The Jackal is La Sportiva’s newest mountain running shoe. Designed with max cushion and a roomy upper, the Jackal is built with ultras and long distance hikes in mind.
When La Sportiva first announced the Jackal at trade-shows last year, I had it pegged as the shoe I most wanted to review in 2020. I really enjoyed the new La Sportiva Kaptiva in 2019, and the Jackal looked like a more cushioned version of that shoe. Everything about the Jackal seemed perfect for my use and preferences, with a reported wider fit, a softer yet stable midsole, and a sticky and well protected outsole. What more could a mountain hiker and trail runner ask for?
Well, I’ve put the Jackal through their paces, and I’m sad to say that my expectations may have been a little too high. Despite a mostly positive experience, some fit and comfort issues with the upper have left me a little disappointed. I will be detailing all of the positives and a few negatives in this review.
Sizing and Weight
I normally wear a size 11.5 US shoe, but wear a full size up to 12.5 for La Sportiva. This puts me in between their 46 and 46.5. For the Kaptiva, I wore a size 46, but needed to size up to a 46.5 for the Jackal. This sizing is very similar to La Sportiva’s latest model shoes, as I also wear a 46.5 in the Bushido II and Lycan.
My size 46.5 Jackal weights in at 12.6oz (357g), which is incredibly light when you consider the amount of cushion and underfoot protection on this shoe.
Fit and Build
The upper on the La Sportiva Jackal is built using a breathable ripstop mesh layered underneath a laminate overlay. The laminate overlay spans from heel to forefoot, providing durability, protection, and structure. The last of the Jackal is wider and has more volume than La Sportiva’s shoes are known for. The upper has a tough time draining water when submerged, but do dry quickly when wet.
The midfoot of the Jackal fits comfortably, but is also snug enough to not feel sloppy. Even on rocky off kilter terrain, my midfoot stays snug and secure.
The heel on the Jackal has been the cause of all my comfort issues. As you can see in the photo below, the Jackal has a very high heel collar. This collar is rigid, rough, and lightly padded, with a firm heel counter. The first three times I wore the Jackal, I ended up with hotspots or blisters. The heel seems rides fine on steep uphills and smooth flat surfaces, but turns dangerous on steep downhills and technical terrain.
When leaning back on steep downhills, the stiff heel counter begins to press into and then saw against my achilles. I’ve tried many lacing techniques, duct tape, and thicker socks, but to no avail. On technical terrain, the narrow heel section of the midsole tends to wobble, which also causes a sawing motion. I’ll touch on this more in the midsole section.
The tongue on the Jackal is a little short like the Kaptiva, but is very comfortable, well padded, and stays in place. The tongue is fully gusseted and fits like a sock. La Sportiva uses standard laces that stay tied, stay put, and have caused no issues.
The toebox of the Jackal provides nice width and much more volume than other La Sportiva shoes. These aren’t wide like an Altra or Topo shoe, but do accommodate my forefoot nicely. The Jackal has a rigid TPU toe cap that has provided ample protection on rocky trails. I’ve had no hotspots, friction, or discomfort in the toebox.
The midsole of Jackal is built on a 7mm drop platform with 26mm in the heel and 18mm in the forefoot. The base of the midsole is a soft compression molded EVA with PU inserts. The level of cushion underfoot is perfect for long runs and long days on the trail.
The Jackal is torsionally rigid due to the thick midsole and rockplate, and provides nice forefoot flex with a rockered toe spring. This combination is exactly what I look for when researching trail shoes that provide stability for technical trails and days with a heavy pack.
Unfortunately, this midsole is let down by it’s narrow wasp-body last. The width of the midsole is perfect in the forefoot, but is way to narrow in the heel. For a high cushion shoe with a soft midsole, stability is key. Hoka does this very well with wide midsoles built like pyramids. The Jackal is built more like a skyscraper, and that has caused some heel instability on technical and rocky trails.
Despite my issues with the upper and midsole of the Jackal, the outsole is the shoe’s saving grace. In fact, the outsole on the Jackal is one of the best I’ve ever worn. La Sportiva uses their FriXion XT 2.0 compound on the Jackal which has proven very sticky on just about every surface. The FriXion XT 2.0 is molded with a unique 3mm depth lug pattern that provides a lot of grip and traction without clogging u, or getting in the way on downhills. This combination has handled slick rock, wet rock, sand, and hard pack shoulder-season snow and ice.
Underneath the outsole, La Sportiva has added a full length dual density rock guard to the Jackal. The rock guard is 1.5mm thick, and provides bullet proof protection on rocky trails.
I really wanted to love the La Sportiva Jackal, but just couldn’t get the heel to fit comfortably or the midsole to ride stable. The tall heel counter is just too rigid for my foot shape, and the soft and narrow heel section of the midsole was too wobbly. I say this as someone that reviews 10-20 trails shoes a year, and hasn’t gotten heel blisters from a shoe since 2015. I’d usually move on from a shoe after one bad experience like that, but wanted to give the Jackal additional chances because of how much I loved the rest of the shoe. If you can get the heel to fit your foot comfortably, I’d still recommend this shoe, since it has performed well. I’ve read through quite a few initial reviews of the Jackal, and there are many out there not having this issue. For me, this has been a $140 experiment that started with high hopes that were quickly dashed.