The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Hiking Boots Review

Long gone are the days when hiking boots were strictly defined as cumbersome, hot and heavy. Now, you can find lightweight hiking boots that are breaking down the barriers between shoes and boots. And a boot that is currently dominating the lightweight market is The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight boot.

I have searched far and wide to find a hiking boot that would provide the same breathability and freedom as a hiking shoe, yet offer increased support and stability to enable me to comfortably carry an 18kg + backpack for multiple days on rough and rugged trails. Then finally, I found The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid and from the moment I slid my feet into the lightweight hiking boots, I knew it would be the beginning of a long and wonderful friendship.

In this post, you will find my honest and detailed review of The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight boots after spending a month hiking through rugged and soggy terrain on New Zealand’s South Island.

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Boots covered in mud while hiking in a forest

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My Honest Review Of The North Face Exploris Mid Futurelight Hiking Boots

Quick Info

Price: $320AUD
Upper Material: Synthetic cordura ripstop mesh
Waterproofing: Yes – Futurelight
Weight: 416g (per shoe)
Width: Regular
Colours: Black, olive/black
Sustainability:
5% recycled rubber content
Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty
Activity: Day hikes, overnight hikes
Alternatives: TNF Vectiv Exploris 2 Mid Futurelight Leather, TNF Vectiv Exploris 2 Futurelight Boot

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Boots

Positives:

  • Extremely comfortable straight out of the box with no wear-in time needed
  • Highly breathable and dry super quickly
  • Supportive for a moderately heavy pack over technical terrain
  • Highly grippy outsole on a wide range of terrain

Negatives:

  • Not as waterproof as suggested
  • Not as durable as a heavier hiking boot – some wear on the rubber after a month of heavy use

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight boots are a lightweight hiking boot designed to keep you nimble and stable as you tackle long and technical trails. Their ultra-breathable upper, over-the-ankle height and stable single-density 3D TPU plate allow you to have the best of both worlds without much sacrifice.

Aside from the waterproofing, the TNF Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight boots have passed my intense testing with exceptional results that even exceeded my expectations. The boots kept my feet uber comfortable and breathing happily and the only noticeable wear after a month of heavy use is a few scrapes on the rubber rand, but we’ll dive into that later on.

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Who Are The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Hiking Boots For?

Admiring the beautiful view of Aoraki Mt Cook from the Mueller Hut Route

If your feet are prone to sweating even when the mercury dips into single digits, then you are going to love The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight hiking boots. The ultra-breathable design allows for exceptional breathability without sacrificing stability and protection.

Of course, they won’t provide quite the same level of stability and protection compared to a burlier hiking boot, which is to be expected from a lightweight design. Still, you’ll be surprised just how supported you’ll feel in these boots – not to mention comfortable!

Size and Fit

Hiking on the exposed ridge of Liverpool Hut Hike in New Zealand

Unlike many other shoes I’ve tried on recently and purchased, the TNF Vectiv Exploris boots were perfectly true to size. I am usually a size US men’s 9 and have regular to wide feet with high arches and the size US 9 fit like a glove. I have read a few reviews stating the boots weren’t wide enough but personally, this was not my experience.

Weight

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight boots weigh 832 g for a pair which puts them in the lightweight category – narrowly missing out on the ultra-lightweight status. Their innovative design allows them to feel nimble and light while continuing to provide stability and support.

Even after several kilometres of walking at a pace of 12 minutes per km with a day pack, I continued to feel fresh and light. This would not have been the case with my previous boots, which often forced me to slow down after I hit 10 km.

Comfort

This is where the TNF Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight boots excel and blow the competition out of the water. The high rebound, single-density EVA foam midsole provides a comfort level that is unmatched and allows my feet to stay pain-free even after 15 km + of hiking with a moderately heavy pack.

I did feel a pressure point on the top of both my feet which lasted for the first three days of hiking, after which it was gone completely. That said, I didn’t wear these boots in and my first three days in the Vectiv Exploris boots consisted of hiking the Mueller Hut Route, Liverpool Hut and French Ridge Hut – a total of 52 km and 3,344 m of elevation!

The pressure points weren’t severe enough to even worry about and I believe that if you begin with a few smaller walks to loosen the upper material, this will not be an issue.

