Arc’teryx gathered beta from its first-ever trail-running shoe and launched the improved Norvan VT 2 for dirt-to-rock ascents. My conclusion after testing a pair? Evolution approved.
Arc’teryx recently introduced the Norvan VT 2 trail-running shoe, an updated iteration of the Norvan VT with a great facelift. Compared to the old version, the Norvan VT 2 is a supportive, streamlined, smearable, lighter-weight shoe. The price remains at $170.
It’s available in men’s and women’s versions. I tested the women’s Norvan VT 2.
The Norvan VT 2 launched in fall 2019. Like its former counterpart, it’s a hybrid run-to-scramble shoe that’s equipped for mountainous terrain: a mix of dirt, rocky singletrack, and scrambling up boulders or slab.
I’ve also tested the Norvan GTX (waterproof GORE-TEX version, $185-195) on high-altitude runs and extensive scrambles throughout the Colorado Rockies. Both shoes prove to be resilient mile-after-mile and confidently grippy on rock in various conditions.
In short: The new Norvan VT 2 caters to a more tailored, snug fit through a traditional lace-up footwear closure, replacing the former adjustable 360 support system.
Simply put, the Norvan VT 2 is more comfortable. This precise shoe with moderate cushioning and protection is a solid, long-lasting option for runners heading to trails or off-trail terrain in the mountains.
Note: The fit is best for average-to-narrow feet. If that’s you, read on.
Arc’teryx Norvan VT 2 Review
I first tested the Norvan VT 2 on off-trail, high-altitude terrain in the middle of British Columbia’s Purcell Mountains, between Bugaboo Provincial Park and the Septet Range.
With no singletrack to follow, the conditions ranged wildly from soft mud shale on the ridgelines and steep slopes to hardened quartz-embedded schist, sun-baked dirt, snow, wet grass, bogs, mud, and river crossings.
Then, in the fall, I wore these shoes on local runs in the Elk Mountains to prepare for the 20-mile Camp 4 Cart to Cart trail race, where I used the shoes.
Overall, my mileage in these shoes ranged from 3 to 20 miles per run.
Comfort & Fit
One standout quality of these shoes is that they’re super comfortable out of the box. I pulled them on and wore them for 9 consecutive days on mountain runs in Canada — plus a via ferrata on a rest day — that totaled to more than 52 miles and 19,445 feet of vertical gain.
For support, there are 4mm-thick OrthoLite 3D-molded inserts inside the shoes. The EVA midsoles present shock absorption. A soft, moldable tongue features a garage to stash the laces, so they don’t get weathered or caught. The Norvan VT 2 is a bit lighter, at nearly 10 ounces per shoe, and has less heel-to-toe drop at 8 mm.
Though I had other pairs of trail runners with me in Canada, these were ideal for high-alpine conditions. The breathable mesh uppers helped my feet from getting too hot on long, exposed ascents. And the shoes dried quickly after each outing despite moments of rain and hail, snow traverses, and complete douses in quagmires.
Despite those quick-drying uppers, these shoes are surprisingly durable due to additional TPU protection that helps the mesh resist abrasion from consistent rough terrain.
And the TPU plate beneath the foot provides protection over uneven ground or slams atop rocks. Due to both features, my feet felt protected and never bruised or experienced sores on fast, rocky descents, including ones swimming in shale.
I was cautious when I first traversed with these shoes over a ridgeline section of frosted, round, and slanted rocks. But I soon found I could trust the grip on slick features and mid-trail scrambles. The Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole is assuredly sticky on rock.
Above the outsole, a rubber rand wraps around the shoe, including a toe cap, which shields against snags and implements traction on smooth, damp faces in steep, dynamic terrain. And an additional high-abrasion material at the forefoot likewise improves friction and edging for climbs.
Furthermore, the outsole offers great traction with deeper 4mm lugs and a fresh pattern that bites well on drier surfaces.
The Bottom Line
The Norvan VT 2 is a lightweight, close-fitting shoe that provides accurate placement, which some runners prefer across irregular terrain. A reinforced upper and sturdy outsole safeguard and reinforce the feet. And throughout my runs, I experienced zero hotspots.
In critique, the cushion is agreeable for short-to-medium distances but might not offer the plushness some runners prefer for longer ultradistances or in general. The toebox and last are on the narrower side, so wider feet might not be a good fit.
And the shoe doesn’t seem to expand well. On longer runs, in the 15-plus-mile range, my feet swell. With these shoes, I feel a pinch on the sides of my forefeet and need to widen the laces. It’s not impossible to manage, but it’s a hassle if you’re in a good flow or hurry like in a race or beneath the weather.
Overall, the Norvan VT 2 is a competitive choice for mountain runners in need of a shoe that endures mixed terrain, capricious conditions, and steepness but doesn’t degrade over the long haul. For those with average-to-narrow feet, it’s worth consideration even with the higher price.