CGR tests out the new Verto Plasma approach shoe from The North Face.
Value for money****
When you need cushioned support and protection along load-laden approaches and scrambles, choose The North Face Men’s Verto Plasma hiking shoe.
We’ve highlighted and reviewed several approach shoes this season from general hiking and running to climbing/alpine specific and it’s been good to note the variety on offer. There’s a shoe out there for any specific purpose you would want. The North Face Verto Plasma shoes come into the general hiking/approach category. The North Face has an extensive array of footwear in the catalogue but the Verto Plasma is placed in the high end Summit Series range – The TNF have designed all their Summit Series equipment for serious climbers and high achieving athletes. So do they live up to the mantle?
Let’s look at the style, these were a great looking shoe to have on and they always drew comments from fellow climbers at Malham, the climbing wall or just out and about. They have definitely been the most stylish shoe I have tested this season and look great in casual clothing. They have a full, climbing lace system that keeps the toe area in place for climbing and scrambling. The front of the shoe is encased in made with pig suede so vegetarians may have an ethical issue in wearing them. The lacing area widened out slightly to give it a very stylish profile. The rest of the upper was made from reinforced mesh nylon that TNF named ballistic nylon. This had further reinforcement from a cross hatch laminated to the fabric. It has withstood plenty of knocks and has been very breathable.
The lacing area was excellent, extra reinforced material and proper eyelets for the first 4 lace holes means I expect the lacing system to last the life of the shoe, so well done TNF for getting this right. The tongue was nicely padded and breathable; there was a handy tab on the tongue for pulling the shoe on and there was also a patch of the synthetic suede to give the tongue a little extra durability in the lacing area.
The shoe benefited from a full rand which helped in climbing and scrambling and easy climbing situations. It was this that set the shoe apart from being just a hiking or running type shoe into something that was specially designed for climbers and mountaineers. I did use the shoes for scrambling and they were fine for routes up to grade 3 scrambles, when I got onto proper rock climbs I felt that I needed a better edge, the stiffness felt OK though and I was comfortable on routes up to HVD, which is the sort of route I’m using for group sessions. The shoe felt fine for all guiding and instruction purposes as well as my recreational climbing.
The heel was excellent, it felt very stable due to the TPU heel cradle, this was a very hard plastic cradle at the back which really clamped the heel into the shoe. This was great and I felt the difference on very stony terrain such as scree approaches and going downhill. Don’t be put off by the look of it, it doesn’t lift the heel higher as it’s just a cradle and not a full width insert; it was a good feature. Talking of heels I thought the heel strike was quite firm on these shoes, the shoe’s specification state that the footbed is upgraded EVA and it definitely felt very firm throughout. This meant running in the shoe for long periods (like when I had to run back to the car from Crummackdale as I’d left my phone and wallet on the dashboard) became a little uncomfortable – but then the shoe is not designed as a running shoe. If you like a firm feel to a shoe you will definitely like these. Finally on the heel there was a pull tab, the tab wasn’t overly large but it was big enough to get a biner through it, I would have liked to have seen it bigger so that I could fit two shoes together and clip them to my harness. I also felt it could have been bar tacked for extra durability as this is an area the shoe is likely to fail in as the shoe is swinging around on your harness.
The sole was made from Vibram Masai rubber which was very grippy. It had two patterns on it the toe and heel area was a dotty style pattern for extra friction, the rest had the lug structure of a hiking shoe. The sole performed well in all the tests I put it through from rock approaches to teetering around upstairs at Malham – not a place to have a slip! I’ve not had any problems at all with the friction of the sole, the Vibram Masai rubber is a dual density rubber designed to give friction and durability, I’ve noticed very little wear in the 8 weeks I’ve been testing them.
To sum up I have found The North Face Verto Plasma a great all round climbing approach shoe, I’ve used them recreationally and they have drawn good comments from everyone that has seen them. They are very stylish and I have worn them for my lecturing and training activities. For climbing and approach they have performed in the way a high end Summit Series shoe is supposed to –a shoe for serious climbers.