The North Face has spent considerable time re-tooling their shoe line in recent years — particularly their trail running line. This year, the Ultra MT comes into the fold as a low-slung trail runner. It’s become a favorite of their athletes and has been good overall in my testing.

The North Face Ultra MT Features:

  • Grippy Vibram Megagrip outsole with 8mm drop
  • Neutral last
  • Nylon ripstop mesh forefoot
  • FlashDry collar lining
  • 8mm heel/toe drop
  • Two piece midsole and ESS in forefoot to distribute impact and add protection
  • Price: $130
These have gotten plenty muddy recently.

These have gotten plenty muddy recently.

Ultra MT’s have serious traction on tap

It goes without saying that one main difference between road and trail running shoes is traction. Road shoes need just enough to optimize each step without getting in the way while trail running shoes often flirt with too much traction in an effort to optimize forward motion under all conditions. As such, the Ultra MT’s utilize a Vibram Megagrip outsole with v-shaped lugs that dig into the trail for solid uphill and downhill traction.

Over the course of my tests, I’ve had gobs of traction everywhere but loose, rocky terrain — but that gives almost any shoe fits. In short, these pass the traction test. It’s early-spring and the trails are soft and forgiving. I’ll venture to say that soft, loamy trails are exactly what the Ultra MT’s are built for and boy do they feel sure-footed.

Built on a low-profile last, the Ultra MT’s provide a close-to-dirt feel that’s perfect for demanding runners, but not so minimalist to be uncomfortable for the rest of us. I will say that the forefoot protection is on the minimal side as you’ll notice most of the sharp, pointy rocks you step on. Long runs on particularly rocky terrain may require some “get to know you” time. But, young, able-bodied runners will appreciate the nimble feel of these shoes.

Gobs of traction on smooth, soft terrain.

Gobs of traction on smooth, soft terrain.

Part of that nimbleness comes from the narrow last that keeps these shoes from being bogged down with too much shoe underfoot. I feel like I can dance from step-to-step without any hinderance from the shoe. The low-to-trail feel adds to the stability of these shoes, but on handpicked trails I did feel like a little bit of cushioning or a slight outsole rocker would have aided both comfort and enhanced the natural stride of these shoes.

As far as weather protection goes, the Ultra MT’s are built with a ripstop nylon upper that does keep the elements at bay somewhat better than a traditional mesh shoe. That said, there is neither DWR treatment nor a waterproof laminate in these shoes. Once water soaks in, it will make its way to your feet. Again, these do perform better than traditional mesh. On the flip side, these do breathe well, but do get a little toasty as the temps approach 80-degrees. The built-in scree guard keeps stuff out and the attached minimalist tongue stays in place nicely.

Coming from shoes with a more generous toe box (Altra, Topo, Pearl Izumi), these took a little bit of getting used to. My first run resulted in blisters between a couple of toes. After that, I decided to run exclusively in Injinji socks. With each toe individually-wrapped, I no longer had these issues and really felt OK with the fit. Again, wide feet need not even bother, but if you have regular or narrow feet, you’ll be fine.

Note: I’d say these run true-to-size. I wore a size 11 and that offered a perfect running fit for me.

The Good

  • Low-profile treads yield excellent trail feel
  • Good stability
  • Nice scree guard that works
  • Treads hook up well and shed mud easily
  • Unique asymmetrical tongue
  • Ribbed laces stay tied

The Bad

  • Very narrow toebox
  • Trail only (lugs feel like Velcro on pavement)
  • Not recommended for hot weather

The Bottom Line: The North Face Ultra MT

The North Face athletes are doing some crazy stuff these days and the Ultra MT’s are going along for the ride. Uptempo trail running and technical adventures are just what these shoes are made for. With gobs of traction and excellent trail feel, you’ll easily stay in touch with Mother Earth on your next trail run.

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In Summary

8.2 Traction Galore

The North Face Ultra MT's offer more traction than you can shake a stick at and are a great shoe for soft trails. I've appreciated the built-in nimbleness and trail feel.

  • Traction 10
  • Fit 8
  • Trail Feel 8
  • Protection 8
  • Cushioning 7

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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