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Arc’teryx Norvan SL review: a lightweight shoe for running through mountains

The Arc’teryx Norvan SL is a bafflingly lightweight minimal mountain racing shoe

Arc’teryx Norvan SL
(Image: © Arc’teryx)

Our Verdict

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.

For

  • Crazy light
  • Durable high-tech construction
  • Hydrophobic

Against

  • Expensive
  • Midsole firms up in cold conditions
  • Too breezy in cold conditions

First impressions

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.

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.

Specifications

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.