I am a big fan of the Arc'teryx and have tried many of its performance shoes before, which is exactly why I was slightly apprehensive about doing this Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX review. The brand's footwear is usually top-notch quality and performs really well for what they were designed for, but the fit is too narrow for my wide feet. Still, when I first laid my eyes on the shoes, I knew I'd have to try them, no matter what.
I've been using the shoes for various activities for the last few weeks, and the more I wore the Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX, the more it grew on me. Who doesn't like shoes that look great and perform even better? I know I do. It's time to update T3's best trail running shoes guide, I think! And considering how well the Norvan Nivalis GTX functions for walking, I'll probably add it to our best walking shoes roundup, too.
Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX review
Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX review: price and availability
The Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX was released in October 2023 and is available to buy now directly from Arc'teryx UK and Arc'teryx US for a recommended retail price of £180/ $220 (approx. AU$ 343). It's currently not available via Arc'teryx's Australian website.
The shoes have unisex sizing and come in two colours: the tested Smoke Bluff/Smoke Bluff and the sleek Black/Black. Uk sizes range from 3.5 to 13.5 in half-size increments.
Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX review: specifications
- Best for: trail running and walking/hiking in wet conditions
- Weight: 354g / 12oz
- Drop/ offset: not stated
- Lug depth: 6 mm
- Waterproofing: Gore-Tex
- Midsole: EVA/Polyolefin blend
- Outsole: Vibram Litebase/ Megagrip
- Sustainability: 100% Polyester, origin/composition not stated
Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX review: design and build quality
Norvan is Arc'teryx's high-performance trail running system for "extended high output in challenging terrain," the brand explains on its website. The Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX, as the name suggests, is a waterproof addition to the line and features a durable, flexible upper lined with a Gore-Tex bootie.
The feature that lands a chukka boot-style aesthetic to the Norvan Nivalis GTX is the breathable water-repellent stretch gaiter, sporting a front zip closure that extends to the ankle for added protection from snow, water, and mud entry. The gaiter also helps keep debris out of the shoe.
Hidden under the zipped gaiter is the padded tongue and the quick lace system, which isn't quite on par with Boa fastening but helps tie the shoes easier and with less effort. Should the Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX have traditional lacing, I imagine getting in and out of the shoes would be pretty challenging.
The EVA/Polyolefin blend midsole feels solid and provides shock absorption as well as propulsion – I couldn't find any info on stack height or drop, though. The toe cap further enhances protection and abrasion resistance. Sadly, and from what I can tell, no components are made from recycled materials, which is a shame, considering the construction is 100% polyester.
Finally, the Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX uses tried-and-tested third-party technologies on the outsole, including the Vibram Litebase sole and a grippy Vibram Megagrip rubber compound with an aggressive 6 mm lug pattern.
Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX review: performance and comfort
As mentioned in the intro, I found Arc'teryx shoes too narrow for my feet in the past, and even though the company claims that the Norvan Nivalis GTX's "toe box is sized to accommodate splay," I went half size up to ensure my feet won't feel too compressed in the shoes.
Indeed, the Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX feels narrow but not uncomfortably tight. The only time I felt some pressure was when I wore the shoes for over 12 hours (!). Anything less than that, the pressure in the toe box is more than bearable.
I went on plenty of runs and walks in the Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX, and I must say, the shoes grew on me more and more as time went by. I felt the same as when I reviewed the Klattermusen Syr Unisex Levitend Hooded Parka, in the sense that although, at first, you might think the Norvan Nivalis GTX is a fashion shoe, once you put its performance to the test, you realise that those good-looking details serve a purpose.
Some people prefer their trail running shoes not to be waterproof – it prevents the water that got inside from leaving, which makes the shoes heavier and wearing them less comfortable – thanks to the waterproof gaiter, it makes sense for the Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX to be fully waterproof.
Granted, I've yet to wear them for a proper sloppy trail session, but on the rainy runs and walks I went on wearing them, they managed to keep the water out well.
The grip is on point, as I would expect from shoes utilising top-tier Vibram technology. The depth and orientation of those lugs are excellent and work well for both off-road and tarmac running. I never felt slippy or not in control of my stride in the Norvan Nivalis GTX.
Energy return is good, too, which surprised me a bit. The shoes look heavier than they are – not quite the same as the Nike Alphafly 2 level, but still – yet I never felt sluggish when running in them. You shouldn't expect the same energy return as plated road runners, but for waterproof trail running shoes, the Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX perform pretty well.
Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX review: verdict
The Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX is such a nice trail running shoe that it makes me wish I didn't have wide feet so I could wear them for every off-road running session I'll do in the future. The shoes represent the best Arc-teryx has to offer for people who often run and walk outdoors – and they look stunning, too. If only they were more sustainably made!
Waterproof trail runners can be a bit and miss, but thanks to the Gore-Tex bootie and flexible waterproof gaiter, the Norvan Nivalis GTX is one of the best ones out there. The price pushes the shoes more into the premium category, and the popularity of the Arc'teryx brand in fashion circles might also put some trail runners off, but if you're happy to justify/accept both of those things, you'll love your new Norvan Nivalis GTX.
Arc'teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX review: also consider
The inov-8 Trailfly G270 v2 retains all the excellence of the first-gen trail tamer – the speed and agility, balanced protection, great grip, and robust durability – and adds a little extra upper comfort. It's slightly firmer than your average trail runner, mind. Read Kieran's awesome Inov-8 Trailfly G270 V2 review.
The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is a fantastic, slightly lighter upgrade to the Speedgoat 4 with a new, sock-like mesh upper made from recycled materials and an excellent midsole rebound. Featuring the same Vibram Megagrip sole as the Arc'Teryx Norvan Nivalis GTX but with Traction Lugs, Hoka's GOAT trail shoes provide a secure, snug fit for multi-terrain use and more muddy and technical (rocky, uneven) trails. Read Claire's full Hoka Speedgoat 5 review.