Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Arc'Teryx Norvan LD 2 Review

Article by John Tribbia and Jeff Valliere

Arc’Teryx Norvan LD 2 ($160)
Official Weight: US Men's Size 9 - 9.2 oz / 260 grams  / women's / (US8)
Samples:  US Men’s Size 10 - 9.6 oz / 273 grams 
Stack Height: 25mm heel /16 mm forefoot.(not sure it includes 3.55 mm lugs), 9mm drop
Available now. $160

Tester Profiles
John Tribbia (5' 6", 130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva, Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost everyday.
Jeff  runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 

Jeff V:  Having reviewed the Norvan SL and the VT 2, I was keen to test the LD2.  The LD2 sits in between the two, with the SL being the ultralight, minimal offering and the VT with more protection and traction for rugged alpine terrain.  The LD2 strikes a great balance of lighter weight, speed and agility with protection, cushion, traction and durability. 
John: This is my first experience running in or testing an Arc’Teryx. I can say that I observed with great intrigue the SL and LD. The LD 2 is the follow-up to last year’s arrival of Arc’Teryx’s middle of the spectrum trail shoe that provides a well protected, stable ride that is speedy, comfortable, and agile on all types of terrain. As Jeff mentions, the LD2 offers an all-around, nimble trail shoe that excels in almost any trail running or scrambling situation. I most appreciated the design and feel of the durable upper.

Jeff:  Light, comfortable, secure upper, durable high quality construction, protection, response, fit.
John: capable of taking to roads for short durations, very comfortable, durable upper, colorway, protection and stability

Jeff:  Loose terrain/snow traction given 3.5mm lugs, cushioning can feel a bit firm underfoot, slight forefoot movement when really pushing in technical terrain, break in period, cost.
John: firm cushioning, especially in cold weather

First Impressions and Fit:
Jeff:  When I think of ArcTeryx, I think of rugged, high quality mountain gear and the Norvan LD2 does not disappoint.  The LD2 is light in hand, feels immediately comfortable and is light on the foot, though I suspect it will require a bit of a break in period to soften up.  Styling is very appealing, simple and refined with attention to detail evidenced by the convenient lace garage that is easy to use. Fit is true to size, very secure in the heel, midfoot and forefoot, without feeling constraining.
John: Out of the box, the LD2 fits well from heel, through the midfoot, and in the forefoot. It is snug with my average width foot, but not overly so. The shoe is comfortable throughout and lightweight. The foot flex feels firm, which I like for technical terrain because I feel like I have better control on steep ups and downs. 

From Arc'Teryx:

  • Single-layer polyester closed mesh is lightweight and durable while still allowing for breathability.
  • 0.4mm TPU film overlays provide structure to the upper with minimal weight. 
  • Synthetic toe cap provide additional protection for the toes without excess weight on the upper.
  • Fused lace pocket allows for laces to be safely stowed while running. 
  • 4mm OrthoLite 3D molded insert resists bacteria and provides comfort directly beneath the foot.
John: The upper on the LD2 is top quality from the lace eyelets reinforced by the singular overlay to the engineered mesh that protects against wear/tear on the posterior side of the forefoot. The upper is stiffer than a shoe such as the Salomon Sense Ride 2, but the reinforcements and engineering give them a high score for potential durability. After running through slush and puddles, I was pleased with how well the shoe drained water despite the overlay coverage across most of the upper. Bonus points for the thin tongue that doesn’t slip and has a lace garage. 
Jeff V:  The Norvan LD2 upper has a very simple, yet effective design and is made of very high quality materials.  Unlike the more common strategy of crisscrossing the upper with numerous overlays, the Norvan LD2 employs a singular large overlay wrapping most of the midfoot and integrating with a full around the shoe rand and synthetic toe cap.  

My testing window was in February, so it is hard to judge how well they breathe in warmer temps, but I assume they will be average, as my feet were never cold in temps in the 20’s F or even high teens, so not overly airy. I find fit and security to be very good overall, especially in the heel and midfoot and while the forefoot is very comfortable and good most of the time, I found my foot sliding around some when pushing hard in technical terrain.  The amount of movement was never enough to cause any issues or much trepidation, but is not quite as locked in as I prefer. This could potentially be a benefit or detriment depending on your foot, preferences, terrain and speed
The toe bumper integrates well and protects.
The heel counter is semi flexible, yet stable, secure and well protected.
The gusseted tongue is a nice touch and helps with fit and security.  Tongue padding is on the thin side of moderate and is very comfortable with a nice, easy to use lace garage and pull tab.

