With 7mm of drop from an EVA midsole these Arc’teryx Norvan SL shoes have fairly traditional origins, but there’s nothing normal about these super lightweight minimal mountain marvels.
Durable high-tech construction
Midsole firms up in cold conditions
Too breezy in cold conditions
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With 19mm of stack under the heel and 12mm under the forefoot, Arc’teryx Norvan SLs give a heel-to-toe drop of 7mm, placing your foot in a fairly traditional running shoe position. But the weight, or lack of it, and nimble feel of these trail racers makes them exceptional. Sub 200g for most sizes is record-breakingly light for a trail shoe. And they stay light too; there’s no spongy insole (there’s no insole at all) or padded upper to soak up water, and they’re designed to work without socks for that simple bare experience.
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The upper is a hydrophobic TPU mesh that breaths impressively for cool summer running. The fit is ergonomically foot hugging but not as narrow as you might first think; there’s some forefoot room here. The Vibram outsole grips well on abrasive rock and fine on hard packed trails but isn’t happy on wet grass or in muddy boggy conditions.
At time of writing the Norvan SL are being subtly updated to version ‘2’ with a more resilient midsole compound and a less controversial heel cup design. New colors include Venom/Elytron (acid yellow), Glade (sky blue) and Black.
• RRP: $160 (US) / £130 (UK)
• Gender availability: Men’s, Women’s
• Weight (per shoe, men’s UK11): 206g / 7.3oz
• Colors: Orange / Grey
• Drop: 7mm
• Compatibility: All trails
On the trails
The Arc’teryx Norvan SLs are a great example of doing one thing very well. And, sure enough, a shoe that weighs almost nothing kind of disappears on the run. Stick to dry weather runs and the ‘scamper factor’ is high. (A made up metric to describe the urge to scramble up rocky climbs mid run!)
Actually, quick splashes through streams is ‘no problemo’ as the Norvan SLs are hydrophobic so there’s no weight gain after a full dunk! They feel precise rather than narrow but they’re not a wide shoe so there’s no obvious toe-splaying freedom. Ground feel could be improved with a softer midsole which would improve the long run comfort too. Grip isn’t great in mud.
If you’re a trail runner who likes to take the occasional left turn and to throw some serious-grade scrambling into your run, the Arc’teryx Norvan SLs are well worth a look.
Mid-pack fell-plodder Paul has been writing about his outdoor adventures for about ten years. Initiated by a move from Coventry to the Peak District in 2010, Paul quickly evolved from jogger, reluctant gym-goer and occasional camper to full-blown fell-obsessed trail runner and wild camping adventurer. Paul’s 2016 attempt at the Cape Wrath Ultra was only curtailed (on day six!) by an infected big toe; the story of its Vesuvius style release, with supporting photos, is something Paul is too keen to share.
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