After recently taking up trail running and, in turn, lamenting about the lack of shoes suited to the demands of most outdoor paths, it seemed almost serendipitous that I would be speaking to Norda founders Nick and Willamina Martire about their running shoes that have both ultramarathoners and gorpcore enthusiasts abuzz.
Launched in 2020, Norda shoes are designed by runners for runners—chic in appearance, but with each detail meticulously thought through for the trails, from its tough exterior to its featherlight design.
“We’ve been running for over 20 years, and we found there really wasn’t a shoe that fit our needs,” said Nick. “So we decided to make our own.”
The husband-and-wife duo set out to create the perfect trail runner and having spent decades designing footwear for other brands, they had the know-how to pull it off. The Martires founded the company in Montreal, Quebec and brought on fellow shoe designer Louis-Martin Tremblay and art director Gerard Cleal to complete their team of four.
“We’re Canadian, which I think sets us apart the most,” said Nick. “Our products are designed and tested in Canada’s toughest conditions—we’re the only entirely Canadian-based trail running company.”
It’s this intimate understanding of Canadian outdoor conditions that gives the brand an edge when considering the needs of runners traversing the rugged landscapes of the country. Whether you’re running along icy winter or navigating the sweltering summer heat, Norda shoes can handle it all. They’ve certainly been put to the test, with elite racers wearing them on some of the most rigorous trails, from the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in France to the Ultra Trail Harricana du Canada in Quebec.
To conquer tough terrain, Norda soles were created by Vibram with ultra-lightweight rubber and powerful grips, allowing for improved performance while alleviating impact. The unique upper portion is made with bio-based Dyneema, the strongest fibre in the world—five times tougher than bullet proof Kevlar—and constructed to withstand any jagged rock or errant tree branch that comes its way.
Nick had been intrigued by Dyneema for some time. The material has been used for small-scale items, like fishing lines, and is known to become stronger as it gets colder—ideal for year-round Canadian trail running. But creating a shoe out of Dyneema was an advanced undertaking.
“When we contacted the people at Dyneema, they said ‘You know other brands have tried to make shoes with this and didn’t succeed,’” said Nick. But the Norda team was determined to make it work, and after a year of tweaking the design, they found the perfect formula for their 100 per cent sustainable upper fabric. This sustainable approach was inarguably important for a brand founded on the principle of using
nature as a playground.
“It’s our duty—we have a responsibility to create sustainable footwear,” said Willamina. “We’re trail runners and we’re inspired by the environment around us, so it just makes sense.”
As practical as they are for any summit, the sleek design has also made them a street-style staple for sneakerheads, proving that utility and fashion can go hand in hand.
“We’ve been told that Norda is like the Lamborghini of footwear, which we love,” said Nick. “It was so important to us to make a highend sneaker. Once you wear it, you can’t go back to any other shoe.”
Photos courtesy of Norda.