Arc’teryx doesn’t yet have the storied history of trail running shoes as they do with their outerwear. That said, it hasn’t taken very long for the brand to gain a solid reputation in the space. Last year, we gave the Arc’teryx Norvan LD our nod for Gear of the Year. So, the new Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2 immediately caught my attention and the testing ensued.

Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2 Trail Running Shoe Features:

  • Lighter insole/midsole/outsole materials over the previous model
  • Single-layer mesh outer fabric
  • Built for long-distance trail running
  • 9mm heel drop (27mm heel – 18mm toe)
  • Strategically placed protective TPU film and synthetic toecap
  • Vibram Megagrip outsole and LiteBase midsole technology
  • OrthoLite™ 3D molded insert
  • Colors: Pytheas/Trail Blaze, Exosphere/Yukon (tested) or Pulse/Paradigm
  • Weight: 21 oz (pair, 11.5, actual)
  • MSRP: $160
Arc'teryx Norvan LD 2 Trail Running Shoes Review

Foot-cradling comfort and traction galore.

Wait… what actually changed?

Upon arrival, it took eagle eyes to discern the real differences between the Norvan LD and LD 2. Still, from the outside, the changes remain minimal, but the guts are where the magic happened. The LD 2’s still feature a mesh upper with welded panels for support and stability. They also feature Vibram Megagrip outsoles and standard, flat laces from forefoot-to-ankle.

Just for kicks and giggles, I even wore the LD’s and LD 2’s side-by-side just to feel the difference. Truthfully, I couldn’t tell much of a difference. Both shoes felt comfortable, supportive, breathable and stable. There are some minor differences (I’ll outline those below), but in reality, they feel very, very similar. The good thing with that is it’s not a cut on the LD 2’s in any way. I love that they feel almost identical. Also, as you can see, the laces are, thankfully, a little shorter on the updated model.

Arc'teryx Norvan LD vs. Norvan LD 2

Side-by-side test: LD 2 (blue) and LD (orange).

On the trail with the LD 2’s

After a short break-in period of a couple 5-mile walks around the neighborhood, the LD 2’s were ready for prime time. With their flat laces and a lacing system, the LD 2’s are easy to cinch up and go. You can pinpoint the pressure as needed with any funky lacing patters you wish, but, in my opinion, you lose some of the inherent magic of the design. With each step, the laces can move in/out slightly to accommodate the natural movements of each foot.

The lightly-padded, perforated tongue extends upward just right and is flexible enough so as not to interfere with ankle movement. As far as the shape of the shoe is concerned, it’s moderately-low in volume with a touch wider toebox. I’m not talking Topo or Altra-style, but just wide enough that your toes can splay out with each step.

Arc'teryx Norvan LD 2 Review - On the trails

In the middle of a long run, the Norvan LD 2’s are comfortable and responsive.

Just as the original, the insole and midsole of the LD 2’s contours to your feet for a cradled ride. Stability is outstanding on all terrain. While these are made for long-distance training, don’t expect them to be extremely-squishy. No, Arc’teryx has struck the seemingly-perfect balance between race and squish for the Goldilocks of comfort. For both long and short distance or at a fast or slow pace, the entire package just feels smooth. Each step leads to another and the Megagrip outsole delivers solid traction at any pace and incline. Of course, the rubber will struggle on loose, rocky terrain, but other than that, they offer outstanding traction.

Arc'teryx Norvan LD and muddy Vibram Megagrip Outsoles

Now you see it.

Arc'teryx Norvan LD 2 and Vibram Megagrip Outsoles

Now you don’t.

When the trails get squishy, mud will build up between the treads. Since they are only 3.5mm deep, it doesn’t add a ton of weight. And, once you continue to drier trails, the mud will expel itself on its own. The above photos show just that. Mid-run, I had a good amount of mud, but by the end of the run, it was all gone.

This 5-mile run is one of my favorite loops. Over those miles, it climbs 1000 ft. and really puts any pair of shoes to the test. The LD 2’s tackled this run and many other longer and shorter ones with aplomb and always left my feet feeling refreshed at the end. During the most demanding climbs on the above loop, I could feel the mesh doing its part to expel moisture. They got a little warmer and maybe a touch damp inside, but on the descent, everything aired out just fine. I have no doubt that the Arc’teryx LD 2’s will do well in warmer temperatures and, as mentioned, they dry out in a hurry. That said, when the grass alongside the trails is wet, the mesh does absorb water, so a little DWR treatment would be awesome.

I’m admittedly a fan of low-drop shoes, but these are decidedly traditional with a large 9mm drop. Most of the time, that kind of drop feels like wearing high heels. Surprisingly, I don’t feel the ramp at all — just a smooth, natural stride. I don’t know where that drop is hiding, but I don’t notice it. Each step leads to another and the smooth rockered outsole just rolls to that next step from midfoot strike to toe-off.

The Good

  • Foot-cradling comfort
  • Excellent breathability
  • Traction in spades
  • Long-distance comfort without the excess
  • Perfect balance between protection and trail feel
  • Lightweight design
  • Love the rockered outsoles

The Bad

  • A little DWR protection would put these over the top

The Bottom Line: Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2

You’ll be hard-pressed to find much different between the original and updated Norvan LD 2 (and that’s a good thing). It didn’t take long for these to settle into my go-to trail runners. With a smooth stride and long-distance comfort, the LD 2’s are taking their place as some of my favorite trail runners. In all, I love the traction, support and comfort in this performance-oriented package.

Buy Now: Available at REI

In Summary

9.7 Awesome Update

The updated LD 2's are lighter than the originals, but perform just as well in every other category (a good thing). These are our benchmark all-day trail runners and will continue to provide comfortable miles for a long time.

  • Weight 10
  • Toebox Width 9
  • Comfort 10
  • Fit 10
  • Stride 10
  • Traction 10
  • Protection 9
  • Breathability 10
  • Stability 9

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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