The North Face Ultra Fastpack IV Mid Futurelight - Women's Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
We are pleased by the overall comfort of the Ultra Fastpack IV. Right out of the box, these shoes felt comfortable and didn't give us hotspots or any other trouble when breaking them in. Though not as cushy as some of the other models we've tested, and certainly falling into the lightweight category, the Fastpacks FastFoam midsoles deflected rocks and kept the soles of our feet comfortable on varied terrain.
The lacing system is easy to adjust and allowed us to fine-tune the fit to accommodate our wide forefoot comfortably. One small issue we had was in pulling these shoes on — we found that the high sides and low back of the ankle made it hard to pull the Fastpacks on. It was also hard to get our fingers into the pull-tab on the back.
Though not designed for rugged travel in the same way that some of the heavier-duty boots in this review are, the North Face Fastpack IV has a midfoot shank that provides stability on rocky terrain despite the boots' lightweight design. The high ankles that make these boots a little annoying to get on provided ankle stability that allowed our lead tester to get back on the trails with a sprained ankle — an unforeseen benefit to these boots!
The Fastpack IV weighs in as some of the lightest boots in this review. When we measured their weight on our scale at home, the Fastpacks proved to weigh only 1.59 pounds (size US 7.5), which is only slightly heavier than their claimed weight of 1.4 pounds. Maybe they based this weight off size 5? Fractions of pounds aside, these boots are light. They feel as light and airy on foot as they do on the scale — a feature we loved for most day hiking missions.
Kitted out with the nowadays ubiquitous Vibram MegaGrip rubber outsoles, the Fastpacks hold their own on rock and loose terrain. Most of the shoes we include in this review use the MegaGrip rubber compound in their soles, making it difficult to compare their performance on rock. That said, each company and shoe uses its own tread pattern, which allows for some major variability in the shoes' ability to hold traction on loose gravel and rocky trails.
The North Face Fastpack IV uses the brand's latest waterproof/breathable technology, Futurelight, to provide a water-resistant membrane. We definitely found the Futurelight material to be more breathable than a traditional Gore-Tex membrane, and as far as we could tell from testing, the boots kept our feet dry in wet conditions. The fairly high ankle shaft height combined with the latest waterproofing technology from The North Face kept our feet dry in creek crossings and spring puddles.
Like any lightweight boot made from mesh and synthetic materials, The North Face Fastpack IV has the potential to see some wear and tear. Boots with all-leather uppers tend to score higher in the durability metric than those that focus more on lightweight performance, like the Faspacks. That said, we saw no significant signs of wear over our three-month test period, which bodes well for the longevity of these lightweight hikers.
With a price tag that lands them in the middle of the pack in terms of value, the Fastpack IV is a good option in terms of value. Though they may not be as durable as some, they are comfortable and well made, plus the use of the Futurelight membrane provides a lightweight, breathable barrier against moisture. These factors give them a leg up in terms of value.
Overall, we were impressed by The North Face Ultra Fastpack IV Mid Futurelight - Women's. These boots are some of the lightest hikers we've tested — we were tempted to start running in them. Though they have a mesh upper and have many welded seams, these boots are still burly enough to withstand a substantial beating on the trail. The midsole shank provides stability and support underfoot, plus a pretty solid barrier between the bottom of your foot and the ground. Many of the features that make them super lightweight also mean that these boots may lack the durability of other models in this review. Also, it means that they don't provide quite the same level of support as an all-leather, traditional style hiking boot.
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