I’ve often wondered about North Face. They’re one of those brands, aren’t they?
Much like Burberry ‘sold out’ (although to be fair they have bounced back), French Connection turned into FCUK and had their 15 minutes of fame. JD Sports stopped being a sports shop and now sells outfits to local muggers and hoodies*.
If a retailer loses it’s soul then it can lose its way. Take Puma for example. Once a renowned sports brand, they went down the fashion route and now even they can’t work out who they are. I thought Adidas might go down the same path but they seem to be hanging on. They’re still really a sports brand that’s dabbled a bit in fashion. Nike, well they do both. Really well. If ASICS ever design a pair of jeans or an aftershave then I’m hanging up my trainers!
So, North Face. Born from mountaineering, they’ve developed into a major brand over the last 10 years. Slight tweaks in design and some pretty bold colours have turned them into an acceptable fashion brand. Not to everyone. But certainly they’re credible on urban paths. They’ve brought out too many hoodies over the last few years and have dabbled in jeans and I just thought ‘oh no’. They’re going to sacrifice quality over quantity and take their eye off the ball.
Which is why I’m so pleased to be writing this review today. Working only 5 minutes from Covent Garden can be a real disadvantage when bored over a lunch time. It can damage my wallet whenever I walk into the Cotswold Outdoor Store. I love this retailer! My Inov8 trail trainers that have served me so well over many months are starting to show some wear and tear from all the twists and turns from British Military Fitness and the mud runs I do. So it was time to invest this week.
It was a toss up between a couple of pair of swanky Salomons but I’ve had these a few times (successfully) and thought it time for a change. And my eye was most definitely caught by The North Face Single Track Hayasa running shoes at Cotswold Outdoor.
My needs are this: must be capable of running through mud equally as well as on track. They must be robust and give me at least a year of hard pounding and twist and turning. They need to stand up to some rigorous British Military Fitness. They must be responsive under my feet, as I hate running in trainers which feel like clogs. Good feedback is, for some reason, a pleasure whilst running. They mustn’t cost the earth, they must look snappy and I must feel happy putting them on.
So I was interested to see how they’d get on during my Saturday morning run on a well hackneyed route of mine. This is the Thames towpath running from Putney, under Hammersmith Bridge and round through to Barnes. From there it’s back over the Thames at Barnes Bridge and back round to Hammersmith and through Fulham to home. It’s a good stretch of river full of ruddy faced rowers and nice couples walking their dogs and pushing their prams. It’s a good combination of paths and puddles and trail and tarmac. So an all round trail shoe or trainer is required. And boy did the Hayasa Trail Shoe deliver!
The size 11 fitted me perfectly and held my foot in snugly and securely. The lightweight nature meant less cushioning than I am used to (sitting here writing this I have been mentally checking myself out and am pleased to say no aches or pains!). And far from feeling compromised on the durability side due to the lightweight design, the shoe feels really well put together and the lacing system looks solid. This can be the first thing to go during high impact trail running.
The minimal cushioning is a ‘take’ on the barefoot craze that is currently gripping running and I was surprised how much I noticed myself running on my forefoot. And I ran faster. I thought about this as I pounded the pavement towards Putney bridge at the end of my run. By forefoot running I felt as if I was propelling myself forward. If you think about it, if you strike on your heel then effectively you are braking each time you take a stride. And heel striking feels like a ‘slappy’ running motion which I have a feeling might just put more impact on my knees and groin.
I didn’t time myself today, but I was convinced I ran faster than usual. It’s a 10 mile loop and I came back feeling fresh and fast. They are light and I felt this assisted in fighting fatigue. So I’m sitting here feeling pretty smug and pleased. I’m wrong on this account and maybe NorthFace haven’t sold out. I can’t attest much for their jackets and trousers, but they’ve delivered a seriously decent trail shoe in the Hayasa Trail Shoe. Now I just need to find a muddy path for this week whilst running to work!