Like many runners, I’m a loyalist. I found my favorite shoe, the Speedgoat, years ago. And despite many opportunities to test other brands, I’ve stubbornly stayed put — at least, until this year, when I tried the Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2.
With lugs worn nearly flat, it was time for me to get a new pair of kicks. Uncharacteristically, I opted to shop around, and the Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2 stood out during my research.
Despite a top-tier reputation in the broader outdoor world, the trail-running community is decidedly lukewarm on Arc’teryx shoes. I wanted to see if this apathy was warranted or just an artifact of our type A personalities.
For context, the Norvan line dates back to 2016, when Arc’teryx first entered the trail-running market. Available in men’s and women’s, the LD 2 is the sequel to last year’s mid- to long-distance trail runner, with alleged improvements to comfort and stability.
I’ve been testing a pair for a couple weeks now — about 100 miles — to see how it would hold up in various conditions. Marketed as a high-mileage shoe, I was excited to tackle some long runs.
In short: Making a good trail shoe often takes time and several iterations. Balancing support with flex, traction on many surfaces, and weight with durability is a huge challenge. Because of this, many runners (myself included) are skeptical of shoes that claim they do it all.
Yet the Norvan LD 2 molds them together well, keeping the upper extremely light, the footbox comfortable but not loose, and the material breathable. And the rubber gives enough traction to be workable on most surfaces. It’s as close to a one-shoe quiver as you’ll get.
Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2 Trail Shoe Review
The Norvan LD 2 upper is a polyester mesh with thermoplastic polyurethane film overlays to provide structure in key parts. It’s a simple and smooth design that looks to be fairly durable. Compared to earlier Arc’teryx models I’ve tried on in the shop, it’s not overly stiff, either — no issues with rubbing or blisters thus far.
The mesh breathes and drains quickly, but it did get wet pretty fast despite what I’ve read about it elsewhere. If you plan to be running in the rain a lot, you’d best find a fully GORE-TEX upper, an option the LD 2 offers in both women’s and men’s (or just get used to damp socks). Otherwise, the LD 2 should work just fine.
Norvan LD 2 Traction
Thus far, I’ve had no major issues with the Vibram tread. Judging by the size of lugs and their pattern, I probably won’t use these shoes on icy or super-muddy runs, but those are rare anyway. On loose dirt, snow, slush, clay, and sand, they have worked just fine, with no noteworthy issues.
It’s also great for both flying downhill and gripping steep uphill climbs. The shoe is narrow and fits snug, making the grip feel even better. Compared to my go-to HOKAs, the Norvan LD 2 allows me to feel the trail better.
At first, I was worried this would compromise support on long runs because I have some chronic hamstring issues. But so far, I’ve had no issues there either.
Flex & Support
The Norvan LD 2 has a small rock plate that feels a bit stiff on pavement, but it’s otherwise pretty unnoticeable. This plate adds necessary support to the shoe without sacrificing the flex needed to roll over rocks and other obstacles on more technical terrain.
The midsole cushioning and foam insert feel soft, especially when compared to other lightweight rail shoes. For a long-distance shoe, the LD 2 feels fast — and yet, through 100 miles, I haven’t had any issues with my hamstrings.
Weight & Durability
At just 9 ounces per shoe (almost 2 ounces lighter than its predecessor), the Norvan LD 2 is one of the lightest long-distance shoes you can buy. Yet it still manages a 0.7mm rock plate, Vibram Litebase outsole, and 9mm drop. The 3.5mm lugs do well on most surfaces without adding weight or clumsiness on paved roads.
I haven’t had any issues with my sample’s durability. In fact, I’ve been impressed with how the stiff upper and small tongue really mold to my foot, creating comfort and stability. Other than a little mud, they still look and feel brand new.
Norvan LD 2: Lingering Concerns
Despite being advertised as long-distance, I still wouldn’t recommend this shoe to ultrarunners, especially those dabbling in 50- and 100-milers. It’s light, fast, and versatile, but my gut instinct is that it still lacks the support for that kind of pounding. Alas, maybe you can’t have everything.
That said, if you’re looking for a no-bullshit trail shoe for a variety of running, the Norvan LD 2 is a great option.
The Norvan LD 2 (women’s and men’s) offers the right balance of stability and traction, helping you feel confident on almost any trail. It’s a great shoe in many weather conditions and grips well on both uphill and downhill.
Maybe best of all, the shoe offers great support despite being on the lighter side of long-distance runners. Because it drains and wicks water well, the Norvan LD doesn’t seem to gain much weight in the rain, either. While the LD 2 might not be perfect for everyone, it certainly has impressed me thus far.