From Arc'Teyrx:
  • EVA/Polyolefin midsole uses 85% compressed EVA and 15% polyolefin blend to provide an optimal underfoot experience that absorbs shock and vibration and returns long-lasting comfort.
  • 0.7mm TPU Plate is inserted beneath the forefoot for protection against sharp objects on the trail.
  • Anti-Fatigue Insert is a higher density piece in the midsole designed to provide support for the entire course of a run.
  • Raised Sidewalls provide inherent stability, guiding the foot naturally inside the shoe.
John: The midsole cushioning with 85% EVA and 15% polyolefin and a high density Anti-Fatigue insert leads to a firmer feel, especially in colder temperatures. Notwithstanding, I didn’t feel like it was uncomfortable or compromised shock absorption. I did get a little fatigued in outings where I was on my feet longer than 90 minutes, even though the response is fairly bouncy.
Jeff Jeff:  I too found the midsole to harden a bit in the cold, and while not particularly problematic, it was noticeable and sometimes felt harsh underfoot.  My warmest run was in the mid 60’s F and the midsole was for sure more compliant and forgiving, while still not overly flexible. Calling this a long distance shoe is a bit of a stretch, at least in my opinion, but it depends on what you consider long.  I personally find it adequate for a few hours, but would prefer more cushion underfoot if going longer. That said, the Norvan LD2 performs wonderfully well for those few hours and is quick, agile and adequately protected under foot no matter how hard, rough or technical.

From Arc'Teryx:
  • Vibram Megagrip Outsole uses extremely sticky rubber for uncompromising grip.
  • 3.5mm square-shaped lugs are ergonomically placed for traction on a variety of terrain.
John: With the 3.5mm lugs and Vibram outsole, the LD2 performs well on most trail terrain and while cornering. Moreover, the lug spacing is wide enough to shed most muddy encounters. Although this isn’t a shoe designed for traction on snow, loose, or muddy terrain, the LD2 didn’t underperform but it didn’t excel either. I felt most comfortable on warmer (greater than 20*F air temperatures) rock and dry trail. Overall, the width of the outsole/midsole platform was a stable platform, while the moderate lug height, and Megagrip rubber gave me confidence in technical and non-technical pursuits.
Jeff V:  I find the outsole/lugs of the LD2 best suited for most trail running, as the lugs are enough for good traction on dirt, rocks, wet or dry as Mega Grip tends to be a sticky compound.  

I did however find myself longing for a bit more lug depth on anything snowy or muddy (which as it turns out, there was plenty of during my test window). Off trail in loose dirt and junk, a bit more tread would also be preferred.  Treadwear is excellent, with almost no visible wear after 40 or so rough miles.

Jeff V:  The LD2 has a firm, yet smooth, responsive and predictable ride that can easily adapt to a variety of terrain, paces and even does reasonably well for short stints of road.

John: Jeff’s description of the LD2 ride is spot on. I would add that it is a low to the ground and nimble shoe. Because of the firmness, the LD2 is more of a heel-to-toe or midfoot striking shoe and less of a forefoot striking shoe. The cushion (as pointed out when warm outside) provides the responsiveness and dampening needed when bounding uphill or turning a few screws downhill through technical terrain.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff V:  I have to admit that I had very high hopes for the LD2.  While I can’t really come up with anything truly negative to say about it, it really was not quite as exciting of a shoe as I had hoped.  It runs well, is light, reasonably responsive, comfortable and durable. I think that some of my trepidation stems from the fact that I prefer just a bit more traction and a more secure forefoot when moving fast in technical terrain, combined with colder temperatures firming the midsole enough for it to feel a bit harsh.  

I would recommend the LD2 for those looking for a lightweight, durable/high quality, quick daily trainer for moderate to technical trails. At $160, it will for sure turn away those on a budget, but on the positive side, it is a really well built, high quality, stylish, durable shoe that should last a long time.
Jeff V Score:  8.1/10
Primary deductions for loose traction, price and upper security.

John: If you are looking for a comfortable, lightweight, stable, and nimble shoe for medium distance days in the mountains, the LD2s are for you. The comfortable fit, sturdy + durable upper and Vibram outsole on warm rock are praiseworthy. Still, I longed for something comparable to the best in class mountain and trail running shoes from Arc’Teryx’s sister company, Salomon. If a future model of the LD is in the works, I hope for a more predictable midsole and outsole that would perform well in all or most conditions.
John’s Score: 8.7 / 10
Ride: 8.5 (not plush, but decently responsive)
Fit: 9.0 (no major foot security issues and comfortable out of the box)
Value: 8.0 (versatile shoe with durable upper, but relatively high price point)
Style: 10 (love the colorway and sleek upper)
Traction: 8 (versatile shoe that can do well in most conditions)
Rock Protection: 9.0 (firm cushioning and rock plate work well)

Comparisons Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Arc’Teryx Norvan SL (RTR Review)
Jeff V:  The Norvan SL is much lighter, yet also minimally cushioned and with minimal upper protection, less supportive and has less competent loose/snow traction.  Norvan SL perfect for fast shorter distances on less demanding terrain, or dedicated uphills where you are counting grams. LD2 is more versatile, cushioned and protective for longer distance and more technical terrain.

