Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: mountain running

La Sportiva Wild Cat 2.0 – First Impression

Usually new gear is exciting. But new shoes are not. They are terrifying!

Well, that is not always the case but when you find your tried and true footwear of choise being discontinued or changed you do feel little uncomfortable. At least this was the case when La Sportiva updated my beloved Wild Cat trail runners (see the original long-term report) into Wild Cat 2.0. Would the perfect outdoor adventuring shoe be ruined for good? As I assume I’m not alone with my fears, I thought it would be fair to share my first impressions on the new design. There’s also little extra in the post comparing Wild Cats to La Sportiva Raptors (predecessor of the “Ultra Raptor” model).

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Form left: old Wild Cats, new Wild Cat 2.0s and old Raptors

Wild Cat vs. the 2.0

To put it short: They’re not ruined!

Luckily La Sportiva seems to have done just a bit of cosmetic changes to the fantastic trail runner and the Wild Cat 2.0s are very similar to the original Wild Cats. They are not ruined and actually, there are even minor improvements.

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Old Wild Cat and the new Wild Cat 2.0 side by side

The only remarkable differences I noticed between the originals and the updated model are:

– webbing loop near the top of the tongue, to hold up the tongue
– little flap of rubbery fabric on the upper outer edge of the heel, to help putting on the shoes
– different, softer feeling fabric used in the lining

I see all these as minor improvements. I don’t think I really need the first two but I don’t mind having them and maybe they are useful for some. The third point I hope to be an improvement as the lining in my last two pairs of the original Wild Cats worn out quite fast from many places in the heel area. Because of the good heel fit this hasn’t been a big problem but not having things breaking and developing holes is always nice. I hope the change is for better, even though the softer touch might be a sign of less durable fabric…

I was told earlier that the heel would’ve been changed and was afraid the shoes would’ve been ruined but apparently the only change in heel section is the addition of the little piece of fabric. The Wild cat 2.0s still have the deep close-fitting heel cup which is crucial for good fit (at least in my case). The general design and fit are still the same. The sole seems to be exactly the same. In addition to the aforementioned additions the only difference seems to be new colors (and the new orange-grey looks very nice). In my opinion this is great as the Wild Cats are perfect for for me and I’m very happy with them.

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The perfect heel cup is still there. (From left: Wild Cat 2.0, Wild Cat)

I would still love to see the changes I mentioned in the original long-term report: little stiffer (mid)sole, more durable and/or aggressive lugs on the sole (both would increase the lifetime a bit) and little stronger mesh on top of the shoe. None of these are included in the Wild Cat 2.0s, but at least they are still great shoes.

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Training tool as a shoe stand.

To summarize: The Wild Cat 2.0 offer still the perfect fit and adequate performance just like it’s predecessor. I’m happy.

Raptors and Wild Cats

As many people have been happy with the La Sportiva Raptors (see for example Martin Rye’s review) and I’ve occasionally (scrambling, running in woods, etc.) wanted a more durable outer for my runners I decided to give the Raptors a try.

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Nearly identical soles. (From left: Wild Cat, Wild Cat 2.0, Raptor)

The Raptors are very similar to the Wild Cats: Same pattern and sole structure, though Wildcats seem to have lugs made of slightly softer and thus maybe a little stickier  material (yellow material in the photo above) while the whole Raptor outer sole is of the same compound. Both shoes share the superb secure and close-fitting heel cup and the generally wide fit (for an Italian running shoe).

The major difference is that the Raptor has fine mesh fabric on the outer with quite substantial reinforcements on the sides while Wild Cats have fine mesh covered with beefier mesh instead of extra reinforcements. The Raptors have a rand of rubbery material covering the lower part of the shoe (yellow band in the photo below) and  ribs of similar fabric protecting the sides (shiny black stuff on the photo below). This should make the Raptors outer more durable but make the Wild Cats faster draining and more breathable (though the difference might be meager).

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Wild Cat 2.0, Raptor, Wild Cat 2.0, Raptor…

The big news is that the reinforcements do seem to affect the fit as well! The mesh on the Wild Cats stretches quite a lot allowing estra width and room in general. The reinforcements on Raptors don’t stretch much if at all and thus the fit in the forefoot is a more snug. Unfortunately this means that size 46 (my normal size) Raptors with my normal running socks caused blister on my toes. I’ll give them a try with thinner liner socks and see if they would stretch a bit in use but if they don’t I might have a very little used pair for sale for reasonable price…

With limited experience my advice would be: If you have Wild Cats and feel that they have good snug fit, size up half a size if buying Raptor or the new Ultra Raptors.

