Our team is dedicated to finding and telling you more about the web’s best products. If you purchase through our links, we may receive a commission. Our editorial team is independent and only endorses products we believe in.
For the better part of the past 25 years, the running shoe market has been dominated by the same five brands, turning out shoe after shoe in bright colorways and immediately sporty silhouettes, stocking the shelves of big-box brick and mortars in every town in the US. So when a brand crops up taking a decidedly different approach, it’s sure to turn heads. Such is the case with Canadian brand Norda, which started as a crazy idea in early 2020 and today counts 16 different variations of its flagship running shoe and a further seven pieces of apparel in its collection.
Norda is the brainchild of Nick and Willa Martire, a husband and wife duo with running in their veins. The Martires have a history in the footwear industry and are avid endurance athletes. Knowing the industry inside and out, they saw a gap when looking for a sustainably-made trail shoe that could handle the rugged and shoe-destroying trails around their home in Quebec. As any good founder story goes, they couldn’t find one…so they set out and decided to make it themselves.
But it’s the material story where the 001 really shines. The upper is constructed from Dyneema, a material often found in outdoor gear like tents, climbing gear, backpacks and even rain jackets. As a material, it has a strength-to-weight ratio far beyond anything else available. In fact, it’s stronger than steel but ultra-, ultra-light.
The result was the Norda 001 ($278.45). One glance at the shoe reveals how different it is from what’s on the market. It’s minimally branded (read: no giant swoosh or neon colorways). It’s stylish, to the point where you could easily wear it as a daily driver without having to make a statement. But it’s the material story where the 001 really shines. The upper is constructed from Dyneema, a material often found in outdoor gear like tents, climbing gear, backpacks and even rain jackets. As a material, it has a strength-to-weight ratio far beyond anything else available. In fact, it’s stronger than steel but ultra-, ultra-light. The 001 features Dyneema in the upper where it provides a ludicrous amount of support and durability without weighing the shoe down — in other words, it offers exactly what you would want in a trail running shoe.
The technology doesn’t stop there. The 001 also offers a lugged Formation sole with Litebase® and Megagrip® Rubber developed as a collaboration between Norda and Vibram. It’s a design that’s exclusive to Norda and allows the shoe to retain its lightweight characteristics without letting go of the comfort factor or confidence-inspiring grip on varied terrain.
Innovation and materials advancements are cornerstones of the Norda brand, but so is sustainability. It approaches the subject mainly through durability — the thought here is that if you have to replace your trail running shoes less often, you are contributing fewer trail running shoes to the landfill. But beyond that, the brand is also hard at work constantly re-evaluating and optimizing everything from the packaging it uses, to its shipping methods to sourcing and manufacturing techniques as well.
In addition to the standard 001, Norda also offers a version with a graphene liner and an outsole laden with spikes (ideal for winter conditions), a collaboration colorway with Ciele Athletics and Ray Zahab, and two limited-edition colorways — each better looking than the last. It’s clear to see that aesthetics play a major ethos in Norda’s approach. Any of the versions of the 001 would fit right in at the local watering hole. “A big part of trail running in Quebec is the food destination where you’ll end up or where you can have your beer afterwards,” said Willa Martire in an interview with the Toronto Star. That culture comes through in the 001.
Before you toss on your troll hat and go clamoring for your keyboard to type, “Hey, this other brand makes some really great-looking running shoes,” you’re probably right. But they aren’t as clean-looking as Norda’s. Nor do they seamlessly pair cutting-edge technology and material science in a way that feels techy and sleek like Norda does. In many ways, Norda is without peers. The brand stands in a class all its own. That is, until everyone else catches on at least.
Five Accessories to Pair with Your New Norda 001s
- GOCap by Ciele Athletics $45
- 9 Peak Training Watch by Suunto $699
- Off Road Shorts by Tracksmith $98
- Merino Wool Performance Sock 3-Pack by Bombas $66
- Twighlight Long Sleeve by Tracksmith $64