When You Can’t Find It, Make It
Many of the guests on Pier Five can be considered problem solvers. Whether through community work, knowledge sharing or product creation, the best results come from real needs. The latest group of problem solvers to grace Pier Five with their presence comes from decades of experience as endurance athletes and lifelong shoe craftsmen who, after years of being unsatisfied with the product offering on the market, decided to take matters into their own hands. Without any further ado, we are pleased to introduce norda™, the world’s newest trail running footwear brand, created by runners for runners.
While norda™ was made possible by people all over the world, the brand is run by four individuals in Montreal and the East Townships in Quebec, Canada who set out on a mission to create the world’s lightest, fastest and most durable trail running shoe. While there are other brands out there with deep pockets, norda™ feels they have the ability to take the sport by storm. This ability starts with the incredible team that makes up norda™.
Running Is A Team Sport
The company was founded by, husband and wife, Nick and Willa Martire who have spent many years as high-performance runners, bikers, skiers and hikers and nearly equal time as pioneers in the footwear industry. The two have collectively held leadership roles with major companies Aldo, Authentic Brands Group and Pretty Ballerinas LTD, developing and launching numerous high-tier brands in North America. The second half of norda™ is equally as impressive. The brand’s Head of Design, Louis-Martin Tremblay, founder of Atelier LMTL, designs for Aime Leon Dore, KITH & SSENSE, and Gerard Cleal, who is the founder of Thompson + Cleal Agency and previously worked as Design Director for ALDO, serves as the Creative Director for norda™.
Between the four partners with over sixty years of combined footwear experience, an incredible product, a strong international network of creators, producers and athletes, and the support of many of the best running stores around the globe, norda™ has all the tools to make a big splash in the space.
The norda™ shoe is unlike any other trail running shoe that exists and was made to prove that high performance and sustainability should always run together. The shoe, norda™ 001, is made from Dyneema®: the world’s strongest and lightest fiber™. Dyneema delivers the lowest carbon footprint per unit strength of any material. Seventy-five percent of the energy used to manufacture Dyneema Fiber® comes from renewable energy sources. The sole of the shoe is a brand new design made in collaboration with Vibram, a leader in shoe design and footwear soles, and was inspired by the Canadian Shield, the largest and strongest pre-Cambrian rock formation on Earth. The soleplate is engineered with Vibram® Litebase® technology to conserve energy and enhance your performance with a thirty percent duction in overall sole weight. The Vibram® MegaGrip® rubber delivers superior durability, traction and the strongest possible grip on both wet and dry surfaces.
The norda™ 001 was made with patience, perseverance and grit and was built to unlock every runner’s full potential. Whether you’re running around the block or fifty kilometers, norda™ believes that everyone deserves the best and was made to deliver the ultimate running experience without compromising on the company’s sustainability goals.
A Conversation With Co-Founder Nick Martire
Over the next three months, Pier Five is proud to introduce a new series of content with some of the coolest people in footwear, product design, brand direction and running, made possible only by our friends at norda™.
To kick things off, we sat down with norda™ co-founder, Nick Martire, to chat about the journey of starting norda™ with his wife, what it was like to build a team with a shared vision, global product manufacturing during a pandemic and much more. Read the conversation below and when you’re finished, head over to norda™ website for an in-depth look at the sneaker and the ability to pre-order the norda™ 001 before it sells out!
Hey Nick! It’s so great to be chatting about norda™ and this launch. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit more about how the idea of norda™ came to be?
Hey guys! Really excited to be connected. The idea of norda™ came from my wife, Willa. We’ve both been endurance athletes for nearly all our lives and after a certain point, we couldn’t find a shoe that was light enough, strong enough and fast enough for us. We were having a conversation about this and Willa looked at me and said “why don’t you make it?”. At first it was a wild thought, but we have worked in the footwear industry for so long and I thought “ya, we could actually do this!”.
