As a relative newcomer to the trail running shoe category, Arc’teryx has a few years of experience that has given them a leg-up. As part of the Amer Sports family, they can leverage expertise and manufacturing systems already in place from sister brands. With that foundation in place, the Norvan LD’s display just what the Arc’teryx golden touch can do.

Arc’teryx Norvan LD Features:

  • Single-layer mesh upper with TPU film protection/structure
  • EVA/Polyolefin midsole
  • 9mm drop (27mm to 18mm)
  • Vibram® MegaGrip™ rubber compound with 3.5mm lugs
  • 4mm OrthoLite 3D insole
  • Weight: 12.3 oz each (size 11.5, actual)
  • MSRP: $160
Arc'teryx Norvan LD Review

Finisher’s feet: After the Cirque Series race at Alta, UT.

The Arc’teryx Golden Touch

At the top of the list of “who’s who” of outdoor gear, Arc’teryx has quite the legacy. In our years of testing their products, the hype is well-deserved as every piece has been worthy of the high price tag. But, shoes are a relatively-new category for the brand — only around since 2015. It’s still a focused lineup with a selection of approach shoes, trail runners and hiking boots. Upon introduction, the faithful were stoked, but I hadn’t had a chance to try a pair until the Norvan LD’s arrived just in time for prep for the 2019 Cirque Series at Alta.

I didn’t have time to try on the Norvan LD’s, so I opted for an 11.5 instead of my typical 11, just in case. I figured that the lasts might be similar to Salomon and I usually wear an 11.5 in their shoes. That said, the LD’s arrived and I was pleasantly surprised at the toe box width and overall size. I could have stuck with the 11’s, but #wiggleroom is always good. The fire orange color now makes four pair of orange trail runners in my arsenal — it’s a theme and I’m liking it. They are also available in a couple of blue colors if orange isn’t your thing.

Arc'teryx Norvan LD Review // Vibram MegaGrip Outsole

The Vibram MegaGrip outsole offers excellent traction.

The Norvan LD’s are built for long-distance training and racing for those of us who don’t need to be low, fast and light. By no means are these heavy at 12.3 oz, but you may want to look at the Norvan SL’s if you want their lightest option. With a cushy midsole and breathable mesh uppers, the Norvan LD’s are built for the utmost comfort. But, that cushy midsole doesn’t lack rebound or trail feel. Rebound is fantastic with every new step and trail feel is absolutely Goldilocks (you’ll feel what you need and not what you don’t want to feel).

I break in all shoes around town and on a few miles of walking around the trails. It didn’t take long to recognize the beauty of a good Vibram sole. Arc’teryx has done well selecting their MegaGrip rubber with a moderate 3.5mm lug design. These run well on pavement (if you’re curious) and absolutely nail dirt, rocks and scree. Their only limitation is on summer snowfields where you will slide around quite a bit — dang, can’t win them all. 

Arc'teryx Norvan LD Review

A smooth stride for miles and I didn’t notice the 9mm drop.

Where Did the Drop Go?

The most surprising aspect of the Norvan LD’s is that they are built with a full 9mm drop, but you’d never guess it. I’ve become accustomed to low-drop shoes these days and the LD’s are decidedly traditional in their drop. In spite of that, they don’t feel ramped at all. Somehow that drop is hidden well because I absolutely love the feel of these shoes and have found them to have the perfect stride from impact to push-off. None of that high-heels feeling or walking on your toes — nada. Long runs are supremely-comfortable and each stride feels natural and smooth.

As I’ve broken them in, they have only become more comfortable as they cradle my low arches and normal-width feet like a glove. The smooth heel cup keeps my feet locked-in and allows for easy exit/entry, but a heeltab would be a nice touch to aid that process. Breathability is fantastic, but that mesh does allow moon dust to enter and rock punts can hurt. I’ll add that, with that breathability, the mesh dries out in a hurry should things get damp on the trail.

While the flat, smooth laces are nice-looking, they aren’t so good at keeping tied. A single knot will always loosen up — even around town. So, double these up and tuck those laces in just for security’s sake. And, in spite of my love affair with BOA IP1’s, I’m just fine with laces.

The Good

  • Incredible comfort
  • Hides the 9mm drop well — so smooth
  • Excellent breathability
  • Dries in a jiffy
  • MegaGrip is mega-grippy
  • Suitable for road approaches

The Bad

  • Laces don’t stay tight (double them up, always)
  • Summer snow traction is lacking (can’t win them all)
  • Can I get a heel tab?

The Bottom Line: Arc’teryx Norvan LD

As I was breaking these in, I knew they would be my choice for the upcoming Cirque Series race because they felt like my perfect trail runner. In the end, after many long training runs and a race under their belt, the Norvan LD’s sit atop my list of favorite trail runners. These are the perfect balance of comfort, speed and performance and my middle-aged bones really appreciate that.

Buy Now: Available at REI

In Summary

9.7 Kick-butt Kicks

The Arc'teryx Norvan LD's absolutely nail the perfect trail running shoe in my book. They are lightweight, comfortable and smooth with just the right amount of cushioning. I can run all day in the LD's and have done that on a few occasions. Breathability is superb and the overall package is well worth the Arc'teryx premium price.

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

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason 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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