Nnormal Kjerag Review: Way Beyond Normal
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7 oz. (200 g) for a US M9 (Unisex sizing)
23.5 mm in heel, 17.5 mm in forefoot (6 mm drop)
Trail racing like the GOAT
Matryx jacquard upper, Kevlar yarn, EExpure midsole foam, Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole
MATT: This review of the Nnormal Kjerag is a bit of a companion piece, because if you get to train under Kilian Jornet’s watchful eye for a few months (check out the first installment of my training journal here), it’s only appropriate that you do it in his own shoes.
As part of my unique experience, thanks to Coros, I was also lucky enough to be outfitted in gear from Nnormal, Kilian’s company, capped off by my choice of footwear. I opted for the Kjerag, Nnormal’s max-performance model, rather than the Tomir, which is positioned more as an everyday trainer.
As mentioned, Nnormal is the brainchild of Kilian Jornet, arguably the greatest mountain athlete of all time, and a family-owned Spanish footwear company called Camper. Its name comes from the fact that the shoes were tested in Norway (Nor) and Mallorca (Mal). Toss in an extra N to make it a little less normal, and there you go.
Nnormal managed to hype up the release of its Kjerag in a way that no other brand could because no other brand has the GOAT as part of its ownership. While gearing up for the launch of Nnormal in 2022, Kilian pulled together a string of races, including Sierra Zinal, Zegama, Hardrock, and UTMB, winning the final three of those. Even more impressive was the fact that he wore the same pair of Kjerags for all of them — talk about a hype machine.
The Kjerag is promoted as a durable and versatile trail shoe that excels in both speed and distance. Okay, so that’s a pretty bold claim. Typically, a shoe meant to go fast will sacrifice comfort and durability, while a shoe meant to go long will sacrifice weight and responsiveness. This shoe description makes it seem like Nnormal wants me to have my cake and eat it too, so I was excited to get the Kjerag laced up.
MATT: There’s a lot to unpack with the Kjerag, so I’ll ask that you bear with me while I approach the shoe from top to bottom. Before we even get to that point, though, I’d first like to take a minute to appreciate what an overall stunner the Kjerag is, especially in this colorway. Nnormal chose a great blend of simple, unique colors to make the shoe stand out. This colorway goes by Smoke Green/Ice Flow, which sounds like the names of two rappers I’m too old to listen to. It’s topped off — or rather, bottomed off — with a gum-colored outsole that really pulls the whole vibe together.
Nnormal’s lean, mean design kicks off with the upper, where the Matryx jacquard is a perfect combination of lightweight and durable. The simplistic approach focused on using top-quality Kevlar-coated yarn for the Matryx weave itself, thus eliminating the need for overlays and other excessive supports. There’s a thin laminated section across the toe for added protection, but otherwise, the upper is sleek and simple. Nnormal nailed the gusseted tongue, which promotes a snug, secure lockdown without needing any excess material.
I know the upper might seem too thin to be protective and durable on the trails, but I didn’t find that to be the case. My miles in the Kjerag actually overlapped with my testing of the Hoka Tecton X 2, which also happens to feature a Matryx jacquard upper. If you’ve read that review, you already know that I gave it a boatload of praise, especially centered around said upper.
Once we move down to the midsole, the Kjerag really starts to get intriguing. Nnormal opted for a couple of unique design features, starting with its EExpure foam. It’s a proprietary blend, which Nnormal claims was designed specifically for use on trails. As explained to us, the EExpure foam promotes stability, energy return, and recovery capacity — sounds like Nnormal opted for “all of the above” when asked what its foam should do.
I have about 50 miles in my Kjerag, and I’m shocked to say, but I think I agree with Nnormal’s claims. The midsole has a feel of spring and responsiveness, while also being stable and comfortable. In a high-stack world, it’s unbelievable to say that a shoe with less than 30 mm of cush (just 23.5 mm in the heel) feels cushioned and protective, but the Kjerag does just that. I should also mention that there’s no carbon plate in the Kjerag. Not because it needs one, but given the expectations for premium trail shoes, it bears a mention.
Now, on to the second unique design feature. The Kjerag doesn’t have an insole. It is indeed a “sole-less creature,” like a ginger, I guess. Fear not, though, while the decision might seem unorthodox, it’s actually the driving force behind what makes the midsole work as well as it does. Eliminating the barrier between the foot and the midsole, and in turn, the outsole, provides a top-notch ground feel sensation. The Kjerag feels low to the ground and nimble, because it literally is. I thought the lack of insole padding would cause some fatigue or maybe some blisters or hot spots, but Nnormal claims that this design actually does the opposite by preventing friction and increasing direct compression with midsole foam.
