The North Face Ultra 110 GTX - Women's Review
Cons: Narrow toe box, somewhat heavy
Manufacturer: The North Face
Our Analysis and Test Results
If your hiking shoe isn't comfortable, it can be a dealbreaker on a hike, sending you back to the trailhead. The Ultra 110 offers a thick sole underfoot to protect against rocks, as well as a good amount of arch support. The tongue of this shoe is quite cushioned, creating a puffy look for the shoe overall, but it adds a bit of cushioning underneath the traditional-style laces. The Ultra 110 was a bit stiff out of the box, but softened up after about ten miles to be flexible and comfortable without feeling sloppy.The cushion under the toes is noticeably less than the heel, not a big deal on flat or rolling hikes, but on steep inclines, with weight forward and more on the toes, we prefer more even cushioning, especially when shouldering a 20-pound pack. Additionally, we felt like the narrow, almost pointy, toe box is not a great shape for allowing toes to wiggle and splay, which can be especially important when wearing a thicker hiking sock. This shoe will likely be most comfortable for hikers with narrow feet for this reason.
While the Ultra 110 GTX has a thin Ortholite insole providing minimal support, the midsole is quite stiff and supportive, and there is a medium amount of arch support that will be appropriate for most feet. The upper material is stiff enough to provide support around the foot, and the height of the upper allows for noticeably more material than many hiking shoes.
Where we feel this model offers the most support is with the width of the soles, which extend just beyond the upper of the shoe, with lugged and sticky rubber. The width provides excellent stability, especially on loose or uneven trails or when moving fast. This shoe can easily support you on tough terrain, as well as hikes where you are carrying a heavier pack.
The traction on the Ultra 110 GTX is quite good. The rubber sole is made from a North Face proprietary rubber called UltrATAC, and proved to be plenty sticky on wet logs, boulders, slabs, and most other surfaces we tested on. Additionally, the lugs are varied and deep, providing stability on loose surfaces. The sole extends beyond the width of the upper, as noted above, which provides extra stability as well as surface area for added grip.
The Ultra 110 GTX is a bit heavier than the average hiking shoe we tested. The sole is quite rugged, and the upper is taller than most, both adding some to the weight. We did note, however, that the claimed weight from the manufacturer is more than half an ounce lighter per shoe than the actual weight we measured. Not a huge discrepancy, but something worth noting for those hikers that count every ounce.
We found the Ultra 110 GTX to be fully waterproof in our 10-minute bucket test, as well as on rainy hikes. The 4" height on the upper is an added bonus to keep water from splashing in. The mesh does hold some water, making the shoe a bit heavier when wet, though not as much as many of the leather shoes in the test did.
Our experience with hiking shoes has shown us that they wear out first in the places that come into contact with rocks and bushes, which tends to be the toe box and the sides. We didn't see any durability issues with the Ultra 110 GTX in our testing period, but there is an obvious weak spot where the leather strip on the toe is only single-stitched. While the rest of the shoe is double-stitched and has some strategic overlays, the leather on the toe is subject to a lot of flexing, and the seams could benefit from after-market reinforcement.
Additionally, we have some reservations about the cord loop eyelets that are on the body of the shoe. We didn't experience any breakage or abrasion, but they appear a bit flimsy for such a rugged shoe.
This pair has a retail price similar to our Best Buy winner! As a solid performer in most metrics, this is a great value for such a high-quality hiking shoe.
The Ultra 110 GTX is a solid choice for your next hiking shoe. We were perplexed by the puffed-up look and the narrow toe box, but if you like the fit, it provides excellent support and traction at a good price.
— Laurel Hunter