The Canadian outdoor apparel brand Arcteryx is synonymous with creating super high-end apparel and gear for the outdoors, especially the skiing and climbing worlds. However, the brand has developed a small cult following amongst runners and other alpine-style athletes for their sleek designs and functional products.

This is where the Norvan SL comes in as a unique choice for when the weight counts. The Norvan SL is one part of a three shoe lineup focused on having the right tool for the job. The Norvan LD and VT stand for Long Distance and Vertical Terrain respectively and serve as specialty tools for other missions. The SL (superlight) sits as the lightest and most packable option. It occupies a space perfect for short to medium distance runs or for missions where you need a light shoe that can be used for the approach.

Key Specs

  • Single-layer TPU mesh with Goretex 
  • 0.8mm microfibre heel collar lining
  • 0.4mm TPU protective film
  • Medial heel carabiner clip-in point
  • Forefoot 0.7mm TPU film
  • 19 mm stack height in the heel and 12 mm forefoot, 7mm drop
  • Integrated 2mm Eva Sock Liner
  • Compressed Light EVA 55 Shore C & Anti-Fatigue Insert 65 Shore C
  • Vibram Megagrip Lite Base Outsole
  • 170g per shoe (Men's size 9)
  • $160 MSRP
This shoe is LIGHT! The Norvan SL is unapologetically ultrallightweight and creates a different sensation than many other shoes I've stepped into.

Fit

The fit was a little bit more accommodating in the toebox than I would've thought at first glance and subsequently gets high marks. However, as you move towards the heel things get a bit more complicated. The shoe narrows in the midfoot and heel. I felt it pushing and digging in a little after a few miles. I just didn't feel like the entire shoe felt proportional in terms of fit. The other area in which the fit didn't shine is the heel counter and collar. The shoe felt like it would move around a lot and you couldn't quite get a super solid lockdown. This lead to some heel blisters for me and some Achilles issues that affected the rest of my week. Not cool...

Upper

The upper is exceptional and exactly what you would expect from the brand countless professionals turn to for working in the mountains. The upper is sleek and works together to connect you well to the rest of the shoe with a few exceptions like the heel area. This is also where the Goretex shines. Western North Carolina (where this shoe was tested) is known for its temperate rain forests and their subsequent mud, puddles, and abundant tiny streams. This shoe took it all like a champ and kept my foot super dry while maintaining solid breathability. The other interesting and quite an applaudable choice is adding the two heel carabiner clips, one of each shoe. It's a nice choice that separates it from the competition and keeps the shoe as versatile as it claims.

Awesome colors here

Midsole

Norvan SL sports what Arcteryx calls a "Compressed Light EVA 55 Shore C & Anti-Fatigue Insert 65 Shore C". To put that in terms more folks will understand, it's responsive and at times, unforgiving. I found while running in this that the shoe gives back exactly what you give it in terms of energy and nothing more. This made the shoe feel kinda awkward when at slower paces but, I didn't mind when the pace picked up or when things got increasingly vertical or technical. The TPU film occupies the place a rock pate would and kept things moving freely and quickly while providing a little protection.

Outsole

It's no secret that I love Vibram outsoles and the Norvan SL is no exception. The Litebase and MegaGrip Combo come together to make a shoe that sticks to rocks and provides plenty of grip in the dry. However, when things get wet it's a little bit of a different story. With only 3.5mm lugs when things were wet or especially muddy, it got interesting.

3.5mm lugs that stick like velcro when the variable are right.

Pros:

  • Looks incredible
  • Favors speed over everything else
  • The outsole is unstoppable on rocky scrambles

Cons:

  • Needs a better foothold
  • Holds no punches on longer runs where fatigue may set in
  • Price

Final Thoughts

The Arcteryx Norvan SL is an ultralight trail runner that is a perfect companion, for speedy scrambles or weight-conscious approaches. I see this shoe as more of a specialty tool than a solution to multiple problems that some runners face if you can afford it.

Disclaimer: This shoe was purchased from Arcteryx and the opinions here are the author's unbiased thoughts.

Keep the Conversation Going:

Should Arcteryx stick to clothing or are you a fan of their foot wear as well?