The North Face Ultra 111 WP Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
We tested this hiking shoe from The North Face in a range of conditions from the sand dunes of Death Valley to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range. This shoe did reasonably well in all metrics, notably in traction and versatility, underscoring its utility as an all-around good shoe.
The Ultra 111 WP is well-designed and comfortable right out of the box. The upper materials are synthetic performance mesh, which is soft and pliable without any break-in period. An Ortholite insole provides cushioning, as does the EVA midsole.
An ESS shank imparts structure and stability to the shoe, as we will discuss further along, but this shank does not create so much stiffness that it is uncomfortable. The shoe flexes naturally when walking, rather than awkward and jarring, as is found in some shoes that have too much stiffness in their midsole.
We appreciate the protective toe bumper that extends all around the shoe, giving extra impact resistance from unexpected trips, especially when we took these shoes out for trail runs. The ankle cuff is cut low enough to feel a full range of motion when taking long strides on the trail. This shoe has a 12mm offset, or drop, which means the heel is nearly half an inch higher than the toe. There is a lot of debate about offset height in the hiking shoe world, but we found this amount of drop to feel smooth and comfortable while hiking.
We verified the weight of these shoes on our digital scale at 2.04 pounds per pair in size 11 US. This seems right on target for a waterproof shoe of this style. Lighter options exist, but they tend to be a lot more expensive and less durable.
The low weight achieved in this shoe is attributed to the amount of mesh and synthetic materials used in the upper, a reasonable place to save some extra ounces. The support is not impacted much as a result, and we have as much stability in these shoes as we did in heavier and more expensive models.
An ESS midsole shank is included in this shoe to provide structure and integrity to the shoe. This stiffener allows the shoe to support the foot when in rough terrain. It is stiff but still supple enough that we found running in this model to be a reasonable activity. It also uses a single density EVA foam midsole to cushion between the outsole and the foot.
For this type of shoe, a beefed-up trail runner that can handle more impacts thanks to a more developed midsole, the Ultra 111 WP gives a decent amount of stability. Surely it is not in the same category as the mid-cut shoes that are stiffer underfoot, so it will not do as well in prolonged cross-country terrain that features a lot of scrambling. Still, for a hiking shoe that will be used for day trips and light camping overnights, it will do the job just fine.
The soles on the Ultra line have always been one of their strong suits, and the Ultra 111 WP is no exception. The UltrATAC outsole gives good overall traction in wet and dry climates and is a proprietary rubber blend developed by The North Face.
We found the lug pattern to be deep and sharp enough that this shoe could really handle muddy, sandy, and even snowy trails better than other models with more shallow lugs.
We really like this model for its versatility. It is a solid hiking shoe, can double as an everyday around-town shoe, gives good enough support to work outside in, and comes at a reasonable price, so you don't feel as bad when, after all of that use and abuse, you need to retire them.
They serve a lot of purposes which is why we like them. Building on the previous success of other models in this line, these shoes feel beefier and more adept at hiking in various terrain types than just going for a light walk with the dog at the park.
Similar to other lightweight hiking shoes that have a lot of soft and flexible mesh, one of the best alternative uses for these shoes is trail running, especially in wetter environments like the Pacific Northwest or the Northeast during the shoulder seasons when trails are wet and mucky. You don't want to run in soaking wet socks.
The North Face Ultra 111 WP uses an in-house waterproof/breathable membrane called DryVent to ensure that the foot stays dry when sloshing through water. It works as advertised, and we did not experience any leaking during our testing process. The flood height on this pair is relatively shallow, 3.25 inches, so this is a good model for walking on wet trails but not for fording creeks in.
What impresses us is that for the price, the waterproofing is excellent. Typically we have to pay quite a bit more for the waterproof/breathable membrane. That The North Face uses a proprietary, in-house waterproof liner and not a more expensive Gore-Tex brand liner that is commonly found in hiking shoes and boots. This makes these shoes less expensive and saves you money.
There is quite a lot of mesh and exposed seams on The North Face Ultra 111 WP, which is a combination we have seen trouble with in the past. We did not have any major stitching blowouts during our testing period, but keep an eye on these shoes if you plan to use them in rough terrain with lots of sharp rocks.
Should You Buy The North Face Ultra 111 WP?
The North Face Ultra 111 WP is a great budget waterproof hiking shoe. It is comfortable, has good support, great traction, and can provide you with a lot of versatility should you decide to do something other than go hiking. It's a great choice for a first-time or fifth-time hiking shoe. Given that it is such a great value and comes with a waterproof membrane, it's our favorite fully capable water-resistant shoe at an awesome price. We have long touted the Ultra line for their strong overall value, and the Ultra 111 WP fits the same bill. It is a great waterproof shoe for the price you'll pay, and we give it a strong recommendation.
What Other Hiking Shoes Should You Consider?
If your budget can stretch slightly, we think the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex is the better option with more impressive results in most test metrics. This shoe offers superior comfort and support and is more versatile overall.
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