The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX
Weight: 1 lb. 14.7 oz. (men’s size 9)
Waterproof: Yes (Gore-Tex)
What we like: Grippy, stable, and reasonably lightweight.
What we don’t: Thin cushioning and flat, cheap insole led to issues with foot soreness.
See the Men's TNF Hedgehog See the Women's TNF Hedgehog
The North Face’s Hedgehog Fastpack GTX has been a staple in their hiking shoe lineup for years. It’s consistently a big seller thanks to its desirable $120 price point and solid feature set that includes a Gore-Tex liner. To see how it fared, I tested the shoe in terrain ranging from the rocky trails outside of El Chaltén, Argentina, to hikes back home in the Pacific Northwest. And while I can understand the Hedgehog’s appeal, particularly for those with flat feet, it disappointed overall due to consistent issues with foot soreness. Below I break down the Hedgehog Fastpack’s comfort, weight, traction, waterproofing, durability, fit and sizing, and more. To see how it stacks up, see our article on the best hiking shoes.
My first impression when slipping on The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX was that it felt like a bit of a throwback. The shoe was a little stiff out of the box, its sparse padding offered noticeably less cushioning than many modern designs, and the cheap-feeling insole was flat and provided essentially zero arch support (this can of course be a positive for those with flat feet). With modern hiking shoes in 2019 looking more and more like beefed-up, bouncy trail runners, the differences were readily apparent. On the plus side, the Hedgehog was pretty sturdy underfoot, felt reasonably light, and the lacing system—with actual metal grommets—tightened evenly.
In testing, however, these features didn’t add up to a very comfortable experience. On everything from hikes in Patagonia to long days hauling a 30-pound load in Washington’s Cascade Range, I consistently dealt with foot soreness. The initial stiffness underfoot and around the collar did loosen up fairly quickly, but the lightweight cushioning and TPU shanks failed to provide sufficient protection and shock absorption. Further, the shoe’s thin upper material resulted in some pretty painful impacts with rocks. The rubber toe cap does a decent job absorbing a direct hit, but, as I found, if you catch one from the side or just off-center, the protection is limited. To be clear, comfort and fit often go hand-in-hand and the Hedgehog Fastpack has been around long enough to have its legions of fans. But of all the shoes I’ve tested over the past few years—including other The North Face products like the well-loved Ultra 110—the Hedgehog Fastpack is among the least comfortable I’ve worn.
My pair of size 9 Hedgehog Fastpacks came in at 1 pound 14.7 ounces on our scale (The North Face lists them at 1 pound 14 ounces), which lands right in the middle of the waterproof hiking shoe market. Its weight is on par with the low versions of the popular Keen Targhee III (1 pound 14.8 ounces) and undercuts other comfort-first models like the Merrell Moab 2 (2 pounds 1 ounce) and Oboz Sawtooth II (2 pounds 2.8 ounces). But considering this shoe is intended for fast-paced hiking (hence the “Fastpack” name), the weight isn’t all that impressive. Designs like the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX (1 pound 10.8 ounces) and new Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX (1 pound 8.4 ounces) offer a noticeable drop in weight without compromising in comfort or on-trail performance.
Underfoot, The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX features a tried-and-true outsole from Vibram. As with most of our experiences with the brand, it’s another solid design: the small lugs bite into everything from hardpack dirt to mud and rock, and the substantial heel does a nice job with braking on steep downhills. Further, the wider tread spacing along the sides of the shoe isn’t prone to caking up and effectively sheds mud and trail debris. Finally, despite spending a fair amount of time on rough, rock-filled trails, the rubber hasn’t shown any signs of prematurely wearing down.
Stability and Support
Low-top hiking shoes aren’t known for their stiff and supportive constructions, but the Hedgehog Fastpack provides more stability than most. The shoe’s low stack height puts it close to the ground, its collar wraps nicely around the ankle, and the reinforced heel counter helps limit rolled ankles while boulder hopping. And similar to competitors like the Merrell Moab 2, the Hedgehog has a fairly wide base, giving it a planted feel. That said, the light upper material has a lot of give and is pretty flexible overall, so my feet didn’t stay in place through off-camber terrain (the flat insole also played a role in this). All told, I think the level of stability is completely sufficient for most hiking and light backpacking trips, but those who prioritize a stiffer construction should check out a shoe like the Adidas Terrex Swift R2.
The North Face only makes the Fastpack in a waterproof version with a Gore-Tex liner. My experience has been similar to nearly every GTX shoe and boot I’ve tested: the Hedgehog does a fine job repelling light rain, dewy grass, and the occasional stream dunk. The upper material will start to absorb moisture after a while, but it does dry reasonably well thanks to the thin construction. In the heat, the shoe predictably runs hot and wouldn’t be my first choice for a summer day hike. Mesh-heavy, non-waterproof designs like the Merrell Moab 2 Vent or Salomon X Ultra 3 Aero easily outdo it when temperatures break into the 70s Fahrenheit, but the Hedgehog’s performance is typical for a waterproof model. We’d love to see a non-waterproof version become available for those that live in dry areas or put a premium on breathability.
