Thursday, April 22, 2021

The North Face Infinite VECTIV Review

Article by Jeff Beck

The North Face VECTIV Infinite ($169)


Introduction

Jeff B: The Vectiv Infinite is the middle child of the Vectiv line, it isn’t quite as slow/well cushioned as the Enduris (RTR Review), and it isn’t quite as streamlined/race prepped as the Flight (RTR Review), meaning it seems to slot in as the fast/race shoe for slower runners or the training shoe for faster runners. 


Historically I’ve found that when a brand releases a series of shoes, the middle shoe is usually the bright shining star, as it can cherry pick the best attributes from its siblings. Would that continue with The North Face’s Vectiv line? Read on.


Pros: 

-Toe box is big enough Jeff B:

-Matryx upper has zero durability concerns Jeff B:

-Plate isn’t overly noticeable, which can affect stability on the trail Jeff B:

-Propulsive VECTIV plate works well as a rock plate Jeff B:

-Ankle hold is rock solidJ eff :


Cons:

-Outsole grip is adequate at best

-Ribbon laces come untied regardless how many times you knot them

-Propulsive plate doesn’t seem like it adds much to the running dynamic

-Cost is high, performance is underwhelming


Tester Profile

Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup, and as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 30 miles per week on roads and trails around Denver, CO (and sometimes on the treadmill when the weather gets too much for a Phoenix native). Jeff only got into running in his 30s, as a result his career PR's are 4:07 for the marathon and 5K at 23:39. Jeff has finished several ultra marathons, from 50K up to 50 miles, and is still debating if he wants to go down that road again.


Stats

Approx.weight: men's 10.15 oz / (US9)  /  women's / (US8)

  Samples: men’s  10.9 oz / 309g (US10.5)

Midsole Stack Height: 19mm forefoot, 25mm heel, 6mm drop

Available now including at Running Warehouse here. $169.00


First Impressions and Fit


Jeff B: I’m a weirdo, I think white trail shoes are the best. I think trail shoes that are clean are a travesty, and nothing shows dirt better than white shoes. So opening up these white and black (with just a little bit of orange) trail shoes I was very impressed and hopeful, especially since the Infinite uses very nice materials (more on that later). Fit is very good and true-to-size, I have just under a thumb’s width in front of my big toe, and the heel/midfoot/forefoot all fit just right, with good hold but not too tight. Lastly, the toebox is decent width and height. I can’t quite splay my toes out as far as I’d like for a 5+ hour run, but there’s more than enough for a 2+ hour run.


Upper

Jeff B: The upper is a mixture of reinforced knit, with Matryx and Kevlar panels, and a unique 3D molded heel counter. 

There’s also a reinforced toe bumper that threads the needle between being protective and being flexible.

As far as trail shoe toe bumpers go, it’s a really good one for me. 

The Matryx panels are very reminiscent of the Hoka Evo Mafate upper that uses the same material, but this upper has a little more room. 

The heel counter is very flexible and unstructured, but it has some pods in the interior to help keep the foot in place. I’ve run in a number of shoes with similar pod designs, and it’s very hit-and-miss if it works, and for me, these work great. 

The tongue is made of similar material to the heel counter, and as a result it is very flexible, though it is gusseted so well that it almost resembles an interior bootie. The upper isn’t quite waterproof, but it is very water resistant - my first run was the day after a decent snow storm, and while the shoes got very muddy and wet, my socks were completely dry at the end of the run. 


My main gripe with the upper is lace related, so while it is annoying it’s at least a very easy fix - but these laces don’t stay tied at all. They have a flat, almost ribbon-like build, and there isn’t enough friction to keep them in place. Every single run I’ve had in this shoe has resulted in me retying them at least twice, and every time I did so I double or triple knotted the shoe, and it didn’t matter. Not a deal breaker by any means, but something to be aware of for sure.



Midsole

Jeff B: The midsole is a blend of several density foams (unconfirmed, but believed to be EVA) and an embedded VECTIV Pebax plastic plate (orange above)  to go along with its slight rocker geometry. 


Shockingly, the two density foams feel very different, with the white being much softer and the black being noticeably firmer. The result is a shoe that feels well cushioned, without being too cushioned, and since the black midsole foam is mostly prevalent along the medial side, this shoe has some understated stability to it. It isn’t the widest platform, but I wouldn’t categorize it as narrow either - this shoe really leans into being the middle sibling.


