Wednesday, December 13, 2023

norda 003 Multi Tester Review

Article by Alexandra Zvezdin and Sam Winebaum

Norda 003 ($325)


Versatile running & all-around shoe within its niche. Read on to find out what that niche might be.

Alexandra: Norda introduces the 003 as an approach shoe transitioning seamlessly between hiking and running with usage extending to approaches. The Vibram MegaGrip outsole is highly inspired by the 001 while the upper is completely re-imagined but still using Dyneema, the strongest fiber by weight available. With the 003, you will find a laceless, elasticized Bio-Dyneema laceless upper that maintains a good fit through time. G+ graphene is used for thermoregulation and the upper provides sufficient warmth for winter use. The collaboration with Haven gives a design inspired by the brutalist movement that appeals to many making the shoe a good option for urban all-around use.

Sam: Alex describes the 003 well.  The original 003, shown above, is a collaboration between Norda and Haven both of Canada with Norda of Montreal and Haven from the Pacific Coast. We have tested and been very impressed by Norda’s two trail shoes the 001 (RTR Review), a highly durable protective trail runner and the 002 its more agile and flexible sibling (RTR Review).    

Norda goes all out to source and integrate the very best and often unique footwear technologies, customised for their product vision into their offerings. Here they set out to create a shoe that “is a durable, supportive approach shoe designed to transition seamlessly between hiking, scrambling and running.”  And for more lifestyle uses. A tall order and many hats to wear.

As I had a recent knee operation they arrived just in time for steady road walks in a brace in late fall weather while Alex put them through their paces in all manner of activities up north in Quebec. Update: I have recently been able to run in them on a rail trail in a pair half size up and have also worn them daily for everything. Let’s see how they performed.


  • Extremely comfortable upper: Alex / Sam

  • Warm Alex / Sam

  • Secure fit despite lack of laces: Alex / Sam

  • Expected long term durability: Sam

  • Great integration of the sole with the midsole & upper for a smooth ride: Alex / Sam

  • Transitions well from trails to road : Alex

  • Good for moderate technical terrain where footing does not involve smaller foot holds: Alex / Sam

  • The light weight and sole/midsole makes it a fun shoe: Alex / Sam
  • Extensive reflective which does not detract from the overall visual design, in fact enhances it.
  • 3 season, at least utility- weather resistant and thermoregulating: Sam
  • Beautiful styling: Fits in anywhere standing out but not shouting: Alex / Sam


  • Stack height too big for harder scrambles: Alex 

  • Upper a bit too open for running in choss/scree/talus: Alex 

  • Too bulky to use in an alpine running/climbing combo;: Alex 

  • Difficult to pull on especially when new, gets better after some use, half size up second pair solved the issue : Sam

  • Very pricey Alex / Sam


Weight: 275g / 9.7 oz (men’s US8.5)

Stack Height: Heel 26mm, Forefoot 21mm, 5mm drop

Lugs: 5mm

$325. Available now at Norda HERE

Official Product Details

Tester profile

Alex spends most of her time running uphill prioritising trails and gravel before picking roads. Before focusing on ski mountaineering training all-year round, she spent most of her time rock-climbing outside. 

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Alex: The first time I slipped on the Norda 003 I was surprised to find an almost too tight fit. In fact, they were hard to slip on! This changed rapidly after the first 2-3 wears and the upper became just perfect to slip on and off, yet offering a secure fit.

The toe box seems wide enough to accommodate larger feet, but beware, Norda does size smaller and you must indeed size .5 up from your normal size.

The upper is thick and definitely geared towards colder days. Although it’s made of elasticized Bio-Dyneema, if someone que doesn’t know what this material is like asked me to describe it to them, I’d say it feels like & ressembles neoprene. 

So, you can imagine fairly well now that these black shoes are not meant to be worn on a warm summer day in 30 degrees C with 100% humidity. That said they are also lined with a G+graphene membrane that is weather resistant and thermoregulating 

Despite the lack of laces. The adjustment at the heel feels secure thanks to the added padding and the upper is snug around the midfoot which makes the shoe great for a run or hike. 

Ok, the style of the 003! This shoe was well anticipated, and I must say I think the design gathered a lot of attention. 

Haven adopted a minimalistic monochrome style inspired by the brutalist movement. This translates well for all-around urban wear and certainly will contribute to the popularity of this shoe. The monochrome colour choice will be timeless, although personally I wouldn’t mind seeing the same minimalistic design with a colourful edit. Although my Eastern European roots don’t draw me to brutalism, I can appreciate Haven’s congruent effort here to bring brutalist bold simple lines in a utilitarian design, it’s just not my jam! 

