When you’re trail running, you want a strong shoe that fits well and is comfortable. Past that, the first thing you’re likely looking at is the traction, then the comfort and waterproofing, in which case, you needn’t look any further than the North Face Ultra 109 GTX.
They’re a durable pair of high-quality trail-running shoes built for any terrain from rock to sand, desert to wetland, and even beachfront to forest floors. Their Gore Tex upper also allows for fantastic waterproofing and breathability, and really helps this pair of shoes stand out from the rest.
While they’re a quality model as far as hiking/trail shoes go, they’re also extremely comfortable, subtly guiding pronation in four red & black colourways.
- How we tested our Ultra 109 GTX’s
- Our In-Depth North Face Ultra 109 GTX Review
- The North Face Ultra 109 GTX Hiking Shoes in Summary
For maximum protection underfoot and subtle pronation correction, the Ultra 109 GTX from The North Face® gives you stability and traction when blazing down slick, uneven trail.
Uppers are made of GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort Range waterproof, breathable membrane.
PU-coated leather upper midfoot support.
Lace up closure for a snug, custom fit.
Protective TPU toe cap for added durability.
Compression-molded EVA midsole.
ESS midfoot shank.
TPU Snake Plate™ forefoot protection.
UltrATAC™ rubber outsole.
Stability running shoe.
Weight: 1 lb 1 oz
Product measurements were taken using size 11.5, width D - Medium. Please note that measurements may vary by size.
Weight of footwear is based on a single item, not a pair.
- For maximum protection underfoot and subtle pronation correction, the Ultra 109 GTX from The North Face® gives you stability and traction when blazing down slick, uneven trail.
- Uppers are made of GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort Range waterproof, breathable membrane.
- PU-coated leather upper midfoot support.
- Lace up closure for a snug, custom fit.
- Protective TPU toe cap for added durability. Compression-molded EVA midsole. ESS midfoot shank. TPU Snake Plate™ forefoot protection. UltrATAC™ rubber outsole. Stability running shoe. Imported. Measurements: Weight: 1 lb 1 oz Product measurements were taken using size 11.5, width D - Medium. Please note that measurements may vary by size. Weight of footwear is based on a single item, not a pair.
How we tested our Ultra 109 GTX’s
While more of a hiker than a trail runner myself, I’m never averse to a challenge. So upon receiving my pair of 109 GTXs, I set off to conquer a contour path halfway up Newlands Ravine, a small gorge on the less photogenic side of Cape Town’s world-famous Table Mountain.
I had previously walked the shoes in a little bit, at most to the shops and back, and was pleasantly surprised by how light and comfortable they felt – although I’ve learnt in the past that it’s never wise to count your chickens before they hatch, so I withheld my judgement.
While I didn’t have my Fitbit on me, I estimate we covered around 10-12 km (the official length of the trail being 11km) and was on the trail for about three hours in total.
Our In-Depth North Face Ultra 109 GTX Review
Grip & Traction – Like that of a Mountain Goat (9/10)
Starting from the bottom with a tough and flexible UltraTAC rubber outsole which provides incredible grip and traction on various terrains, the North Face Ultra 109 GTX is a great gripping trail shoe for managing tricky terrains like rocks, loamy soil, wet sand and wood.
The outsole is light but tougher than those on some construction boots. North Face uses SnakePlate forefoot protection for easy and supported flexibility, mimicking a barefoot, and the TPU toe plate adds protection for traversing rough or challenging terrain.
With steady natural balance, you won’t have any issues manoeuvring over rocks or logs that might be in the way on your trail – although keep an eye out for the wet ones (or else you might need a first aid kit). While the traction on this pair of shoes is more than satisfactory, wet rocks can still affect grip in unexpected ways.
Comfort – A Luxury Hiking Shoe (8/10)
While the shoe can take a good hour of proper exercise to break it in, once the tough part is over you’ll be met with surprising comfort. The PU leather upper feels very protective, yet not limiting in the slightest.
The Gore Tex undoubtedly adds to this comfort with its famous breathability, but overall the shoe, when well fitted, is a comfortable one – especially important when you’re travelling over varying kinds of terrain with unpredictable weather.
The 109 GTX is also an incredibly light shoe, weighing in at just under 500 grams for the pair. This seems to help reduce fatigue, in addition to better allowing your foot to guide the shoe. Allowing the foot and shoe to work in tandem like this prevents issues like chafing and blistering that appear with some heavier footwear.
Waterproofing & Breathability – North Face Gore Tex Shoes at their Best (9.5/10)
The Gore Tex upper membrane on this shoe is outstanding. It’ll keep your feet dry in rain, puddles or mud, but still allow sweat to evaporate, so the shoe doesn’t become moist and uncomfortable. Waterproofing is a must in trail-running shoes, and North Face really hit the nail on the head with the Ultra 109 GTX.
This also makes the shoe a lot easier to clean than most, as a little water bucket with no soap or detergent will easily clean muck, sand and mud from the shoe without much effort. An added benefit of waterproof running shoes.
Even after a good few hours of use, your feet should remain dry and comfortable, without too much build-up of sweat inside the shoe.
General Performance – Making Rough Terrain Fun (8/10)
These North Face trail running shoes are also great for hiking, walking and light climbing. They have great midsole support and don’t contribute much, if at all, to fatigue or uncomfortable-ness.
In fact, this particular model helps turn these sorts of activities into even more of an inviting challenge. While it’s always important to be careful and have your wits about you when traversing tough terrain, it’s also fun to push it a little, and test the extents of what you can and can’t manage.
Build Quality – Solid and Standard (7.5/10)
These shoes feel like quality. The sole is stout and solid, and the upper is flexible yet protective. All the additions to the midsole and heel make this pair of shoes a sturdy one, with a lot of leeway for roughing them up without doing any real damage.
Some owners of these shoes did, however, complain that the build quality and attention to detail wasn’t up to North Face’s usual standard of high-end outdoors products. It’s hard to say where the shoe lies in general, as they’re meant for taxing use outdoors, in rather rough terrain, and different owners will wear, use, treat and maintain their shoes differently.
One thing is clear, though, the North Face Ultra 109s are by no means of bad or cheap quality. While your mileage may vary in terms of wear and tear, they’re of a strong build quality with no corners cut, or shortcuts taken.
The North Face Ultra 109 GTX Hiking Shoes in Summary
In conclusion, this is a great pair of shoes. From their performance to their high-tech build of materials, they tick off all the necessary boxes when it comes to trail-running and hiking. Past this, they truly outperform a lot of other shoes in terms of comfort and feel-on-foot, which is vital when you’re taking part in high-performance outdoor activities. They’ll easily fit in a backpack or carry bag and you’ll want to take them everywhere with you once you’ve tried them out.
They’re a great choice for anyone who considers themselves anywhere on the scale from beginner to advanced and even more so recommended to anyone who regularly runs trails that are slippery or wet, as the grip on these shoes is near second-to-none.