The North Face Vectiv Exploris: Great for Walking

NorthFace Vectiv Exploris

The North Face Vectiv Exploris

  • Price: $159
  • Weight: 15.76 ounces / 0.985 pounds / 446.8 grams (US 12 Men)
  • Waterproof: Yes (Futurelight)
  • What’s Good: All-day comfort for covering lots of ground quickly. Great protection underfoot.
  • What’s Bad: For me, the rockered sole was only stable on groomed hiking trails.

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Futurelight is an excellent hiking platform for quickly covering many miles. The shoe excels for most walking scenarios providing protection and comfort in a lightweight shoe. The rockered sole performs well while moving forward on even ground but is less stable on difficult terrain.

Table of Contents

Comfort and Weight

I recently tested the North Face Vectiv Exploris Futurelight against four popular hiking shoes. It did not take the spot for the best hiking shoe but offers some great features in a well-built hiking shoe.

My pair of US 12 Men weighs in at 15.76 ounces per shoe. It was one of the lighter shoes I tested.

The North Face Vectiv line of shoes began as running shoes and was later redesigned as the North Face Vectiv Exploris hiking shoe. This running shoe construction comes through in the Vectiv Exploris.

The midsole provides a supportive and cushioning platform with good bounce and reactivity while hiking.

The rockered sole design keeps you moving forward and provides some mechanical advantage as you transition from your heel to your forefoot. I found hiking in these to be a pleasure.

The problem I faced was when I was standing still or when I was navigating uneven tricky terrain. Since you never have your entire foot planted on the ground, you can feel off balance when standing still.

Moving over difficult terrain was not a comfortable experience as I sometimes felt that I might roll my foot or lose my balance.

For these reasons, I found the North Face Vectiv Exploris great for walking or hiking on smooth trails. Going off-trail was not so great for the reasons explained above.


The North Face Vectiv Exploris scored very well in my testing for underfoot protection. The shoe also features uppers in ripstop Cordura which is light, breathable, and tough. Finally, the toe, sides, and heel feature an impact protection overlay.

For their weight, these shoes provide great protection for virtually any hiking scenario.

To test the sole’s ability to protect from sharp objects on the trail, I conducted head-to-head rounds of testing against four other hiking shoes. The North Face Vectiv Exploris scored second place.

The rocker sole design and the reactive midsole provide ample cushion and protection.

The test consists of wearing a different shoe on each foot and stepping on a small stone, comparing which shoe transfers less of the shape of the stone to the bottom of my foot.

Protection Underfoot RankComments
1. Adidas Terrex Swift R3The hard rubber compound in the Continental outsoles is rigid but extremely protective. It might be overkill. A softer compound would provide more grip.
2. NorthFace Vectiv ExplorisThe second-place finish for these shoes has to do with the rocker sole design and its overall thickness, which exceeded other shoes tested.
3. Salomon X Ultra 4The Contagrip outsole provides good protection and will work on virtually all hiking scenarios
4. Salewa Mountain Trainer LiteThe Pomoca outsole will provide adequate protection for most hiking scenarios.
5. Merrell Moab 3The softer Vibram outsole has more give, which meant more pressure was applied to the bottom of my foot while testing.
Testing Results for Protection. Check out my overall review of all shoes tested.

Traction on the Trail

Traction for the North Face Vectiv Exploris is provided by the proprietary SurfaceCTRL™ Grip outsole. The North Face describes it as high-traction.

In my testing, traction was found to be adequate for hiking. It was virtually indistinguishable from the Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite and the Merrell Moab 3.

Shoes with deeper, more aggressive lugs will perform better for traction.

Traction and grip are complex and interrelated concepts for footwear. I wrote an entire article on the differences and why they are important for hiking footwear.

Here are the results of traction testing.

  • Adidas Terrex Swift R3 provides superior traction on loose dirt and scored first place beating all four other shoes tested.
  • Salomon X Ultra 4 offers good traction on loose dirt and scored second place, beating all other shoes, losing only to the Adidas Terrex Swift R3.
  • Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite, NorthFace Vectiv Exploris, and the Merrell Moab 3 were indistinguishable. They all provide adequate traction on loose dirt.


Part of the added cost for hiking shoes over regular street shoes is due to the features included to make them more stable over uneven ground.

The North Face added 3D VECTIV Plate to their design for more “energy, responsiveness, and stability.” As mentioned above, for comfort, the Vectiv Exploris feels unstable when standing still or moving over uneven, difficult terrain.

Because of the rockered sole design, it is difficult, or impossible, to plant your entire foot onto a surface.

The rockered sole is a feature that sets this shoe apart for speed and efficiency while walking, but it has the downside that I felt inherently unstable in some hiking situations.

Stability RankComments
1. Salomon X Ultra 4Superior stability across all terrains is provided by the ACTIVESUPPORT system combined with excellent uppers, midsoles, and outsoles.
2. Adidas Terrex Swift R3Exceptional stability thanks to the ProModerator midsole system. More rigid than the X Ultra 4.
3. Salewa Mountain Trainer LiteHiking/Approach hybrid with a decent heel lock and average stability.
4. Merrell Moab 3Entry-level hiking shoes, lack stability-enhancing design elements. Adequate stability for most hiking scenarios.
5. NorthFace Vectiv ExplorisRocker-style outsoles work well on flat terrain but introduce significant instability off-tra
Testing Results for Stability. Check out my overall review of all shoes tested.

Overall Impressions

In conclusion, I can recommend the North Face Vectiv Exploris with Futurelight for anyone that is hiking well groomed trails and is familiar with rockered soles.

You will cover lots of ground quickly in a well-made, high-quality, hiking shoe. They feel great on my feet after many miles on trail. The North Face put great care and attention to detail in these shoes, and it shows.

If you are unsure about the rockered soles then you might look at a phenomenal shoe from Salomon that won a round of testing I recently did. Check out my blog post to find those shoes.

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