You could say Arc’teryx footwear designer Joël Salamin is living his dream. Born and raised in the Swiss Alps, the Vancouver-based trained industrial designer has made a career out of his two passions: the mountains and problem solving. As you would expect, it’s not unusual to find him outside, whether that’s trail running, skiing or mountaineering. With over a decade of experience designing footwear, accessories and sportswear, he’s always thinking about making better gear. Working for various technical brands in Europe, Joël moved to Canada three years ago to be even closer to the mountains. We had the chance to speak with this inspiring designer to learn about the creative process behind their new Norvan Collection and why it’s designed for even the most rugged trails.
What was the vision behind the design of the Norvan shoes and why?
Joël Salamin (JS): Norvan stands for North Vancouver where Arc’teryx is based, and the goal was to create a shoe that solves the problems we find in our backyard. Trails in North Vancouver are very rugged, technical, very up-and-down, and not much flat and fast so you need a very stable cushioning to protect the foot. You also go through a wide variety of terrains in a very short amount of time, in a very rainy climate making the trails muddy and slippery most days of the year. So, we worked with Vibram to design the best grip possible to run fast on these trails. Finally, due to the rugged conditions found on the trails we designed the upper to be more durable.
What was the process for designing the Norvan LD 3 shoe? What was the goal?
JS: This is the third iteration of the Norvan LD series and so we really started with the learnings from the previous two versions. We worked with our athletes to understand their needs and assess how we could improve on their expectations. Two key improvements needed where the performance of the ride and the durability. The new Infuse foam that was developed to offer more cushioning and be more resilient than the previous foams we used. We spent lots of time with our R&D partners testing various geometries and densities to land on the best possible solution. Once we found the best midsole design, we tested prototypes not only with our local athletes but some of our athletes in Europe to really push the performance and the durability of the shoe.
What are some of your favourite features in the Norvan LD 3 shoe?
JS: For sure the new midsole is the best feature on this shoe. It delivers an incredible stability even on technical trails. The resiliency and the cushioning of the foam absorb any rock or root allowing you to go much faster.
When the team is designing footwear, what are the top three things you keep in mind as most important?
JS: Good question! First, we always start with the athlete and their needs, we start by solving functional problems for them. Second, would be material and construction. Our athletes evolve in very committing terrains and their gear cannot fail them. It translates into us not making any compromises on durability and performance, we always aim for the best solution not the easiest. And finally, testing and validating. Nothing we release hasn’t been tested extensively and approved.
In looking at the Arc’teryx shoe collection Sporting Life carries, tell us which 3 are your favourite and what activity you wear them for.
JS: The Norvan LD3 is my go-to for trail runs or hikes. I always have a pair of Norvan SL2 nearby for mountain missions, for the approach part or for scrambles. They’re also awesome for travelling as they’re so light and packable. And finally the Aerios FL Mid GTX for multi-day hikes when I need to carry a pack, the stability is awesome.
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