We’ve personally used the North Face’s Hedgehogs as one of our go-to models of hiking shoes for well over a decade. Even in the face of more high-tech competition, these shoes still stack up admirably.
Pros / Reasons to Buy
- Excellent comfort
- Wide variety of options within the range
Cons / Reasons to Avoid
- Some options not as durable as others
- Can be expensive
We’ve personally worn various Hedgehog shoes from The North Face for well over a decade and they remain one of our all-time favorite hiking shoes. These were the shoes that originally opened our eyes to the idea that hiking footwear didn’t have to be rigid and bulky. We’ve consistently found these shoes to be comfortable and hard wearing. The industry moves on, though, and The North Face appears to be phasing out the Hedgehog in favor of some of their more modern design and indeed next to some competitors in this round up, the Hedgehogs might seem a little behind the times. That said, they are a tried and tested iconic design that really shows no signs of giving up any time soon. If you’re looking for a pair of reliable hiking shoes, you have found them here.
Compare to Similar Products
- Danner Womens Trail 2650
- On Cloudrock 2 Waterproof
- Keen Nxis EVO Low Height Waterproof Hiking Shoe
- See our main roundup: 20 Best Waterproof Hiking Shoes
Get a closer look: The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack in motion
Analysis and Test Results
The North Face Hedgehog hiking shoe has been offered in many different variants for a long time. They’ve been our go-to hiking shoe for well over a decade and in this time we’ve gone through several pairs of them – all worn into the ground after years of heavy use. These shoes are comfortable, light, breathable but still warm when it counts and can often be bought at retail for well below The North Face’s recommended retail price. Whenever we’re asked by friends to recommend hiking shoes, the Hedgehogs always make it into the list, and we see no reason for that to change anytime soon.
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpacks feature a Vibram sole with a medium deep thread pattern. The rubbers sole is slightly soft to offer better traction on wet, slippery tones. The Vibram soles on these North Face shoes do as good a job at maintaining traction as any other shoe in this round up but, as with all footwear, there will always be some circumstances where the traction on the soles fail – any sort of icy conditions are an obvious candidate, but mud and wet grass can also be problematic. None the less, we think these shoes give a sure grip and we feel confident hiking in them in all sorts of conditions.
When we first tried out a pair of Hedgehogs, their breathability was a revelation to us. The shoes make substantial use of breathable mesh in their upper section, and this is backed with a Gore-Tex membrane, so the breathability does not come at the expense of water resistance. These shoes strike a good balance, we think. They’re insulated enough to keep your feet warm on colder days – though they are not suitable for hiking in extreme winter conditions), but at the same time they are breathable enough not to get uncomfortable if you’re hiking somewhere very warm. We’ve worn ours in the desert in conditions above 30C/92F and have not found them to get uncomfortable. However, the mesh does have a downside. Fine sand can get into the shoe’s interior via the mesh and after a long day hiking in the desert, the shoes can feel notably heavier, and it can be difficult to remove this – we have one pair of Hedgehogs where we can still shake out sand from a trip to Utah over five years ago! To be fair to The North Face, this problem isn’t unique to their Hedgehogs and any shoe that features extensive mesh areas can suffer from this.
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpacks are shoes and do not offer any specific ankle support. Once upon a time, the prevailing logic was that you should wear boots when hiking as ankle support was vital. Some hikers still obviously prefer boots to shoes, but in recent years we’ve seen a real shift towards more hikers wearing shoes over boots on the trail. Unless you’re tackling difficult, technical terrain, we don’t think boots are a necessity.
These The North Face Hedgehogs come with a lightly shaped arch section to provide gentle arch support. This will be more than adequate for most wearers, we think. However, if you feel you’d benefit from more arch support, the insoles in these shoes can easily be removed and replaced with something that’s more heavily shaped. Aftermarket insoles are inexpensive and readily available and are a great way to fine-tune the comfort and fit of your shoes should you require it.
The North Face Hedgehogs are suitable for those with normal to wide feet and are available in sizes from US 5/ UK 3/EU 36 up to US 11/ UK 9/ EU 42. The men’s version goes up to much larger sizes if needed. Fit wise they are good for those with both slightly wide and narrow feet (some of the North Face’s more modern designs seem to favour a narrower fit). We have found the fitting to be fairly true to size.
The North Face Hedgehogs are available in several different versions. Most are fully synthetic – including the Fastpack variant we’re focusing on here – but some others feature leather elements too. Despite the material variants, they all have some features in common including the shaped Vibram sole and the use of a waterproof membrane (some models use Gore-Tex, others use The North Face’s own Futurelite or Dryvent).
