Arc’teryx Sylan GTX trail running shoe | Tested and reviewed

New for 2024, the Arc'teryx Sylan is quick, tough, and lined with Gore-Tex – but does it hold up to our testing?

from Arc'teryx
RRP  £210.00
Arcteryx Sylan trail running shoes

by James Forrest |
Updated on

The Arc'teryx Sylan GTX trail running shoe is finally here as part of the brand's latest wave of performance footwear. Luckily for us, our gear tester James Forrest managed to snag himself a pair earlier this year, and has been thoroughly testing them out in the Lake District to see if they're worth the hype.

We've been impressed by Arc'teryx's trail running efforts before. The Norvan LD3 was a smash it; an ultralight, grippy, comfortable, and supportive trail running shoe. It's great for moving quick, featuring an InFuse midsole for an energetic rebound, good shock absorption and plush cushioning. And we even championed the minimalist Norvan SL3 for it's sleek, speedy, and technical design.

Gore-tex logo on the Arcteryx Sylan trail running shoes
©LFTO | James Forrest

But now Arc’teryx has another trail running shoe built to go fast. New for spring and summer 2024, the Sylan GTX is described as a “race-orientated shoe” designed in collaboration with the brand’s elite trail running athletes, and a “performance mountain-running shoe that provides comfort and confidence on the most rugged trails and delivers grip and support you can trust across shifting terrain and conditions”.

It’s certainly a shoe built for rugged, steep terrain – the real mountainous stuff. The main aim here is to strike a nice balance between competing priorities. Rapid mountain runners need energetic speed and forward propulsion, but not at the expense of precision or “feel”. They need to be protected from the trail to avoid foot pain or fatigue, yet need good “ground-feel” for better control over technical terrain.

They also need the heel locked-in place and the toes not to be bashed around, with a protective build for stability and protective, yet without ruining the “zip” and “pop” you want when chasing FKTs and PBs. Can all of this be achieved in one shoe? Here’s the full lowdown.

Product image of the Sylan by arcteryxLFTO | James Forrest
Price: £210.00

arcteryx.com

Pros

  • Encourages speed and propulsion
  • Highly responsive
  • Protective
  • Precise fit

Cons

  • Quite stiff
  • Not as light as some race shoes

Upper

The upper of the Arc’teryx Sylan GTX is made from a tough, tightly woven mesh, with reinforced, protective overlays of TPU film for added abrasion resistance across the sides, heel and toe. At the toebox, these 0.4mm thick TPU overlays create a firm bumper and a wraparound-style rand.

The all-round sensation is that the upper is strong and durable, and built for the mountains. Arc’teryx says that the way PFC-free recycled nylon yarns are weaved into the upper creates “a high level of abrasion resistance and tear strength”.

Laces and tongue on the Arcteryx Sylan trail running shoes
©LFTO | James Forrest

Does this robustness reduce comfort levels? Perhaps a tiny bit, but the upper is still pretty flexible and comfortable, and we liked wearing these trainers. The engineered knit collar, which helps to seal out trail debris, is particularly comfy, wrapping around the ankle nicely and creating a sock-like fit. The tongue and ankle cuff are lightly padded for added comfort too.

The knit collar and tongue integrate to provide a “supportive and secure fit” for speed and stability, with a “comfortable, sock-like fit”, according to Arc’teryx, which is particularly useful on steep descents when the foot has a tendency to jolt forwards and crush your toes.

During our test runs we found the cut of the trainer relatively close-fitting, with a precise feel. This gave a sensation of accuracy with each step.

Midsole

The Arc’teryx Sylan GTX has an InFuse midsole from dual density EVA foam and polyolefin. It is nicely cushioned with good shock absorption and responsiveness. But, in a world of maximalist cushioning, the Sylan doesn’t give you a humongous sense of bouncy pop.

Instead most of the speed comes from the rocker geometry in the design, which aids propulsion and forward momentum, whether you’re on the flats or steeper ground.

Side photo for reviewing the midsole of the Arcteryx Sylan trail running shoes
©LFTO | James Forrest

At 327g per shoe, the Sylan feels a tad heavier than we’d expect for a racer, and this weight slightly reduces that sense of speed and, over time, can hinder leg turnover. Consequently the Sylan is perhaps better suited to longer distance races over technical ground, rather than a short’n’sweet 10km fell race, for example.

Outsole

Lugs and outsole of the Arcteryx Sylan trail running shoes
©LFTO | James Forrest

During our test runs, we were impressed with the sure-footed traction of this trainer. It gripped well and felt tacky with good bite. This is all thanks to the aggressive Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole, with rhombus, kite-shaped cleats with a deep 6mm profile. Arc’teryx says this sole unit “provides grip on wet, muddy trails and steep ascents and descents”, and we’d mostly agree with that assessment.

Features

The Arc’teryx Sylan GTX is a waterproof trail running shoe with a full Gore-Tex liner to ensure waterproof-breathable performance. The type of Gore-Tex used in this shoe features Invisible Fit technology – a type of Gore-Tex that “combines the true fit, feel and comfort of your favourite athletic sneakers with the 'guaranteed to keep you dry’ promise” of Gore-Tex, according to the ubiquitous membrane brand.

We found it difficult to judge what, if any, difference this made compared to a standard Gore-Tex liner, but Arc’teryx claims the benefits are “improved flex, comfort and breathability”. The Sylan is also available in a non Gore-Tex version.

Muddy Arcteryx Sylan trail running shoes
©LFTO | James Forrest

One other nice feature is the “tongue pocket” – a little mesh pouch sometimes known as a “garage” – for stashing the loops of your tied-up laces into. This keeps them out of the way, stops them flapping around and reduces the risk of them coming loose.

Sustainability

Arc’teryx has made some decent efforts to improve the sustainability credentials of the Sylan GTX. The knit collar is made from recycled polyester and the upper features PFC-free recycled nylon yarns. These are only minor things in the overall build of the shoe, but they are better than nothing.

As a wider brand, though, Arc'teryx have made some great steps in sustainability by bringing their ReBird repair service to their new store in the UK. You can take in broken gear and get it repaired for free, and they'll even wash your garments for you. If you've ever tried washing a Gore-Tex jacket on your own, you'll know how valuable this service is.

Verdict

The Arc'teryx Sylan GTX is a race-orientated trail shoe with a Gore-Tex liner and an aggressive tread pattern – but it’s very expensive.

How we tested the Arc'teryx Sylan

Our tester for the Arc'teryx Sylan trail running shoe was James Forrest. James is one of our long-time freelance gear testers both for LFTO and our print magazine, Trail. When he's not climbing mountains or walking to the moon and back, he's running on his local trails in the Lake District.

James forrest trail running

As well as being a prolific long-distance walker and runner, James is also one of the most high-profile outdoor writers in the UK.

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