Arc’teryx Norvan LD GTX review

TLDR: This Gore-tex trail shoe has a lot of bells and whistles, but its tight toe box and subpar breathability fall a bit short of its premium price tag.

Fit: You can feel the ruggedness of this shoe from the moment you put it on. The shoe is built solid and feels stiff—which is not a bad thing considering it is a long-distance trail shoe.

The toe box is snug on me. I wear an average width size 10.

Support: This shoe has firm cushioning, and is protected with a Vibram outsole for rocky and wet conditions.

Performance: Traction is awesome on rocks and vertical terrain. Meanwhile, waterproofing is only so-so.

Looks: Like most Arc'teryx products, this shoe has a premium feel and a sleek minimalist look. Available in a small handful of solid colors, I chose the forest green with yellow accents.

Test Run

Distance: 5K | Terrain: Varied Trails

Location: Massachusetts | Season: Summer | Conditions: 85F and sunny

Warm-up

I am excited to take these babies off-roading, as that’s what they’re built for.

As a long time fan of Arc'teryx winter and hiking jackets, I appreciate their durability—their products are engineered to last—which seems to be a rare thing these days.

I’ll be taking them on some varied trails on the North Shore of Massachusetts, ranging from flat and well-maintained, to rocky, vertical, and full of tree roots.

First impressions

They strike me as being quite firm from the get-go, which could be expected since these are the most trail-specific shoe I’ve ever run in.

Compared to the Asics GT-2000 Trail, they feel much more solid and protective. This is a huge plus since I’ve had some painful experiences in the past with road shoes and lesser trail shoes.

The toe box is a bit cramped by comparison, my big toe and second toe are snug together. The toe box also creases slightly on the strike, which calls my attention to that part of the shoe.

On roading

The first half-mile of my run is on the road. These shoes are comfortable for a short road run, but I wouldn’t wear these for an all-road run.

On pavement, they feel a bit heavy and very stiff, as compared to say something like the Asics GEL-DS Trainer 24.

Off-roading

Finally, I hit the dirt. The lugs give noticeable traction even on firm dirt trails.

As I start to cover some rockier ground, I can barely feel the pebbles beneath my feet. These shoes definitely feel protective from the smaller rocks and roots that you’ll find on most trails.

I hit my first rocky ascent, and this is where these babies shine. The traction on rocks is superb. The Vibram outsole really feels different, more like a hiking shoe than a running shoe.

This traction is fun and leads me to accelerate on the uphill—something that I rarely do.

Downhill

On the downhill, these shoes still have great traction, as I jumped from rock to rock in rapid succession I never lost my footing. That is until I hit the bottom of a hill and turned onto a flat trail.

As I turned left, my left foot slipped, and I landed on the side of my foot. I had noticed that the mid and heel of this shoe felt a bit loose, especially compared to the toebox.

I, at least, partially attribute this slippage to the shoe. I stopped and tightened the laces and didn’t have any issues from here on out.

The home stretch

Coming back uphill on the last half mile of my run, I noticed that my feet felt pretty hot. As these shoes feature Gore-tex, I was willing to trade off a bit of breathability for waterproofing.

However, the waterproof layer was pretty minimal in my brief testing. Under a lawn sprinkler, these shoes stayed dry inside.

However, under a medium pressure hose over the toes of the shoe, my sock got damp inside.

Facts / Specs

Terrain: Trail
Weight: Men 11.6oz / Women 9.5oz
Drop: 9mm
Arch support: Neutral
Forefoot height: 19mm
Heel height: 28mm
Pronation: Neutral Pronation / Supination / Underpronation

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Author
Brendan Sullivan