Tuesday, October 03, 2023

The North Face Summit VECTIV Sky Multi Tester Review: 9 Comparisons

 Article by Sam Winebaum, Jeff Valliere, and John Tribbia

The North Face Summit Series VECTIV Sky ($199)


Sam: The Summit Vectiv Sky joins the Vectiv Pro as the North Face’s carbon plated trail racing duo . At a touch under 9 oz / 255g in a US9 with a 26mm heel / 22 mm forefoot stack height and a forked front and back (and yeah flexible!) carbon plate, a PEBA insert at the forefoot and a TPU and ripstop upper,  it is intended as the shorter distance shoe in the collection. Our German team reviewed both Sky and Pro earlier with our US team now testing the Sky. 

After a first runs on one of my test routes with a mix of pavement, dirt, and technical rooty and rocky single track, collecting 4 Strava personal “podiums” as well as on smoother single tracks the picture is clear for me.

The North Face nails it!  Fast, very stable, well cushioned for its stack and highly propulsive, Sky for sure a top top shorter distance racer but I think more too!


Jeff V/Sam:  Light, breathable, streamlined, responsive, agile, stable, good traction, secure upper, comfort

John/Sam: Light, energetic, very breathable


Jeff V/Sam:  Limited to mid to shorter distances

John/Sam: Feels slightly firm, high achilles pad can be bothersome


Approx. Weight: men's oz  8.98 oz / 255g  US9

  Sample: men’s 8.73 oz / 248g US8.5, men’s 9.25 oz / 263g US10

Stack Height: men’s 26mm heel / 22mm forefoot ( 4mm drop spec) 

$199  Available now including at our partner Running Warehouse US HERE

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Sam: My sample is a serious black and optic yellow and says all business.  

The main mesh is an unusual TPU material more like a plastic than a fiber mesh. Run your finger over it and there is the unmistakable scratchy noise of a dense plastic. No question this mesh provides a lot of standalone front structure yet it is also quite pliable as well and wraps the forefoot extremely well while standing up on its own to provide notable over the toes volume that is well held. 

A very thin inner layer (seen as darker below) is bonded inside so the foot does not directly touch the mesh with an unlined window for breathability below the lace up (the yellow area). There is some toe bumper stiffening but not much.

The black outer upper material extending from lace up to the rear is a thin ripstop with a tiny bit of stretch which while it does appear to be open does in fact have tiny holes and is see thru from the inside.

Under the outer midfoot mesh is a soft thin somewhat stretchy neoprene type gusset which extends from the first lace up hole near the toe all the way around the inside around the heel. The tongue is part of this construction and of the same material with light padding. 

The laces.. Appear to be the exact same as in the Vaporfly 3 somewhat skeletal, a bit stretchy and with small nubs that grip the eyelets. Really fine laces and can’t think of any other than these two with them.

The inner construction does retain some moisture as I found out as it was very humid and may dry slowly.  The sockliner is a EVA type material rising up on the medial side and does not absorb moisture as say Otholite sock liners do.

The heel has a real semi rigid heel counter as well as stabilizing carbon wings. 

The achilles is padded all the way up high by the inner bolsters.

The toe box is moderately broad and the fit is a perfect true to size fit for me with thin socks. If you wear thicker socks and plan long distances in them you might consider sizing up.

Overall this is an incredibly secure yet at the same time comfortable upper. There is no over squeezing anywhere. For me it is easily one of the best trail shoe uppers I can recall.

Jeff V:  I have heard a lot of good things about the new Vectiv line, but honestly was a bit skeptical after reviewing the initial Vectiv series, particularly the Flight Vectiv (RTR Review) which I found to be heavy, ill fitting and unstable in technical terrain, with little to no benefit from the carbon plate.  

Oh my, how wrong I was to doubt, as TNF has refined and advanced immensely their carbon plated trail offering here !  Finally, a legit high performing trail shoe that happens to have a carbon plate.  

I am impressed by the breezy look of the blue/white colorway, the substantial lugs and the light feel.  Immediately upon stepping into them, I knew these would be a hit.  As a bonus, both of my 13 year old daughters and their friends noted how cool they look!

Sam sums up the upper well and I can confirm that the fit is outstanding, with a secure no nonsense booty design that is light and flexible, but simultaneously secure and well held.  The materials have a plasticky feel to the touch on the outside, but the mesh design is impressive how it provides so much structure with such low weight and a minimal/flexible feel.  

Fit is true to size, with a secure heel, midfoot and just enough room in the forefoot, though as Sam mentions, if you prefer thicker socks or just want a bit more room, sizing up a half size is a reasonable choice.

