Nnormal Kjerag Review (2023): The Ultimate Trail Shoes?
Published on: 05/25/2023
The max-performance trail running shoe by Kilian Jornet.
Don’t have time to read the full review? Here’s what you need to know.
A nimble shoe designed for performance and versatility, the Nnormal Kjerag takes the lessons Kilian learned during his many years contributing to trail shoe design with Salomon and delivers a fantastic product for (mostly) advanced trail runners.
The Kjerag feels good from when you first try it on, which is the mark of great trail running shoes. It doesn’t have such a light weight as the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar, which is its closest immediate competitor in terms of looks and performance, coming in at c. 18 grams more (but who’s counting?). However, it has better cushioning, a wider landing surface, and a reliable Vibram MegaGrip rubber outsole which will see you running happily on the most technical terrain.
These shoes are made for medium to long distances, with not enough cushioning to last 100 miles for most of us. However, that all depends on your trail racing style. If you’re fast and more aggressive (like Kilian Jornet!), then you are less likely to be out on the trails as long as some of us who would benefit from added cushion. The Kjerag features 3.5 mm lugs with broad contact surfaces, giving good stability in varied conditions. The upper is made with Matryx jacquard that incorporates some Kevlar to withstand tough wear and tear, while staying breathable.
With a stack height of 23.5 mm under the heel and 17.5 mm under the toes, you’ll benefit from a comfortable 6 mm drop. The overall feel is fun, bouncy and responsive. The Kjerag, “born from strong beliefs and relentless research” as per the Nnormal website, is also environmentally friendly, made from durable materials meant to help reduce the frequency with which we replace shoes. Kilian Jornet has also committed to putting in place a scheme for repairing and recycling Nnormal shoes.
So, are the “new Nnormal” your next racing shoes? If you’re looking for a fresh and fun take on trail running shoes with an ethical spin, then you should give them a try.
Please read our full review for more information.
- Lightweight and responsive
- Good cushioning on a lower stack
- Very good foot lockdown
- Ethically sourced and manufactured
- Durable – value for money
- A little too responsive on sharp rocky terrain
- Perhaps not cushioned enough for very long distances
Nnormal Kjerag Complete Review Analysis
The Nnormal Kjerag was making history before it was even launched. After his break with long-time sponsor Salomon, Kilian Jornet and partner Emelie Forsberg started running in the yet-to-be-discovered shoe. Race day confirmation came easily: Kilian won the UTMB Mont Blanc in 2022 going under 20 hours for the first time in history (1), after having won legendary Zegama for a record-breaking 10th time (2), at a record-breaking pace. Oh, and he also did a UTMB – Hardrock 100 double in the same shoes. So, no introduction needed, right?
Kjerag (pronounced: “sche-rak”) shoes are named after a Norwegian mountain with steep, technical terrain – just like Kilian likes them! They are lightweight, fast and energetic, made for winning races at all distances and on all kinds of terrain. Jornet has talked repeatedly about his relentless research in shoe design, but also of his interest in decluttering the world of running gear. He is known for fashioning adaptations to his kit, for example using the same pair of Nnormal Tomir boots throughout his recent trip to the Himalayas (3), changing insoles and adding crampons when needed, running and walking in the one pair.
So, the new Kjerag is not only a high-performance shoe. It’s also one with an ethical approach. For the price tag, it gives you a little more bounce than other shoes of the same caliber while also protecting your feet and ankles with minimal weight.
Do they achieve the perfect balance of responsiveness, forward propulsion, and comfort for all trails? And are the high expectations from this brand met thanks to build quality and performance?
Let’s look at it in detail below.
Say “Vibram MegaGrip” to a trail runner and they won’t need to know more when it comes to grip. Kjerag has a Litebase outsole covered in this super high performance rubber compound, which makes it almost unbeatable on any terrain.
The lugs are 3.5 mm deep, so not very aggressive, keeping the sole weight down and also giving a bit more comfort and ground feel. On wet ground, the Vibram Litebase MegaGrip is super sticky and reliable. Through mud and technical terrain, you’ll benefit from stability and abrasion resistance. Over time, these outsoles should wear out less than those in other shoes – adding to the environmentally friendly nature of the Kjerag.