I haven’t experienced a trail shoe with this kind of ground feel and light nimbleness since Adidas came out with the Terrex Speed Ultra a few years back. In fact, that’s probably the shoe I can draw the closest comparison to.
Finally, Nnormal made a wise call in going with the tried and true Vibram Litebase Megagrip outsole. This might be the best trail outsole material on the market, and another parallel to the recently reviewed Hoka Tecton X 2, as it shares a very similar lug pattern. The 3.5mm lugs aren’t super aggressive but seem to be in line with where the industry has settled as the optimal all-terrain size. I encountered zero issues with traction or stability in the Kjerag while traversing everything from wet, root-infested singletrack to gravel and blacktop. I did have one minor tumble when hitting some loose gravel on a tight turn, but I wager that was more user error, and I probably would have been eating dirt even if I was in a pair of soccer cleats.Shop Nnormal Kjerag - Men Shop Nnormal Kjerag - Women
MATT: I have a few key observations to share with regard to the Kjerag, but I’d hesitate to call them “bad.” First, sizing is very important with the Kjerag, as it runs long through the forefoot and toebox. It’s not just a little long, either, I’d say it’s easily half a size to a full size too long.
As a testament to the overall design, I was able to run in my normal US M10 size without issue because of the excellent overall lockdown. At this point, while there’s more space in front of my toes than I’d like, I think I’ve just gotten used to it. Given the chance, however, I’d definitely have liked to size down.
My other observation is more of a future concern. The Kjerag backed up all of its lofty claims during my review miles, but I’m still not sure that it has 100k to 100-miler written on it for me. Sure, it definitely does for Kilian, but let’s remember that the same distance might take me a bit longer than it does for him.
I just have a hard time convincing myself, despite all of my positivity, that 23.5 mm is enough foam to keep my feet and legs happy after 15 or 20 hours of running. Like I said, I’m not sure this is a full-blown knock because I haven’t disproven any of the Kjerag’s claims, but just something to consider. I guess I just need to lace up the Kjerag for my 70-miler in June and find out for myself. What could possibly go wrong?Shop Nnormal Kjerag - Men Shop Nnormal Kjerag - Women
MATT: I’ll admit that I was skeptical from the first Instagram promo I saw for Nnormal. I initially thought that maybe this was a case of a brand splashing the cash to sign a prolific name and then using the leftover pocket change to create the actual product. This couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to Nnormal, and especially the Kjerag. I trust that Kilian personally saw to the testing and feedback, and created a shoe that he’s proud to run in and have his name attached to.
I will say, sizing aside, I had nothing truly negative to say about the shoe. It’s a trail shoe that you’ll keep lacing up because it makes running fun. I like to think that someone like Kilian would take a comment like that with a smile. If a shoe does all of the things the right way, then you forget about the shoe entirely and just focus on why we run trails — we run for fun.
There really isn’t a 1-to-1 comparable shoe out there right now, but my best estimate would be a mix of the new Hoka Tecton X 2 and the original Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra. Those are both amazing shoes, but remember that the Kjerag is close to two ounces lighter than either of those featherweights.
You can pick up the Nnormal Kjerag for $195 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below.
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Matt is a recovering triathlete who fell in love with running and left the dark side behind. Trail and ultra running are where he is most in his element, but he can still be found routinely running the streets in and around Baltimore with the Faster Bastards. Aside from running, he is a lover of coffee, mezcal, beer, and 90s country music.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Atreyu The Artist, Speedland SL:PDXMore from Matt
Agreed with the great ground feel and overall quality! I sized down from my 11.5 for spoedgoat 5’s to 11 nnorms and still had lots of length. At first I thought they might be a bit too narrow because the look like ballet slippers compared to hokas but they feel super locked in and noticeably lighter! About 100kms in so far and loving them!
I went down half a size and the length is good, but the lockdown isn’t strong as I wanted. Maybe too unstructured of a heel. But they’re so, so light. Climbing is a pleasure. This is an old-timey take, but I think they’re like an updated New Balance MT110. Exotic upper, no insole, relatively minimal cushion (tops out at 20 miles or so for me), super nimble, anatomical fit (RIP, NL-1 last. Why NB abandoned that, I’ll never know), hard on the feet. Good shoe, but not a ultra shoe for me.