Gear Review: The North Face Havoc GTX XCR

The North Face have challenged themselves to produce the most versatile outdoor shoe on the market. Ambitious? 

Recently some of our staff were kindly given a few pairs of a new hiking and trail shoe from The North Face to test, the Havoc GTX XCR shoe.
The roots of the Havoc GTX are based on the requirements and feedback of sponsored The North Face athletes. Climbers and hikers, for example, who need a shoe that can cope with the demands of difficult route terrain or on the way to a crag, as well as trail runners who want something light and steady under foot.

Tech Spec

The Havocs are designed as a ‘fast and light’ hiking shoe, and at just 425g they certainly fit into that category. In terms of intended use, they’re ideal for hill walks, trails, and general outdoor use. Being GoreTex they are, of course, fully waterproof and breathable – the XCR (Extreme Comfort Range) membrane utilises improved lamination techniques and should provide enhanced breathability at no expense to waterproofing qualities.

Havoc GTX  features. Click to enlarge. Info courtesy of The North Face

They grip well too; exclusive Vibram rubber soles provide traction and shed mud and dirt. The TPU snake plate (the red bit) is designed to offer flexible protection and an interior EVA cradle cushions and rebounds your stride for ‘medial stability’.

Havoc sole spec. Click to enlarge

Enough of the techy stuff, take a look at the pictures above for an overview of the shoe’s features. The most important thing is fit. How did they actually feel to wear?

The Test

Our staff have been testing the shoes in various conditions, glamorous and not so glamorous, from coastal walks and trails to crag approaches, as well as on the shop floor!I’ve actually been wearing mine out and about and whilst working at our outdoor tent show. It may not sound particularly exciting, but working outdoors at the Sanders tent show in all weathers involves being on your feet all day and a fair amount of walking.As well as that, constant maintenance of the display, pitching tents, discussing their merits and covering ground in what was the wettest April weather for 100 years meant terrain was anywhere between gravel, slippery concrete and waterlogged, boggy grass/mud walkways. I needed a shoe that could support my feet and keep them comfortable and dry all day long.
Knowing that my feet were unlikely to get wet, the child in me couldn’t resist jumping in some puddles!

Funnily enough, those conditions we had back in April were actually ideal within which to challenge the Havocs. Since then, as we all know, the weather has improved dramatically and that has presented another challenge. Prolonged exposure to a full selection of the elements was exactly what was required to test the shoes.

Impressions

So how did we get on with the shoes? Here are a few words from our staff:
Stuart from our Exeter shop is also due to take the Havoc shoes out on his trip to Scotland in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for his thoughts soon.

“After wearing these shoes every day for a few weeks now I have found they have lived up to their description really well.

They have been worn to and from work in the rain and storms we have had as well as in doors for 8 hours a day. They have also been subjected to wet grass on caravan rally fields and a 10 mile charity walk.

Overall, I have to say they were really comfortable in all the situations I put them in. At the end of a 8 hour day my feet were comfortable, in wet grass and storms my feet were dry and walking tow and foot paths they were ideal.”

Ken, Assistant Manager, Taunton Shop.

“Although I have found them to hot to wear indoors on an all day basis when worn for what they have been designed for they are at the top of the tree for walking and running.

I used them on the south west coast path on a wet day and the enjoyment was equal to wearing boots, they are very stable which gives you confidence as no slipping or sliding even running on the pebbles I felt no concussion on my feet or ankles and had great protection on my heels, good stability and comfort all day.

Very easy to look after just wash off dry and with cloth. If you want one pair to do all they have to be very good value.”

Amanda, Taunton Shop.

My own impressions are positive. The shoes do exactly what they say on the tin, they’re a fantastic all purpose shoe, suitable for a wide range of activities and a variety of terrains. Plus, they’re well made and have that feeling of high quality.

In terms of fit, I found them to be extremely supportive and comfortable, although they were quite tough initially. Like any boot or shoe, they soon softened up after a bit of wearing and are now pretty flexible. I didn’t feel any rubbing or experience any discomfort through the initial bedding in period.

The weather wasn’t all bad!

The Vibram soles are strong and durable and after what is now several weeks of use, I’ve not noticed any excessive wear on the materials. In terms of traction, the shoes seemed to grip well on the variety of surfaces that I’ve tried them out on. This gave me confidence that I could walk pretty much anywhere and wouldn’t be losing my footing.

As far as dealing with the wet and windy conditions of a British spring, the Havocs performed admirably. Being Gore-Tex, they kept all water out, as was to be expected. I found myself confidently striding through puddles and muddy sections that I’d have otherwise avoided had I been wearing other shoes; I was even seeking out puddles just to test the shoes, confident that I’d stay dry!
I stood in this puddle for a good minute or so and my feet stayed dry
One point to mention is that they did run a little hot at times. A well documented issue with Gore-Tex footwear, especially in warmer conditions, but this was no major drama.A bit heavier and more substantial in feel compared with my Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultras (a named competitor shoe in TNF’s literature), what you lose slightly in lightness you gain substantially in toughness, durability and versatility.
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Critically though with shoes, it’s all about the fit. There’s no point in buying shoes simply because they have won ‘best in test’ awards if they’re not suited to your foot shape. For instance, one colleague of mine tried them and found they were a little too wide for his feet and being a footwear ‘fitter’ he knew the consequences of wearing shoes that don’t fit.I don’t know if I have a particularly wide foot (or if he has a narrow one!), but that’s something to consider because even the highest rated pair of shoes can be completely wrong for some if they not suited to the wearers foot shape or if they’re not fitted properly.When you’re looking into getting a pair of shoes/boots, make sure you get them properly fitted. Our staff are qualified footwear fitters and have been on several courses to give them the knowledge that ensures you get the boot that is right for you.
Buy based on fit first and then let the features inform your decision. If they fit you properly, the Havoc GTX has all the features you’ll need. We think they’re an effective, versatile multi-activity shoe that offers technical performance and comfort.
Luke

– Taunton Leisure Online.

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2 Responses

  1. Will Rossiter says:

    These shoes were great to start with, but have really disappointed when it comes to longevity. After just over a year of light use the uppers are still in good nick, but the sole is completely shot. I will be reverting back to a salomon contragrip sole for my next pair of trail shoes.

    • Luke Tozer says:

      Sorry to hear that, Will! I know that one of our staff in Exeter trashed his, but that was after some pretty heavy use! Mine have been treated with a bit more respect and have last pretty well to this point!

      Luke
      Taunton Leisure

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