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Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat Trail Running Shoe

A sweet trail runner with maximum traction and cushion
gear guide april 2010 lasportiva wildcat 445x260La Sportiva Wildcat (BP Photo Department)

Best Trail Runner
If you like to run where others hike, get this shoe. It excels in the rockiest, rootiest, steepest, loosest, and trickiest terrain. From Vermont to Colorado, testers ran the Wildcat through all of those conditions and deemed it amazingly stable, cushioned, and grippy for such a light and agile shoe. “I felt total control on gravel, mud, and short slabby sections of my favorite run at Boulder’s Hall Ranch, and I didn’t have to sacrifice trail sensitivity for shock absorption,” says one tester.

The key is a sole package that combines aggressive tread and plenty of cushion without creating a clunky midsole. Lugs angled in opposing directions enhance grip, and a bouncy cocktail of rubber (20 percent) and EVA (80 percent) translates energy into forward motion, with a shock-absorbing assist from low-profile ovals of soft rubber scattered along the sole. Support and stability are bolstered by a partial nylon shank under the arch and a rear foot stabilizer (a piece of external plastic around the heel).

With webbing laces snugged tight, the combination kept testers from turning an ankle even on Vermont’s rocky Monroe Trail. The mesh upper is highly breathable—we didn’t experience a hint of moisture buildup—yet it also withstood rough-trail abuse, thanks to a toecap and lightweight urethane rand.

A spacious toebox accommodated trail swell on long runs, but don’t pick this as a crossover shoe for big dayhikes. It needs more padding under the ball of the foot for that. Fits a wide range of feet. $100; 1 lb. 8 oz.; men’s 38-47.5, women’s 36-43

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