Spring 2014 Running Shoe Buyer’s Guide

Photo: Scott Draper | Competitor

The North Face Ultra Smooth, $110

9.3 oz. (men’s); 7.7 oz. (women’s)

24mm (heel), 16mm (forefoot)

Fit: Built on a wider profile than many of the shoes in this review, this model fits snug in the heel but has more room at the midfoot and additional room in the toe box.

Feel: This shoe was designed with a super-light upper and a thick layer of moderately soft midsole foam. It’s not very agile or fast, but it is stable, secure and comfortable for long-haul running on a variety of surfaces.

Ride: The North Face has been making smooth-riding, smartly cushioned trail running shoes for ultrarunners for years. This is a similar incarnation, only with a smooth-surfaced outsole for paved surfaces and dirt roads rather than a grippy lug pattern for more technical trails. The result? It’s a workhorse mileage shoe that lives up to its name with a silky smooth heel-to-toe transition. “It’s ironic that it used to be the road shoe companies trying to make trail shoes,” one wear-tester said, “and now a trail brand has created a pretty nice road shoe.”

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