The second iteration of this smart shoe designed for covering big distances over mountain terrain
Why We Chose The Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2 Trail Shoes: Good breathability, lightweight build, reliable sole
Arc’teryx’s Norvan family of shoes has a knack of making it into our Outdoor 100 series. In the past we’ve featured the Norvan SL and the Norvan VT. The 2018 version of the Norvan LD made it in as well, and now for 2020, this new update has earned a spot.
There’s not actually much difference between this new version and the last one, though the small changes Arc’teryx have made are, from what we’ve seen, all positive. The most notable of them is that they’ve now switched the sole to a Vibram Litebase one, the result being the same amount of grip but at a fraction of the weight. In fact, each shoe now weighs 50g less than its predecessor.
Who Is The Arc’teryx Norvan LD For?
The LD is the big giveaway here. It’s a long distance-focussed shoe, the kind of thing that’s designed for those mountain excursions where you’re taking on a mix of big ascents and big descents, over all kinds of terrain and over the course of a few hours as well. We can see it being a good option for something like one of the OMM’s orienteering challenges or the Lakeland 50.
“The Norvan LD is among some of the lighter trail shoes you’ll find.” We definitely wouldn’t write this off as a shoe for just walking in either. With its low weight but grip and long distance comfort, those are traits that any lightweight hikers will definitely appreciate.
At 260g per shoe, the Norvan LD is among some of the lighter trail shoes you’ll find, especially in the long distance category. For comparison, Inov-8’s similar Terra Ultra G260 is slightly heavier at 309g and so is the Nike Pegasus Trail, another similar shoe, at 290g. Lighter options out there include the Icebug Acceleritas7, which weighs just 190g and Hoka’s Torrent which comes in at 254g.
Materials and Construction
The upper has a light, somewhat minimalist feel to it, with all the focus clearly poured into keeping that overall weight down and maximising breathability. It’s made from a durable polyester mesh that’s coated at certain points by a thermoplastic polyurethane film to add structure and a bit of protection to your feet as well, especially around the toes. For comfort, there’s a subtle-ish padding around the ankle cuff and then a lovely tongue that has an elastic gusset on one side to create an almost sock-like wraparound. One final nice touch on the upper is the little stretch pocket at the top of the tongue that you can tuck your laces into to keep them out of the way.
The midsole provides just the right amount of cushioning, particularly underneath the heel, thanks to its blend of EVA foam and Polyolefin. You also have a removable Ortholite foam insole which not only adds that bit of extra cushioning but, thanks to its ergonomic shape, works to prevent your foot from moving about. Arc’teryx have also included a small rock plate, and while this isn’t very noticeable, we suspect you’d realise the difference if it was taken away.
As was the case with the last Norvan LD, there’s a 9mm drop from the heel to the toe, as tends to be the common offset for trail running shoes these days. There’s also a slight bit of rock to it which is something that can certainly help over the course of those big days out.
For this new version of the Norvan LD, Arc’teryx have opted for Vibram’s new Litebase technology where the overall weight of the Megagrip rubber sole is 25-30% lighter than standard Vibram Megagrip soles but without any reduction in shock absorption or grip. We were impressed by how it made the lighter Norvan SL shoe perform and we’re equally impressed here.
The lugs have a mid range depth of 3.5mm which, again, is just about average for a trail shoe. This results in an outsole that gives good grip on muddy tracks, gravel and, from what we hear, on a bit of snowy slush as well (though we haven’t been able to test that out yet unfortunately). Vibram Megagrip usually makes for a shoe with a fairly good degree of grip on wet rock and fortunately that applies here with the Norvan LD 2 as well.
Mike Brindley, Outdoors Magic cinematographer
“Weight-wise the Norvan LD 2 is a fair bit lighter than most of the other options in my locker, but it still has a light and springy feel to it on the move. The upper seems to hold your foot effortlessly without applying pressure in any specific areas (even with laces done up tight), and the sole is grippy and wide enough to inspire confident foot strikes on uneven surfaces. Even subtle details like the pocket to keep your laces from flapping around help create this illusion of effortless movement, which helps a little with your head-game as miles start to pile up.”
“Over the course of a recent trip to Cumbria, where we were covering a lot of distance involving a mix of muddy hillsides and slippery rock, these performed excellently for me. It’s hard to imagine there are many better tools that you could have underfoot when you’ve got big distances and rough terrain to talk on in a small space of time. Like all good bits of kit, with these on your feet, you’re barely thinking about them, leaving you free to think about the task at hand.”
Pete Cameron, Arc’teryx Product Manager – Footwear
“Within the NORVAN series of TRAIL RUN shoes, we aim to create three completely different experiences between the Long-Distance (LD), SuperLight (SL), and Vertical / Technical (VT). In the case of the NORVAN LD, while everyone’s long-distance is different, everyone shares a central need for enduring comfort. Honestly, comfort really stands alone as the difference-maker in such a product. Comfortable feet are the gateway to enjoyment on the trails and in the end, comfort is performance. For the NORVAN LD 2, there’s an iconic trail in our North Vancouver backyard called Baden Powell and it runs the entire west to east length of the north shore. It’s about 46km long, has lots of elevation gain and descent, and at times can be quite unpredictable underfoot. Using this very real trail experience as inspiration, we prioritise comfort but also think carefully about building in versatile grip and ensuring that the shoe is light. We feel like this 3-pronged approach to building a long-distance trail running shoe is the most authentic and difference-making way we can do it.
“For the 2nd version of this model, we aimed to increase the durability of both the upper and of the compression set of the midsole but somehow decrease the overall weight… quite a design challenge! Our close partnership with Vibram was a central part in unlocking part of the solution and we now use LiteBase in the outsole. Doing so, decreases the base thickness of the Megagrip rubber by about 50%, the weight by 30%, and doesn’t compromise longevity, traction, or grip performance. It’s expensive to use but considering our objective and the difference it makes, it’s well worth it in our view. As for the upper, we changed materials and in long-term testing, we’ve got people putting north of 800km on their shoes. In the end, the NORVAN LD 2 weighs 260g in size 8.5 UK / 9 US … -50g vs the 2018 version!
“It takes about 24 months to get from idea to product launch at retail. In this time, we test and test and test some more. Finding materials and construction that work in the field and can be industrialised in our factories takes time and patience. This is part of the process for every model we create. In the case of the NORVAN LD 2, we’ve got testers all over the world who put kilometre after kilometre in prototypes of various iterations in a variety of conditions. When we launch to the consumer, we want to be 100% ready to fulfil the promise we set out to achieve.”
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