The North Face Fastpack III is in a class of lightweight footwear that toes the line between a hiking boot and a running shoe. Their woven uppers look unique and provide support through the ankle in a breathable, lightweight way. Another notable feature of the Fastpack III's is their surprisingly stiff and supportive midsole. Though they look like floppy running shoes, the Fastpack provides a great deal of support underfoot. However, these boots are not meant to carry heavy loads. Instead, the Fastpacks are an excellent option for day hikes. If you want a more technical boot in a lightweight package, check out our review of the impressive Salewa Alpenrose.
The North Face Fastpack III Woven - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, easy to break in, supportive underfoot
Cons: Not meant for heavy loads, lacks durability
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We were pleasantly surprised by these lightweight hikers. Initially, The North Face Fastpack IIIs were hard to get on since the gusseted tongue doesn't open very wide. We had a hard time getting our feet in these shoes the first few times wearing them. Once on, though, the Fastpack's were very comfortable. The woven upper wraps the foot almost like a sock, providing a snug fit from the ankle to toe without pinching at all in the toe box. In terms of comfort, we felt like these boots were almost on par with the Keen Targhee III Mid or the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3. These two models provide more comfort on longer days than the Fastpack since they are both burlier boots overall.
Again, we were surprised by the performance of the Fastpack IIIs. We half expected these woven boots to be floppy and lacking support but were pleasantly surprised by their stiffness underfoot. The FastFoam midsole provides stiffness and support, without adding bulk or extra weight. Additionally, the ESS midfoot shank adds rigidity to the boot side-to-side. This helped stabilize us on uneven and steep terrain. The Fastpack fell short in providing ankle support since the woven upper does not offer very much stability or stiffness in the ankle.
The aforementioned Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 had its own issues in terms of support, since these boots had excessive padding in the ankle that was hard to tighten down. If ankle support is what you're after, check out the Lowa Renegade, for a stiff, supportive boot both underfoot and in the ankle.
Weighing just over a pound and a half, the North Face Fastpack IIIs are among the lightest boots in this review. Our measured weight was 1.57 pounds, making the Fastpack comparable to the Columbia Redmond Mid, which weighed 1.5 pounds on the dot. The Fastpack is our preference between these two models, as they provide more support and are more durable than the Redmond. For an ultralight option, we were impressed by the Salewa Alpenrose Ultra GTX Mid, which weighs 1.47 pounds. These are definitely a step up from the Fastpack as a much more technical boot.
Here, the Fastpack III fell a bit short. We spent some time hiking on the muddy hillsides of coastal Northern California and were slipping and sliding all over the place in these boots. Though they feature Vibram MegaGrip soles, the tread pattern is not aggressive and did not provide much traction in muddy terrain.
On rock, the Vibram soles provide some traction and are comparable to other boots with Vibram MegaGrip soles, like the Ahnu Montara III. However, for muddy terrain, the Oboz models have very aggressive lug patterns and will outperform the Fastpack.
Though they look like they are constructed of sweater material, the Fastpack IIIs actually have a waterproof Gore-tex membrane. The woven upper combined with this waterproof membrane makes the Fastpack an incredibly breathable boot, while still providing a waterproof barrier. We tested these boots by standing in flowing water for a few minutes and found that a small amount of water leaked in from the tongue after about a minute in ankle-deep water.
In general, we like boots that have lightweight qualities, yet also provide water resistance. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 is a prime example of this type of model, and it's one of the highest-ranking boots in terms of water resistance and breathability.
These boots are lightweight - they are made entirely of woven fabric and foam. This construction makes for a great feel, but it also means that the Fastpack III is not designed for heavy loads, nor for longevity. If treated with care, the Fastpacks will live a long life, but they are not necessarily designed for the abuses of an expedition or a thru-hike. The woven upper will not hold up to abrasions caused from scrambling or talus hiking, unlike a leather upper as seen on the La Sportiva Nucleo, or the burly, coated upper of the Salewa Alpenrose. Both of these models are designed for more rugged terrain, and thus receive higher scores in terms of durability than the Fastpack.
These comfortable, lightweight hikers are ideal for day hikes and shorter mileage missions where heavy loads and technical terrain are less of a concern. A light backpack and a moderate trail are the Fastpack's best friends. These boots are more durable (and more expensive) than the Columbia Redmond Mid, but both boots are good options for day hikes. For a slightly burlier option that is still light and affordable, check out the Ahnu Montara III.
With a price tag of $170, the Fastpack III lands in the middle of the pack. The boots are made with Gore-tex, Ortholite, and Vibram technologies, making them a good product, and also upping the price from a more affordable option, like the Columbia Redmond Mid. Boots that are comparable in both price and performance are the Vasque Breeze III Mid or the Oboz Sapphire Mid, which both fall within a $10 price difference of the Fastpack III.
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by the performance of these boots. The North Face Fastpack IIIs are a solid choice for a lightweight and well-designed shoe. The Fastpacks went on easy at first, taking very little time to break in. Their woven uppers fit our feet comfortably, and their foam midsoles provide reasonable support for such a lightweight boot. Though they were comfortable, the boots are not designed for heavy loads or long days on the trail. They shine on shorter hikes with light loads and can handle a bit of water with their Gore-Tex membrane.
— Jane Jackson