Outsole

Jeff B: The Infinite outsole is a made up of The North Face’s Surface Control rubber, that they claim is optimized for trail running and giving better grip. The design has some diamond shaped gaps that don’t appear to do much - they don’t add to the flexibility of the shoe or potentially risk early failure by exposing too much midsole - in between a series of 3.5mm lugs that are peppered all over the outsole. I found the result very underwhelming. 

The lugs didn’t give nearly enough traction for days that the trail was wet, let alone really sloppy and muddy, and the outsole seemed most at home on the road when I ran road to trail. The rubber’s properties aren’t bad, but the outsole design isn’t aggressive enough to keep you planted on trails if you are dealing with anything but dry dirt. If I’d reviewed this shoe when I still lived in Phoenix I’d probably be more impressed with the outsole, but dealing with Colorado weather and conditions, this outsole does not impress, and seems only a small step up from many road shoes.


Ride

Jeff B: So with several foams and a Pebax plate, how fun and bouncy is the Infinite? Sadly, not much. Of the roughly dozen plated shoes I’ve run in, this is the least noticeable plate during the gait cycle. As far as aiding propulsion, I really didn’t feel anything, either on the road or trail. That’s not always a bad thing though, because the exaggerated spring of the Vaporfly Next% could be hazardous on a trail, especially a particularly gnarly one, but this wouldn’t be the shoe I’d take on a gnarly trail anyway due to the underwhelming outsole performance. So ultimately the ride is decently cushioned and plenty smooth, but almost unremarkable in 2021.


Conclusions and Recommendations

 

Jeff B: It’s hard to separate a shoe and its performance from its price tag and marketing. Because if the Vectiv Infinite was $120 and didn’t release as part of a big marketing blitz, I think it would be a pretty good all around road-to-trail shoe. 


But with all the hype that comes with it, as well as at about $170, expectations get much higher, and for me this shoe did not live up to the expectations. The ride is adequate, the fit of the upper is great (with some of the worst laces ever used in running shoes), the traction is subpar, and the propulsive plate is essentially a no-show during the run - and if not for the bright orange announcement of its presence I would wonder if it is even there. 


If you do lots of mixed surface runs (like running from your house on the roads to get to a trailhead of a fairly mild system), this shoe will be pretty good for you.

Your Score 7.55 out of 10 

Ride:7 (30) Fit:9 (30%) Value:5 (10%) Style:9 (5%) Traction:6 (15%) Rock Protection:9 (10%)


Editor's Note: Jeff has not yet tested the  Enduris Vectiv  (RTR Review) or  Flight Vectic (RTR Review) to compare but you can find our reviews at the links.

6 Comparisons

Skechers Performance Speed TRL (RTR Review)

Jeff B: Evidence that you don’t need big lugs to get lots of traction, the Skechers has better grip and has a much more pronounced plate feel. TNF has more cushioning, especially in the forefoot, and a little bit wider toebox. For the difference in price, I’d lean toward the Speed Trail.


Brooks Catamount  (RTR Review)

Jeff B: Battle of the white trail shoes! The Brooks has a much more lively ride, a little wider toebox, and better traction, while TNF has a much more robust upper and perhaps a little more cushioning. No hesitation, go Catamount.


Nike Pegasus Trail 2  (RTR Review)

Jeff B:  Nike’s chill trail (or road to trail specialist?) shoe doesn’t have nearly the rock protection the Infinite does, but it does bring a more comfortable upper and more fun ride, along with more traction. If you are going to be encountering lots of rocks, TNF would be the better way to go, otherwise, go with the Nike.


Topo Ultraventure 2   (RTR Review)

Jeff B: With multiple density foams in the midsole, the Topo has better traction, more toe box room (a given), and a softer ride, while TNF has much better rock protection and a better overall hold. The UV2 has some issues, but it’s easily my choice between these two.


Salomon Sense Ride 3  (RTR Review)

Jeff B: These two share a similarly built upper that can handle anything the trail can send at you, but the Salomon is the only one to have the outsole to match it. TNF has better midsole cushioning and rock protection, but isn’t nearly as nimble or stable on the trails as the Sense Ride.


Saucony Peregrine 11  (RTR Review)

Jeff B: The VECTIV Infinite has a little more cushioning, the Peregrine has more of everything else. More toe box space, more comfortable upper, better rock protection, magnitudes more traction, a more fun ride, and it’s $50 less - all that makes for a very easy choice.


Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review beyond potential commissions from the shopping links in the article. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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2 comments:

Unknown said...

Would you please the adding comparison of vectiv series model enduris and flight?

Unknown said...

Yes please !