Finally, the shoe has enough flexibility. It can roll over any type of terrain without rolling an ankle, thanks to the relatively lower stack height and lighter sole material. And, while it’s not a shoe meant to be worn on the roads, you won’t struggle if you’re doing a door-to-trail outing in them, either.
Kjerag shoes come equipped with a flexible trail specific foam called “Eexpure” – developed by Nnormal to support runners over any distance thanks to a good level of bounce. There are no insoles in the shoe (Nnormal says this helps prevent blisters and increases propulsion), which means that the foot is very close to the Eexpure foam midsole. It may feel a bit gimmicky, but this does lead to an incredible rebound, managing to boost runs to the next level.
Unlike the brand’s other shoe, Tomir, built for long distances and walking, the Kjerag feels lightweight and speedy, so the cushioning is moderate. Of course, Kilian Jornet can run 100 miles in them, but regular runners may find there’s not quite enough cushioning for such distances.
The stack of 23.5 mm under the heel and 17.5 mm under the toes doesn’t give as much protection from the ground as some of the biggest names in ultra racing (for reference, Hoka’s Speedgoat 5 comes in at 33 mm heel, 29 mm toes). And honest reviews report them being firmer than other pairs of shoes from competitor brands – something to keep in mind depending on the distance you plan to use them for.
Foot lockdown (upper)
Without an insole, there’s not much slipping and sliding inside the shoe – a good sign for those worrying about blisters. The best thing about that is that the Kjerag offers a good foot lockdown thanks to a tight but breathable Matryx upper. Weaved from individually coated polyamide and Kevlar yarns, this upper should also be weather resistant and durable.
It’s even more environmentally friendly when you consider that the dyeing process for Nnormal uppers uses between 50 and 95% less water than other methods. A win!
In terms of sizing, reviewers report that it’s a rather long shoe, with some having to go a full size down to get the right fit (most retailers suggest going a half size down only). There’s a roomy toe box and a good level of midfoot lockdown which should suit most foot shapes. However, the Kjerag may be one of those shoes where you need to try on a pair in store to find the right size for you.
Incredible rebound, decent cushioning, and overall great forward propulsion are unanimously reported regarding the Nnormal Kjerag. On technical terrain, including loose rocks and slippery hills, they provide stability and speed at the same time.
With a 6 mm drop, they’ll suit any type of runner. They also don’t weigh much: 7.6 oz (216 g) in men’s size 42 and 6.8 oz (194 g) in women’s size 40.
The Kjerag features a thin rock plate (especially compared to similar La Sportiva or Brooks models). Most reviewers believe this gives the shoe maybe a little too much ground feel, but it’s a fair compromise for how nimble it is. Away from very sharp, rocky sections, the Kjerag’s Eexpure midsole provides more than enough protection.
These shoes are made for racing first, but they’ll suit long runs up to 50 miles at an easier pace, too.
The Kjerag is definitely built to last. The Matryx upper has minimal overlays and should be easy to repair. Additionally, the Vibram Litebase rubber has kept the overall sole weight down without compromising on sturdiness or stickiness on the most technical terrain.
During the summer of 2022, Kilian reported that he’d run 2,500 km between two Kjerag shoes, the prototype and the final version. With the Eexpure midsole designed to be super flexible and have a great recovery capacity, we will believe that the shoe can last a few hundred miles easily. Especially if you follow the Nnormal motto and “tread light”! Seriously though, for a trail racing shoe, all initial reviews would suggest that it will be super durable, making it a good investment.
Nimble, fun, and ethically conscious, the Nnormal Kjerag is a trail racing shoe with a difference. Performing fantastically well on all types of terrain, it will suit runners who like a little more responsiveness and flexibility even when running long. You can’t just put them on and watch yourself turn into Kilian Jornet over night, but they’ll go a long way towards improving your speed if you put in the required training to go with it!
|Heel height||23.5 mm|
|Forefoot height||17.5 mm|
|Weight (men)||216 g/7.6 oz|
|Weight (women)||194 g/6.8 oz|
|Outsole||VIBRAM Litebase, VIBRAM Megagrip|
Reference: Nnormal's official site
Did you know?
Since 2017, we have analyzed hundreds of trail running shoe models, and thousands of runners trust us to find the perfect pair every month!
Discover our selection of the best trail running shoes.