Norda 001 x Ciele Athletics Cooper’s Hawk Review
ROBBE: We love collaborations here at Believe in the Run, and the Canadian combo of Norda x Ciele may be one of our favorites to date. Of course, we’ve always had a soft spot in our hearts for Ciele, thanks to their exceptional running caps and past collabs with brands like Article One.
But we hadn’t heard of Norda until really just a couple months ago when we started seeing photos of the Cooper’s Hawk popping up. Obviously we were intrigued so we jumped on a call with the brand to see what they were about. Essentially it’s a husband and wife team with a couple other support staff members who keep the gears turning in the small operation. Based out of Montreal (like Ciele), they have an affinity for both road and trail, which comes into play with the Norda 001.
So what is the Norda 001? Essentially it’s a road-to-trail shoe with a focus on design and durability. On the design side, let me just say that the Norda 001 may be the most beautiful trail shoe of 2021 and maybe my favorite looking trail shoe… ever? I get many compliments on it off the trail which is how you know a shoe is good. In fact, I tried to find a way to keep that white upper crystal clear but trails are gonna trail and it’s now a dull brown. So be it.
Side note, apparently the designer of the Norda 001 comes from a fashion background with a most recent stint at Aldo (another brand out of Montreal, by the way). He probably went to art school and still smokes cigs while listening to obscure punk, so he’s way cooler than all of us already and we don’t deserve him.
All that to say, the Norda 001 is beautiful. But it’s also beautifully constructed. In this way it reminds me of the approach to the Speedland SL:PDX, in that the co-founders approached the shoe with the intention of providing the very best materials and quality for the purpose it serves. We’re talking a full Dyneema upper (Dyneema is basically the strongest material on earth), Dyneema-infused laces. Vibram Megagrip outsole and Vibram SLE midsole (which we didn’t even know existed). Also, fun fact: Norda is the first company ever granted permission by Vibram to use “Vibram Yellow” on a midsole/outsole, because typically that color would camouflage the Vibram branding. Pretty cool. Lastly with the upper – you get a TPU sockliner and a slew of reflective hits, most notably on the heel counter, turning this into a high-beam reflector during early morning/nighttime runs. Why reflectivity on a trail shoe?
Funny you should ask. The Cooper’s Hawk name is taken from the bird of prey that once populated Mt. Royal Park in the center of Montreal (it’s basically their version of Central Park). Over the years the bird had been driven out but recently returned to its original nesting habitat. That park has plenty of trails, but to get to them, city dwellers need to hit the sidewalks first. City running equals cars. Hence, the road to trail shoe that is the Norda 001 Cooper’s Hawk.
Anyway, enough history, let’s get on with the actual review.
MATT: From a trail shoe perspective, there’s been two shoes of late that channeled my inner Wayne Campbell when I first saw them: “She will be mine, oh yes, she will be mine.” Also: “Schwing!”
The first one was the Speedland SL:PDX, and that turned out to be one of my definitely/maybe favorite shoes of the year. The second one was this canary yellow and white beauty that we’re reviewing right here: the Norda 001 Ciele Cooper’s Hawk Edition. All my running dreams are coming true.
The Cooper’s Hawk edition is a limited collaboration with Ciele, makers of my personal favorite running caps. The shoe is a stunner to look at, and uses some very interesting materials (like Dyneema), and never before seen Vibram midsole material (at least to my knowledge). I was stoked to hit the trails for some miles.
ROBBE: As I already mentioned, the looks here are just about as good as you can get. I don’t even need to see anything else because it just is that pretty and you know it when you see it.
Moving on, the Dyneema upper is a double-edged sword. While it is pretty much the strongest material on earth (15x stronger than steel), it does have a tendency to get warm (more on that later). Aside from that, it’s surprisingly comfortable and it’s immediately apparent that the durability is off the charts. A lot of the time, trail runners suffer from the early blowout – all the torque and pushing on varied terrain creates blowouts on the sides of the shoes, long before the outsole or midsole life have expired. I can say with complete confidence that this upper will last as long as you want it to. It’s that durable. I would be shocked if it broke down before 1,000 miles and we’ve heard from Norda wear testers who have confirmed this to be true.
If anything, the Vibram SLE midsole will break down or fully compress first, as it is an EVA-based midsole. But the majority of trail shoes at the moment are EVA-based (aside from the Brooks Catamount, Skechers Razor TRL, or the aforementioned SL:PDX), so there’s no real deviation there. As far as feel, I found the midsole to work surprisingly well. I love a good middle drop, so at 5 mm, with a 26 mm stack in the heel and 21 mm in the forefoot, the Norda 001 hit me in my sweet spot. Honestly, the first twelve miles in this shoe were on road and I actually liked it a lot, which I was totally surprised by. It reminded me of a firmer version of the HOKA Speedgoat, which– by the way– is probably the most obvious comparison here. Maybe somewhere between the Speedgoat and Torrent and/or Nike Pegasus Trail 3 (but waaaaay better grip).
Speaking of grip, the Vibram Megagrip outsole is as solid as ever. If you know or have worn any shoe with the Megagrip outsole you know it’s one of the best in the game, striking a perfect balance between tackiness, grip, and overall comfort. Megagrip isn’t magic on super technical terrain or straight-up roads, but it can definitely get you through the extremes while rolling like butter on everything in between.
I love the reflective hits on the shoe, even if they add a little bit of weight. Aside from the safety aspect, it just looks cool. The heel tab, which also looks cool, is functionally useless but I’m still glad it’s there.
