La Sportiva Wildcat Trail Runner Shoe Review

 

 

Trail running shoe selection is extremely personal.

I love my La Sportiva Wildcats, but there’s no way I’m going to try to convince you that it’s the exact right one for you.

 

 

 

Instead, I’m going to review the shoe with emphasis on belief in the brand.

Put a pair on your own two feet and decide if they feed the need – okay!

 

Hard Facts:

  • Use: Trails & Rocks – Good in the slop.
  • Weight: 12.4 oz. each
  • Drop: 12 mm
  • Cushioning: Moderate
  • Good for: 3 seasons – I do, however,  use them in winter with spikes.  Not waterproof.

 

Man do I love these trail runners.

They have been the go to ever since I ditched the roads for good and dedicated my running to the trails.

They haven’t let me down.

Like I said above, shoe selection is extremely personal.

You gotta feel it.

 

 

You gotta know that what’s on your feet is optimal.

The Wildcats are all that for me.

Here’s why:

 

Fit

LaSportiva is a European company (Italy) and does its sizing in the European (Paris Point) system which is much finer than the US system.

I usually wear a US size 10 to 10-1/2 which equates to 43 to 43.5 in European (too small for me with this brand).  Up a half to 44 and it’s heaven  – Meanwhile up a ½ US size to 11 is too sloppy.

 

Durability

I’m on my 4th pair of these babies and each one has held together structurally – no cracked soles, no holes in the uppers, not even a broken lace – And I’m pretty hard on gear.

 

Below are last season’s 700 mile Wildcat (left) and a new Wildcat (right).

 

Certainly worn, but nothing fatal in the soles.
There’s still useability left in the old one.

 

The mesh upper holds up too.  You can see a little tear on the old shoe (right).  But, I took these suckas on many off trail excursions through very unfriendly terrain.

 

 

The fat toe bumper up front stays strong for the life of the shoe and saves my toes from certain fracture – lots smashing into the rocks for this guy.

 

Old on the right.
New on the left.

 

With this much wear, it’s not unusual to see the toe bumper start separating from the shoe.  Not the case here.

 

The Wildcat is a beast.  I only replace them after a year of running because everyone tells me I should – kinda like the 3,000 mile oil change.  I just do it – preventative maintenance for my chicken legs – ya know.

 

Water Shedding

This is a 3 season runner.  It lets the water in.  But, it lets the water out and DRIES QUICKLY (very important).  The mesh uppers allow this while saving on the ounces.

This is one of my favorite features.

I go hard in all weather.

When it rains the trails are empty.  I want to enjoy the solitude and be out there when the masses are not.

I want to gallop through the standing water and not have my shoe double in weight.

The mesh design allows the water to roll through with ease (just make sure you don’t have cotton socks on HA!).

The biggest test came when I wore these for the Spartan Beast Obstacle Course Race at Killington in Vermont.  Mud and water all day – A total mess.  My feet never felt heavy and I ripped off a sure footed effort.

 

That’s me in the red.
The Wildcats leading the way.

 

 

Finishing Strong.
I didn’t think about my shoes all day.

 

 

I smirk that there is actually a dedicated shoe style for OCR racing while my everyday trail runners work just as well.

Marketing – we’ll never escape it.

 

Do All

I run all kinds of trails.  Everything from cruisy fire roads to super technical downs at speed.

From ½ an hour to 12 hours.

The Wildcat is not the best for any one type of running, but they work pretty damn well for all kinds of running.

I like that.

I’m not a specialist so I just want one shoe to take me everywhere.

 

Confidence

I’ve been using this shoe for so long – I know what it can and can’t do.

I know that the soles will grab the rock tops when it’s dry and that I need to slow a bit when it’s wet.

I know when I plunge into a mud puddle this shoe will shake it off.

 

Esthetic

I’m not too much of a vain person, but I do care a little about how stuff looks.