Love that! If you can’t find it, make it. The norda™ 001 is made using materials and technology from some pretty incredible companies, Dyneema and Vibram, which we can’t imagine are easy to just link up with. How did that come together and what drove you to want to work with them?
We knew this shoe had to be driven by science and technology to achieve our goals. We went out looking for leading edge materials, and examined what elite rock climbers, hikers and hardcore backpackers were using. That led us to Dyneema, a material whose properties are simply unmatched. Nobody has been able to make a shoe like we did out of Dyneema and we set a mission to break the historical boundaries of performance and sustainability. It took a global team of equally like minded and stubborn people to make this happen but at the end of the day, we got it done.
For Vibram, we were able to partner with them to engineer a completely new sole. They are leaders in that space and our Head of Design, Louis-Martin Tremblay, was able to create something really incredible with them, featuring all of their best technologies in weight, feel and grip. The result is a sole that Vibram calls “the Dream”, because it is their highest performance running sole ever made; and it’s exclusive to norda.
That’s very cool. Besides making the best shoe from a performance standpoint, why was making a shoe with sustainable materials and processes so important for norda™?
It’s critical that we take responsibility for our actions. The apparel and footwear industry are some of the most polluting industries. Shoes are not recycled in any way, shape or form, and while we’re not there yet, we believe the strongest impact we can make today is to go up the supply chain to make shoes in a more sustainable manner.
The goal was to make the ultimate cutting edge shoes with the smallest footprint. Most brands ignore this because it’s hard and expensive, but we won’t do that.
We can’t imagine the manufacturing process was easy during the pandemic. How did you navigate everything?
It definitely wasn’t easy. Many manufacturers only want to go into sure things, especially during the pandemic. We reached out to our network and friends who we have worked with for many years. You would be surprised how much goodwill there is from the people in your circle, and how much they are willing to help if they believe in your vision. For us, the R&D team in Europe and Asia was beyond committed to making this product a reality.
We were working with manufacturers overseas and technology and material that had never been used to this extent in running shoes before so it was a lot of back and forth but we kept pushing. It was hundreds of hours of calls with people all over the world and, at times, we thought we wouldn’t be able to complete certain parts that we wanted to, but our team never stopped believing in our mission and what we were trying to accomplish.
Well it was worth every minute. Now that the shoe is ready for launch, can you share some info about the launch strategy for the norda™ 001?
We’re very excited for the launch. Our Creative Director, Gerard Cleal, led some amazing work with Canandian creative agency LG2 and visual production house L’Eloi, to put together our digital launch strategy. We have also had the support of some of the most experienced endurance athletes and explorers from around the world to help us build awareness for the shoe’s release.
The shoe goes live for pre-sale on our website on July 14th *psst it’s live now!* and we will be releasing the shoes in some of the best running shops in North America, as well as some distribution with a couple international stores. We plan on expanding internationally further in 2022.
Later in August we will also be releasing a very special collaboration that we cannot wait to share more information about soon. Pier Five will have special coverage of this collaboration later in the series so be on the lookout for that!
We can’t wait for all of that and are so excited to put some miles in these shoes. Lastly, for those who may not have explored the world of trail running before but might look to norda™ to be their introduction, what tips would you give to those looking to hit the trails for the first time?
Firstly, you need the right shoes! Trail shoes have more traction than road shoes, and they’re built for stability on ever changing ground.
Decide where you are going and get prepared. If you’re lucky you can find a great trail in the city’s parks, or a provincial park. Make a plan for the day. Figure out how far you’re going to go and make sure you have the right amount of food and water. The weather can change quickly depending on how long you plan to be out for.
Lastly, slow your pace down compared to road running, take breaks and enjoy the scenery around you. The magic of trail running is that you get to experience views and sensations that only being in a wild natural setting can provide.
Keep it locked to Pier Five as we continue to roll out content over the next few months with some of the coolest people in footwear, product design, brand direction and running, made only possible by our friends at norda™, and stay tuned for a special announcement from Pier Five & norda™ at the end of the series.