I was also surprised by the weight on this shoe for how much good shit is going on. It only weighs 9.5 oz./ 268 g for a US M8.5, which is pretty much in line with any decently built trail shoe out there, and actually comes in about an ounce lower than the more technical shoes.
On the trails, the shoe is quite capable, mostly thanks to that Vibram outsole and the cushioned midsole that still provides great trail feel. I will say, that the long run I had meant for this shoe did not come to full fruition as we’ll see, but I did get 9 miles of running then hobbling in the shoe.
MATT: Let’s start with the looks. The Cooper’s Hawk edition uses a white/cream and Vibram yellow theme to create a really sharp vibe. The white trend in trail shoes of late has caused the neat freak in me a bit more anxiety as I want to preserve the looks, but just like a new car, once you get that first ding, guardrails are down and let’s tear sh*t up!
The upper is a seamless construction made of Dyneema, all the way down to the laces. If you aren’t familiar, this material is basically indestructible. Fifteen times stronger than steel, while still maintaining a flexible and comfortable fit. You will not need to worry about ripping or busting seams on this shoe.
While the upper is dominated by the Dyneema build, the midsole and outsole are entirely constructed with Vibram materials. A rugged Vibram Megagrip outsole is as consistent and dependable as any outsole on the market. It provides stability in a variety of conditions and across all types of terrain, and is especially tacky when navigating wet rocks and roots. What was new to us was the midsole choice. A blown EVA material called Vibram SLE. With a 26 mm heel and 21 mm forefront of stack, that is a beefy slice of Vibram’s proprietary midsole foam to combine with the outsole.
The ride is very comfortable, but I would not describe it as cushiony or bouncy. I think it lands right in that sweet spot of stiffness and comfort that you want in a shoe that can go long distances (think Hoka Speedgoat, Topo Athletic Ultraventure).
What really jumped out to me was that, while maintaining the stickiness and traction necessary for the gnarly parts, the ride transitioned really seamlessly through terrain changes. Often a shoe will excel in the mud and technical stuff, only to feel unnatural the second you hit gravel or hard-packed dirt.
This extends to the blacktop as well. While I won’t be lacing up in the Norda 001’s for my next road race, they feel quite good on the pavement and will make for a great road to trail option. This is something that has been hard to come by on the market.Shop Norda 001
ROBBE: As I mentioned, the durability of the Dyneema upper will be off the charts. Also off the charts – your foot temperatures. The upper is just not breathable. Which, yeah, if you’re in Montreal isn’t a problem. Or fall to spring in the Mid-Atlantic. All that to say, save this shoe for temps below 70 degrees.
The sizing runs short but they also tell you to go a half size up, so it’s not really a bad thing, it’s just a thing. Oddly enough, I thought mine was too tight at first, but once I wore it around I kinda liked the snug fit.
Lastly, I feel like there could be more support in the ankle area, cause right now there’s isn’t much. Something to give it more structure even though I know that’s going to add another ounce or so. Full disclosure I did roll my ankle badly on the trails in this shoe, but double full disclosure – I was taking GoPro footage for the video review and not watching where I was going and stepped terribly on a rut in the trail, and triple full disclosure – I have the worst ankles in the world and have rolled them in every kind of shoe. So I refuse to blame it on this shoe. Still, a little more ankle support couldn’t hurt.
Some would put the cost in the bad column but I think the $225 CAD is actually pretty fair for all the qualities packed into the shoe. Plus, there’s the appeal of a niche brand that straddles the line between performance and fashion. In the US, that turns out to be $290, which is certainly a lot for the average consumer. But if you do crank out 700-800 miles, it’s actually fairly reasonable. I believe these are fairly limited runs (like less than 1,000 pairs), so they’ll have no problem selling every last one of these. As such, I don’t think the price belongs in the bad column, because there is a market for it.
MATT: The downside of the Dyneema upper is likely the heat retention of the material. This may actually be a neutral comment as it could be a welcomed feature during winter runs, but would certainly lead to some hot feet in the summer months.
The Norda 001 is also a bit on the small side. I was able to work with my standard size 10 without any big issue but given the choice, I would likely size up a half size.
Drainage is also a bit up in the air. I took the shoes through a few small stream crossings and they seemed to shed the water pretty well, but without some drainage ports I think larger or prolonged crossings could lead to some lingering water in the shoes.Shop Norda 001
ROBBE: This has to be the surprise hit of 2021 for me, most definitely in the trail world (I’d also throw the Speedland SL:PDX into there, but for different reasons). The Norda 001 has it all when it comes to a general use trail shoe that can handle a ton of miles for a long time and still looks good when grocery shopping at Whole Foods. I’m super excited to see what’s in store for the future, because I’ve heard some really nice things are coming down out of Montreal. You know we’ll get you the lowdown on it all.
MATT: In the same vein as my review of the Speedland SL:PDX, these are a fine piece of craftsmanship, and do their job on the trails very, very well while looking really cool. Of course, there is a price with that quality, and at $285 these are not cheap.
However, the choice materials (Dyneema & Vibram), make a formidable combo that should guarantee a long-lasting shoe. Norda claims some early testers have logged over 1,000 miles. If you can get three-quarters of that mileage out of these shoes, then that price point really is not that crazy at all.
I am really excited to have the Norda 001 in my arsenal as I think it may end up being one of the best-rated all-around trail shoes of the year, as well as a top ultra distance candidate.
You can pick up the Norda 001 by using the shop link below.Shop Norda 001
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Great to finally read a real review of the shoe. Ordered!
As an aside, I think the prices quoted in the review for CAD and USD are backwards ($285 CAD everywhere I look)