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Disclaimer: I’ve bought all the footwear discussed and pictured in the post with my own money and own them. And I don’t even make any money with the links in the post. But I’d happily take a pair or two of trail shoes for free. If interested in supporting me, please send an e-mail for address and details. ;)

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La Sportiva Wild Cat – Long-Term Report

It is now done. A gear review. The first on this blog. But these shoes are just so damn nice that I had to write about them. I was first going to name it “A Love Story” instead of the cold “long-term report” but as there will be more long-term reports coming up it’s better to keep it clean.

Some background

Some years ago I adopted the idea of using trail running shoes as three season hiking shoes instead of those typical heavy leather boots. First I used Inov8 Rocklite 315 shoes but they never really fit me: there is no heelcup so the heel goes up and down causing blisters to the feet and wear to the shoes. In addition the midsoles collapsed after a few hundred kilometers of use. This might be  because I’m quite a big guy weighting 100kg, often carrying over 15 kilo loads and having problems with pronation, but in my opinion a pair of runners should last longer than 200-300km.

Inov8 Rocklite 315s at Koitajoki in October 2009. Feet happy with running socks while walking despite sub-zero temps and slush.

I tried (i.e. used in real life conditions) also Salomons, Asics and Haglöfs shoes but all the time I felt that there should be better fitting shoes for me. Last year I came across La Sportiva mountain running shoes and found out from the depths of the Internet that the Wild Cat model had relatively wide fit and deep heel cup which sounded perfect! I had tried some other La Sportiva models (e.g. Crosslite) and those were too narrow for me. But trusting the all-knowing Internet I decided to order a pair of Wildcats in my usual size 46. That was a decision I haven’t regretted. I have now worn out one pair and just bought a new pair some weeks ago so I think it’s time to share some of my thoughts and experiences.

As background information, it might be useful for you to know that I usually use size 46 shoes so the sizing of the La Sportiva Wildcats seems to be running pretty true. My forefoot is relatively wide and the feet are also quite “high” in front of the angles. My insteps are pretty low and I have some pronation issues. My heels are quite pointy occasionally causing problems in finding well-fitting footwear.

Structure

A new pair and a well used pair of goodness.

The shoes are built like about any typical off-road running shoe: There is a rubber outer sole and EVA midsole providing cushioning. The heel is slightly thicker than the forefoot, which is unnecessary according the bare foot running paradigm but hasn’t caused any problems for me. The stock insoles are relatively good thin insoles with some extra support to hold heel in place but it seems that the sharpish edges of the insoles also abrade the lining around heel area after some use. The outer sole wraps around the tip of the shoe providing some protection for toes which has been very useful feature when scrambling forward tired like a half-minded zombie.

The laces go trough webbing loops that attach directly to the midsole inside the shoe. This provides very secure fit and saves some strain from the main fabric. The main body of the shoe is made of thin fabric and the aforementioned webbing loops are also sewn to this fabric. From the outside the shoe is protected with sturdy mesh. There is some padding on the tongue, around the tarsal bones and on the area around the achilles tendon. The padded parts are lined with some softish “honey comb” styled fabric. The main body materials (the thin fabric and sturdy mesh) cover also most of the tongue so someone wanting to shave off the last grams might try cutting out the tongues but I haven’t tried this yet.

Notice tha the structure of the used shoe (on the right) has collapsed a bit.

For me the best part of the shoe is the heel cup. It is deep, sturdy and secure. There is no padding against the calcaneus bone but some for the achilles tendon. Inside the shoe there is stiff material that forms the shape of the heel cup and outside there are additional plastic reinforcements. For me this structure works incredibly well and was comfortable even after the fabric lining and most of the padding had worn out after some 700km of use. I think the good fit is mostly because of the plastic reinforcements securing the shoe above the calcaneus bone but not causing excessive pressure against the bone itself.

This one has seen some 700km of use. Insole is removed for the pic.

The use

As I mentioned above, I have now worn out one pair of these shoes and I’m starting with another pair. The first pair saw some 700-800 km of use ranging from occasional run on asphalt to one-week long hikes off trail in forests and fjells, longer daytrips on trail and some packrafting worn over the socks of a dry suit. The shoes do of course get wet especially when packrafting but they also dry relatively quickly because there is no Goretex nor much padding and only thin fabric lining. They don’t dry as quickly as Salomon Tech Amphibians or similar mesh shoes but quickly enough for me.

