Long distance means you need to pay special attention to the sole and cushioning but without compromising on foot movement and feeling. It's a fine balancing act between weight and durability, padding and support. To achieve this balance the Arcteryx Norvan LD has a less padded heel area than may competitors and a single layer mesh covering the whole of the upper but has gone to town on the midsole and insole combination with high levels of support.
What Arcteryx Say:
The Norvan LD is specifically designed for all-day comfort on extended trail runs. With lightweight construction, functional support, and a Vibram® Megagrip outsole for versatile grip on technical trails, the Norvan LD’s material choices and geometry ensure long-distance performance and comfort while delivering the protection and durability required to move with speed and confidence across unpredictable terrain.
Trail running performance for all day comfort on extended trail runs
Drop (Stack): 9mm (27mm : 18mm)
Footwear Outsole Construction
Ergonomically patterned 3.5mm square-shaped lugs for assured traction
9mm heel drop
Vibram® MegaGrip™ rubber compound is durable and grippy
Single layer mesh upper is lightweight, durable, and air-permeable
Strategically placed TPU film and synthetic toecap add protection for minimal weight
Long-wearing EVA/Polyolefin midsole mitigates impact for long-distance comfort
Footwear Liner Construction
4mm thickness OrthoLite™ 3D molded insert
Arcteryx Norvan LD on test:
Arcteryx are pretty new to the trail running market, only launching their first trail specific shoe last year, and the introduction of a specialist long distance running shoe so soon after was something of a surprise.
On first look the Norvan LD doesn't look particularly special, with a standard 9mm drop from heel to toe and 3.5mm deep lugs which are pretty much middle of the road. Of course you get the traditional build quality of any Arcteryx product and they do look solid but still lightweight. It's what's inside the Norvan LD, however, that makes the difference. Running shoes are always a compromise between comfort, grip and cushioning and with a long distance shoe the balance naturally tips towards support and durability. Durability often means stiffness or rigidity and this compromises comfort so the balancing act has to be really fine tuned to get it right.
Long distance requires comfort and support and this is where the Norvan LD excels. Using a blend of EVA foam and Polyolefin the midsole provides the necessary cushioning for day after day use over long distances and this is supplemented by a removable 4mm Ortholite insole. From the insole upwards things get quite minimalist with a thin mesh upper with minimal padding and that's restricted to the ankle area. There's a thin protective film in areas subject to banging and scraping but again this is minimal and even the toe-bumper is small compared to many shoes.
The well cushioned insole and midsole lie on a classic Vibram Megagrip outsole which delivers decent grip on wet and dry surfaces and is particularly suited to off road running. The problem with grip is durability so in the Norvan LD they've gone for a fairly grippy outsole but with noiticeably square shaped, mid-range depth, lugs and without being too aggressive.
The upper is where the focus definitely switches to weight saving, with a single layer mesh over the whole of the upper, supplemented by a minimal amount of padding around the heel.
The tongue also gets the minimalist treatment with very light padding and being attached to either side of the shoe by a stretch elastic panel. Interestingly despite the minimalist upper there is one area that has a double layer - there's a lace pocket on the outside of the tongue, accessed by pulling the obvious loop that's located in the centre of the tongue.
On the trail the Norvan LD feels well balanced, grippy enough but without being over aggressive and nimble despite the obvious emphasis on durability in the outsole. The other noticeable feature is a slightly wider than average fitting, which is a relief for those used to cramming their feet into pointed toes or narrow fronts. Perhaps the toe protector could be a little more substantial and give cover to a wider area but it's a minor issue. Where it matters, though, the Norvan LD delivers. The mesh upper gives very good breathability (there is a GoreTex option available which may not be as breathable) and the combination of mid and insoles provides the comfort for long distances. At £135 they're not the cheapest but even discounting that you're paying a bit more for a premium label they're still around average price for a high-end shoe.
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