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The North Face Fastpack III Woven - Women's Review

These lightweight and comfortable ankle-high boots feature woven uppers and supportive foam midsoles.
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Price:  $170 List | $169.95 at Backcountry
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
By Jane Jackson ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 10, 2019
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 16
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Support - 20% 6
  • Weight - 15% 9
  • Traction - 15% 7
  • Water Resistance - 15% 6
  • Durability - 10% 6

Our Verdict

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.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


The Fastpack IIIs eagerly anticipating the next adventure at the trailhead.
The Fastpack IIIs eagerly anticipating the next adventure at the trailhead.

Comfort


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.

The woven upper makes the Fastpack III flexible and supple - conforming easily to the shape of the foot.
The woven upper makes the Fastpack III flexible and supple - conforming easily to the shape of the foot.

Support


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 Fastpack IIIs have enough ankle support to be stabilizing  but their woven uppers flex with the foot to allow plenty of movement.
The Fastpack IIIs have enough ankle support to be stabilizing, but their woven uppers flex with the foot to allow plenty of movement.

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.

Weight


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.

Traction


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.

The Fastpacks have Vibram soles that provide some traction on rock  but felt slick in mud and loose rock because of the sole's simple and shallow tread pattern.
The Fastpacks have Vibram soles that provide some traction on rock, but felt slick in mud and loose rock because of the sole's simple and shallow tread pattern.

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.

Water Resistance


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.

We were pretty surprised by how well these woven uppers kept our feet dry - even when fully submerged in running water!
We were pretty surprised by how well these woven uppers kept our feet dry - even when fully submerged in running 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.

Durability


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.

The lightweight nature of these boots means that they lack the same level of durability found in an all-leather boot.
The lightweight nature of these boots means that they lack the same level of durability found in an all-leather boot.

Best Application


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.

These boots are best suited for moderate hikes - the foam soles and woven uppers are lightweight but not designed for the heavy wear and tear of long-distance backpacking trips.
These boots are best suited for moderate hikes - the foam soles and woven uppers are lightweight but not designed for the heavy wear and tear of long-distance backpacking trips.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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