The North Face are very well known for their technical outdoor clothing. I used my £2 coin savings to buy one of their Nuptse vests in January, which I totally love, and they are one of the “go to” brands for outdoor enthusiasts.
I was recently sent a pair of their Women’s Havoc GTX XCR Hiking Shoes to try out and review here on Splodz Blogz. These are a low-cut trail style shoe for walking and hiking.
The Technical Specs
These new shoes by The North Face feature “cutting-edge membranes” from Gore-Tex which are said to deliver dependable waterproof protection in the wet and crucial breathability. Both are obviously very important when hiking – you don’t want wet feet from the weather or your own sweat!
The spec online explains they also have leather toes and mudguards with sturdily protective rubber toecaps and Northotic Pro foot beds with cushioning and support in the heels and forefeet. Snake Plate technology adds stability across the forefoot without sacrificing the flexibility that fast-moving hikers need, and Vibram rubber outsoles contribute grip on slick ground.
The spec list is:
- UPPER: GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort Range waterproof, breathable membrane.
- Full-grain leather toe and mudguard.
- Welded-synthetic, breathable midfoot.
- Protective rubber toecap.
- Northotic™ Pro+ premium EVA footbed with gel heel and Ortholite® forefoot cushioning pads and TPU Cradle™ support.
- BOTTOM: TPU and EVA Cradle™ heel cushioning and stability system.
- Combination compression-molded EVA and injected PU midsole.
- TPU Snake Plate™ forefoot protection.
- Exclusive Vibram® rubber outsole.
Splodz Blogz Review
I like the shape of these – trainer like – but when I look down at my feet I really don’t like the coating that has been used over the top of the front. I don’t know enough about shoes to use the proper name for it, but it’s the bit on the top of the shoe between the toe and the laces. It’s kind of a waxy or plastic looking coating, it’s grey and not very stylish. These have Gore-tex so I’m not sure it’s for waterproofing, but there must be a reason for it. The rest of the shoe looks great, the purple accents, the silver heel cradle, and the different shades of grey work well for a walking shoe.
When it comes to it, performance is more important in a walking shoe than looks isn’t it? And I must clarify that I don’t think these look terrible or anything, I just don’t like that particular bit of them, personally I’d prefer a continuation of the more mesh-like material on the side. But the proof is always in the wearing. And I’ve worn these a lot. I’ve walked at least 50 miles, probably more, using them both on the pavement and footpath. No extreme trails (I don’t think we have any of those in Lincolnshire!), but some muddy and steep hill walking (yes, we have plenty of hills in our ‘flat’ county), as well as low level everyday trail type stuff.
So far so good. The first thing I noticed after lacing these up is the very-slightly-bouncy air cushioning in the sole. I hadn’t realised that’s what was in them until I put them on and walked around the house and thought they felt very much like my old Air Max trainers, so I took them off and had a look and yes, air cushioning to give you a soft spring in your step and to be kind to your ankles. As a result I found these very comfortable when walking distances on pavement – tarmac and concrete is very hard on your feet when you’re talking 16+ miles at a time, and these did the job very well. When on grassy path the cushioning was less noticeable (because the ground was soft due to all the rain) but they were no less comfortable.
Talking of rain, I wore these on what was supposed to be a 12+ mile pavement walk (training for the Moonwalk). Three miles in the cloud you can see ahead in this photo emptied itself of the rain and hail it had been storing up right above my head. Nice. I had gone out kind of prepared – I had my old waterproof coat on (the one I recently replaced because it was no good in a heavy rain storm anymore…!), and some a-bit-shower-proof walking trousers. I got totally soaked. I was wet through to the skin. That is except my feet, which were dry. No word of a lie, my feet were fine, even in bounce-off-the-road hail. That Gore-Tex works! Needless to say I walked at a very decent pace straight back home, which due to the thankfully totally waterproof shoes I did blister-free.
Since that walk when they took a bit of a battering the shoes have looked a but rough around the edges. That material on the top has creased and collapsed a bit, making them look older than they actually are – a little bit worn. Not really a problem as they are still very comfortable and waterproof, but I thought I’d mention it as they don’t look new for long. But then these aren’t meant to be fashion shoes are they? They are work horses, and a bit of mud and a few creases don’t make them any less useful.
I haven’t talked about the fit. The lace loop at the back is a useful little feature to help you get these on, and the spongy material around the heel and tongue is soft on the ankle and foot. The arch support is great and my feet feel very stable inside the shoe even when tired. The toe area goes into a trainer-like point which might not be good if you’ve got wide feet, but I don’t find this a problem for me. The laces are easy to adjust all the way down but as I’ve found with other waking shoes, I could have done with a little longer on the lace to make double knotting easier.
So, function wins and is what keeps me wearing these shoes – they fit well, are comfortable and work for me on pavement and path. The damage is £120 for a pair, which makes me go “ouch”, but the thing I’m learning with all this reviewing of technical products, is more often than not you get what you pay for, and these are very good quality.
You can see and buy The North Face Women’s Havoc GTX XCR Hiking Shoes on The North Face website.