The North Face VECTIV Exploris Mid Boots: Tested
Drawing inspo from its VECTIV trail-running collection, The North Face VECTIV Exploris Mid brings innovative design to the realm of the lightweight hiker. Right out of the box, it’s comfy, puts up with a lot of wear and tear thanks to its hardy construction, and holds steady across a host of surfaces, including the slips and slides of a recent trek in the wilds of Bouddi National Park when yet another rain-bomb dumped its load. The rockered profile can feel odd when you first pull on these boots (I have a pair of the trail runners and full disclosure, am a fan of their forward propulsion, so knew what I was in for), but the boot impressed, handling everything the trail threw at it.
Weighing in at just 346 grams per shoe (women’s size 8) and with a slew of trail-running inspired features, The North Face VECTIV Exploris Mid is inarguably an ultra-modern take on a hiking boot. Slip your foot inside the shoe and the interior is plush with a nicely padded midsole, What makes it so? The hard-working OrthoLite footbed combined with a high-rebound, single-density EVA midsole (a man-made material that is considered foam). Together they make for a comfy and supportive stride and keep my feet safe from rocks, sticks and any spikey vegetation on the track. Also, the criss-cross and cross-ankle lacing system (aka Ghillie), padded tongue and mesh collar with moulded details hold my foot securely (I’m prone to an ankle roll, so this is something I always look for in a boot) without any pressure points.
For me, the boot’s most distinctive physical feature is its shape – it curves up at the toes. The idea and science behind this is to encourage a rolling, forward motion and in turn maximise and maintain energy transfer. And it works; I was just as fresh-footed at the 10km mark on my day’s hike as I was at the outset.
While comfort is always paramount on the trail, traction comes a close second and happily, it’s one of the VECTIV Exploris’ strengths. The Surface Control rubber outsoles bite into loose and rocky terrain and the 4mm lugs provided excellent grip or stickiness, even in the rocky and sandy conditions that we encountered in Bouddi NP. So much so that the boots were ideal when negotiating my sandy and sometimes sludgy rambling, from slippery rocks to boggy sand.
In the field
The North Face VECTIV Exploris Mid offers excellent protection from track hindrances and hurdles. The upper is made of soft nubuck-leather, which has proven time and again throughout testing to be exceptionally hardwearing, while the reinforced heels and toes offer an extra dose of protection on rocky trails. Over the course of our 15km hike, my feet felt snug, and both well supported and protected. While there’s a range of other lightweight hikers that trump the VECTIV in weight, I’d argue the added protection is worth the weight deficit.
I ordered my boots online, which can be a bit hit and miss (but I already owned the VECTIV trail runners) and am happy to report my women’s 8s are true to size. I have a dropping arch in my right foot, which if not supported around the 10km mark sends a shooting pain into my toes, but to date I’ve not had any trouble with this. I also like a bit of breathing space around my ankle (maybe this is why I’m prone to rolling them?) so leave the top hook on the laces undone. That said, the lacing system allows for a secure fit and, for me, there are no pressure points. There’s also been no rubbing with these boots, but to be fair, I do wear a pair of good-quality hiking socks.
The final word on The North Face VECTIV Exploris Mid
The VECTIV Exploris is exceptionally comfy and made for speedy hiking. I’ve spent just on four months testing out the boots, so I’d say it’s too early to draw any conclusions re long-term durability, but I’ve pushed them through mud and rain and rocks and sands and roads and countless kilometres, and all signs are that they’re holding up well. As mentioned earlier, the upper is made of soft-to-the-touch but hardy as nubuck leather, with beefed-up sections on the toe and heel for added protection, and a breathable-waterproof FUTURELIGHT membrane (and given all the rain we’ve had here in east coast Oz, I can report these boots are definitely watertight!). The lugs, too, are holding their own – there’s no obvious deterioration or uneven wear.
The overall performance of this boot, along with the expected durability, makes them appealing from both a practical viewpoint and a budgetary one, so if you’re in the market for a new set of hiking boots, the VECTIV Exploris Mid boots are worth a look.
Update: After months of what seems like endless rain, my boots are muddied and bloodied (thanks leeches) but still the best thing since sliced bread when I’m heading out for a hike. Probably time I gave them a bit of a spit and polish!
RRP: $340 See The North Face for more info and loads more gear!