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The North Face Ampezzo Review

A simple, no frills shoe that is comfortable but expensive.
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Price:  $130 List
Pros:  Very comfortable fit, underfoot foam is also supportive and comfortable
Cons:  Pricey, a bit heavy, not super protective or super sensitive
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 1, 2019
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#21 of 25
  • Foot protection - 30% 6
  • Traction - 20% 6
  • Stability - 15% 6
  • Comfort - 15% 9
  • Weight - 10% 5
  • Sensitivity - 10% 6

Our Verdict

Newly released for 2019, The North Face Ampezzo is a comfortable, well-cushioned trail running shoe that makes for a good crossover option between road and trails. Featuring TNF's ExtraFoam midsole, this is a shoe that provides deep, squishy foam padding underfoot without a hint of the stiff firmness creeping back into the trail running shoe market. Its 6mm heel-toe drop provides a happy medium between low to the ground stability while still offering the heel striking protection that many runners need. This shoe is the definition of no-frills, and while we do find its upper to be very comfortable, the rest of the shoe is pretty average compared to the competition, with little remarkable attributes to justify the price tag.


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Price $130 List$179.95 at Backcountry
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Star Rating
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Pros Very comfortable fit, underfoot foam is also supportive and comfortableVery protective midsole and upper, sock-like fit, grippy traction, lighter than previous versionPrecise fit, very grippy on rock, comfortable upper effectively keeps out debrisIncredible protection for a zero drop shoe, comfortable, sensitive, extremely durable and sticky tractionGreat traction on soft slippery surfaces, extremely comfortable, no increase in price
Cons Pricey, a bit heavy, not super protective or super sensitiveExpensive, durability concernsNarrower than average, a bit pricey, not the lightestExpensive, absorbs water easilyMidsole foam compresses out over time, easily collects rocks and debris
Bottom Line A simple, no frills shoe that is comfortable but expensive.The shoe that best balances foot protection and sensitivity, all while providing an incredibly fine-tuned fit.A well-rounded shoe offering high performance for short or long distances.One of our favorite shoes that is notable both for its zero drop platform and the excellent traction.Our Best Bang for the Buck winner for great comfort and traction with a price lower than the other top scorers.
Rating Categories The North Face Ampezzo Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 La Sportiva Kaptiva Inov-8 Terraultra G 260 Saucony Peregrine ISO
Foot Protection (30%)
10
0
6
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
5
Traction (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
Stability (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
Comfort (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
10
Weight (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
5
Sensitivity (10%)
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
8
Specs The North Face... Salomon S/Lab... La Sportiva Kaptiva Inov-8 Terraultra... Saucony Peregrine...
Weight (per pair, size 11) 23.5 oz. 22.7 oz. 22.3 oz. 20.9 oz. 23.1 oz.
Heel-to-Toe Drop 6 mm 8 mm 6 mm 0 mm 4 mm
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 20 mm, 14 mm 26 mm, 18 mm 17 mm, 11 mm 17 mm, 17 mm 22.5 mm, 18.5mm
Upper Mesh Mesh Sock-Like knit Kevlar, mesh IsoFit
Midsole XtraFoam Compressed EVA Duel-density EV EXTERFLOW PWRFOAM, Everun
Outsole ETS Premium Wet Traction Contagrip FriXion XF 2.0 Graphene Grip PWRTRAC
Lacing style Traditional Kevlar Quicklace Traditional Traditional Traditional
Wide version available? No No No No Yes
Sizes Available 7 - 14 4 - 13 38 - 47.5 4-15 8 - 14

Our Analysis and Test Results

Representing the upper end of The North Face's newly released trail running shoe line, the Ampezzo is a bit disappointing in its exceedingly simple design and execution. While we can't argue with its comfort, we can't help noticing that the upper is very simple mesh with a few TPU-film overlays, the midsole is a simple single layer of fat EVA foam, and the outsole offers among the least aggressive traction for multiple surfaces of any that we tested for this review.

