The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The North Face Safien GTX - Women's Review

If weight is the main concern, the Safien GTX is one of the lightest in the test, if not the most protective or durable.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $140 List
Pros:  Lightweight, waterproof, good cushioning
Cons:  Stiff upper, runs narrow, less toe protection, not the most durable
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Laurel Hunter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 14, 2019
  • Share this article:
73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 13
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Support - 20% 7
  • Traction - 15% 6
  • Weight - 15% 10
  • Water Resistance - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The North Face Safien GTX is a super lightweight, waterproof, and sporty hiking shoe. While this is not the best hiking shoe for multi-day trips or for hikes when you need to carry a heavy pack, it shines as footwear for shorter hikes on stable trails, or when weight is a major concern. The tradeoff for a light shoe is that it doesn't offer as much protection and isn't as durable, which held true for the Safien GTX. We also found it to be a little stiff and narrow. However, it is a very capable shoe for those that want to move fast and stay light.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award   Best Buy Award 
Price $140 List$110.00 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$134.95 at Amazon$159.95 at Backcountry$119.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
73
100
0
86
100
0
84
100
0
84
100
0
82
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Lightweight, waterproof, good cushioningComfortable, stable, great traction, durableGreat traction and stability, durable construction except for the lacesVery comfortable, lightweight, waterproofComfortable, waterproof, excellent traction
Cons Stiff upper, runs narrow, less toe protection, not the most durableUpper absorbs water (but doesn't leak), a little heavyDifficult to tighten the toe box due to the speed lace system, release button got jammed, a little stiffNot the best traction, questionable durabilityNeeds breaking in, runs short
Bottom Line If weight is the main concern, the Safien GTX is one of the lightest in the test, if not the most protective or durable.The Sawtooth II excels at day hikes, longer adventures, and tricky terrain, making it an easy pick for our Editors' Choice Award.An excellent all-around hiking shoe that is waterproof and supportive.An exceptionally cushioned shoe that is also lightweight and waterproof.Good at most things and great at some. It's an all-around solid hiker at a good price.
Rating Categories Safien GTX Sawtooth II Low BDry Terrex Swift R2 GTX HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP Merrell Moab 2 WP - Women's
Comfort (25%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
Support (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
Traction (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
10
Weight (15%)
10
0
10
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Water Resistance (15%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
Durability (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
Specs Safien GTX Sawtooth II Low BDry Terrex Swift R2 GTX HOKA ONE ONE Tor... Merrell Moab 2 WP...
Weight per pair (size 7) 1.31 lbs 1.83 lbs 1.36 lbs 1.55 lbs 1.69 lbs
Width Options Regular Regular, Wide Regular Regular Regular, Wide
Upper TPU-Coated mesh Leather & textile Synthetic mesh Nubuck and suede leather Suede leather, mesh
Midsole XtraFoam Dual density EVA EVA EVA and RMAT oversized midsole EVA
Lining Gore-Tex B-Dry Gore-Tex eVent Mesh
Sole EXTS Sawtooth Continental Traxion rubber Vibram Megagrip Hi-traction with 5mm lugs Vibram TC5+

Our Analysis and Test Results

Is weight your main concern? The Safien GTX is lightweight! And waterproof. This hiking shoe is a great choice for light and fast hikes on dirt trails. It looks like a trail runner but acts like a hiking shoe, providing unexpected support for a fabric shoe. It is not the most comfortable, durable, or protective, but if you are a person who counts the ounces of your hiking gear, this may be the shoe for you.

Performance Comparison


The very lightweight and waterproof North Face Safien GTX is perfect for light and fast hikes on stable terrain.
The very lightweight and waterproof North Face Safien GTX is perfect for light and fast hikes on stable terrain.

Comfort


Comfort is critical in a hiking shoe. When your feet hurt, the whole adventure can quickly become a bummer. Though it looks like a sneaker, the Safien GTX is a comfortable, lightweight, and surprisingly stable hiking shoe. The shoes are quite stiff out of the box and after many miles in them, they remain stiff, so if they don't feel good to you right away, don't expect them to get more flex over time. Another lightweight option that is slightly more forgiving is the Salomon X Ultra 3, our Top Pick for light and fast adventures.

The Safien GTX has a plush foam midsole and a decent amount of built-in arch support. The insole itself is quite thin and doesn't add a lot of support, but helps keep the shoe light. While the soles felt comfortable without a pack, or even with a light pack, we started to notice the rocks underfoot a lot more when we were carrying a more substantial amount of weight. A shoe that works better over distance with a heavier pack is our Editors' Choice, the Oboz Sawtooth II.

The Safien GTX has sturdy interior arch support but a very thin insole.
The Safien GTX has sturdy interior arch support but a very thin insole.

