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The North Face Ultra Kilowatt Review

April 07, 2014 2 min read

The North Face Ultra Kilowatt is a slick-looking shoe designed as part of The North Face's recent "Mountain Athletics" concept launch; in a nutshell a programming of ancillary workouts designed specifically for mountain athletes such as  trail runners, fastpackers, mountaineers, etc., to get better at what they do best, namely, pushing the edge of human endurance and exploration in the outdoors. And, of course, The North Face created a whole arsenal of footwear and apparel to enhance the training and performing experience. The North Face Ultra Kilowatt is one such resultant creation.

It is not being marketed as a running shoe, more a cross-trainer; however I have found that, if you are comfortable with or prefer minimal footwear for off-pavement running, then you will probably dig logging miles in the North Face Ultra Kilowatt. I certainly have. They were an enjoyable ride on a 14-miler that mixed up groomed dirt roads and technical singletrack with some steeps ups and downs in between cruiser terrain.

I'm not sure what the drop is but these shoes are very lightweight (9.6oz) and nimble with a thin sole that allows for substantial ground-feel and a need to choose your footfalls wisely. I found the shoe very comfortable with a snug, secure heel cup, a glove-like midfoot wrap and a roomy toebox boasting an expanded protective rubber toecap reminiscent of a climbing shoe's rand, which is as good a lead-in as any to where I feel this shoe can excel beyond the cross-training circuit: run 'n' bagging.

What is run 'n' bagging, you ask? It is a combination of trail running and the scrambling/3rd class-type climbing involved with summiting many of the peaks in the Sierra, and other mountain ranges. Mt Aggasiz, a sexy peak southwest of Bishop, CA straining to reach that 14000' mark, is a perfect example. Five and a half miles of technical singletrack running to Bishop Pass followed by 2000' vert of granite talus-hopping to the spectacular summit views. An annual Sierra outing for me and one I can't wait to test the Kilowatts out on this summer. I believe this is where the North Face Ultra Kilowatt will excel.

One cool feature of the shoe is the use of a Pebax plate and cradle system that enhances energy return and, better yet, is a material that does not vary in stiffness/softness with changing temperatures, assuring a similar feel underfoot regardless of the trail and weather conditions.

The North Face is still a relative newcomer to the trail running/cross-training shoe market but their shoes just keep improving, hopefully just as your running and fitness levels are. Although I wouldn't want it to be my only or go-to trail running shoe (and, as I mentioned earlier, it is not being promoted as such), the North Face Ultra Kilowatt is definitely worth checking out. As a bonus, it pairs well with jeans while hitting up happy hour for a cold one après-run.  #ultrakilowatt

Men's and Women's TNF Ultra Kilowatt arial view
Men's and Women's TNF Ultra Kilowatt profile view
Men's and Women's TNF Ultra Kilowatt soles

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