Warm, springlike weather has crept its way into early-March, bringing with it a desire to be out on the trails. While I’d love to be making bottomless powder turns still, I’m not complaining one bit as the trails are thawing and I’m getting out there.
With the slew of trail runners I’ve got to test this Spring, I’m stoked to have a few brands that I’ve never worn before. The all-new La Sportiva Wildcat is just such a shoe–a new shoe from a previously-untested brand. With all the experience La Sportiva has under their belt, these shoes already have a leg up. Lets see how they fared.
About the La Sportiva Wildcat Trail Running Shoes
La Sportiva doesn’t just build trail running shoes, they like to call them Mountain Running® shoes. The entire lineup of mountain runners features innovative features and exclusive technology that has propelled La Sportiva to the forefront of the trail racing scene. To find out more about the La Sportiva Mountain Running team, check out MountainRunningTeam.com.
Back to the Wildcat. These shoes are built on the versatile Lynx last that features the FriXion sole and transkinetic heel stabilizer with enough cushioning for the long haul. The uppers start with a full mesh design that’s actually backed by a thicker, yet-breathable sockliner. Here’s what La Sportiva says about the Wildcat:
Built on the FriXion® X-Axis rubber outsole the Wildcat digs into any surface for excellent traction and added cushion. The single density midsole provides excellent cushioning and is coupled with a plush LaSpEVA 2.4 mm lasting board. A great all around trail runner for people looking for great stability and cushion.
More Wildcat features:
- Weight: 11.96 oz (pair)
- Last: Tempo-fit, medium-wide
- Sole: FriXion® AT/ Impact Brake System™ X-Axis™
- MSRP: $100
La Sportiva Wildcat Trail Running Shoes Review
I first saw the La Sportiva Wildcat trail running shoes (La Sportiva calls them mountain running®) at Outdoor Retailer in January. The design looked solid and I was anxious to get them out on the trails.
Shoe construction has changed the way trail running shoes are built and the Wildcats are a great example of those advancements. The combination of materials used and how they are melded together is top-notch. Even the subtle support and fabric protection provided by the rubber-dipped (black areas) mesh uppers shows how the designers were committed to working with the mesh by giving it the right qualities.
Slipping these shoes on, my feet made an instant connection with the whole package. Oftentimes new shoes take awhile to feel like they are “yours”, but these shoes felt instantly connected to my feet. I felt stable and cushioned and my flat feet are typically hard to please.
Because the weather was switching back and forth between Winter and Spring, I ran these equally on both pavement and trail. While there are better-cushioned road shoes, these definitely hold their own. And, heading out on the trails, the Wildcats felt absolutely at home.
The Wildcats have excellent trail manners with just the right amount of stability and traction on rough, loose and rocky as well as wet, soft and tacky trails. Not once did I feel like the tread pattern was lacking. Climbs were solid and I never slipped-out on descents.
I like the trail feel of these shoes. You don’t get the armor-plated forefoot protection of other shoes, but because of that, you don’t get numb to the nuances of the trail either. I felt just enough trail feedback to adjust pressure and stride as needed.
I ran both Superfeet and SOLE footbeds throughout the review period. Both worked equally well with the Wildcats.
The only negatives I’ve found with this shoe are pretty minor. I tend to take the first shoe off by holding down the heel with the toe of the other shoe. This process has started to peel away the thin EVA foam from the back of the heelcup. I also noticed that the tread pattern does tend to hold a little more mud than others. And, in spite of the meshy uppers, the sockliner keeps your feet from receiving the kind of air movement you might expect from this design.
- Trail or road cushioning
- Lateral stability and support
- Evenly-tensioned lacing system
- Excellent overall fit out-of-the-box
- Sockliner wicks away moisture and has a soft feel
- Scree-guard tongue system keeps out debris
- Great traction
- EVA foam is pulling away from plastic/carbon heelcage
- Tread design holds mud a little more than other designs
- In spite of mesh uppers, they don’t breathe as well as you’d think
The Bottom Line on the La Sportiva Wildcat Trail Running Shoes
From the get-go, I’ve been very impressed with these shoes. Very supportive… very well cushioned and excellent traction. Not as breathable as they may seem, but by no means are these sweat lockers. These are definitely some of the top trail shoes I’ve worn with the versatility to wear them both on and off-road.
Buy Now: Available at Backcountry.com
Just a quick update on these shoes after several more months of wear… I still really like them a lot. Honestly, they are my top choice for trail runner of the year so far–and I’ve tested a lot of trail running shoes this year!
hey jason, just a quick question for you.
i am a big fan of la sportiva and have run in both the fireblade and more recently the crosslite. although i love the low-to-the-ground, technical feel of these shoes, they simply don’t offer quite enough cushion beyond 30 miles or so on rockier trails.
how would the wildcats compare to the fireblades and crosslites and should i consider them?
While I’m no marathon runner, I can say that the Wildcats are some of the most versatile trail shoes I own. And, the forefoot protection/cushioning is perfect for longer trail runs. I believe they would be well-suited to more long-distance training vs. racing.
I chose the Wildcats this year for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Pikes Peak Marathon. Before settling on these I had tried several other pairs of this year’s model of trail shoes and nothing really felt that great.
Took them out for a few runs and immediately fell in love with them. Great traction, comfortable and light on my feet.
Then came Pikes Peak Weekend. The shoe did me right on Saturday during the Ascent, but I started having issues on Sunday. I learned the hard way that if you have weak ankles these do not provide nearly enough support. I roled my ankle 3 times during the descent of the Pikes Peak Marathon.
I’m am also not impressed by the overal durability of these shoes. The tread is falling off, the upper has ripped on each shoe.
I feel somewhat guilty because people were asking me of my impressions of the Wildcat during my training runs on Pikes Peak and over Pikes Peak Weekend. I had nothing but glowing reviews for the shoe, but now after time has passsed I’m not sure I would purchase this shoe again.
Uggh… sorry they are starting to fail on you. The uppers do have a rubberized coating to prevent abrasion, but in the end, it can only do so much. Where is the tread falling off?
I love the Wildcats but unfortunately they are not very durable. My first pair failed in about 250 miles of trail running. The problem is with the heel cushion. Overtime it starts compressing and you lose stability. Mine compressed over a half inch. During a race they eventually caused my heel to start slipping resulting in a bad blister. Also I noticed the sole itself cracks. I’ve never seen such a bad failure in quality trail shoes which realatively low miles. La Sportiva really needs to take a serious look at the durability problem.
Thanks for the long-term feedback. I typically get about 3 weeks worth of running on the shoes I review, so longevity isn’t typically an issue. Thanks again and sorry to hear about your issues.
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When I first tried these shoes I loved them but the cushioning quickly broke down as mentioned above on the inside of the heel causing instability. This is after only about 150 km on them. when I set them on a flat surface, they literally fall over. I compared them to several old pairs of trail runners to see if I have done the same to them, nope. Pretty disappointing and surprising from La Sportiva.
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