Perhaps it reveals an inherent bias, but the $130 price tag (other shoes in the same line retail for $120 and $90) sets us up to expect a bit more. More rugged traction, a more comprehensive lacing system for locking our foot in place, and more protection from the midsole. Frankly, this shoe provides none of the things the other $130 shoes in this review do, and so it simply feels like a poor value. With a $90 price tag, we would be writing in all CAPS about how comfortable it is, but instead, we feel slightly short-changed.

Performance Comparison


The North Face Ampezzo are a simply designed trail running shoe that are very comfortable to wear  but do not offer the same amount of traction or snug  stable fit that many others we have reviewed do.
The North Face Ampezzo are a simply designed trail running shoe that are very comfortable to wear, but do not offer the same amount of traction or snug, stable fit that many others we have reviewed do.

Foot Protection


The Ampezzo feels slightly more protective underfoot than the very sensitive Saucony Peregrine ISO. The midsole is a single density EVA foam that tends toward the squishy side, rather than the firmer dual-density EVA compounds that provide more rock protection, like what is found in the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 or the Nike Terra Kiger 5. With a 6mm heel-toe drop, there is quite a bit more cushioning under the heel than the forefoot.

The protection on this shoe comes in the form of an extra thick layer of midsole foam  shown here in white  and the TPU film overlays that cover the lightweight mesh upper.
The protection on this shoe comes in the form of an extra thick layer of midsole foam, shown here in white, and the TPU film overlays that cover the lightweight mesh upper.

The trade-off between underfoot protection and sensitivity feels well balanced with this shoe, but neither is very exceptional; adequate protection and also sufficient sensitivity. In terms of the upper, there is little to no toe bumper except for an extra layer of film overlaid, and similarly, thin film overlays much of the mesh for a slight bump in durability, but no structure that will work to protect the foot itself.

The midsole of this shoe is made up of lightweight EVA foam  which does a pretty good job of absorbing running's repetitive impacts  but doesn't do a super great job of protecting the foot from sharp protrusions  like the pointy ends of these rocks.
The midsole of this shoe is made up of lightweight EVA foam, which does a pretty good job of absorbing running's repetitive impacts, but doesn't do a super great job of protecting the foot from sharp protrusions, like the pointy ends of these rocks.

Traction


The outsole of this shoe uses a TNF proprietary rubber compound that they call EXTS, which we found to be reasonably sticky on dry and wet rock. The lugs cover the entire bottom of the shoe and are star-shaped, but are among the shortest in this review, around 2-3mm deep. While the shortness of these lugs should prevent them from being ripped off too easily, it also prevents them from digging into slippery and loose surfaces as well as the most aggressively lugged shoes such as the Salomon Speedcross 5 or the Hoka Speedgoat 3.

The traction on this shoe is less aggressive than on many others we have tested  but grips pretty well on smoother dirt trails like this one in the Oregon Cascades near Bend.
The traction on this shoe is less aggressive than on many others we have tested, but grips pretty well on smoother dirt trails like this one in the Oregon Cascades near Bend.

Stability


The Ampezzo is a reasonably stable shoe. It feels slightly high off the ground, despite the advertised 20mm heel / 14mm toes stack height, which is on the lower end compared to the competition. We suspect that companies measure and report these stack height numbers differently because this doesn't represent our experience accurately. The heel feels noticeably higher off the ground than the toes. This shoe feels a bit loose and doesn't lock down the arch and midfoot area as well as a shoe like the La Sportiva Kaptiva. The net effect is that we didn't feel likely to roll an ankle or slip because of the fit, but at the same time would feel more comfortable in this shoe on smoother, more predictable trails, rather than on steep technical descents.

With a 6mm heel-toe drop and a good chunk of foam underfoot  these shoes are not the most stable that we tested  although they are more than stable for running on smoother trails such as this one next to the Deschutes River in Oregon.
With a 6mm heel-toe drop and a good chunk of foam underfoot, these shoes are not the most stable that we tested, although they are more than stable for running on smoother trails such as this one next to the Deschutes River in Oregon.