We’ve had good success in terms of durability with The North Face shoes (one exception was the old Ultra 109), and the Hedgehog Fastpack GTX has held up pretty well throughout our testing. The mesh and leather portions of the upper all are intact, and we haven’t seen any signs of the toe cap peeling apart (which, based on user reviews, is occasionally an issue). One area of concern is the sheer amount of stitches throughout the upper, and a number of the threads are starting to fray around the instep on both shoes. I also don’t love the inclusion of metal grommets on the lacing system as those are prone to popping out as the miles add up, but I haven’t had any problems with mine. And as touched on above, the Vibram outsole is holding up very well and should have a long lifespan.
I chose my standard men’s size 9 and found the Hedgehog Fastpack has a pretty standard fit. Width is average in the heel and toe box, and the length was sufficient for my swollen feet when hiking in hot weather. As I mentioned in the “comfort” section above, the flat and minimalist insole is a polarizing feature and the lack of sculpting around the heel and non-existent arch support were a letdown for me. The good news is it’s a fairly easy fix if you’re willing to invest in an aftermarket insole (Superfeet and SOLE are two popular choices). Finally, it’s worth noting that The North Face offers the Hedgehog Fastpack in 2E wide sizes (men’s only) for the same $120.
Other Versions of The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack
For this test, we had the men’s low-top Hedgehog Fastpack GTX shoe. The North Face also makes a women’s version, which has a similar upper, midsole, and outsole construction. Interestingly, the women’s Hedgehog Fastpack swaps the three sets of metal grommets found on the men’s lacing system for standard eyelets, but otherwise the two designs mirror one another. The North Face also offers a mid-height version in men’s and women’s sizes, which sits just over the ankle, weighs approximately 6 ounces more per pair, and costs an additional $10. We haven’t had a chance to test the Hedgehog boot, but we’d expect a modest step up in stability and protection on the trail.
What We Like
- Its $120 price and included Gore-Tex liner make it a good all-around value.
- The Hedgehog Fastpack is plenty grippy and stable for day hiking and lightweight backpacking.
- The design should be a good match fit-wise for those with flat feet.
What We Don’t
- Thin cushioning led to foot soreness on rocky day hikes and when carrying a load.
- Flat and cheap insole lacks the sculpted and comfortable fit that comes with competitors like the Merrell Moab 2, Oboz Sawtooth II, and Salomon X Ultra 3.
- The shoe doesn’t really stand out in any specific category. The weight, cushioning, and foot hold all are very average.
|The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack||$120||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 14 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Leather / mesh|
|Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX||$150||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 10.8 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Synthetic|
|The North Face Ultra 110 GTX||$120||Hiking/trail-running||1 lb. 15 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Leather / mesh|
|Merrell Moab 2 WP||$120||Hiking shoe||2 lb. 1 oz.||Yes (M-Select)||Leather / mesh|
|Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry||$140||Hiking shoe||2 lb. 2.8 oz.||Yes (B-Dry)||Leather / textile|
It’s a testament to the Hedgehog Fastpack’s popularity that its design has gone untouched for a number of years. The same cannot be said for many of its hiking shoe competitors, including the Salomon X Ultra 3. We tested this shoe alongside the Fastpack and found it to be the better option in just about every way. The Salomon is lighter by about 4 ounces, feels nimbler while offering better cushioning, and is extremely comfortable over long distances. Where the Hedgehog get the advantage is price by a notable $30, and those with wide feet might have trouble squeezing into the fairly narrow X Ultra (the Fastpack has a roomier toe box in particular). But if the Salomon fits you and the cost isn’t a deal breaker, the X Ultra is our preferred option.
A second shoe to consider is The North Face’s own Ultra 110 GTX. While technically billed as a waterproof trail runner, the 110 has proven to be an excellent choice for both hiking and lightweight backpacking. Compared with the Hedgehog, the two shoes are nearly identical in weight but the Ultra has better protection and cushioning underfoot. Further, we’ve found the Ultra’s insole provides a more secure hold and the shoe’s slightly beefed-up construction gets the edge in overall stability. With the same $120 price tag, we see little reason to choose the Fastpack over the superior Ultra 110.
Among hiking shoes, Merrell’s Moab is an absolute classic. This shoe has been around for more than a decade (the latest “2” was released a couple years ago), and is a proven choice for day hikes and short backpacking adventures. The heavily cushioned design gets the clear nod in terms of all-around comfort, and we also like that the Merrell is offered in a non-waterproof “Vent” model (the Fastpack only is available in a Gore-Tex version). The Hedgehog is lighter by about 3 ounces for the pair, which is a nice feature for longer trips. That said, if weight is a top priority for you, we’d recommend the Salomon X Ultra 3 above. If you want a cushioned shoe that puts comfort first, stick with the Moab.
Finally, Oboz’s Sawtooth II is yet another popular everyday hiker to consider. The line has gained a following thanks to its substantial mid and outsole that isolate you from the ground, and its premium insole has high levels of support and comfort. Downsides of the Oboz are that it is on the heavy end at 2 pounds 2.8 ounces, and therefore can feel slow and ponderous on the trail. In addition, not everyone loves the thick construction because you lose a degree of connectedness with the ground below you, which can impact confidence and stability (for more, see our in-depth Sawtooth II review). A decision between the Sawtooth and Fastpack likely will come down to priorities, and the Oboz’s better foot hold and comfort are what give it the nod for us.
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