Breathability

Hiking to French Ridge Hut at sunset in The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Boots

The Futurelight technology included in the construction of the synthetic upper allows for exceptional breathability that has yet to be matched by any other waterproof membrane. The membrane boasts a 70k breathability rating, which I was quite sceptical about until testing it for myself – the closest competition has a 30k breathability rating.

Usually after a day of hiking in any temperature, I’ll pull my boots off to find sweaty socks and skin falling away from my heels (gross, I know) but with the Vectiv Exploris boots, I was happily surprised when my feet were intact and only a small amount of moisture was present after a full day of hiking.

However, with such high breathability, I don’t believe that these hiking boots will be suitable in freezing conditions. My feet were quite cold when we encountered snow at Liverpool Hut and the temperature sat at approximately 0℃. The leather version of the Vectiv Exploris Mid would be much better suited to this environment.

Waterproofing

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Boots in nthe rain

There is always a sacrifice that must be made between breathability and waterproofness and in the TNF Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight boots, the waterproofing is slightly lacking.

While they’re sufficiently waterproof when walking through wet grass or in light rain, once they’re submerged to the height of the tongue, water begins to seep through. This is due to the fact that the tongue is made from a more breathable material compared to the main body of the boot – but this seems to have been rectified in the Vectiv Exploris 2.

Honestly, this didn’t hinder me as much as I had expected because of the incredible drying time of the Vectiv Exploris boots. Even when we were hiking through countless streams in single-digit temperatures and left the boots outside overnight, they were bone dry in the morning.

Plus, even when they were wet I was spared from any blisters forming and continued to feel comfortable until they dried.

Stability

Generally, stability is another sacrifice that must be made in order to gain a lightweight and nimble hiking boot. And if you’re accustomed to a high-ankled rigid boot, you will notice a great difference in the Vectiv Exploris. On the flip side, if you’re transitioning from trail runners or low-cut hiking shoes, you will feel a step up in stability due to the stiffer heel and innovative 3D Vectiv plate.

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Boots

The 3D TPU Vectiv plate and rocker midsole enable a more responsive and energy-returning ride, however, this can also make you feel slightly unbalanced when you travel across uneven terrain such as boulder fields.

Personally, this didn’t affect me in the slightest and I felt perfectly planted even with a 20kg pack, but it’s a component that we recommend getting used to before hitting the technical trails.

Support

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Boots on and uneven rocky trail

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight boots provide a surprising amount of support underfoot, even with a pack weighing upward of 15kg. The highly cushioned yet stiff midsole prevented any feeling from sharp rocks and kept my feet pain-free on moderately technical multi-day hikes.

In regards to ankle support, the Vectiv Exploris loses a few points. The height of the collar is shorter than the average mid-height boot which hinders the amount of protection you’ll feel around your ankles. That said, I didn’t feel vulnerable to ankle rolls at any time, though if you have weaker ankles and are used to a stiff hiking boot then this could be a different story.

Traction

Impressive grip of The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Boots

It’s not an easy feat to create an outsole that can provide exceptional grip on a wide variety of terrains but The North Face has done an incredible job with the SurfaceCTRL. I simply can’t fault the traction in any way, I felt incredibly secure in a range of circumstances from slippery logs to moss-covered rocks and even muddy descents.

The North Face Vectiv Exploris will be my go-to for trails where confidence-inspiring grip and speed are paramount.

Durability

Climbing up a steep and rough trail in The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Boots

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid hiking boots have been built to withstand a fair amount of abuse. On top of a durable abrasion-resistant upper, they also feature a tough toe cap, a thick heel overlay and a wrap-around rand.

After a month of scraping past spiky branches, wedging the boots in-between rough rocks and basically abusing the poor boots, there are only a few minor scuffs to show for it. These scuffs are predominantly on the exposed rubber midsole and have no effect on the waterproofness of the boot.

The longevity of the Exploris boots is yet to be determined, and there is a slight worry that the glue holding the rand to the upper will fail, but I believe that the overall boot will withstand a great deal before giving up on me.

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Features

Lace Design

The TNF Vectiv Exploris Mid boots have a durable ghillie lacing system with two eyelets at the collar – the bottom one closed and the top one open. I found this lacing system easy to manipulate to provide the perfect tightness around my entire foot and never had to stop to re-tighten.

