Review: Arc’teryx Norvan LD3 Women’s Trail Shoes

A great all-round trail shoe with a bold and interesting design and a lightweight yet supportive feel

Feature type Review

Read time 5 mins

Published Sep 11, 2023

Author Lena Drapella

Photographer Lena Drapella

Lena Drapella
Lena Drapella A UK based commercial photographer, Lena can often be found climbing, skiing, surfing or glued to a screen with an editing software. She’s a passionate advocate for environmental progress from carbon offsetting to a circular economy.

The Arc’teryx Norvan LD3 is a great all-round trail shoe, with bold and interesting design, a lightweight feel, and plenty of stiffness through the sole.

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Weight per shoe 250g
Features Vibram Megagrip sole, 4mm lugs, breathable and fast-drying Cordura upper

Pros

  • Well-made, sturdy design
  • Very supportive sole
  • Great traction

Cons

  • Composition feels slightly imbalanced – large outsole, thin upper
  • Top end of price range

WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR

Although I’m no fell-racing aficionado, it is really important to me that my running shoes are responsive, comfortable and grippy. Full disclosure: my normal trail and fell shoes are Altras. The zero drop and horizontal width I’m accustomed to from ‘natural’ feeling shoes means that the 9mm on these Norvans initially felt like quite a lot. 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I liked the boldness of the black and white colour scheme, with Arc’teryx presumably trying to distance themselves from the often garishly vibrant offerings available elsewhere (I own a pair of shoes whose colour scheme can only be described as ‘Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups’).

The Norvans felt reassuringly chunky and firm straight out of the box, although I did find the beefiness of the sole a little unbalanced against the ultra-lightweight upper.

The Norvans felt reassuringly chunky and firm straight out of the box, although I did find the beefiness of the sole a little unbalanced against the ultra-lightweight upper

THE TEST

I used these in two very different environments close to home in North Wales. My first run was a short, door-to-door 5km loop through the forest and the second a much more exposed, varied route at a higher altitude in mixed conditions. Despite my initial scepticism due to the high drop, I was quickly surprised by the level of support provided by the stiff sole. 

On fairly chilled, predictable trails close to home, I felt like I could move very positively and run with plenty of confidence, a really nice feeling in shoes straight out of the box. The 4mm lugs are perfect on this type of terrain and although the sole was noticeably chunkier than what I’m used to, I actually found this to be a blessing in many ways. They were really comfortable – Arc’teryx reckon the toebox has been designed to ‘accommodate splay’, which I would say is more-or-less accurate. 

When I took them out on more technical terrain, I was equally impressed, although I’d maybe have taken a slightly more aggressive tread for some of the vertical bog that makes Snowdonia (Eryri) such an enviable place to run. The stiff sole gave a lot of drive and protection against rockier, looser terrain, while the very thin upper dried rapidly after encounters with the aforementioned bog.

WHO IS THIS ITEM FOR?

Arc’Teryx say that this shoe is for “your longest trail runs”, which felt about right for me considering that distance stretches to the 15-20 km mark. It’s difficult for me to say how they would have handled ultra distances or extremely technical high-speed descents, but as an all-rounder in the hills they certainly seem to cover all bases. 

Casual and intermediate runners looking for a durable and long-lasting shoe are likely to really enjoy using these. Elite runners would probably prefer a more discerning shoe from a specialist manufacturer (which would cost you about the same amount), but the target audience seems very well-served here.

WHAT STANDS OUT?

STIFFNESS

Undoubtedly a durable and supportive shoe that seems like it’s made to last, the sole is firm to the point of losing a tiny bit of sensitivity. 

STACK/DROP

These are on the more aggressive side with a fairly large 29mm heel and a 9mm drop, similar to a Salomon design (think Speedcross or S Lab Ultra). Not what I’m used to but definitely neither good nor bad – depends what you like!

FLYAWAY UPPER

The Cordura upper felt a bit flimsy at first, especially matched against the size of the outsole, but it seemed equal in durability and wicked moisture really quickly.

LOOKS

I really liked that Arc’teryx have chosen a minimalist design, with black and white predominating (there is also a Black on Black version). It’s stark and a bit different.

VALUE FOR MONEY

Although definitely close to the top end of the price range at £150, these shoes deliver a surprising amount of bang per buck. They’re versatile and well-suited to plenty of different terrain types, aesthetically pleasing if a little basic and should go the distance in terms of durability. I think this makes them a reasonable choice value-wise if you’re looking beyond the ‘classic’ trail brands.

BASE BOTTOM LINE

Unsurprisingly for Arc’teryx, the Norvans are smart, well-designed bits of kit both visually and technically. For how I used them, they excelled and gave no hint of any performance issues. In fact, having become largely a natural shoe convert, they inspired way more confidence than I expected, going up and down hill. They’re light despite the sole size and give plenty of support on long runs, with lots of grip over terrain types from steep and rocky to soft grass.

Although I’m a bit sceptical as to whether these are the best shoes you could buy for the price tag, they’re without doubt an excellent pair of all-rounders that will take you a long way. I really enjoyed using them and will keep them as a set of different trail shoes for different conditions. 

I would definitely recommend them to trail runners who are looking for something slightly different in look and feel, especially those who do the majority of their running on slightly better groomed paths. There are loads of things to like about these shoes, and very few obvious downsides.

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