I loathe bright colors and complicated/bizarre designs on my gear.

The Wildcats are, as they say, simply stated.

Nothing extraneous and the colors mute out after the first wet run.

 

What I don’t like

I really don’t have too much to criticize here.

They could be a little better on on wet rock surfaces, but most shoes can’t overcome that so, like I said above, slow down!

I guess they could be an ounce or two lighter.  I’ve picked up other shoes to compare and felt a small difference.

But, after my 11 hour effort on the Pemi loop with no blisters, discomfort, or unnecessary foot fatigue, I can’t complain.

 

In the parking lot at Lincoln Woods, NH after my 2017 Pemi run.
The Wildcats are much more attractive than my pasty chicken legs.

 

Conclusion

It’s pretty clear that there’s a love affair going on between me and the Wildcat.

A Go Everywhere / Get It Done trail runner.

I’ll say this again – Not the best at one thing, but good at all of them.

 

 

How REI helped me (No Affiliation)

Getting my fragile feet into a pair of Wildcats wasn’t linear.  I went to REI with the specific intent of crashing trails in a pair of Brooks Cascadias.

Glowing reviews and a proven history put the Cascadia on my radar.  This was the footwear to take me on a magic carpet ride over 4,000’ peaks in the White Mountains.

We all geek out on gear.  It looks cool when it’s new.  Lacing up new shoes is like fitting up promises of improved performance.

These shoes will make me better – goes through my mind.

Maybe a little inner hyperbole there, but you know what I mean.  Conscious or sub conscious, we think new stuff gives us an edge

So yeah, the Cascadias were it – trail greatness awaits.

I fitted ‘em up in the store, rocked back and forth on the pho rock incline test thing, ran short laps around the rain pants display next to the shoe dept.

Total nerd.

But, you know, I wanted to be sure about the fit.

It all felt grand in the store, but out on the trail –  not so much.

I could tell during the first run on one of my favorite difficult downhills that the Cascadias were not the right shoe.  Too much slop.  My foot was sliding around with my toe already up against the front of the sneaker.  It wasn’t a lacing thing or a sizing thing.  I was just the wrong shoe and I knew it.

REI accepted the return for full store credit without question.  Awesome.

Back in the shoe dept….What’ll I try next?

Salomon?

Altra?

North Face?

They all look appealing, but the La Sportiva Wildcat caught my eye – simple design, light weight, medium to aggressive tread.  Good lateral support and a nice fat toe bumper upfront.

I grab a size 10 (43.5 cm) and take ‘em back to the same trail.

Opposite problem this time.  My feet feel too jammed on the downhill.  I get away with it for the day, but for a multi hour effort in the mountains, I know it’ll be busted toe nail city.

REI takes these back as well.  Full credit no questions.  Awesome.

I’m back at the shoe dept.  Alyssa, who has helped me during the two previous visits, sighs and says sarcastically…”Back again?”

She’s a trooper and gets me the Wildcats a half size larger (44).

As aggravating as it is to make repeated trips to a retailer for one set of sneakers, I know I’ll be grateful when I’m trudging up to Mount Liberty at the tail end of an 11 hour day in the Pemigewasset Wilderness

Back out to that downhill trail and….VIOLA!

Sneaker heaven.

I toe tap the rock tops and plant confidently on sharp, downhill corners.

My brain reverts back to the beginning of the shoe selection process.

I’m a better runner now.

In reality, I’m not.  I’m still the same simple minded, middle aged, average trail runner with a few endurance goals.

But, now I have the exact right trail shoe to after those goals.

 

I told all this to you ‘cause I’m a big fan of REI.  No, there’s no affiliation here at FBF with them.  I just like their policies and dedication to the communities where they have stores and the wilderness in general.

Plus you can’t argue with their 100% satisfaction pledge.  They stand behind that as evidenced above.

 

Choose your shoe wisely.

Good luck out there people

 

 

 

 

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