Comfort


Straight out of the box and onto the foot, the most noticeably positive attribute of this shoe is how comfortable it is. The construction of the inside of the upper is top-notch, and there are no seams or loose pieces of fabric to rub or chafe. It is well cushioned, but not overly so, around the ankle opening, over the heel, and on the tongue. We feel that the shoe fits true to size, and while there are complaints online about it fitting too narrow, we would simply call it low volume rather than narrow. It is less narrow than the Sportiva Kaptiva, Hoka Challenger ATR 5, or Speedgoat 3, with a similarly low volume fit to the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2. The largely mesh upper is soft and pliable and doesn't squeeze the foot in any way. Truly, this is among the most comfortable shoes we have worn this year, which says a lot.

This is a very comfortable shoe! The inside of the inner is virtually seamless  as you can see here  so there is nothing to rub or chafe your foot. Additionally  the foam cushioning and padding around the ankle opening and on the tongue is so plushly comfortable that it is hard not to immediately love wearing these shoes.
This is a very comfortable shoe! The inside of the inner is virtually seamless, as you can see here, so there is nothing to rub or chafe your foot. Additionally, the foam cushioning and padding around the ankle opening and on the tongue is so plushly comfortable that it is hard not to immediately love wearing these shoes.

Weight


Our pair of men's size 11 US shoes weighed 23.5 ounces on our independent scale; this puts them among the heaviest shoes in this review, which is a bit puzzling considering they don't have a rockplate, higher density midsole foam, oversized outsole, or protective plastic overlays on the upper. Some of the shoes that weigh around the same amount, like the Scarpa Spin Ultra, have all of these added features. Others have all these features and are lighter, like the Nike Wildhorse 5.

These shoes are actually surprisingly heavy considering the do not include any of the features that we typically associate with added weight such as a rock plate  toe bumper  or heavy duty protection for the upper.
These shoes are actually surprisingly heavy considering the do not include any of the features that we typically associate with added weight such as a rock plate, toe bumper, or heavy duty protection for the upper.

Sensitivity


The trail feel of this shoe is about what you would expect from a squishy EVA foam midsole. While the foam does a good job of dampening the repetitive impacts from running, it also allows a lot of the sensation from the trail, and especially rocks, to penetrate to the foot. In this way, it provides a nice balance with foot protection but is also a bit under-protective if running on rocks is one of your common pastimes.

The foam cushioning underfoot allows a lot of sensation to make its way through to the foot  ensuring that these shoes are very sensitive  as we are testing here by hopping through talus fields.
The foam cushioning underfoot allows a lot of sensation to make its way through to the foot, ensuring that these shoes are very sensitive, as we are testing here by hopping through talus fields.

Best Applications


We enjoy these shoes best for mellower trails, and they also make a good choice for crossover runs that take place partially on trails and partially on roads. We think they are a good dirt road running shoe, and while they can hold their own on rougher trails or off trail, they wouldn't be our first choice for these purposes.

The Ampezzo honestly feel more like a road running shoe than a trail runner  with a fit and feature set that far more closely matches road running shoes than your typical trail runner. For that reason we find it to be very comfortable for smoother trails and cross over terrain  but not our first choice for super technical terrain.
The Ampezzo honestly feel more like a road running shoe than a trail runner, with a fit and feature set that far more closely matches road running shoes than your typical trail runner. For that reason we find it to be very comfortable for smoother trails and cross over terrain, but not our first choice for super technical terrain.

Value


The Ampezzo retail for $130, which we don't think is an outstanding value. We simply don't see the material choices or designs, let alone performance, that warrants this shoe retailing for top dollar. For us, it feels like a good value for a $90 shoe, so keep an eye out for sales or closeouts.

Conclusion


The North Face seems to be fazing out their Ultra series of trail running shoes which have been around for several years and, at least according to us, were quite solid trail running shoes. They have replaced them with a new line led by the flagship Ampezzo, which underwhelms. While it is comfortable, this shoe seems far more similar to what we would expect of a road running shoe and doesn't compare favorably to the performance of the top trail running shoes on the market.

Running on the Cole Loop trail in central Oregon  a pretty trail which circumnavigates Grey Butte in the distance  while wearing the North Face Ampezzo.
Running on the Cole Loop trail in central Oregon, a pretty trail which circumnavigates Grey Butte in the distance, while wearing the North Face Ampezzo.


Andy Wellman