The Safien runs narrow and is probably not a great choice if you have wide feet, as the stiff fabric doesn't flex enough to accommodate a wider foot. It fits like a typical running shoe, with a taper in the toes, so there is also not a ton of room for splaying out toes. If you like more room for your toes, the Hoka One One Tor Summit is also light and has a generous toe box. However, the Safien GTX is the lightest shoe we tested and it felt quite nimble on the trail.

Support


Support in a hiking shoe refers to arch support, the lacing system, and lateral support. We found the Safien GTX to be plenty stiff for lateral support, truly surprising in an all-fabric upper. The lacing system is standard but totally adequate for getting a snug fit and preventing heel slippage. The ankle does have a lower cut than many of the other shoes in the test, providing less ankle support than some models, such as the Hoka One One Sky Arkali.

However, where we feel support is lacking is underfoot. While the foam sole is plush and structured enough for short hikes, when carrying more weight, especially on longer hikes, we wished for a little more structure in the midsole. It is hard to have everything in a shoe, and stability and protection add weight, so we don't really fault this shoe for lacking support when it excels at being lightweight.

Shallow lugs did not help The North Face Safien on lava rubble  but we loved it on the pine duff.
Shallow lugs did not help The North Face Safien on lava rubble, but we loved it on the pine duff.

Traction


There are a few different components that we consider for a shoe's traction score, including the depth and shape of the lugs and the quality of the rubber. The lugs on the Safien GTX are quite shallow and didn't perform especially well on loose scree. However, the rubber proved sticky enough and provided ample traction for everyday hikes on packed dirt. If you tend to tackle steep, sketchy terrain, you may want to take a look at the Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof, one of the top scoring shoes in the traction metric.

The North Face Safien looks like a trail running shoe  and weighs about the same  so we performed a running test to see how they felt.
The North Face Safien looks like a trail running shoe, and weighs about the same, so we performed a running test to see how they felt.

Weight


The Safien GTX easily earns a top score in the weight metric. These hiking shoes weigh in at 1 pound 5 ounces in a women's size 7. That makes them two ounces heavier than the Merrell Siren Edge Q2 WP, but over eight ounces lighter than our Editor's Choice, the Oboz Sawtooth II. Four ounces per foot is noticeable, and we appreciated how nimble and quick our feet felt in these shoes.

The Safien GTX did not leak and water beads up and sheds right off.
The Safien GTX did not leak and water beads up and sheds right off.

Water Resistance


These shoes received a good score for waterproofness as well. We did find them to be 100% waterproof in our bucket test, and the fabric beads off water easily, gaining a mere 1/4 ounce after soaking for ten minutes. The Gore-Tex barrier worked perfectly to keep our feet dry, with no leakage at the tongue gusset or any of the seams. The only thing to hold against the Safien GTX in terms of waterproofness is the relatively short ankle height, 3 1/4", which allows water to flow over the top in shallower water.

Durability


Durability is one of our biggest concerns with this shoe. With no leather anywhere on the upper and only a small rubber toe bumper to protect it from run-ins with sharp rocks, branches, and general trail wear, we wonder about the longevity of the Safien GTX. After hiking about 30 miles in them we saw signs of fraying in the fabric as well as snags in the sidewalls of the soles.

Granted  our testing ground is rugged  but after only 30 miles the sidewall foam was showing snags and the fabric on the toe was beginning to fray.
Granted, our testing ground is rugged, but after only 30 miles the sidewall foam was showing snags and the fabric on the toe was beginning to fray.

Our testing ground is covered with very sharp lava rocks, which is notoriously hard on shoes. If your trails are soft and primarily dirt you can likely expect greater longevity with this shoe. However, if you cover rugged terrain on a regular basis, you may want to look for a more durable shoe, such as the Oboz Sawtooth II, our Editors' Choice Award Winner among the women's hiking shoes.

Best Applications


If your trails are soft, buff, and potentially wet, then these shoes are a great choice. If you want to move light and fast, maybe even run the downhills, even better. We loved these shoes in the pine duff, especially, where there was no need for massive lugs of traction. And while the upper provides quite a bit of stability for uneven situations, there are better options for rocky, steep trails. Because they look so much like a sneaker, the Safien GTX is also a great choice for everyday adventuring that may or may not include hiking.

For going light and fast  the Safien GTX is an excellent choice.
For going light and fast, the Safien GTX is an excellent choice.

Value


The North Face Safien GTX retails for $140, putting it just below the middle of the pack in price, which is not bad for something this functional. However, depending on your terrain, the number of miles that you expect to get from a pair of shoes, and your annual hiking shoe budget, this may not be the best value in terms of durability. If you don't mind paying ten more dollars and wearing an extra 6 ounces, the Salomon X Ultra 3, our Top Pick for Fast and Light Hiking, and offers much more durability.

Conclusion


While we did not find the Safien GTX to be the best in rugged conditions or the most durable shoe, we are very impressed with its functionality, especially considering how light it is. We recommend it for those who count every ounce and are heading out for shorter hikes on buff trails.


Laurel Hunter