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Arc'teryx Norvan VT Trail Running Shoes review

04-Apr-17

Last updated: 04-Dec-18

By Steve Diederich

In a crowded market with everyone piling into trail shoe production, is there room for a premium priced new entrant from a manufacturer of premium climbing and outdoor gear? Given that Arc’teryx’s parent company Amer Sports owns Salomon, they certainly have pedigree to draw on, so can the Norvan VT’s have enough points of difference to carve a niche for themselves?

Features

  • 9mm Heel drop
  • Vibram sole – Megagrip / Idrogrip mix
  • 3.5mm Lugs on the sole
  • Adjustable “360 Degree support” lacing system to move from climb to run mode.
  • Stretch mesh uppers
  • Stretch liner to seal out debris
  • Ortholite 4mm insoles
  • Weight 318gms (Size 45)
  • RRP UK £143.95. 

I am guessing you have just skim-read the above feature list, however the story of the Norvans lies in some clever features they have innovated for this shoe. I will come right out at this point and say that this shoe is on the narrow side, so if you have a wide foot, you can probably go straight to another review on this site, or invest the five minutes saved in reading this by writing to Arc’teryx to get them to produce a wide-fit version.

What makes the Norvan VTs special

1. The stretch liner sock

This makes this shoe ridiculously comfortable. You could easily not wear any socks at all (I have tried this on a couple of occasions now and although not recommended in cold and wet conditions, in terms of comfort the Norvan is class-leading). They have taken the Endofit concept of Salomon shoes to a new level, the other great part of this design is that they have loops where the tongue would be and at the heel, allowing you to easily slide your foot in, even when wet. 

RUNULTRA_Arc-teryx-Norvan-VT-review-by-Steve-Diederich_Showing-inner-sock-liner


2. The lacing system

Being a fan of Salomon’s Sensifit lacing system, I was hoping that this would have been adopted by Arc’teryx. The system takes the best part of the lacing system and then adds a neat feature. The asymmetrical lacing provides excellent toe box tension to locate your forefoot firmly in place, and the killer design here is that you can easily loop the lacing over by the forefoot to get even more support. Ideal for downhill sections where you would typically get some movement towards the front of your shoes, often resulting in your toes being rammed up against the inside of the toe protectors. Arc’teryx says that this can be done on the fly. I guess with practice this is possible. I just set them before going out for a hilly run and the difference is really noticeable… albeit a little constricting for my wider feet.

RUNULTRA_Arc-teryx-Norvan-VT-review-by-Steve-Diederich_Pointing-out-downhill-running-lacing-option

RUNULTRA_Arc-teryx-Norvan-VT-review-by-Steve-Diederich_Pointing-out-standing-lacing-option

3. Stretch mesh uppers

I used the Norvans in some very wet conditions (in warmer climes) and the shoe sheds water well. If you look at the shoe as you exit water, you can see the retained water clear out of the sock in your following strides. Of course, this is a double-edged sword as water also goes in really easily, but unless you are going to invest in the Goretex version of these (and yes they do make a GTX version) you will have to live with this. For my money, I would have this version all day long as the other benefit is that in warmer, dry conditions your feet breathe easily.

RUNULTRA_Arc-teryx-Norvan-VT-review-by-Steve-Diederich_Mesh-construction-shot

What the Norvan VTs are like to live with

Comfort. If your feet are on the slim side of normal… you are going to love these. The over-used phrase “feel like a pair of slippers” is true of these shoes. The sock that you slip in covers your foot like a pair of trainer socks and is as comfortable. The toe box provides excellent wrap-around protection, and heel support is sturdy without being overly stiff.

Grip. The Vibram sole copes with most conditions. I felt that they performed best on hard-packed terrain irrespective of whether it was solid or loose. The weakness came in loose or wet mud or wet rock, where although the shoes drained well, the grip was compromised (although to be fair most shoes fail in these conditions).

UPDATE: Having taken these shoes to Costa Rica on The Coastal Challenge and spending a large amount of time in water, I have to eat my words regarding wet weather performance. Not only did they drain exceptionally well - they also gripped wet slippery rock to a level that I haven’t experienced before, performing more like surf shoes rather than technical running gear. I cannot praise them enough in these conditions.

RUNULTRA_Arc-teryx-Norvan-VT-review-by-Steve-Diederich_Vibram-sole

Build. Another Gold Star for Arc’teryx here. These shoes are really tough -  incredible for such a light shoe. Reinforcement is cleverly placed at every point of potential stress. The soles are well stuck to the body of the shoe and even after a fair bit of kicking around and general abuse these shoes look good and show little sign of wear.

Conclusion

These are a thoroughly likeable, capable pair of shoes worthy of the Arc’teryx brand. If you have narrower feet and are after a super tough, stable pair of shoes that are well suited to hard-packed, technical terrain that requires quick drying and great breathability, these should be worthy of your shortlist.

PROS

  • Excellent lacing System
  • Very comfortable (for the narrower foot)
  • Sturdy construction at a light weight
  • Great water dispersal
  • Surefooted on technical terrain

CONS

  • Better for the slim footed
  • Not great on mud and slippery conditions
Score  
Design 9/10
Features 9/10
Performance 8/10
Value 8/10
Total 8.5/10


Other running shoes you may want to consider:

La Sportiva Helios
Scott Kinabalu
Salomon Speedcross 4

Have you used the Arc'teryx Norvan VTs? Don’t agree with this review? What’s your opinion? Add your own comment to this review and share your experience and passion for running with others.

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“The over-used phrase “feel like a pair of slippers” is true of these shoes”

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