward propulsion. It’s not like the shoes were noticeably shoving us forward, but over time they made us feel faster and more nimble than we normally would after a few miles of hiking. Plus, stability comes from a partial TPU plate in the forefoot.

Meanwhile, The North Face’s designers didn’t skimp on warmth or waterproofing, but also didn’t overdo it. The shoes are packed with a reasonable but toasty 200 grams of eco-friendly insulation across the entire upper, and lined with a waterproof, breathable membrane. One tester wore them in deep, wet snow in Greenland and said her feet were totally dry, even after hours of postholing. Meanwhile, in mild Santa Fe, I found that the waterproof membrane breathed well enough to keep my feet from getting sweaty (and blistered) in above-freezing temperatures. Other key features include a knob on the heel that kept a rear snowshoe strap in place for long walks, and a high cut that manage four to six inches of snow without a gaiter.

Curious about how The North Face managed to design such a well-rounded boot, I called Brett Rivers, the Senior Global Category Manager for Mountain Sports Footwear. His answer was surprisingly simple. “To be honest, our design philosophy was based on selfishness,” he said. What he meant is that the designers who conceived of the boot asked themselves what they would want on their own feet—instead of asking something like, “what might sell?”

If there’s one key takeaway that we have, it’s that more brands should pay attention to The North Face’s approach. Too often we see boots that are only meant to keep you warm, but perform just mediocre on the trail. Rivers and his team prove that with some patience and ingenuity, both parts of that equation can come into play.

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