Carbon this, carbon that. In an era where running shoes are getting more and more complicated (not to mention more expensive), it's refreshing to see a brand make a pair of uncomplicated, effective running shoes for hitting the trail. The new Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 is just that.
I wouldn't go so far as to call them "stripped down" or exceedingly plain, mind you; they are made with advanced materials and have all the updated bits you'd want from a modern trail runner. These new Arc'teryx shoes simply don't have anything you don't want or need.
For its third version of the Norvan LD (the latter letters stand for Long Distance), Arc'teryx has outfitted the shoe with a well-stacked, shock-absorbing Vibram Litebase sole finished with 4.0mm lugs, in a pattern that Vibram has dubbed Megagrip. The shoe is extremely light and features a minimal, durable upper that is in no way flashy (other than when found in the bright blue Fluidity colorway).
The toebox is wide, to accommodate splay, and the stretchy tongue provides a comfortable, friction-free fit. They also have the ever-important extra lace eyelet you can use for a heel lock, which definitely comes in handy on the trail.
What's Good About the Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 Trail Running Shoes
The Fit Is Impeccable
The first thing that wowed me about these shoes: the fit. The tongue is made from a thick, stretchy mesh-type material that is integrated into the sole of the shoe, providing a satisfying cocoon-like feel that seems to grab your foot and caress it once your heel drops into the shoe.
The laces are plenty long enough to lace through every hole and still do a heel-lock, though I did have to double-knot them to keep them tied. I really appreciate the toebox width — gotta let those toes breathe, after all. Plus, it kept me comfortable across all types of terrain.
The Grip Is Insane
I've run in shoes with Vibram soles before ‚ and much like the others, the Norvan LD 3s are exactly as sturdy as I hoped they'd be. The loose dirt I find here around New York City this time of year is slippery and hard to predict, especially when you charge into rock gardens filled with smooth, flat rocks that are hard to differentiate from the more stable parts of the trail. Still, I was comfortable at speed and didn't worry about taking a tumble. If you do like to run in the wet, though, Arc makes a Gore-Tex version, too.
You probably wouldn't be able to tell that these shoes would be that grippy just by looking at them — some shoes out there might appear to have more stick-um on the sole — but these did just what was promised. Plus, the white-ish gray sole looks unabashedly sick to my eyes.
They're Light as a Feather
A feather that weighs 9.4 ounces, to be precise. That's almost a whole ounce lighter than the new Hoka Speedgoat 5 and 1.5 ounces lighter than the La Sportiva Akasha II. That may not seem like much, but over time, your legs will appreciate the lighter lift.
That lightness doesn't compromise comfort or stability, either. Arc'teryx says these are made for long-distance running, and it's easy to see why. The distance didn't matter when I was running; I always felt like I had a stable shoe underneath me.
What's Not Ideal About the Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3s
The Fit Is a Bit Finicky
The sizing is a bit odd. I would almost always pick up a 9.5 for running shoes, but these run a tad small — I'm a 9 in the Norvan. And the arches are quite flat, so if you have high arches, I'd recommend getting some insoles — my favorite are Superfeet — to make sure your feet stay supported.
The laces the shoes come with don't do a great job of staying tied, so as I mentioned, be sure you double knot them. (Unless you know some voodoo to keep a single knot tied — in which case, let us know in the comments).
The Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3: The Verdict
If you're looking for a lightweight long-distance trail runner, you should buy these. Hell, even if you just run short distances, you should buy these. They provide plenty of protection around the ankles and toes in case you encounter some loose rocks, but honestly, are probably worth it on the fit alone. Also, not for nothing, they're pretty reasonably priced at $165, especially compared to some of the other shoes we've been testing lately.