Sam: I concur with Alex’s take above. Norda had to navigate a delicate balance of comfort, laceless foothold for fairly technical terrain use and protection from the elements. And they succeed. It took 2 years to develop the elasticized Dyneema fabric. Dyneema is part of the secret sauce of all Norda shoes for its lightweight and strength. The upper does have some give, just enough to get them on and with some initial when new difficulty. Once on they are comfortable and super secure without too much over compression, they can be worn all day. I would like to see a bit higher toe box, a bit less front overlay pressure.  

While the when new difficulty to pull on gave pause,  after a while they did stretch enough to not make pull on a bit of chore. The fit is true to my usual men’s US8.5 and narrower but not super narrow foot.  

Update: Norda was kind enough to send me another pair in the new Cinder color at a half size up from my previous true to size normal and the pull on a fit is considerably easier and better. Unless your plan for the shoe is aggressive more technical trail running I would now recommend a half size up. 

They are now far easier to pull on, even when new, the hold at all but the far rear of the heel area comparable with now more toe room height and lengths, with such a bit of sensation of too much length at the far rear center.

The toe bumper area is a bit low but this too relaxed some as the upper stretched with use. Update: Not an issue at a half size up.

For a bit more relaxed fit, have a wider foot and if your focus is “non technical” uses and a more relaxed more lifestyle use one might consider sizing up half a size.

For those low light winter adventures there are extensive reflective elements

Midsole & Platform

Alex: The midsole is made of Vibram SLE (Super Light EVA) 30% lighter compared to other EVA foams on the market) and with 10% better energy return. The midsole definitely plays a key role in making the ride of this shoe great! Energy return is indeed solid and the ride feels absorbent and protective against rocks and roots.

Sam: The underfoot platform is entirely assembled by Vibram. Usually outsoles are provided to manufacturers who then glue it to the midsole. As with the other Norda, Vibram makes and assembles everything underfoot so the integration of outsole to midsole is superb with the glue layer (the element which can make trail shoes stiff and slappy) perfectly matched to the midsole above and outsole below.

The result is a very smooth flowing platform with plenty of uninterrupted  stable cushion and ride feel from foot to terrain, and that includes road. With my braced leg, the 003 despite the difficulties pulling it on, has been my favorite and “fastest” walking shoe of several I have been testing for its smooth flow and stable, forgiving not overly soft cushion. And if on your feet all day, there is not much question come evening you will not be eager to take them off. 


Alex: The outsole has 5 mm lugs that offer good traction on road, gravel, and trails and even on compact snow on flat terrain.

This being said, the outsole rubber is made of Vibram Megagrip, which offers good traction, but I found myself heavily limited on wet rocks in steep terrain. Although I didn’t have the chance to go up a classic Adirondack run on wet rocks (given the snow), I experienced slipping on wet rocks running around Mont-Royal’s trails. I don’t think this is necessarily a ‘’con’’ given intended use (jog, hikes, light approaches). 

Sam: Given my current road only uses, I did not test on wet rock but have other Norda with the same Formation MegaGrip outsole and with no issues hiking and running Northeast US trails but i do not “scramble” as Alex does. 

What surprised me is how smoothly and without “grabbing” this outsole performed on pavement as I limped along. And as discussed in midsole, the integration of the outsole and midsole is seamless leading to a smooth slap and stiffness free flow.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Alex: This winter I find myself grabbing the 003 for light recovery jogs, all-around wear (to the gym & back), and especially for before and after my skimo training. The lack of laces, comfort, and versatility (urban wear) contribute alot to frequent use. I could also see myself using this shoe during cold fall days and as an approach shoe for bouldering or cragging when I don’t need to worry about how much gear I can bring. 

The greatest difficulty in testing this shoe and writing this review was to contextualise the bucket term ‘’approach’’. I think this is a great shoe for all the uses I mentioned above and I cannot stress enough how comfortable they are. However, with the marketing around the shoe, something sparked with the word “approach” that made me want much more. Don’t take what follows as negative, perhaps just dream along with me…

Approaches include everything from walking on a gentle path to dedicated scrambles in class I-III terrain involving, and with the case of alpine climbing objectives of technical summits it can also be light climbing (say 5.4). 

The idea of a shoe that would seamlessly transition from hiking to running & scrambling makes me dream of fast & light pursuits combining long approaches you could run to get to climbing objectives. 

Say you wanted to run the Bugs approach, and hop on Pigeon Spire here in Canada you likely wouldn’t do it in the 003. Maybe that’s fine, because after all technical approaches are not the intended use, but the potential is there! 

The 003s have a resistant Bio-Dyneema upper, a very moderate rocker, offer a light weight and the possibility to clip the shoes to a harness. Why doesn’t it work for long technical approaches then? The running part would be great, what would not work is the climbing and technical scrambling. These shoes are too voluminous due to the thick warm upper and padded heel tab to be stowed in a typical 25L alpine day pack or be clipped on a harness. They are also super warm, which wouldn't play well in the heat of summer climbing days, even in the alpine. 