The only thing that the lacing system lacks is a quick release, requiring you to loosen every section before pulling your foot free. But this handy feature is often reserved for mid to heavy-weight hiking boots.

Tongue

The Vectiv Exploris boots feature a thick gusseted tongue, meaning it is connected to the main upper material to prevent debris and water from entering the shoe. I had no issues with debris entering, however, the tongue did seem to be the reason for the lack of waterproofness.

Toe Protection

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Boots in the snow

Often toe protection is one of the main things that lightweight hiking boots sacrifice in order to keep the weight down, but the Vectiv Exploris boots have included a durable toe cap and wrap-around rand to protect from rock strikes.

Personally, I wouldn’t purchase a hiking boot without a toe cap as it not only provides extra protection but also increases the durability of the shoe.

Padded Ankle Collar

The collar of the TNF Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight boot sits directly on the ankles. This could be irritating for some, but the collar is soft and padded and I felt no pressure points around the ankles – only at the top of my foot while I was wearing the boots in.

Insole

Often it’s recommended to change out the insole of your hiking boots as they’re generally a basic model that doesn’t provide much support. However, The North Face have included the Ortholite X55 insole into the Vectiv Exploris which provided all-day comfort and support

Personally, I love this insole and won’t be swapping it out but if you’re in search of extra arch support we suggest purchasing an orthotic insole like the Superfeet Green.

Hiking in the snow towards the giant glaciers found in Mt Aspiring National Park

Sustainability

Unfortunately, it’s still extremely difficult to find sustainably made hiking boots that provide enough durability and longevity to withstand the demands of the trail. And that’s no different for the TNF Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight hiking boots.

The only sustainable part of these boots is the insole which includes 5% recycled rubber content. I hope to see a sustainably made boot by The North Face in the future, but for now, the main concern is longevity to prevent increased waste and I have high hopes that I will be wearing the TNF Vectiv Exploris boots for a couple of years at least.

Value

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight hiking boots are competitively priced compared to the competition, costing slightly less than the Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX boots and slightly more than the Altra Lone Peak All Weather Mid boots.

I would be happy to pay this price again for the TNF Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight boots due to their exceptional breathability and uncompromising support.

My Experience With The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Hiking Boots

Hiking in the snow at Key Summit in The North Face Vectic Exploris Mid Futurelight Boots

Why I Chose The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight Boots

The reason why I chose The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight boots ultimately came down to their lightweight design and breathability claims.

I was in search of a boot that felt as close to a shoe as possible without sacrificing support for rough terrain. And one that would not cause my feet to sweat while out on the trail. 

How They Perform

After a month of backpacking through New Zealand’s South Island, I am pleased to report that the TNF Vectiv Exploris boots exceeded my expectations and stayed true to their claims.

These boots ticked all the boxes of requirements that I had and passed with flying colours in almost every field – with a notable mention for the breathability and support on rough terrain.

Where Do I Wear My TNF Vectiv Exploris Mid Boots?

The North Face Exploris Mid Futurelight hiking boots are my go-to for almost every application. I took them on every hike from multi-day treks with a heavy pack to long and technical day hikes. In addition, they’re comfortable and stylish enough to wear as everyday shoes for travel.

The only place I wouldn’t recommend wearing these shoes is hiking in snowy conditions and the depths of a cold winter as the waterproofness and warmth will not be sufficient enough.

Final Thoughts

The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight hiking boots have become my favourite pair of shoes for almost every hiking trip. They provide exceptional comfort and allow my feet to breathe even after a long day in the alpine heat.

I would highly recommend these boots to any adventurers searching for a highly breathable and capable pair of hiking boots to take on a range of trails. But one thing to note is, while I feel comfortable wearing these with a heavy pack, this may not be the case for everyone as there is no denying that they don’t offer the same support and stability as a mid to heavy-weight hiking boot.

Have you tested the TNF Vectiv Exploris Mid boots? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And as always, please feel free to ask me any questions you may have on these boots and I will do my best to help you on your decision-making journey.

Happy Hiking 🙂

Last Updated: 12/11/2023