The North Face Flight RKT is the best all around shoe tested this season. It is light, responsive, fast and very comfortable. Unless you are looking for a technical mountain shoe, you will be hard pressed to find a better shoe than this.
This shoe was very impressive. Everyone who tested it voted it as their favorite shoe. With its engineered knit upper, flexible midsole and cushioned ride the Flight RKT is incredibly comfortable. The upper breathes really well, and is roomy and flexible. With its engineered upper and synthetic overlays it is also has a very secure fit that holds your foot regardless of the terrain. The biggest complaint was the fact that tongue is not gusseted. It is very comfortable and doesn’t slide while running but can be a little annoying while putting the shoe on.
The grip is also excellent. Even though the tread is more designed for hard packed, buttery single track it is surprisingly adept on technical, rocky terrain. Even in the snow it performed really well, which is surprising considering the shallow depth of the lugs and the exposed midsole. The lugs are chevron shaped and in a random pattern and placed only in the areas where grip is needed, the heel, forefoot and toes. The rubber is pretty soft and after some decent road miles there was already noticeable wear.
The midsole is really where this shoe shined and what really set it apart from everything else. It was one of the lightest shoes tested and was also one of the fastest. It managed to be light, fast and comfortable even for long runs over 20 miles. The Flight RKT’s “Fast Foam” strikes the right level of firmness so that you get some spring back on toe off, it provides moderate underfoot protection, but also manages to still be flexible. It also seems to be very durable, more so than the rubber outsole.
The Flight RKT was the most comfortable shoe tested. The engineered knit upper is silky smooth. It is very breathable, flexible and has plenty room in the toe box. The flexible overlays hold your foot securely without being overly tight. The Fast Foam midsole was honestly almost perfect. It is light, responsive, cushioned and flexible. This is a huge step forward for The North Face and with a few minor tweaks, this shoe could be on of the best period. The only thing keeping it from getting a 10 here is the tongue and laces. The tongue is lightweight and comfortable with enough padding, but it is only attached to the shoe at the bottom which allows it to move around a little bit and flops around when it is not tied and when putting it on. The laces are fine, but some testers reported them coming untied while running.
Similar in a lot of ways to Columbia Montrails FluidFlex F.K.T. II shoe, this shoe is fast but not in the traditional sense. The Flight RTK is a very fast shoe, over long distances. Having been designed in part by Rob Krar, you can tell this shoe is meant to go far and fast on nontechnical and runnable courses. For distances from the marathon to 100 miles, this is the only shoe tested in this category that can do it all.
Security of Fit
The Flight RKT is not the most secure fitting shoe in this group, but it isn’t trying to be either. As said before, this is a long distance shoe and so The North Face has opted for a little more room up front and a more flexible upper that moves with your foot. The midfoot still fits snuggly thanks to the overlays, but the heel can fit a little loosely which will accommodate people with a wider foot.
Along the same thread as the other categories, the Flight RKT is meant as an all around fast long distance race shoe. Since it was not designed as a true speed shoe or mountain shoe, it is not exceptionally agile. It certainly holds it own and with its surprising grip is able to handle tough terrain and is good when bouncing over the top of rocks. With its flexible upper and shallow tread don’t expect it to really bite on sharp cuts or on soft sandy terrain.
Similar to the speed category, the midsole really shines here. It gives a surprising amount of response while being very well cushioned. Springy is the word some testers used to describe how responsive it is. Because of the balance that it strikes between firmness and flexibility, you find yourself having to work less while getting a lot out of each step.
Underfoot, the protection provided from the midsole is adequate to protect against most rocks. But because there is no rock plate and not very much rubber, you will feel sharp rocks. But again, the Flight RKT is not designed as a technical mountain shoe. The upper provides little to no protection due to its thin design and a toe bumper is not existent. So be careful on rocky and sharp trails.
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HOW WE TESTED
Out testing spans the course of several months. Our testers spend a few weeks running at least 50 miles (typically much more) in each shoe. They live all over the country so each shoe can be put through our testing protocol in a variety of terrains and conditions. Each tester is encouraged—to the best of their ability—to test the shoes in as many different terrain environments as possible: in the mountains, on dirt roads, buffed single track, technical terrain, etc. In addition to varying terrain, our testers have to test each shoe at different efforts including a long run, easy running and fast running. As mentioned above we test for six different criteria: comfort, speed, security of fit, agility, responsiveness and protection.