The laces are very unique, with a crinkle cut fry ridged design. They are very thin, light and effective for holding the lace tension, though the laces take a bit of extra attention to operate.

My feet feel very secure and well held, even when running quickly on steep, rocky, technical terrain, sidehilling, etc…  There is not much of a toe bumper, nor is the upper particularly well shielded, but so far I have not had any issues bumping any rocks.

John: Sam and Jeff are right about the fit and upper of the shoe. It is very comfortable and secure, yet it is also lightweight and breathable. The shoe has a sock-like upper made from a lightweight and breathable mesh. The upper is also relatively supportive, with a reinforced heel counter and midfoot shank. 

The toe box is moderately wide, and the fit is true to size. The soft, thin, and somewhat stretchy neoprene-type gusset under the outer midfoot mesh provides a comfortable and secure fit. 

The semi-rigid heel counter and stabilizing carbon wings keep your heel in place and prevent slippage. The lacing is asymmetrical, which provides an incredibly comfortable and secure fit.


Sam: On the surface I was skeptical that the relatively firm to pressing main and I assume EVA based midsole foam, carbon plate and 4mm drop would work for me. 

Immediately on trying it on, I knew it would. The first thing I noted was how well planted the heel was with plenty of very stable rebound. Moving forward, and for sure after my first run, the forked carbon plate has plenty of flex and lots of spring in hand and on the run. The small black carbon wing up front is unnoticed, unlike the extended one in the Pro which caused blisters for all our testers (RTR German Review).

At the same time the plate is not overly aggressive and rigid (Endorphin Edge and even Ultrafly Trail come to mind) and as a result even slow paces were easy enough and fun. That said it is when you pick up the pace that the shoe really shines. 

The combination of flexible, springy forked plate and the front PEBA insert are highly propulsive and dynamic with plenty of rock protection. The forked (front and rear) plate and foams had them very stable at all times. Not easy to pull off in carbon plated shoes but recall the plate is forked front and back to move with terrain and the shoe is flexible. 

On hard surfaces, the plate (assisted by the PEBA above it)  is in no way harsh and clearly was springing me forward yet while on a rooty and rocky section I was able to be agile and quick footed, or at least quick footed for me.  That said the Sky is overall a relatively firm shoe.

John: Like Sam, I find these shoes to be bouncy and flexible, with the forked plate and PEBA insert giving a springy, dynamic ride with plenty of rock protection. The forked plate (front and rear) and foams provide excellent stability, which is not easy to find in carbon-plated shoes. The forked plate and flexible design allow the shoe to move with the terrain, so you get a smooth ride on hard surfaces without feeling harsh. The plate also provides a springy feeling that propels you forward, and the shoe is agile enough to move quickly and nimbly over rooty and rocky sections. I do find the midsole to be firm, so the shoe isn’t ideal for long all-day outings, but it is superb for quick mountain ascents or a few hour trail run.

Jeff V:  Agreed with John and Sam here.  The PEBA foam insert combined with the forked plate is springy, propulsive and energetic, with a great balance of speed/protection/stability.  I have been conditioned to be skeptical of  carbon plated trail shoes, but TNF has done it right here and the forked design helps the shoe to flex and conform through rough terrain, while providing a noticeable propulsive boost upon toe off.  

I find that the Vectic Sky performs well on most trails at most speeds, but they really shine at faster speeds and harder efforts and are best when running on moderately technical trails, but when the trail gets technical, they still perform and I can continue to run fast with confidence.  

I only felt slightly hesitant when running down very steep talus and rock garden type trails with long leaps on rocky unpredictable landings. I wished for a bit more cushion and stability, but outside of that specific scenario (rare for most), cushioning, protection and stability are great.  I also agree that these are best for mid to shorter distances given the lesser stack and firmness of the midsole.


Sam: The outsole is Surface CTRL™ rubber outsole with 3.5 mm lugs. Grip was notably good on loose gravel. The outsole was relatively quiet, a sign that it is well matched to the rest of the platform: not overly firm and flexing with the front of the shoe. 

Grip on wet rock and steeps is to be determined in our multi tester review.

John: The Vectiv Sky has a versatile and durable outsole that provides secure traction on a variety of surfaces, including wet rocks, loose dirt, and pavement. 

The lugs are spaced fairly close together to provide good grip even on slippery surfaces, but they are not so aggressive and deep that they will clog up with mud or debris. I do notice with the specific rubber compound TNF uses, they can get slippery on wet surfaces like road, sidewalk and exposed rock.