Perhaps the most limiting factor is the midsole & outsole. Dedicated approach shoes have a thin, un rockered flat sole offering great ground feel and maximum contact between your foot & the rock for smearing and slab climbing for instance. The big lugs, and thick midsole of the 003s would not be great for this. The drawback of approach shoes is of course the lack of running comfort and most mountain trail runners with laces still share ‘’issues’’ with the Norda 003 (bulk from added padding, rockered profile, lugs).

With a new concept shoe like this one, defining use is difficult because there is no precedent. This shoe shines in cold weather for runs, hikes, all-around use and easy approaches for bouldering, but is not the shoe for those who dream of technical alpine pursuits blurring the line between climbing and mountain running. 


Sam: State of the art materials focused on durability, go anywhere urban “brutalist” styling in the Quarry colorway here, comfort and protection from terrain and the elements, the 003 goes all out to redefine what an “approach” shoe can be. The approach part here is really to approach any adventure with confidence and comfort in a single shoe. 

It is tricky to accomplish multiple missions and create a shoe “designed to transition seamlessly between hiking, scrambling and running” and I would also add everyday wear. While I have not been able to run them yet,  Update: I have now run them on a trail rail with no issues, I am sure they will perform largely as Norda’s other shoes have on the run, including on at least moderate trails for me that is with confidence and great protection.  I wish the pull on was easier, stay patient as that will get easier and once on you will be locked in for adventure.

As with all Norda they are priced way, way up there but I expect outstanding durability and utility and durability is in my view is key to actual sustainability. 

9.0 / 10

(deductions for pricing,  snug pull on, and for a bit more front of toe box height)


$325. Available now at Norda HERE

Tester Profile

Alexandra Zvezdin is a ski mountaineering racer on Canada’s National team. She splits her time between Montreal and wherever skiing takes her. Since she learned how to ski in 2019, she can’t wait for winter, but summer is becoming a-okay with trail running… As long as it’s uphill (1000m+ anyone!?) or hard intervals if it must be on flat roads. Her casual half-marathon time is 1:45 and 10km time is 42:50 and she’d like to break 40. She earned her masters degree in Biology from Memorial University (NL) while leading field work in Haida Gwaii (BC). The verdict of this coast to coast life? (Be)east coast trails are still the most rugged and make excellent technical runners! She loves mountains of the northeast and dreams of chasing a short distance steep FKT one day if she can avoid to face plant in the process ;) You can find her @whatforwho 

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets very very lucky. Sam trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run, hiking or on nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Please check out our 2023 Holiday Gift Guides for Runners 60 Great Gift Ideas 

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

RoadTrailRun Official Store Custom Fractel Caps and Bucket Hats
Limited Release! SHOP HERE
Cap:$39                                                             Bucket:$49
Limited Release! SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE


Find all RoadTrailRun reviews at our index page HERE 
Google "roadtrailrun Shoe Name" and you can be quite sure to find just about any run shoe over the last 10 years

Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook:  Instagram: @roadtrailrun
Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun


Anonymous said...

Alex, if you have done so already, you might consider trying the AT Norvan SL3 slip-on as a warm weather “approach” shoe. Albeit, not perfect, it’s a fun simple shoe that we’ve been enjoying in the alpine as well as on mild trails. Only 7 ounces. Megagrip outsole with a blended Polyolefin.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, the Norvan SL3’s are fun & light on the harness.
We (my wife & i) added quicklaces to the Norda 002’s and AT LD3’s, both with mega grip outsoles, and have since used ‘em exclusively for our approach shoes, alpine summits (except winter & 5.4+), hikes, scrambles, trail runs, multi-day excursions, and ultras. Both have excellent multi-purpose grip, decent smearing, ground feel, flexibility on trail, low/moderate drop, solid foot hold, ample toe boxes, and multi hour comfort.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, the 003 essentially achieves the design goal as ‘an approach shoe transitioning seamlessly between hiking and running with usage extending to approaches’ and, yes, general daily slip-on use. Nearly a quiver one, with the caveat of technical approaches. The upper, ankle, and midfoot hold (at least for my high arch, narrow ankle, narrow midfoot, flared forefoot) are the best yet in Norda’s lineup, with 002 being a close second, and 001 a distant third (a bit sloppy in the ankle and midfoot for me, also a skin breaking ankle shredder for sockless runners).
The vibram sle midsole/megagrip outsole combo = buttery smooth & excellent mixed surface grip.
This upper on the 002 platform = mint!
…lol, and with the slightly more subtle monotone cinder colourway of the 002 = double mint.