The La Sportiva Karacal is a subtle evolution of the La Sportiva Jackal. La Sportiva has taken the dynamic midsole and aggressive outsole of the Jackal and paired them with a more comfortable and higher volume upper to make the Karacal.
The La Sportiva Karacal is a heavy duty trail cruiser perfect for long runs and hikes on a variety of trail types. Built on a 7mm drop platform, the stable midsole provides enough cushion for all-day comfort and protection. The Karacal’s outsole is a carryover from the La Sportiva Jackal, which is great news given my past positive experience. The upper on the Karacal is all new and a huge improvement over the Jackal. The Karacal upper has more volume, more width, and is much more comfortable. I’ve been hiking and running in a pair of Karacals over the past 8 months, and will share my experience in this review.
Sizing and Weight
I normally wear a size 11.5 US shoe, but size up to 12 for most trail shoes. For La Sportiva, this would put me at a 46 on their sizing chart. I find that I need the 46.5 (12.5/13) for the Karacal. This is the same size I wear in almost every other La Sportiva shoe I’ve ordered over the past few years. My size 46.5 weighs in at 12.13oz (343.9g), and feels heavy while running, but perfect for light hiking.
Fit and Build
The upper on the Karacal is a seamless 3D mesh base with a laminate overlay for structure and lateral stability. This shoe breathes very well on hot days, drains fairly well, and has dried quickly when wet. The upper is a bit overbuilt though. The area surrounding the top eyelets is very firm and dug into my foot at flexion until things were really broken in. The toebox and lateral stabilizers at the heel are also very firm and unnecessary for a trail running shoe. I have found them to be very useful for hiking and backpacking though.
The toebox on the Karacal is wide with ample volume for toe splay and foot swelling. This might be the best fitting toebox of any La Sportiva shoe I’ve tried since the TX3. The toebox is very well protected with a very rigid toe guard. The toe guard is almost too sturdy though, as it’s caused me some discomfort on steeper trails that drop elevation quickly.
The midfoot fit on the Karacal is snug and secure without being restrictive. I haven’t had any hot spots or rubbing. I will note that the Karacal does have a higher than average arch in the shoe, so this is something to note for those with flat feet. I didn’t have any issues with the high arch support.
The heel on the Karacal cups the foot well and has kept my foot locked down on the steepest of trails. There is nice padding at the top of the collar, which is a welcome relief after the Jackal chewed up my achilles. On the base of the heel, the upper has a sidewall placed underneath the laminate overlay. This provides amazing lateral stability for hiking, but is a bit overkill for most trails.
The tongue on the Karacal has no gusset, which is a bummer for avoiding trail debris in this shoe. The tongue is very well padded though, and stays in place while on the move. I found the tongue on the Jackal too short, and La Sportiva has corrected for this with the Karacal. The lace loops lay flat on the top of my foot without any pressure points, and the laces have stayed tied without issue over the past few months. Very nice design here from La Sportiva, but the gusset is sorely missing.
The Karacal is built on an 7mm drop platform with 29mm in the heel and 22mm in the forefoot. Despite the tall height of the heel, this shoe is very stable due to its wide stance and firm midsole compounds. La Sportiva uses a dual density design on the Karacal’s midsole with a firm heel pad sitting under a softer top layer. The firm heel section makes the shoe ride a little harsh at times, but provides great torsional rigidity on tricky trails. This is another reason I find this shoe to be a much better hiker than a runner.
Underneath the midsole, La Sportiva has added a full length rock plate for the ultimate underfoot protection. Given the thickness and firmness of the midsole, the rock plate isn’t really necessary for most trails, but it was welcome while hammering on scree and talus this summer.
For the outsole of the Karacal, La Sportiva uses their Frixion AT 2.0 rubber compound with 3 mm lugs in a varied lug pattern. This compound has been fantastic on wet and dry trails, and has proven to be very durable. The lug pattern works well on all but muddy trails, making it a perfect fit my my use here in Southern California. This is the same outsole found on the Jackal, which I loved. I won’t repeat my thoughts from that review, but will note that this outsole has yet to let me down.
At a very reasonable $130, the Karacal is definitely worth a close look. If you’re looking for a heavy duty trail shoe for light hiking mixed with a little running, the Karacal is a great choice. The Karacal is also a fantastic option for backpackers wanting the comfort of a trail shoe with the sturdiness and stability of a dedicated hiker. If you’re looking for a plush trail runner like a Speedgoat, you’ll definitely want to look elsewhere. Despite the similar midsole stats between the Speedgoat and Karacal, these shoes live in different worlds.