Jeff V:  I have not been able to test in the wet, so will have to report back, but overall I find the outsole of the Vectiv Sky to be very effective and versatile for just about all of the running I do, from road, dirt road, packed trail approaches, through rocky technical trails, steep off trail, loose dirt, slabby scrambles, I have not had any slips.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: My initial test run was 5 miles on a mix of gravel/trail, pavement, and rooty rocky single track.  I got 4 personal Strava segment podiums including a PR on a gradual road to trail to shale rock downhill with the other segments uphill and a  rolling uphill all road.  All segments were run around 8:15 min per mile.

Through the woods on the single track, I felt agile and confident although on this section a shoe such as the NNormal and Pulsar would be a touch better. They performed better here than the more rigid plated if softer foamed SC Trail from New Balance.  

They climbed extremely well and descents were super stable with lots of rear rebound and plenty of cushion. On downhill pavement, they were considerably less harsh than the Hoka Zinal and more stable than the Salomon Pulsar SG taken on the same route. They were more cushioned, if slightly less stable and with less trail feel than the lighter NNormal Kjerag whose foam is more energetic and without a plate beyond a “ground filter”. They reminded me a lot of the Scrapa Golden Gate Kima RT but the Sky is far far lighter, or a more agile quicker Tecton X but with a firmer more responsive ride and more propulsive carbon plate. The Saucony Peregrine and Xodus Ultra, both fine shoes, are boring in comparison. 

So far, I am finding it closest in comparison to the Brooks Catamount 2 with its flexible plastic propulsion protection plate (with a better front climb flex) but here lighter in weight by 0.75 oz and yet more propulsive if slightly less cushioned.  I have not tested the Vectiv Pro with its big raised front carbon element but all three of our German testers had blister issues with them

It has a surprising amount of forgiving cushion (given relatively low stack height and dense foam)  to go with trail feel and its upper and platform security and stability. The ride is clearly amplified and is super dynamic due to its extremely well implemented flexible carbon plate and PEBA front insert which takes the edge off while delivering rebound and its super secure upper. 

Called out as a “race shoe”, and priced accordingly at $199 . I think if durability is proven out, and given construction it should be durable, the Sky is one versatile fast shoe and one that has enough cushion to go with its carbon plating to make it a very strong all around daily trail trainer on all trail surfaces to go with its clear race abilities do value is strong  

As far as its race abilities, clearly, and my testing has been brief to date, I would  pick it for any trail race on any surface up to at least 25K and for sure others faster and younger than me will take it further.

Sam’s Score: 9.3 /10

😊😊😊 1/2

I wish for a more flexible plate especially at the far front and a slightly softer main midsole foam.

John: I recently ran on a local trail known for its steep climbs and rocky descents. The Vectiv Sky performed quite well. The carbon plate helped me power up the climbs. On the descents, the traction and stability of the midsole/outsole gave me the confidence to let loose and run fast. At one point on the descent, I came across a particularly rocky section of the trail. Large rocks and boulders were strewn all over the trail. Thanks to the Vectiv Sky's traction and stability, I was able to navigate the rocks with ease. Furthermore, I finished the run feeling great. My legs were tired, but I had no pain or discomfort. I was really impressed with how well the Vectiv Sky protected my feet on the challenging terrain.

The Sky is a versatile and fast trail running shoe that can handle a variety of surfaces. It has excellent cushioning and stability, making it ideal for both uphill and downhill running. 

The shoe also has a very dynamic ride thanks to its flexible carbon plate and PEBA front insert. This makes it a great all-around trail trainer that is suitable for a variety of surfaces. I took the shoe on a variety of trails , including everything from smooth singletrack to rocky technical terrain. The shoe performed incredibly well on these types of surfaces. On the smooth singletrack, it felt fast and responsive. The carbon plate provided a noticeable bounce and helped to propel me forward. The midsole was also soft enough to cushion my impact, but firm enough to provide support. On the rocky technical terrain, the Vectiv Sky provided nice traction and stability - the midsole especially provided good support, even on uneven surfaces.

John’s Score: 9.25/10

Ride: 9.25, Fit: 9.25, Value: 9, Style: 9.25, Traction: 9.25, Rock Protection: 9.25


Jeff V:  Both Sam and John cover all of the points I was going to make and then some and  I agree with them wholeheartedly.  The Vectiv Sky is a real surprise for me and I am impressed with the progress and innovation TNF have made.  I am excited by what is to come from them in the upcoming years, they have really upped their game.  Moving forward, I will reach for the Vectiv Sky for shorter to medium runs on just about any terrain when I am looking to move quick and just have a fast fun run.  They are the perfect high performance daily trainer for PR attempts or just fast tempo efforts and of course a great race shoe.

