In 2012 I had the pleasure of reporting from The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc following The North Face athlete Jez Bragg around the course as he attempted to repeat his 2010 win. (Link to blog). In 2013 I'll be back but to attempt the CCC, a shorter version of the main event featuring a 100km route from Courmayer to Chamonix via Champex with 5950m of ascent
Monday, 18 March 2013
The North Face Hyper-Track Guide Running Shoe
Jez Bragg recently completed a wee run wearing a pair of these shoes. His awe inspiring Te Araroa trail run covered 3054km along the length of New Zealand in 53 days. A pretty impressive resume for this new trail shoe from The North Face.
I’ve had a pair for around 8 months and have been very impressed with the fit and comfort provided by what is a very lightweight shoe. I’ve moved through a number of brands as my feet have changed over the years. From Salamon to La Sportiva and now to The North Face. More running and less rock climbing in the last few years have meant my feet have spread and are now pretty broad across the forefoot. Many trail and fell shoes are designed on a narrow last and I always split or damage fell shoes where the upper joins the sole by my big toe joint. The H-T Guides fit my very British mountaineers foot incredibly well and I’ve never had any issues with blisters or pressure points. The forefoot is very wide but the upper controls the foot very well and it doesn’t roll off the sole unit even during traverses.
My running style is also moving towards a natural or barefoot style as a way of protecting my knees. Figured it was easier to change my biomechanics than lose weight! The H-T Guide has a small 8mm heel raise and a low profile sole so makes an ideal half way shoe. The low ankle cuff initially felt insecure but has now moulded to a perfect fit.
The shoes only failing is the grip. For dry trails and rock it works perfectly but for UK conditions any depth of mud will create a good Bambi impression. I’ve experimented with it on the fells but took a couple of heavy falls on wet grass. Interestingly Jez used this shoe in the bad weather and snow of the 2012 UTMB and didn’t report any issues.
Because of the grip issue I haven’t taken them anywhere too demanding but with around 400 miles run, mainly off road, they’re bearing up very well for a lightweight shoe. They’re no sign of any damage to the uppers and the sole are wearing well. The North Face suggest these shoes are suitable for road running as well and I’ve seen nothing that would contradict this. However the question has to be asked - why would you want to run on the road?!
For trails and footpaths in dry conditions the Hyper-Track Guide is almost unbeatable giving a very responsive and highly agile ride. A bit more care is needed in typical UK conditions but it still has its place and is currently my favoured shoe for training and racing.