We have long been fans of Dyneema composite fabrics. Our love affair began with Hyperlite backpacks, tents, stuff sacks, and then jackets.
So, once we heard that there was an ultralight Dyneema shoe, we had to get our feet in them and see it for real. Enter the Norda 001 RZs.
Norda, a Canadian boutique running shoe company that has a total of six employees (who are all running enthusiasts), claims them as the “world’s first seamless and lightest trail shoe.” If you guessed that a project like this started during the pandemic at the hands (and feet) of extremely driven and talented runners/designers, you’d be right.
In short: Saying you have the “world’s first seamless and lightest trail shoe” is a big claim. But Norda delivered — the Norda 001 RZ’s entire upper is woven from one full piece of Bio-Dyneema, and also includes an airy, light midsole infused with a Vibram and Ortholite insole. Simply put, this shoe offers comfort and grip — and style, too. Read on for more.
Norda 001 RZ Shoe Review
At first, we were skeptical and thought that we would only see little patches of Dyneema here and there on the shoe. But Norda went above and beyond our wildest dreams and made the entire upper into one full piece of Bio-Dyneema.
What is Bio-Dyneema, you ask? It is functionally the same as Dyneema, but with a 90% reduction in carbon footprint.
We have taken them on every foot adventure imaginable, from Sedona’s red rock to Central Oregon’s unrelenting lava fields to Finale, Italy’s limestone-covered trails. Throughout all of these terrains, the lightness, durability, and comfort stand out.
Many miles of scrambling around on rocks, running on trails, and climbing steep mountain scree have left us feeling that these may be the most versatile trail runners we’ve ever worn. And they’d better be — because for the price of $285, you could get two pairs of most other brands’ top trail shoes.
What Sets These Shoes Apart
The most glaring difference between the Norda 001s and other shoes is the upper portion of the shoe. It is woven from one full piece of bio-based Dyneema, making it durable, extremely light, and super comfy.
The tongue and laces showcase a diamond pattern that is made out of both Dyneema and 100% recycled polyester. The upper is also highly visible in the dark with a top-to-bottom reflective pattern that can be seen from all angles.
Midsole and Insole
The midsole and insole are perhaps one of the most glaring features that stood out to both of us. Within the first few minutes of putting them on, I felt like I was running on clouds, and this was in the middle of a 5-day adventure race!
I’d saved these shoes for the last trekking leg, as I was skeptical about using them for the first time at the start of the race. But I was so happy that I saved them for when my feet needed some extra cushion!
One of Norda’s many goals with this shoe was to make a responsive and light midsole for rough trails. I can say with confidence that the company 100% achieved this goal. Each midsole is infused with Vibram SLE, which is one of the lightest and highest-performance midsole materials out there.
The insole is an Ortholite TPU custom-designed insole that adds to the responsiveness and energy return of the whole shoe. All in all, they did not cut corners in making this shoe.
Unlike other shoes I have tested where you have to choose between grip and cushion, the Norda 001s have both. I was able to run and scramble over wet rocks with the ease of a sure-footed mountain goat, while also enjoying the softness underfoot that I normally only feel with a Hoka One or similar brand.
Norda achieves this grip using the well-tested Vibram Megagrip sole combined with Vibram Litebase. Together you get a versatile grip with excellent durability and minimal weight.
While running off-trail in Sedona on the sandstone and in Italy on the limestone, I could easily scramble up and down 5.5 boulder problems.
While many of us runners are more about function over looks, I have gotten more compliments on this shoe than any other shoe I have worn thus far.
Their “ultimate” model, the Norda 001 RZ, is a Ray Zahab collaboration that Norda said was inspired by the most extreme terrain on earth. The blue symbolizes the Arctic blue ice while the orange symbolizes the Namib Desert. It definitely reflects the “fashion industry” background of the company founders.
Norda 001 RZ Conclusion
The Norda 001 RZs are for runners who are looking for a shoe that can go the distance over and over again. Trail runners, multisport adventurers, ultra runners, and recreational runners alike will fall in love with these renewably sourced, extra tough, extremely light, ultra-grippy, and comfortable shoes.
It went above and beyond our expectations, and we are looking forward to continuing on with our testing of it in some big expedition races this summer. While they are expensive, we are pretty sure one pair will last a very long time.