I’ve used the shoes with a range of socks. Depending on the conditions I’ve used either: Bridgendale Coolmax liners, thicker Bridgendale merinowool hiking socks, Inov8 running socks and even thin neoprene socks. For me the shoes are not big enough for long walks (several kilometers) in neoprene socks and even thin 2mm neoprenes caused some blisters between my toes. When the fit is otherwise good there just isn’t enough space in the toe box for that kind of thicker incompressible socks. Of course I have had some blister with these shoes, especially on the tips of my pinky toes but that is quite typical for me and I’ve been more than happy with the shoes. I’ve used a pair Inov8 Debris Gaiters to keep the unwanted stuff out from the shoes. The problem with these is that the original rubber bands that should keep the gaiters in place snap easily because the thread is not as aggressive nor deep (i.e. protecting) as the one in Inov8 shoes. I have now replaced the rubber bands with some P-cord which seems to last 150 km or so before needing to be replaces.

Some tears in the mesh outer after one+ year of use.

Despite starting to look very used the first pair served me well for a long time. After some 700km there were some tears in the outer mesh, the lining and padding were quite well-worn out, the toe protectors had come loose and the whole structure of the shoes had slightly collapsed because of the pronation. But: the shoes were still very much working. What finally lead me into buying a new pair was the outer sole wearing out and thus loosing grip and in the end cracking in both shoes. The cracks were actually quite deep and reached about half way to the midsoles so it was time to buy a new pair. The old pair is still in occasional use for morning runs or short orienteering tracks. This means that for me one pair serves about one active season (i.e. the time of a year when I’m not using skis for backcountry travel) as primary shoes and after that as a secondary pair for shorter walks and runs. I find that to be quite reasonable. I think that for a lighter user and in lighter use the shoe might well serve longer time (measured in days and/or kilometers).

The sole and tread are not the best possible. Notice the crack in the old shoe's sole.

Problems

The only thing that I’m not satisfied with is the grip. The thread and sole material seems to work very well on dry rock, trails, gravel roads and asphalt (Well, they are sold as mountain running shoes after all.)  but on wet rocks or wet duckboards they really suck. Same with slippery mud. A more aggressive thread would probably help as would softer and more grippy rubber but that wouldn’t last as long. Maybe La Sportiva could offer these shoes with two different types of soles like Inov8 is doing? I was thinking about adding some grip to the old shoes with some screws but this is yet to be tested. We’ll see how it works when the winter sets in.

There should also be some pattern the heel and the forefoot (where you can see the La Sportiva logo in the pic above). I don’t really understand why most shoes don’t have any thread on that area? Especially when orienteering in forest I often step on wet branch or root with that part of the shoe and also often slip because of the total lack of any grip. I know that for example  some Icebug  models have thread also on that area and I think that the La Sportiva Wild Cats should have also.

If considering these shoes strictly for hiking use with the kind of heavyish backpack I’m often carrying the midsole could be a bit more stiff with less cushioning and the toe protector could be a bit sturdier. But of course, then these wouldn’t be as good running shoes any more.

In addition to the occasional blisters I got an inflamed achilles tendon while hiking with these shoes last July. I think it wasn’t because of the shoes but had more to do with the heavy load combined with feet getting cold and wet while packrafting. For example in October I walked 105km in 23 hours and 30 minutes with these shoes without any unanticipated problems. I also did a six-day hike without problems with the new pair taken straight out of the box.

Summary

La Sportiva Wild Cat mountain running shoes.

Size 46 weights 413g per shoe including the stock insole.

Quite typical non-waterproof trail running shoes. But they are the best fitting shoes I’ve ever tried! The structure in general is good, materials are good, the fit is excellent and especially the heel cup is brilliant. The shoes would benefit from more aggressive grip and especially some added grip in front of the heel. As the fit is highly individual thing I recommend trying any shoes before buying but if you have relatively wide forefoot and pointy heels, these might be the perfect shoes for you!

I wish La Sportiva would make a Goretex lined mid with the same fit for winter use…

Availability

La Sportiva Wild Cats are also available with Gore-tex lining and there are also specific versions for women available. In Finland the importer for La Sportiva is OAC and you can check your local retailer from their homepages or you can order the shoes online for example from Varuste.net. The prices in European online shops seem to range from 80 euros to 120 euros.

Oh, and as a disclaimer: I paid the full price for both pairs but I’d happily take a pair or two for free for future use. If interested in supporting, please send an e-mail for address and details. 😉