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This summer, Kilian Jornet, the 34-year-old Spaniard living in Norway – considered by many to be the best mountain runner of all time – set course records at both the Hardrock Endurance Run and the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). But equally as buzzworthy was the fact that he did it in a single pair of trail running shoes.
The understated black shoes were the debut product from Jornet’s new brand, NNormal (the double n refers to the “new normal”), in partnership with the Spanish footwear brand Camper. The brand’s core message centers on a new approach to environmentalism, aiming to produce fewer, more durable products, while eschewing seasonal changes and fashion trends.
“It’s not about me starting my own brand, but about a group of people that share the same values and vision when it comes to the environmental and social responsibility of companies that we want to work for. It’s about putting our values first and knowing how to build the future of outdoor sports we would like to see,” says Jornet.
The two shoes, the Kjerag (pronounced sche-rak, named for a Norwegian peak) and the Tomir (pronounced tome-eer, named for a mountain on the Spanish island of Mallorca), are some of the most anticipated new trail kicks this year.
The brand is hyper-focused on its environmental message, baking sustainability into every step of the process. Jornet hopes it can inspire trail runners and the whole outdoor industry to approach how they think about consumption differently.
“I think we need to change the way we sell and buy products, not to try to sell new products to replace old ones that are still in great shape but can ‘feel old’. That seems simple, but it involves big changes in the industry, and also to realize that products are something we should take care of, repair them, and eventually, when we need to replace them, ensure a circularity to build new products,” says Jornet. “The industry also has a big role in the way we promote sports. How are we educating our community with marketing, events, and social media? That should be in line with the values and responsibility of the companies.”
Durability and Sustainability
The primary way NNormal is limiting its footprint is by emphasizing durability and sustainability in its product design. Both the Kjerag and Tomir are minimal by design, reducing the number of attachment points (like seams) that can break and degrade over time. Each product uses as few components as possible, reducing the amount of raw materials required to produce the product.
“One of the biggest threats today in trail running footwear and performance, in general, is the number of shoes that runners have to buy (because the materials break or are worn too quickly),” says Thomas Houzet, footwear developer at NNormal. “As far as the designing process is concerned, we try to apply the following rule: Designing long-lasting, multi-functional products with the long-term goal of repairing. Not following seasonal trends or obligating the consumer to need the next best to come. Taking advantage of what you already have first. We want to make simple, humble, timeless designs, with no unnecessary over-the-top detailing,” says Houzet.
NNormal wants to break out of the outdoor industry’s aggressive, seasonal model of consumption by encouraging consumers to purchase fewer products. There won’t be huge colorways or exciting “drops” to draw more attention, as NNormal shifts its focus to a more limited line of minimalist designs with a longer shelf life. They’ve even been careful when sending out test shoes, making sure to do it in large batches as opposed to one-off shipments to limit their footprint.
NNormal: Technical Specs
When NNormal set out to make a shoe with Kilian, versatility was the goal. They wanted to make a shoe that could just as easily tackle a VK as it could circumnavigate Mont Blanc in a day. The Kjerag is a lightweight, performance-oriented trail running shoe that features a Matryx upper and Vibram Litebase Megagrip outsole. According to Jornet, the shoe does start to lose a bit of responsiveness after 500-plus miles, but this is a significant improvement on the durability of many shoes on the market today, especially those with softer durometers of foam that break down faster. Its 3.5mm lugs give extra bite and grip on more technical trails and loose terrain.
The shoe boasts generous volume for runners tackling longer races (like UTMB), and adapts to the runner’s foot as it swells. There’s no inner sole for better trail feel, less slippage (blisters), and even more durability.
The shoe’s upper is made of a blended monofilament polyester combined with TPE. This makes it more abrasion resistant and durable than competitors. Thick stitching attaches the upper to the midsole for extra toughness.
The Tomir is an “adventure shoe,” made for hiking and other off-road adventures. The basic Tomir is similar to any trail runner or light hiker, but also comes in waterproof and high-cut variations for additional ankle protection. The Tomir also features a Vibram Megagrip and Litebase outsole, known for its durability. The 5mm lugs add grip for technical adventures.
“We think that the most environmental products are the ones that last the longest. That means not only the physical durability, but also emotional durability, creating non-seasonal collections and also how to make products last longer by repairing them,” says Jornet. “That involves a lot of work on the design process, thinking about how we can make our products repairable and reaching great levels of performance with simple designs. There’s also a lot of environmental impact on the business model of companies, and we want to be an economically sustainable company not based on overconsumption models.”
NNormal: Performance First
Performance is central to NNormal’s message. Prioritizing the function of its shoes with athletes like Kilian Jornet, Dakota Jones, and Peyton Thomas shows that the company doesn’t compromise on how well its products perform.
“We design our shoes for athletes’ requirements, and make sure to adapt them for a bigger audience,” says Houzet. “We do not want to make shoes for athletes, and then sell different products to consumers. When the first prototypes are ready, we always test first with Kilian and our athletes,” says Houzet. “We then get feedback and build new prototypes for a second round of semi-pro and amateur runners in varied terrain like Norway, Mallorca, and the Pyrenees.”
NNormal shoes will be available for pre-order for members starting today, October 5th, and throughout the month of October at nnormal.com, and specialized stores in Europe and the US.