Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 review in a sentence: An ideal shoe for hikers and those new to, or apprehensive about, trail running.
The Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 feels different from other trail running shoes. For one, the thick InFuse midsole feels much closer to a road shoe and allows for a springier run. The Norvan LD 3 is designed with comfort in mind, and runners who prefer not to feel the rocks or compacted soil beneath their feet will find these extremely reassuring.
But if you are an athlete who prefers to feel their way across the terrain, then the additional support may create a less responsive and stable run. Also, the 6mm drop, and high collar might be a little restrictive for the same group of runners.
As you can tell, the Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 isn't the best trail running shoe, but it's not without merits. What are these? Read on to find out.
Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 review: Price and availability
Currently, only the LD 2 is available in Australia; we're waiting on Arc'teryx to confirm the availability and price of the Norvan LD 3.
Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 review: The tech
The Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 makes bold claims about its ability to handle challenging terrain over long distances. Across the fields and stony paths where I tested these shoes as part of my ultramarathon training, I found them to be incredibly reliable on both dry and wet surfaces.
The aggressive Vibram Megagrip 4mm lugs provide great traction in thick mud and down steep slippery slopes. The toe cap protection is also a welcome feature acting as a firm barrier between toes and rocks.
The midsole is a blend of EVA and Polyolefin and provides hefty cushioning that serves a dual purpose of shock absorption and propulsion. I definitely felt I had a spring in my step whilst wearing this brand and I practically bounced all the way down the field behind my house.
As someone who gets through a lot of trail shoes, my guilt was slightly alleviated by the fact that the dynamic foam produced in this pair is made from 100% recycled EVA. Arc'teryx as a brand has a strong sustainability mission which focuses on durability rather than fast fashion and the Norvan LD 3 is definitely a hard-wearing shoe.
Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 review: Ergonomics
From a comfort perspective, the Arc'teryx has mixed results. There is no doubt that these shoes provide cushioning on a par with road shoes without compromising on grip or durability. But as a trail runner, I found the internal foot wrap slightly suffocating and the stiff high collar started rubbing my ankles around the 10km mark.
As someone who lands on their midfoot rather than their heel, the 6mm drop and high arch did not suit me and I found myself feeling disconnected from the ground due to the thick heel outsole.
Despite weighing only 250g and claims of an air-permeable single-layer mesh to allow moisture vapour to escape I found the shoes on the hot side, even when temperatures were mild. A much cooler and lighter pair, by comparison, is the Saucony Peregrine 12 which weighs 235g but feels about a third of the weight.
The Arc'teryx Novan LD 3 only come in a standard width but the compensation for this is a wider toe box than the LD 2 with plenty of room for splay. Some runners may find they don't need to go half a size up, due to this extra room.
But the best feature of all is perhaps the simplest. The LD 3 has a loop at the end of the Ariaprene foam tongue which is big enough to insert a digit finger inside making it super easy to pull the tongue into the right position. It begs the question why don't all running shoes have one of these loops?
Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 review: Aesthetics
There are just three colour choices but the style is simple and classy rather than bold and brash. Each option has one main colour which includes the laces with some details in a secondary complementary paler colour.
There is the highly impractical white with pale blue detail (ether/arbour), a bottle blue (fluidity/light desert salt) and a muted maroon (dark rose dush/light fallow). Each has a neutral sole colour.
Although similar in design to the LD 2, the colours are more conservative this time around with no striking green or orange soles or laces.
Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 review: Verdict
Initially, I was extremely impressed with the comfort of the Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 but the longer I wore them the more I realised they were best suited to beginners. They have a fairly high price tag and will appeal to those looking for a trail shoe with additional cushioning and support. If you are a fan of Asics Cumulus or Brooks Ghost road shoes then these are good crossover trail shoes.
They are also suitable for runners whose feet meet the ground heel first and require a 6mm drop. But longer distance, experienced trail runners may prefer something less restrictive which allows them to feel the earth more intuitively.
Arc'teryx Norvan LD3 review: Also consider
If you are looking for a streamlined ultra-light trail shoe and do not require additional internal support then you can't go wrong with the Saucony Peregrine 12. Super grippy and extremely breathable these are a delight to run in. They have an integrated rock plate to protect your feet and cope well on multi-terrain including roads. A fantastic all-rounder.
Still on sale is the Higher State Soil Shaker 2 (retailer link) which is possibly the best value trail shoe on the market. They have minimal support and cushioning but have some protection in the form of a reinforced toe. A great shoe for runners on a budget or as a transition shoe before trying barefoot running bands like Vibram FiveFingers.