Arc'teryx Norvan LD3 Trail Runner
'Can a trail runner be too pretty? Our Editor thinks so.'
Great cushioning
Bomber grip
Simple lacing makes them great for daily use
Very pretty
High ankle could cause discomfort
Don't drain well
Very pretty

Tim’s been out hitting the trails in the updated Arc’teryx Norvan LD3 trail runner and he has a question: can outdoor gear look too good?


‘Oooh, how intriguing, what could he mean?’

That’s the response I’m hoping you had to the introduction of this review. Here’s a peak behind the curtain at We Are Explorers: I wrote that too. I’m basically blowing my own trumpet here.

‘What else is true?’, you’re probably thinking. Well, there’s this:

Arc’teryx have significantly improved their Norvan trail runner, I reckon it’s a significant improvement on the Arc’teryx Norvan LD2 from a couple of years ago.

It’s also dang pretty, but more on that in a bit. Let’s review!


Arcteryx Norvan LD3 Trail Runner - Review


The lacing probably the least changed aspect of the Arc’teryx Norvan LD3, and for good reason! The shoes use normal laces (shocking for a trail runner) and they work perfectly fine.

Arc’teryx have kept the little lace garage which has two benefits:

  1. You can tuck your laces away so they won’t bounce around (and loosen) or snag on sticks
  2. It looks cleeean

If you’ve owned skate shoes and tucked the laces down next to your ankle, you’ll love this feature.

For your feet, expect slightly more room in the toebox for your five little guys to splay out, a welcome feature even with my fairly narrow foot. 

I did find the collar around the back of the heel quite high, and made sure to wear socks long enough to avoid any rubbing, but the added support and feeling of being ‘locked in’ was worth it. The heel and tongue have also retained their shape better than the Norvan LD2 and I haven’t noticed any stretching.


Arcteryx Norvan LD3 Trail Runner - Review


This is where the Norvan LD3 has had a serious upgrade. The LD2 was a ‘firm’ shoe, but not in the fun Euro ‘trail feel’ way, more of a ‘damn my feet are a bit sore’ kind of way.

The LD3 is completely different. The thick InFuse midsole is made from recycled EVA and Polyolefin and it’s much softer (and thicker). The cushioning rivals some of my road running shoes, yet the stability is there when you get onto the rough stuff. Honestly, it was really refreshing to feel this kind of comfort so well-applied in a trail running shoe.

There’s only a slight sacrifice in ‘trail feel’ for all this comfort, the feedback’s all there for the taking, but it is dulled compared to some stiffer and more minimal trail runners on the market.


Arcteryx Norvan LD3 Trail Runner - Review


The 6mm heel-to-toe drop is fairly mild (down from 9mm in the LD2), though forefoot strikers might still find the heel a bit much. A slight camber does help you propel through your stride, but it’s very subtle and won’t affect your running form.

And finally, your feet will be happy to hear, the breathability is pretty good. I won’t say great, as I haven’t used the shoes in summer yet and the mesh appears on the thicker side, but runs through Autumn and Winter have been a breeze.


So the Norvan LD3  fits nicely, laces up well, it’s got cushion for days but it’s stable enough for off road use. How’s it perform when the going gets tough?

Pretty well! The lugs on the LiteBase sole from Vibram have been upgraded from 3.5 to 4mm and the grip is meaty. The lugs are so sharp that they would sometimes slice leaves on the ground, so you know they were cutting through mud and loose dirt.

I found myself tending to wear these shoes on my long, easy trail runs, as I could trust the comfort and grip to see me through long, messy kilometres. They’re comfortable on road and footpath yet propulsive enough if you pick up the speed.


Arcteryx Norvan LD3 Trail Runner - Review


I think for really fast or race efforts I’d be looking for a bit more firmness and a more ‘locked in’ feel up top, but honestly even as I write that I question why. I’m actually torn between these and some Salomon S/LAB Ultra 3s for the UTA 50 in a couple of months time, something I’d never have questioned with the LD2.

One issue, however, is the high laser cut TPU wrapping around the shoe the prevents water draining out of the mesh. Granted, this also prevents it getting in, but in really wet conditions (Sydney for the last 6 months) it can lead to soggy feet, especially with the somewhat thicker mesh up top.


Arcteryx Norvan LD3 Trail Runner - Review


I’ve run about 60km of technical trail in the Norvan LD3 trail runners and they’re just starting to show their first signs of wear. The TPU wrap around the forefoot ( which created pinching issues in the LD2) is much more flexible, but is very slightly starting to lift in parts that flex often.

There’s also been some wear around the rubber toecap, but to their credit, I did kick some rocks really hard while running. The burley toecap actually probably saved me a broken toe so that’s getting a solid tick.

The grip meanwhile? Barely looks used. All in all these shoes are holding up super well and I’m expecting many more kilometres from them. I’ll update this article in another 6 months or so with more info.


Arcteryx Norvan LD3 Trail Runner - Review


Ahh, and here comes my real dilemma. The Norvan LD3s are really damn pretty. They’re a deep blue with an almost gold sole, the laces tuck away cleanly and they’re just as comfy popping down to the coffee shop as they are running a mountain pass.

I’m loathe to wear them out by thrashing them on the trails because I really like how they look. But when I do, damn I feel snazzy. I wanna wear block colours all over and cut shapes to Kraftwerk, or whatever trendy music a designer might listen to in the forest.

Unfortunately, I can’t comment on the price at the moment as they’re not on sale in Australia yet (keep an eye out!) but indications are they’ll sit in the middle, perhaps slightly towards the more expensive end for decent trail runners.

So, perfect aesthetics. Is this a flaw of the shoes? No, quite the opposite really. From hiking and trail racing, to Ikea and bottomless brunch, the Norvan LD3s are ready. The question is, are you?


Arcteryx Norvan LD3 Trail Runner - Review


Tim was given the Arc’teryx Norvan LD3 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.


Photos by @mattwisemanmedia