ArcTeryx Norvan VT 2 (RTR Review)
Jeff V:  The VT is even more protective with bombproof rock protection underfoot, superior traction and rugged upper. It is ideal for rocky alpine terrain, rock scrambling and talus hopping, but weighs more and is not as fast light and nimble.

Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 2 (RTR Review)
Jeff V:  While the Salomon weighs nearly an ounce more per shoe, overall run characteristics are similar.  Response, agility, traction are quite similar, though I find the LD2 to be a more forgiving fit in the forefoot and have a little better rock protection underfoot while the Salomon has a litter more forgiving cushion for longer distances).

Salomon Sense Pro 4 (RTR Review)
Jeff V:  The Sense Pro 4 has superior all around performance, is lighter, equally protective, is more responsive, has better fit, is more comfortable, more cushioned, has superior traction and costs $20 less.
John: I feel like the Sense Pro 4 is the shoe that the LD2 longs to be. This current iteration of the LD2 isn’t quite there, because of all of the reasons Jeff mentions above. The LD2 wins for durability.

Saucony Peregrine 10 (RTR Review)
Jeff V:  The Peregrine 10 is heavier, but I don’t mind given the added traction and overall is a more versatile shoe that can perform well on just about any terrain and in a wider variety of conditions.  Oh yeah, you can also save $40 by going with the Peregrine.

John: The Peregrine 10 has an edge in runnability, traction and versatility, but loses out on weight. In my opinion, I think the Peregrine 10 can appeal more to runners who want to trail run whereas the LD2 can be more appealing to climbers and hikers who want to trail run. So, they are meeting near the middle of the spectrum.

Nike Zoom Wildhorse 5 (RTR Review)
John: I find the Nike and Arc’Teryx to be very similar in ride. This said the Nike is more comfortable because it has a more cushioned midsole. The LD2 traction and underfoot protection is better, whereas the Wildhorse offers a smoother ride and roll for faster paced adventures.
Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Bobcat said...

Great review - I was waiting for this one.

Could you add a comparison to the Sense Ride 3 - weight vs cushion vs protection. Which you would choose for an Ultra.

Jeff Valliere said...

Sense Ride 3 would be my pick for an Ultra or any longer day. Not as light or nimble, but much more ample cushioning and support.

Pierre said...

Hello RTR Team
Do you feel LD2 is firmer or stiffer than Nike terra kiger 5 or sense ride 2 ??

Jeff Valliere said...

Hi Pierre, I would say a bit stiffer than Kiger 5 and much stiffer than SR2.

John said...

HI Guys,

You compared this to the Wildhorse 5, but anyone running in the Wildhorse 6 yet and can compare the two? Will the new Nike trail updates be reviewed?


Jeff Valliere said...

RTR will be reviewing the Nike TK6 and WH6 soon, stay tuned!

Bobcat said...

LD 3 is out!

Any intention to review it?
Looks really similar to the Salomon Sense Ride 3/4 IMO.
Keen to know if this midsole will be similar to Salomon's Energy Surge and not the Optivibe.

Jeff Valliere said...

Sort of dropped of my radar, but will see what we can do. Hopefully they softened the midsole a bit as the LD 2 ended up being a bit harsh for me in the end and I never ended up running in them again post review.

Bobcat said...

Early impressions, but I think the LD3 midsole is exactly the same as the Pulsar. Overall the shoe feels like a nimble version of the Ultra glide, but with more cush and bounce from the midsole.

Jeff Valliere said...

Interesting, thanks for the update Bobcat, I'll see if we can review a pair.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, the LD3 is a solid all around alpine mixed use trail shoe. Excellent megagrip outsole, solid foot hold, decent ground feel, ample toe box, moderate stack & drop, nimble, responsive midsole (although we added beaded inserts = great alteration for otherwise solid shoes), all day comfort.
We’ve been using other AT gear since near inception (harnesses, etc.) but hadn’t tried their shoes until last year. The LD3’s replaced our Spin Infinity’s = similar nimbleness; however, the edge goes to the LD3’s in nearly every category (including toe box comfort).