The Lycan is a brand new mountain running trail shoe from La Sportiva. The Lycan is nimble and light, combining a highly responsive midsole with a sticky and low profile outsole. I’ve been using the Lycan as a light hiker and as my go-to trail running shoe since their release, and will share my thoughts in this review.
Fit and Feel:
Sizing and Weight: My size 46.5 (12.5) Lycan comes in at 12oz, allowing the shoes to disappear on my feet while hiking and running. For those that follow this blog, you’ll know that I usually have to size up to a 47 (13) in La Sportiva shoes. This is not the case with the Lycan, as La Sportiva has opted for a voluminous new last for a near perfect fit. For reference, my street shoe size is a US 12. So go for a half size up on the Lycan instead of a full size like I usually recommend on La Sportiva models.
Heel: The Lycan has a fairly rigid heel counter with a compact yet well cushioned inner heel cup. The heel on the Lycan fits my slightly narrow heel perfectly with no slip or lateral wiggle at toe-off.
Midfoot: The midfoot on the Lycan hugs my instep and provides amazing lateral support without getting in the way. If you’ve worn the La Sportiva Akasha, the fit throughout the midfoot will feel right at home.
Toebox: The fit in the toebox of the Lycan is really the highlight of this entire shoe for me. I’ve worn a lot of La Sportiva shoes in the past few years and always had to go a full size up to get a comfortable forefoot fit. The Lycan has a new last for La Sportiva with a more anatomical shape and an increase in volume. What I love about the fit of the Lycan is that La Sportiva was able to design this shoe to be more comfortable without making it feel sloppy or loose. I’ve worn this shoe on steep ridge routes, short and fast trail runs, and on long hikes. I’ve never once had to stop and adjust the lacing or fit.
The upper on the La Sportiva Lycan is composed of two main units. The base layer is a breathable air mesh on the toebox, tongue, and upper heel. On top of the mesh, La Sportiva uses a one-piece synthetic wrap that acts as a rand and provides lateral stability and abrasion protection.
As I mentioned above, the lateral stability on the Lycan is really great, even on steep and cambered trails. The only downside to this wrap is that the Lycan is a little slow to drain and dry when wet. When water gets into the back half of the shoe, there isn’t anywhere for it to go. Luckily I live in the dry expanse of Southern California, so this isn’t a problem I have to deal with often. I do endure a lot extreme heat though, and the Lycan handles hot weather without issue. The airy mesh on the toebox and tongue work well to keep a stable internal temperature on warmer days.
The padded tongue on the Lycan is not gusseted, but it is stitched to the inside of the shoe up to the first yellow lace eyelets in the photo below. I haven’t noticed dirt and debris being a major issue, but I have a little more grit in my shoes after a day on the trail than I do with my gusseted shoe options.
The lacing system on the Lycan is super simple and super effective. La Sportiva uses five eyelets on each side with a centered anchor point at the base of the forefoot. This lacing system keeps my foot held in place and doesn’t put any uncomfortable pressure on the top of my feet. I’m able to lace up the Lycans and not think about them again until I take them off.
The midsole of the Lycan is made with injection molded EVA and definitely rides on the firm side. Built on a 6mm drop platform, this shoe has 25mm of foam in the heel and 19mm of foam in the forefoot. The Lycan is not a super flexible shoe, but does have a nice flex at the toe. In the heel and midfoot, this midsole is sturdy and stable with torsional stiffness despite the lack of a stability insert. The Lycan’s midsole has the cushion and comfort for long days on the trail, but still provides the stability and support needed when the going gets rough.
The Lycan does not come with a midsole rock guard, and this is something that I really noticed on rockier mountain trails. The firm midsole and full coverage outsole provide adequate protection on most surfaces, but my feet were asking me for a little more protection on a few longer outings. For hardpack, crushed gravel, and on shorter outings, this midsole provides more than enough protection.
For the outsole of the Lycan, La Sportiva uses a new lug design that’s a cross between the ones they use on the Mutant and Bushido. La Sportiva uses rounded-arrow shaped lugs around the perimiter of the shoe with a few extras in the forefoot and heel for good measure.
As I mentioned above, the La Sportiva Lycan does not have a rock plate in the midsole. For rock protection on this shoe, La Sportiva uses a thicker section of rubber on the outsole to protect the inner recess of the foot.
What you’ll be able to see in the side-view picture below is that these lugs are very low profile. The lugs are so shallow that the Lycan rides like a road shoe on asphalt and hard pack. On technical terrain with lots of rocky surfaces, talus, and granite slabs, the Lycan holds it’s own. On anything soft, muddy, or chossy, these shoes had me wanting more lug depth.
La Sportiva has paired their FriXion Blue rubber compound with the low profile lug design on this outsole. FriXion Blue sits in the middle of La Sportiva’s compounds and is the longest wearing of the three mountain running offerings. The traction offered on this outsole feels just as sticky as the FriXion Red on my Akashas, Akyras, and Bushidos, and has thus far proven to be incredibly durable.
The name Lycan comes from the word lycanthropy, the transformation of a person into a wolf or werewolf. The difference between a lycan and a werewolf is that a lycan can control it’s transformations and doesn’t have to wait until a full moon. The La Sportiva Lycan feels like a bit of a transformer on my foot, reminding me at times of the Mutant, Bushido, Akyra, and Akasha. Here are how these shoes compare to the Lycan:
Mutant: The mutant has a narrower fit on the upper, less cushion in the midsole, and a much more aggressive outsole. If you’re looking for a shoe that can handle mud and choss like a boss, this is your jam.
Bushido: The Bushido has a more stable midsole and a nice rock plate in the forefoot. The midsole doesn’t offer the cushion or comfort of the Lycan though, and has a lower volume upper.
Akasha: The Akasha has a similar underfoot feel when compared to the Lycan, but with a much more aggressive outsole. The upper on the Akasha is nice, but the Lycan fits much better.
Akyra: The Akyra was one of those shoes that just didn’t want to get along with my foot. The shoe has a fit that is just too long and narrow for my foot shape. The plush midsole and aggressive outsole are amazing though.
It will come as no surprise to my readers that I’m a huge fan of La Sportiva’s ‘Mountain Running’ line for trail running, hiking, and backpacking shoe options. I’ve worn and reviewed almost every model in the La Sportiva ‘Mountain Running’ lineup, and think the Lycan is a very nice addition to the other shoes on offer. La Sportiva already has the burly Akrya, cushioned Akasha, grippy Mutant, and stable Bushido. With the Lycan, it looks like La Sportiva is looking to provide their athletes with a responsive but less aggressive trail shoe for trail races of any distance. I’ve seen La Sportiva athletes standing on the podiums of major trail races wearing the Lycans, so it’s safe to say “mission accomplished”.
For those of us that aren’t elite athletes, the Lycan still has a lot to offer…and at $115, this shoe offers a ton of value. The upper and fit of the Lycan is enough for me to recommend this shoe alone. The comfort and ride of the midsole make up for the lack of a rockplate, and the low profile outsole handles most trail conditions without issue.
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