Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: Wildcat

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. 😉

Herajärven kierros trail: 40km and 1000m in 12h

The title states the obvious facts about last Wednesday’s micro adventure I did with classmates from the wilderness guide school but apparently there is more to say about the trip than the numbers as this turned out to be quite a long post.

The Niittylahden opisto has also many other courses and classes than the wilderness guide course so occasionally the schedules include things like a fire drill and lectures about dangers of drugs. And for some reason this didn’t appeal too much to our class of guide students so instead, we decided to take a long walk that day. I had planned walking the Herajärven kierros trail in one day for some time and the last Wednesday seemed to be a good day for that. It was easy to talk the classmates to come along and so at 0700 am we hopped into our cars and drove towards the Koli National Park and the Herajärven kierros.

The Herajärven kierros trail

Map of Koli National Park and Herajärven keirros trail. Map from http://www.outdoors.fi.

The Herajärven kierros is a 40 kilometer long circular trail that circumnavigates the Herajärvi lake and visits the high hills of Koli. Because of the hilly terrain the total elevation gain of the trail is over 1000 meters. The annual Marathon of Dangers follows about the same trail but with the few extra kilometers collets a total elevation gain of 1150 meters. The trail is well-marked and can be walked even without a map btu you can buy good maps from the visitor center for 5 euros. There are also lots of services along the trail. For example a teepee style shelter at Ryläys, the hotel with all modern luxuries at Koli, simple bead & breakfast accommodation at the Kiviniemen tila farm, some fireplaces with firewood, etc. This July the trail was extended with a 20km loop to the South forming now a figure eight style trail. We walked only the traditional 40km loop. Maybe I’ll do all the 60km next spring…

The walk

Getting ready at the Kiviniemi parking area.

Two of us wanted to walk only a half of the trail so we gave them a ride to the hotel and visitor center at Koli in the Northern end of the loop and then the seven of us drove to the Southern starting point of Kiviniemen tila farm. We donned our relatively light backpacks and left the parking area around 09:40 am walking the trail in clockwise direction i.e. starting on the Western side. The weather was cloudy but otherwise very nice: not too warm, not too cold, a bit moist air.

The views along the trail.

We planned to have a five-minute break each hour but after the first two hours and te two short breaks we forgot this routine and had short (less than five minutes) breaks when ever necessary, like when adjusting gear or admiring the views as the weather was getting better all the time. After the first 10km or so we had a bit longer break, maybe around ten minutes, at the shelter in Ryläys. The going was good and all were in a good mood. There was a spring to fill up our water reserves after the shelter but it was claimed as undrinkable because of E. coli bacteria. Well, no surprice that there is coli at Koli… It was a bit of a disappointment as I had only two liters of water with me but I still had some half a liter left so instead of boiling the water, we continued forward.

The views were not too bad.

We met the two girls soon after the spring and they told that there was water available at Ikolanaho a few kilometers away. So we continued once again. At Ikolanaho we found a spring and again warnings about E. coli bacteria and the need to boil the water before drinking. Bugger! (Later on we found out that there was also a well with drinkable water.) We sat on the grass, played a bit a frisbee and ate some snacks without water to drink. One of our fellowship of seven announced that he had already been at Koli before and wasn’t interested to walk the hilly three kilometers there and then back again so he continued alone to warm up the open sauna at Kiviniemi for the rest of us.

Decisions, decisions... To go to Koli or to have some free time? 😉

We, the remaining six, walked and occasionally run abit to check the views from each of the hill tops of Koli and then hit the hotel restaurant for some coffee, pastries and beer. We did it somewhat the wrong way as we first had coffee withsweet  pastries and then went outside to the front lawn with our stoves and freeze-dried meals… It was nice to lay on the lawn in the sun and wait for the food. Some of us, me included, changed into dry socks. I think that if I’d walked the rest of the trail in wet socks I might have gotten some blisters so it was a good choise. We had nearly one and half hours pause at the hotel, our halfway point,  but then it was time to go on again. A slight haste was the most typical feature of this trip…

Enjoying the views at the top of Paha Koli. Occasionally the haste was forgotten.

For me the climb up to the hill Mäkrävaara was maybe the hardest part of the trail but we all were still in good mood enjoying the great views and the nice trail so no real problem there. After Mäkrävaara we had only two shorter breaks but otherwise just kept walking. When the clock was closing to 0900 pm it started to become dark and for the last 45 minutes or so we walked in darkness with the occasional help of headlamps. The trail was mostly easy to walk even in the dark so we were able to keep up our pace.