Jeff V’s Score: 9.5/10

Ride: 9.5, Fit: 9.5, Value: 9, Style: 9.5, Traction: 9.5, Rock Protection: 9.5


9 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE 

Hoka Zinal 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  Both are light, fast and fun to run in. I find the Vectiv Sky has a bit more pop and is more lively, while the Zinal has slightly better traction and is a bit more flexible.

John: The Zinal 2 feels more lightweight, has a precise fit and excellent traction. The upper is well-ventilated and comfortable, and the outsole provides solid protection on technical terrain. I love the feeling of this fast, responsive shoe and would use it for racing or training on technical trails. The Sky has more energy return on uphills and in runnable sections. I’m going to lean to the Zinal 2 in most situations given it has a more comfortable fit and flex. 

New Balance SuperComp Trail (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The SuperComp has more plush cushioning, while the plate provides great support and protection.  Both are light, fast and fun to run in, but I find the SuperComp to be better for longer distances and is overall more protective top and bottom, while the Sky is a little quicker for shorter efforts.

Hoka Tecton X (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Tecton X is a larger shoe and feels it, as it is not quite a nimble or agile as the Sky.  The Sky is more adept in technical terrain, where the Tecton is better suited for more moderate trails.  The Tecton however has more ample cushioning and is a better choice for longer distances.

Salomon Pulsar Pro 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Pulsar Pro 2 is remarkably narrow, light, fast and agile, with great traction, though I find it best suited for fast uphill running and find them to be a bit too firm for any extended downhills and are fairly unstable given the very narrow heel and stiff (non carbon) plate.  The Sky is much more stable, better cushion and is a much more friendly shoe.

Saucony Endorphin Edge (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  Light and fast, the Endorphin is a responsive speedster with nice deep lugs, but the carbon plate here makes them a bit stiff and unstable in technical terrain.  The Sky is more agile over a wider variety of terrain, but the Endorphin feels more substantially cushioned underfoot for longer miles on less technical terrain.  

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar SG  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Like the Pulsar Pro 2, the S/Lab Pulsar SG is remarkably narrow, light, fast and agile, with great traction, though I find it best suited for fast uphill running and find them to be a bit too firm for any extended downhills and are fairly unstable given the very narrow heel and stiff (non carbon) plate.  The Sky is much more stable, better cushion and is a much more friendly shoe.

John: The Sky is not as narrow as the S/Lab Pulsar SG, which makes it a good choice for runners with wider feet and it is a bit more forgiving than the S/Lab Pulsar SG. The traction in the S/Lab is much better on wet surfaces and on rock slabs compared to the Sky. Like Jeff, the narrow heel in the Salomon means stability issues for me, so I don’t wear the S/Labs much as a result. 

NNormal Kjerag (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Kjerag is a great shoe, fast, light and agile with excellent fit, but the Sky has better response and is a bit more protective underfoot, while the Kjerag is a bit more soft, but would consider both mid to shorter distance shoes (unless your name happens to be Kilian).

Brooks Catamount 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  Both are fast and could toss a coin here, but I find the Catamount is a bit more protective and perhaps better for longer distances, while the Sky is more agile and adept if the terrain gets technical.

John: The Catamount 2 is my favorite shoe for its versatility in door to rugged trail. It is a true running shoe that feels good for long and short efforts. The only situation I would opt for the Sky is when the pitch gets super steep and terrain becomes technical, since it outperforms the Catamount with agility and efficiency on a steep incline. 

Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Kima is in a different class, more of a burly rugged mountain shoe, much heavier and more stiff and without the forked plate, is more tippy when trying to move fast in tech terrain.  The Sky is much lighter, faster and more energetic.

John: I agree with Jeff here. The Sky is much lighter, faster, and more energetic than the Kima and a great choice for trail running and other activities that require agility and speed. I also think the Kima is capable of holding up to longer distances and outings and slower paces, whereas the Sky is ready to scour the trails at high speeds for shorter distances.

 Vectiv Sky is available now including at our partners 

Running Warehouse US SHOP HERE

Running Warehouse EUROPE SHOP HERE
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Tester Profiles

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

John Tribbia (5' 6", 130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva , Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost every day.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Anonymous said...

No mention of rub/bite from the carbon wings? I am assuming all was good on that front for the testers? Im really liking the Vectiv pro...I have had no problems with the carbon wings on the pro. Although I have pretty narrow feet and use my own insole, maybe that helps. I would say the Pro falls in line with everything you say about the Sky...but with a little more soft bounce.

Mike P said...


I'm a bit delayed with my review, but I have not experienced any rub/bite from the carbon wings.

Generally, I concur with most of the points of the other reviewers - it's a great shoe and a total turnaround from previous Vectiv models.