Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat Hiking Backpacking Trail Running
Footwear Reviews

Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat

The La Sportiva Wildcat is a trail shoe that's well tuned for hiking, trail running, and backpacking. The Wildcat combines a sticky and versatile outsole with a well cushioned midsole for a solid base that will handle a wide variety of trail conditions. The breathable nylon mesh upper offers good protection without inhibiting breathability too much.

The La Sportiva Wildcat is a trail shoe that’s well tuned for hiking, trail running, and backpacking. The Wildcat combines a sticky and versatile outsole with a well cushioned midsole for a solid base that will handle a wide variety of trail conditions. The nylon mesh upper offers good protection without inhibiting breathability too much. At 15oz (size 12.5) per shoe, the Wildcat is one of the heavier trail running shoes I’ve reviewed. The weight seems well placed though and provides a nice combination of features with stability, protection, and durability. I’ll cover all of this and more in my review of the La Sportiva Wildcat.


Buy the Wildcat: AmazonREIBackcountryZappos


Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat Hiking Backpacking Trail Running


Fit and Feel:

The La Sportiva Wildcat fits one half size smaller than my other La Sportiva trail running shoes. I wear a size 46.6 in the Wildcat, but a 47 in the Akasha, Akyra, Mutant, Ultra Raptor, and Bushido. Of all the shoes in the La Sportiva Mountain Running lineup, the Wildcat is most similar to the Ultra Raptor, with a nearly identical midsole and outsole. The fit of the upper is where they differ though, and to me that’s a good thing. The Wildcat has a precise and slightly narrow fit in the heel, and opens up nicely throughout the midfoot. The toebox has plenty of width and volume to keep my toes comfortable on long days. I found the toebox on the Ultra Raptor narrow and low volume, so it’s great to have more space here with the Wildcat.

Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat Hiking Backpacking Trail Running


Upper:

The upper on the La Sportiva Wildcat is made of a structured nylon mesh that is stacked in two layers. The first layer is the wide pore mesh seen in the photo below. The layer underneath is thicker and non porous. The dual layer upper has been great for durability, protection, and structure, but I’ve also found that it makes the Wildcat run a little warm on some of these hot SoCal summer days. The dual layer upper also adds to the weight at 15oz per shoe.

The Wildcat has a solid rubber toe guard that wraps up and over my toes. This toe guard has been more than adequate when called upon. The heel of the Wildcat has a rigid plastic stabilizer that wraps around the base of the heel and up to achilles. This is probably one of the more structured heel counters I’ve found in a trail runnings shoe, and part of what makes the Wildcat more ideally suited to hiking and backpacking than it is for running.

Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat Hiking Backpacking Trail Running

The Wildcat has a free floating tongue attached to the laces, and is covered by a fabric gusset to keep out dirt and debris. The lace eyelets are stitched in, and reinforced with a heat applied plastic overlay. This lacing and tongue design has proven to be very comfortable and hasn’t created any hot spots or pressure points.

Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat Hiking Backpacking Trail Running


Midsole:

The Wildcat is built on a 12mm drop platform with 29mm in the heel and 17mm in the forefoot. The midsole of the Wildcat is made with single density injection molded MEMlex EVA, a nylon transfer shank, and a 2.4mm lasting board. The Wildcat also has the La Sportiva Impact Break System, which can be seen as the blue plastic around the arch in the photo below.

Underfoot, the Wildcat is a plush but stiff shoe. The MEMlex EVA foam is soft and works great on rugged trails or buffed out single tracks. The stiffness comes from the nylon transfer shank that runs from the heel up to around the arch and Impact Break System. This shank makes the Wildcat very torsionally rigid and highly responsive when charging uphill.

The midsole does not have a rockplate or protection in the forefoot, and this is something I definitely noticed on rockier trails. The nylon shank kept my feet well protected from arch to heel, but on longer days, my forefeet felt a little tender. The Impact Break System seemed a little gimmicky when I first read about it, but having used it on a few La Sportiva models now, I’m a fan. The IBS plastic insert makes for a responsive shoe on uphills, and keeps the shoe rigid on faster downhills.

Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat Hiking Backpacking Trail Running

The one area of concern with the Wildcat’s midsole for me is in regards to stability. Being built on a 12mm drop platform, the high heel height makes the stability feel dicey from the start. The combination of a high heel stack height, a softer EVA foam midsole, and a narrow mold had me feeling less than secure in the ankles when moving downhill. I think a dual density midsole with a denser EVA in the heel would work much better on the Wildcat. A little heel flare on the mold would probably help a lot too.

Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat Hiking Backpacking Trail Running


Outsole:

The outsole on the Wildcat is probably my favorite part of this shoe. The outsole lug pattern on the Wildcat is the same one used on the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor. The only difference is that La Sportiva uses their FriXion Blue compound instead of the sticker, and faster wearing, FriXion Green.

Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat Hiking Backpacking Trail Running

The full coverage FriXion Blue outsole works well on a wide variety of trail surfaces. The split oval shaped lugs compress and grip well on rocks, gravel, scree, and talus. The FiXion Blue doesn’t provide the same amount of traction on wet surfaces as FriXion Green, but provides more than enough traction when called upon. Mud is the one surface this outsole does not handle well, as the shallow lugs don’t provide much bite into wet surfaces.

Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat Hiking Backpacking Trail Running

On the FriXion Green outsole of the Ultra Raptor, I had a lot of premature lug wear and some lugs that tore off. The denser rubber of FriXion Blue has proven to be far more durable, without much of a trade off in providing traction.

Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat Hiking Backpacking Trail Running


Buy the Wildcat: AmazonREIBackcountry | Zappos


Closing Thoughts:

The Wildcat is another great trail shoe offering from La Sportiva. The Wildcat has a lot to offer for hikers and backpackers, but may be a little on the heavy side for trail runners. If you’re looking for a tough trail shoe that provides ample comfort and protection, the Wildcat is a good option.

Pros:

  • Outsole provides great traction and grip
  • Lots of protection and highly durable
  • Very comfortable for long mile days

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • 12mm heel drop feels high
  • Lacking stability in the heel

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I’m Drew, creator of Trail to Peak. Trail to Peak brings content to life on the web through breath-taking photography and captivating video. I launched Trail to Peak in 2014 with a goal to inspire readers to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. I have traveled to 19 countries, walked Camino de Santiago, hiked the John Muir Trail, trekked through the Andes of Peru, and am constantly seeking new adventures in my home state of California. Joining me on my weekly adventures is my partner, Julia, our son, Owen, and our two goldendoodles, Isla and Lilly.

2 comments on “Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat

  1. I agree with such of what Drew said. I love this shoe but I bought and use it not as a trail runner, but as a light to moderate distance hiking shoe. The stability issue IMHO has more to do with the narrowness of the outsole as well as the drop. I love its grip, particularly its performance on down hills which leaves me feeling confident about my decents. But on rough, scree and uneven terrain, I worry about ankle rolls and I have to be conscious of that. The shoe is great for any length hikes and I have used it to carry 30 to 40 pound backpacks without any issues. It is soft and sufficiently cushy without losing its responsiveness. Sometimes, when I’m hiking on hardback or soft level trails I hardly know its there. I know a couple of people who have used it to hike the PCT carrying 50 pound packs the whole way and gone 500 miles before changing to a new pair. I have used it regularly for hikes over the last 5 months with no durability issues. Highly recommended.

    • Thanks for your input on the Wildcat. Like you, I use the Wildcat as a designated hiker and only run on downhills while speed hiking. The narrowness of the outsole and high drop are a shame, because I love just about everything else about this shoe. I live close to the PCT and see a lot of thru hikers in Wildcats each year. The durability and flexibility are tough to beat.

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