Having a road side picnic at the Zone.

The last thing before Kiviniemen tila was a water crossing with a rope pulley ferry that barely could float all the six of us and despite hitting some rocks before getting to the opposite shore we got across with dry feet. From the ferry it was only a few minutes walk back to our cars clock telling that we made the walk in a bit under 12 hours!  The time was way better than I had anticipated, especially with some longer breaks, and to my surprise no one of us had any problems during the long and somewhat demanding trail. I got a minor blister to my right heel because my trail runners are starting to be really worn out, one of us got some chafing to her lower back from her rucksack and the one us who was testing his brand new hell-of-a-heavy-weight Meindl Army Pro boots got a bit sore ankles but that was about it.

Sun setting.

From the cars we walked to sauna, had a wonderful but quick sauna and a dip in the Herajärvi that we had just circumnavigated and then head back to school as the next day was a typical school day: starting with breakfast at 0745 am and lectures at 0830 am. After six hours sleep the morning sun saw us walking for our daily morning swim with stiff feet but smiles on our faces. It was a good test for the school’s 24 hours walking challenge and for speedier future hikes.

The gear

Luckily it wasn’t raining as I had forgotten my shell jacket and fleece shirt at home on the previous weekend and didn’t take those with me… But I had a punch of other stuff, some useful and some redundant. All the gear and food I had with me is visible in the picture below.

From the left: the stuff I was wearing, spare clothing, minor essentials, food, drysack, runners, water bottles and the backpack.

I walked in my old and beaten La Sportiva Wildcats. These have now an outer soles cracked in half, a lot of holes in the outer and very worn lining (or actually, non left) in the heel area but still they perform very well so I have a new pair coming up. I had two pairs of Inov8 Prosocks and in the half way I changed my wet socks to dry ones as the trail was getting more dry during the day. The socks worked well. (Earlier this summer I had two pairs of Inov8 Elite Sock both lasting less than 50km before wearing out!) I had also Inov8 Debris gaiters to keep all the little squirrels and other stuff out of my shoes. Very nice piece of kit. For clothing I had Haglöfs Intense tights with thigh pockets  and intense zip top shirt. Both worked very well and are, in my opinion, very well suited for this sort of active use. For headwear I had a Haglöfs Box cap but maybe a lighter Buff would have been better in this case. And I also had my knee braces, visible in the picture at the left, which were probably crucial. I planned also to use poles to save my knees but forgot those in the car and managed well without.

On my back I had an Osprey Talon 33 pack which is otherwise nice but the compression system interferes badly with the water bottle pockets making it a pain to use them. And as I prefer bottles I had two one liter bottles with me the other one being unnecessary heavy Nalgene bottle. For extra warmth I had a Montane Featherlight pants, a Finnsvala merino shirt and a Marmot down vest though I would have managed as well without them. The spare socks came handy as mentioned. I had also a small towel to dry my feet but I could have gone without as well. Inside the pack I had some small essentials, quite a comprehensive first aid kit as a shared piece of gear (I had that one and my friend has a Jetboil Sol stove for us), headlamp and big pile of food. All was packed in a light roll top bag in case of rain. As a camera I had a Canon S90 point and shoot. It is light weight but can take reasonably good quality pictures in raw format. An easy choise instead of a waterproof Olympus producing lousy pictures or the EOS 550D DSLR which is very nice camera but hell of a heavy weight for trips like this.

I had too much food. I came to this conclusion already before leaving but didn’t bother doing anything about it. After the walk I still had two chocolate bars (á 52g), two flapjacks (á 145g), a bag of peanuts (100g) and two cups of hot chocolate (á 23g). This means that I had over half a kilo of extra food. The amount of food might have been okay if I would have overnighted and continued walking again the next morning but now that I got back to school after the walk, there was no need for that much food. This was good to know for future trips. Other than amount-wise the food was good. Snickers style chocolate bars work like a charm, honey roasted peanuts are super good, small salamis go as salty snacks and the MX3 Vegetable pasta was a nice hot meal at the half way. Though if I wouldn’t have been sharing gear I would have skipped the hot meal and eaten a flapjack instead.

So, that was it. A good walk with promising results regarding future walks and the 24 hour challenge in mid October. The gear worked as predicted but I had too much of it and too much food too. More walks to come. 🙂