Our Editor Tim’s been scootin’ suburban trails in the new Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2 trail runner during iso, so does it live up to the hype?
A pair of Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2’s slid into my DMs just as lockdown began, and I’m glad that they did. Lockdown gave me a chance to get out for cheeky trail runs on the regular, but I needed a shoe that could cope with a bit of road, a bit of mud and the faster pace I generally bring to my shorter runs. Would these be the ones?
The Norvan LD is the mid-weight, do-anything trail runner from Arc’teryx. LD stands for Long Distance, placing the shoe firmly between the SL (Super Light) and VT (Variable Terrain. The 2 is because this is the second iteration of this runner, with updates to durability from version 1.
Some people might be apprehensive to buy a trail runner made by a brand that doesn’t focus on shoes, but Arc’teryx’ sister company is Salomon (whose new Sense Ride 3 I reviewed the other month) so it’s not like they don’t have tech and know-how available.
Ok onto the good bit, how do they feel to run in?!
The Arc’teryx Norvan LDs use a traditional lacing system and feature a large entry point for your foot. This makes them easier to put on than other trail runners and meant that I chose them more often for runs, or even errands!
Despite the no fuss design, the tongue is attached to the rest of the shoe to keep out debris and there’s a large, easy-to-use pocket to stow your laces in (take note shoe brands – stowing your laces doesn’t have to feel like parking a Hummer in Newtown).
The lace setup is pretty standard, with extra eyelets if you want to lock in your ankle further, and the shoe accommodated my narrow foot without bunching up when I pulled the laces tight. The foam in the upper and around the heel is lightweight and firm but instantly felt nice before the shoes were broken in. This hasn’t changed for me as I’ve stacked on the kilometres.
The cushioning is definitely firm in the Norvan LD 2 but this isn’t a bad thing. The midsole is responsive and lets you feel the trail, but doesn’t suffer from fatigue as the distance increases. There’s even an anti-fatigue insert in the midsole to support your foot and raised sidewalls to keep you locked in.
Despite all this, long stints on the road will definitely make themselves known – I personally found this helpful for identifying problems with my running form. Heel strikers will enjoy the 9mm drop but don’t expect this to be enough to escape the firm cushioning.
While the cushioning in the Norvan LD 2 works with you, it doesn’t let you get away with anything. Not so for the rest of the shoe! The LiteBase sole from Vibram is grippy as heck and let’s you get away with all kinds of sketchy maneuvers. The 3.5mm lugs are far enough apart to shed mud and the diamond shapes are suspiciously similar to a Salomon, but heck, it works!
These shoes are light. At 260 grams they’re lighter than any other decent brand I could find and they’re nicely balanced too. This lack of weight really contributes to the feeling that the shoe is working with you, simply protecting your foot and handing the rest over for you to get done. There’s some power off from the midsole but less than in my ON runners or Salomons. I mentioned running form before, the Norvans made sure my feet never got lazy.
Oh and speaking of protection, there’s a rock plate under the forefoot so you can crunch down on sharp shit with confidence – and why not? The grip on my pair still looks new. But how does the rest of this lightweight runner hold up to the rigours of the trail?
Issues with durability were the main sticking point for the Norvan LD uno, but Arc’teryx have a bit of a reputation to maintain and have gone ham on the new model. There’s bugger all stitching, with welded and laser cut TPU wrapping from toe to heel. The ultra fine mesh is pretty bombproof and I haven’t noticed any peeling of the glue (or even scratches on the upper).
I am starting to get a bit of frayed stitching on one shoe and the lack of sealing around the edges (particularly the eyelets) does worry me, but I’ve got a feeling that it’s stronger than it looks and will outlast the rest of the shoe.
All this glue has led some reviewers to complain of pinching above the toes from inflexible layers as other soft layers break-in around them, but, despite my high arch and wussy skin, I haven’t noticed any problems.
Update: The pinching at the toes and durability issues I first heard about in this review have somewhat made themselves known after about 100km. The pinching, while rare, has happened on tight trails when changing direction quickly but hasn’t developed into a real issue. The hole for the foot has loosened up considerably, but once I deployed the bonus eyelets my foot felt super locked in again. I should have used them from the start!
Lord in heaven are these green. Huge Hulk energy from running in these bad boys. Arc’teryx have brought out two very mellow black-with-highlights colourways to Aus and then just gone nutso with this offering.
It’s grown on me. I love the clean lines, lack of fuss and consistent colouring. However the greens of the mesh, protective wrap and midsole are all kinda different and leave the shoe looking a bit confused. Also sorry but what socks am I supposed to wear with these? Everything looks a bit like Mardi Gras crossed with Christmas.
This being said, if you’ve ever looked at the start line of an ultra you’ll know that trail runners care little for things like ‘complementary colours’ and ‘looking like this outfit was planned’ so Arc’teryx might be onto a winner here. This ain’t the track bro, let’s go walk some hills!
As far as trail runners go, I like the Arc’teryx Norvan LD. They’re light, responsive, grippy and comfy and the combo of normal-ass laces with lace storage is all-time. If they were bright orange or something I’d probably wear them even more!
They’re definitely a firm shoe and without a doubt, most at home on trails and in the mountains rather than your everyday suburban milieu of surfaces where you expect to bounce along like Kipchoge. The Norvans are more like a rough old fourbie, they come alive as the terrain gets worse, and they keep on giving, kilometre after kilometre.
Tim was given the Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2 trail runners for testing and was allowed to keep them afterwards. He was allowed to say whatever the heck he wanted about them in this review.