The North Face Hedgehogs present as a fairly standard trainer. They are offered in a wider range of different colors and style variants that change seasonally. Some options are vivid and others much more muted. You can use the seasonality of the color changes to your advantage as it’s often possible to buy the previous season’s colors substantially discounted at retail. The general design is not as modern or striking as some of the other products we’ve assessed here, but we still think they look clean, minimal, and good looking. There’s plenty of visible branding on the shoes, but we don’t think it’s too obtrusive.
We’ve been very impressed by the durability of all the Hedgehog shoes we’ve owned. We generally get several years of hard wearing out of ours before they need replacement. The shoes use high quality materials, and we can’t fault the quality of their manufacturing. We think they offer great value in this regard.
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpacks in this review are a specific lightweight version of the shoe and have a claimed weight of 663g/1lb 7oz for a pair. That’s very impressive and makes them one of the lightest shoes in our round up. Light weight is important for footwear – even if you don’t normally buy lightweight outdoor gear. This is because weight carried on your feet fatigues you disproportionately quickly relative to the same weight carried elsewhere (for example, in your backpack). Low weight often comes at the expense of durability, but The North Face have struck a good balance here, and we’ve bene impressed by the combination these shoes offer in this regard.
As with every other shoe in this round up, these Hedgehogs come with a fairly generic removable insole. We think that most people who buy and use these shoes will be more than happy with this insole. However, if you feel the fit of the shoes isn’t quite right for you, then changing the insole is a great and inexpensive way to fine-tune the comfort and fit. For some people, this can make a massive difference. Aftermarket insoles can provide better cushioning or arch support, depending on your needs.
We don’t think that any shoes are completely without a breaking in period and we certainly wouldn’t recommend wearing brand new shoes on a long hike. However, with all that said, these Hedgehogs from The North Face are about as close to break-in free as you could hope for. Indeed, Hedgehogs were the first hiking shoes to really open our eye to exactly how comfortable hiking shoes could be – previously, we’d used much heavier, older style rigid boots for hiking. If your experience is like ours, after one or two short local walks, you’ll be confident to wear the Hedgehogs on much longer excursions. We rate them as one of the most comfortable shoes we’ve ever used and that’s true straight out of the box.
The North Face Hedgehogs use standard laces. This may not seem like the most exciting aspect of these shoes, but in reality, boring old laces are actually a really versatile way of securing and fine-tuning the fit of your shoes. By adjusting the tension in different areas, you can compensate for any areas that are uncomfortable. It’s also possible to change the lacing pattern to further fine-tune the fit – we have a guide to this, so be sure to check it out.
The North Face Hedgehogs have a reinforced front section and the sole also extends up a little at the front – all to provide toe protection. The level of protection they offer is on par with most of the other products in our round up, but not on the same level as a dedicated mountaineering boot. You can expect the toe protection to take the edge of things if you tumble or stub your toe, but it certainly won’t eliminate impacts completely.
Hiking Shoes v Hiking Boots
In the past, it was a given that you’d wear boots for hiking. Shoe shave increasingly become a popular option, though. In America, this has bene the case for a long time, but even in Europe, we’re starting to see more and more hikers favoring light weight shoes over boots on the trail. What you prefer really comes down to personal preference. Shoes are generally lighter and offer better ankle mobility whereas boots give beet support and protection. For some type of hiking in demanding conditions, we’d always say that sturdy boots are the best choice, but, for general hiking, nature walking and even trail running, a pair of shoes like these Hedgehogs from The North Face make for a great choice.
The North Face appears to be slowly phasing out the Hedgehog – the range once had many different options and once upon a time this round up might have even featured two or three completely different hedgehog variants. However, now the range is much more compact, and The North Face now seem to be promoting their Vectiv range as their key hiking shoes. This is a real shame – we were particularly fond of the less vented – and more waterproof – Hedgehog variant that sadly no longer seems to be offered. However, these Hedgehog Fastpack shoes are still firm favorites. They are comfortable, durable, lightweight and can often be bought at a good price. In fact, there’s very little we can say about them that’s bad. Even though there are more high-tech offerings from other manufacturers, the Hedgehogs still present a great choice – and we think that’s a testament to how well thought out they were in the first place! If we’re ever asked to recommend hiking shoes, Hedgehogs always make the list and, frankly, we see no reason why that should change any time soon.
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