Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shoe Review: North Face Hayasa

Advertised weight:  9.0 oz. (M's size 9)
REAL weight:  9.2 oz. (M's size 9.5)
Heel-toe drop:  9 mm
Tagline:  "Run faster on any terrain with a high-performance running shoe designed with an ultralight, seamless upper construction that doesn't sacrifice protection."
Miles logged:  ~450

Notable Races
Nearly every trail race I've ever done, including the San Francisco 50-miler.  All of my races have been marathon distance or longer.  I have set nine course records in these shoes.

Holy crap, where do I start with these?  These shoes RULE.

First off, the fit.  Holy crap, it is perfect.  I have never worn any shoe, of any kind, that fit as well as this one did.  It was like a friggin' second skin, only with some wiggle room just to make you extra-comfortable.  The shoe feels like it moves with you, and not just the upper.  It's truly an extension of your foot.  It's like my feet were meant to be in this shoe.  And when you lace them up, every instinct in your body tells you to run - fast!

I feel like I want to go on about how great the fit is, but I can't think of words that are appropriate, outside of "perfect" and "best."

The outsole is more flexible than you'll usually find on a trail runner.  Some people may find that a little strange, and one of the shoe's few weaknesses is the lack of a sturdy rock plate.  On occasion, you'll feel a larger rock poke you.  In my opinion, that is well worth the ability to feel the trail under you and make adjustments as necessary.  The outsole is actually flexible enough that you aren't forced to hit the ground the exact same way on every stride, which can be a huge advantage on varying terrain.  You just have to be paying attention.

The tread is grippy enough, but the lugs are fairly shallow.  On most surfaces, it's suited me just fine, but I could see it being an issue in wet conditions, loose scree, or other situations where you just want huge, deep lugs.  I might add that the tread is light enough that combined with the flexible feel of the outsole, you can run on pavement and forget that you're wearing a trail runner.

As far as support/cushion goes, these are perfectly adequate.  You're simply not going to get a luxury cruise in a nine-ounce shoe, so don't go in with that expectation.  That being said, these have plenty of cushion and support to get you through a marathon or 50K, provided you have good running form.  I used these for a 50-miler, and while my ankles and arches were starting to hurt by the end, it wasn't enough to affect my running, and I felt fine later the same day (try getting through a 50-miler with no joint or foot pain, I don't care what shoes you're wearing).  Still, a little more cushion might be an improvement, at least if you're intending to do longer distances.

Above all, these shoes are ungodly fast.  Light, quick, responsive, nimble, these things are friggin' speed demons.  Yes, there are lighter-weight, more minimalist shoes out there, but few of them even count as shoes; to me, they bear a closer resemblance to slippers.  These suckers give you the full support/cushion of a lightweight trainer, the grip of a trail runner, and have speed to burn.  Hard to beat that combo.

Aside from the lack of a firm rock plate, one of my only complaints is the heel-toe drop is a little high, especially for a neutral shoe that's built for speed.  9 mm just seems like a little much; 6 mm, or even 4, seems more appropriate for this type of shoe.  This is more of a personal preference though, so I'm nitpicking.  The 9 mm drop is still perfectly comfortable to me, and I'm sure a lot of people would be glad to have a light, fast shoe in a more traditional drop.

Oh, and they look badass!

Does this look like the face of mercy?

These things are so good I brought them out of retirement to run a few more races on them, after their replacements just couldn't live up to the previous standard.  I'm worried that I've been permanently spoiled!

A second version has since been released, and from what I understand, not many changes have been made (that's a good thing!).  If I were changing this shoe, I'd probably level the heel-toe drop to ~6 mm and add just a touch more cushion, even if that means adding half an ounce.  Oh, and the shoelaces are unnecessarily long.  But that's getting reaaalllly picky.  These shoes absolutely rock.  Can you tell that I like them?

Seriously, why are the laces so friggin' long?!?

Bottom line
Thumbs up!  Possibly the best running shoes I've ever worn.
Pros:  Light weight, good grip, outstanding fit, surprisingly capable of long distance, looks awesome!
Cons:  Heel-toe drop a little high (personal preference), weak rock plate, a little light on cushion
Best Uses:  Lightweight trainer, trail racing, all distances, door-to-trail runs