[grippy mountain runner]
Rough terrain ahead? The Ultra Raptors gripped on rocky and slick terrain and softened impact better than any other trail shoes we tested. “I’m typically cautious on downhills because of a history of sprained ankles, but these shoes gave me the confidence to open up my stride,” says one veteran tester who logged many miles through steep gravel in the foothills of Boise, Idaho. Credit the Ultra Raptors’ innovative Vibram outsole, which Sportiva claims increases traction by 20 percent and reduces impact on legs, hips, and back by the same amount. Behind the claim: Long (6 mm), supersoft, claw-shaped lugs depress first, providing sticky grip and shock absorption, while shallower (3 mm), stiffer, wedge-shaped beveled lugs provide killer bite and traction once they hit the ground. The result is a noticeably softer foot strike.
A nylon shank in the midsole, a rubber toe bumper, and a TPU-reinforced heel provide superior all-foot protection. “The midsole delivers the best torsional rigidity I’ve seen in shoes this light,” says one tester. “They feel like lightweight boots in terms of their lateral stability, but they have the underfoot flexibility and toe-off of a nimble, ultralight shoe.” Ding: The deep lugs tend to collect mud. Best for narrow- to medium-volume feet. $130; 1 lb. 8 oz.; m’s 38-47.5, w’s 36-43; sportiva.com