A Conversation With Kilian Jornet About the NNormal Kjerag Trail Shoe

A conversation (with transcript) with Kilian Jornet about the NNormal Kjerag, the first trail running shoe offered by his new brand NNormal.

By on September 7, 2022 | Comments

What was intended to be a “bonus question” at the end of our interview with Kilian Jornet after his win of the 2022 UTMB turned into a full chat about the newly announced NNormal Kjerag trail running shoe. The basics on the Kjerag (pronounced “sche-rak“) are:

  • $195/€170
  • 200 grams for a U.S. men’s 9
  • 6-millimeter drop (23.5mm/17.5mm midsole height at the heel/toe)
  • Vibram Litebase Megagrip outsole
  • Matryx upper
  • As of October 5, pre-orders of the Tomir and Kjerag are now available with the goal of October and November delivery, respectively.

In the following conversation, Kilian talks about how long his two pairs have lasted, the shoe’s fit, and the importance of getting the foam right.

A Conversation With Kilian Jornet About the NNormal Kjerag Trail Shoe Transcript

iRunFar: At the Hardrock 100, you mentioned possibly racing the Zegama Marathon, Hardrock, Sierre-Zinal, and UTMB in the same pair of NNormal shoes. Did you end up doing that?

Kilian Jornet: Yeah, that was my training shoe; I have done 1,600 kilometers. So then in my racing shoes, I have now 500 kilometers with these races and a couple of Norwegian races. I think we need to use less gear, and we need to make gear that lasts longer. For me, it was a test, I want shoes that perform for long. Yeah, I’m super happy and I’m almost more proud of that than the results of the races.

iRunFar: You have a shoe that has succeeded in balancing light weight and performance and, at least for you, durability.

Jornet: Yeah. Of course, durability depends on the weight you are and how you run, but we try to also study that with different persons and weights. I’m happy that I can have one pair of shoes for racing. I don’t have one pair of shoes for long and for short and for the season and the end of the season, but just keep it simple. One pair for training or maybe two pairs for training during all the year, and then one pair for racing. Yeah, I like simple things.

iRunFar: And you did announce the shoe at UTMB. What’s the model name and just maybe a little bit about it? I don’t want to go too deep, you’ve given so much of your time.

Jornet: The shoe is the Kjerag, it’s a mountain here in Norway. The goal was to make a lightweight shoe. It’s performing well on running in the mountains and then, if you’re running short or long, it’s running in the mountains. We wanted to have a shoe that has durability and performance. We work a lot with the materials, both in the upper and in the sole.

iRunFar: It is a Matryx upper and Vibram Litebase Megagrip on the outsole?

Jornet: Yeah. And then what makes a lot of the durability is also the midsole. We are working with the material that it keeps the cushioning and it keeps the directivity for long. As I mentioned, I think for me after 800 kilometers, I started to feel that it was a bit under-reactive but I could be using it on very good training sessions up to 1,300 kilometers, and then I could use for normal training and easy.

But that was the goal, that this material we studied a lot for that. And then a comfortable shoe, a bit wider than some racing shoes, and just comfortable so you can do ultras and you can train every day. That it doesn’t feel like racing, that your feet will be uncomfortable — but the shoe that you can train every day with.

And then the other thing that was complicated, it was to make a design that is simple. So if something is worn, it’s easy to replace. Like if you have a lot of different pieces in a shoe and something is broken or worn, then it’s very complicated to either to recycle, because then you need to disassemble, or to replace. We work a lot with the materials, we work a lot with the shape of the materials, but we keep it simple so at the end of life to disassemble for recycling. Or, if you need to replace one part, it’s easy to do it.

iRunFar: If I remember it correctly, it’s more or less a one-piece upper. While there is the top, yeah, yeah.

Jornet: It’s the tongue and then the laces, but not many pieces. And then the separation between upper and midsole and so it’s very clear it’s one full sole, which is easier to replace. And it gives durability and tries to keep it as simple as possible to make a performance shoe.

iRunFar: Yeah, because that does keep it light. I think, what is it? It’s 190 grams for a size 41, so a 42 will be about 200 grams, more or less?

Jornet: 200 grams in 42, yeah.

iRunFar: So you put a lot of miles in the shoes, those two pairs. What has worn the most of those two pairs you’ve used? Where are you seeing degradation after that?

Jornet: The upper is just new, the upper is like … And I have been climbing and putting on crampons and things. It is just like new. The midsole, it gets worn a bit like on the sides but that doesn’t affect the performance. But after, as I mentioned, after, for me 800 kilometers, it started to lose — for racing, I would use this shoe for 800 kilometers.

iRunFar: 500 miles, yeah, okay.

Jornet: 500 miles, I knew that the shoe is as good as new. I will have the same reactivity, I will have the same cushioning. And after that, it’s still very good for quick trainings and that, up to, what I mentioned, 1,300 kilometers. So that’s the midsole durability, in my case. And then the sole, I have not worn this, of course with the crampons [lugs], they get smaller, but after 1,300 kilometers, for me, it was still flatter, but it still had some crampons [lugs] …

iRunFar: Still usable, you are running on technical terrain in Norway.

Jornet: Yeah. So I would say probably the midsole is what disappears first and then the sole. Yeah, it goes disappearing but because it’s a full sole, it doesn’t get broken or destroyed.

iRunFar: Yeah, nothing peels off, no delamination.

Jornet: No delamination and all that; when it’s two small crampons then it’s very easy to just like, put another sole.

iRunFar: So, I got a chance to run in it a little bit over in Chamonix, France, and one thing that really impressed me, a lot of brands that are using super foams talk about how extremely bouncy they are, which for me isn’t necessarily the best thing, especially on trails. Whereas your super foam has a little bit of rebound, but not a lot. How did you tune that?

Jornet: That was kind of the goal to have very, very good cushioning, so if you go with the heel or if you go in the midfoot like that, you feel it’s a good cushion. But it is very stable on trails, so it means that it’s not just fluff, soft. And I think it was studying a lot the different super foams, what are they, and trying different ones until we find the best material for what we wanted to do.

iRunFar: And those will be available, I think they’re available for preorder now but shipping, hopefully in October?

Jornet: Yeah, it will be in the fall, in a couple of weeks. In the stores, in the U.S. and Europe. And, of course, on Nnormal.com.

iRunFar: Awesome, well I can’t wait to try them in person. Thank you very much Kilian and take care.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.