La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX Review Facts
A solid, durable looking shoe is great, but one that actually performs is much better and a combination of style and performance is quite satisfying. The La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX is a trail runner made to tackle the mountainous terrain. They are specifically labeled as mountain running shoes, and when you take them out you will certainly be aware that these were made to conquer mountains. They are firm, particularly in the midsole, with a tough, layered upper. The Gore-tex (GTX) material ensures that your feet stay dry and that water stays out, giving you an extra amount of protection, while the outsole profile ensures proper traction whether you’re running through muddy terrain, casual trails or the mountains where they excel. With that said, there are some negative aspects to this shoe as well. Let’s see how they did when I put them to the test.
The outsole is made up of a group of pronounced pins that grab the trail, allowing for a great amount of traction. The profile is quite aggressive and made specifically to grab the dirt for effective forward propulsion. It's very firm and that plays well in combination with the midsole for a very responsive run. This allows for effective running where you're steadily gaining elevation as the toe off phase is enhanced by the return of energy you get from the spring of the harder material. In digging deep into the soil, or snow, depending on the season, you will be able to get the maximum push off needed to move effectively. I really like the outsole profile here. It's not extremely aggressive, but enough to give sufficient traction.
The midsole here is significantly softer than the outsole but still pretty firm in comparison. You have a much softer LaSpEVA layer in the forefoot area of the midsole and the rest is one big cushioned pad. Shock is minimal and responsiveness is great. Although I couldn't see lighter runner's getting the most out of these since it would take more generated force to get an effective response from the sole, and although it is cushioned, this shoe is quite firm overall as previously mentioned. This is something I don't mind, as I prefer a stronger, more firm shoe, rather than something that flexes easily. If you are a lighter build and prefer something that could give you an easier response rather than having to fight with the sole, you could do with something more minimal
The upper is where this shoe shines. You have a durable mesh cage wrapping the upper, GTX lining, TPU heel cage, and a mesh overlay on the tongue. This all adds up to give superior protection and durability. The GTX material keeps water out of the shoe, although the extra layers make the shoe a bit tight fitting. You will definitely want to go up a half size, or even a full-size-up. Overall, the upper is very stable and "built up". The TPU heel case stabilizes the heel area, so it's very firm and holds the heel in well, although gets in the way when trying to put your heel inside the shoe since it doesn't allow the portion to bend. Over the tongue there's a mesh overlay that seals away the openings at the side so you're completely covered, further increasing the waterproofing capabilities of the shoe.
With the layers and protection offered by this shoe, there is a price to pay in weight. This is a heavy shoe, coming in at fourteen ounces, although it's not particularly heavy for its type. If you need a highly protective shoe for rugged terrain, and you plan on running that terrain, you won't get much lighter than this. You're getting extra ounces from the Gore-Tex lining, larger toe bumper, TPU protective covering on the heel, and the padding. I didn't mind the weight at all. Trust me, you'll find the extra protection quite pleasant out on rough terrain, although I wouldn't do any long runs with this shoe
. It's more for shorter runs through rocky, stream ridden trails.
Naturally, a waterproof shoe isn't going to rank very high in breathability, and this shoe isn't an exception to that rule. The gore-tex liner and tongue overlay seal the foot in well, effectively cutting off the outside from the inside. You will get some airflow, but nothing extreme. This certainly isn't a flyknit you're dealing with here, so don't expect optimum breathability when opting to purchase any water-proof or gore-tex lined shoe, like this one. Again, you will get some airflow and temperature regulation, but for the most part, this shoe has a sealed upper.
Although the shoes fit tight, they are very snug. Get a half size or full size up and you will have a very comfortable fitting shoe on your feet. Because of the tightness, the comfort suffers quite a bit, but the inner has a very smooth and soft feel. The tongue is fairly cushioned, adding to the comfortability
. Again, make sure to get a larger size, at least a half size up than you are used to wearing, so you can enjoy the underfoot cushion of the midsole and padded tongue. I did quite a few runs and throughout, the tightness of the shoe bothered a bit, not having to do with the material in particular. I literally had to loosen the laces up fully to get a proper fit, and the tongue overlay did the shoe-laces job.
These are great looking shoes for the trail. They aren't made for a fashion show, but rather to take a beating and it shows with the larger toe bumper, TPU heel cage, and durable layered mesh. They make no effort to hide the rugged features and that's great. Although you can clearly see they're made for the trail
, and made to be durable, they do have aesthetic value and an overall good look. I only know of one color scheme for the men's version, and that is blue & black. Women's version is a different color. Out of my trail-specific shoes, these take the cake for the style and overall look.
The ability to last through rough and rocky terrain is a focal point of this shoe. Its durability comes from it's reinforced, layered upper and trail specific outsole. These are the two components that generally go first on and they were made extra rugged for this shoe to take a beating on the trail. The mesh case is very rough, with a texture almost like that of a lizard's skin. The toe bumper is fairly thick, and the outsole is almost as hard as a rock. I kicked into and scraped against countless rocks, and aside from a heap of scratches on the rubber, there's no damage. The provided photos were taken at 60-70 miles and total I have about 100 accumulative on them and there's no damage to the mesh at all. The small lugged pins on the outsole are fairly beaten up, but still holding strong. This is a very durable shoe.
With it's Trail Cage system, UreTech reinforcements, TPU overlay on the heel and fairly large toe bumper you need not worry about your feet sustaining damage no matter how hard you push out there. For a running shoe, I would compare it to a mini tank. It's not a boot, so I'm not comparing it in that way, but it is a highly protective running shoe and because it's super durable you don't have to worry about much exposure to the terrain
. This is about as protective as I would like for a well-balanced trail running shoe. Anymore added, and you will have a shoe too heavy to do much running in. You have durable protection from rocks and hard surfaces, and also in snow conditions and water due to the Gore-Tex lining on this model that will keep liquids from penetrating the upper.
The underfoot midsole and outsole make-up are fairly stiff in combination with each other which gives a pretty good return of energy if you can give enough push to allow it to flex properly. This isn't a flexible shoe by nature since it's designed more for protection so you have to really put some pressure to get the outsole to comply with your foot but the energy return is great. Some shoes bend easily but give no response and others return the energy you put into them. These give a prompt response.
As it's a fairly stiff shoe, the support is there. Aside from the mesh being fairly hard and structured, there's also the TPU heel cage that wraps the back of the foot providing the structure where it's needed. The support factor on this shoe is fairly high when considering the overall build and structure of the upper. However, it's not a shoe meant for arch support
, so don't get that mixed up. This is a neutral shoe with a firm build allowing for a very secure hold on the foot, enabling quite a bit of motion control.
This shoe is designed specifically for the trail. More specifically, for mountain running, so the terrain it can handle will be less maintained, rougher trails, even those covered in snow, as the outsole is fairly aggressive and grabs really well. The bottom has what I compare to rubber versions of microspikes (as seen on most LS shoes) so it effectively digs into the ground or snow, but they are flat at the tips so you can run pleasantly on hard surfaces as well. I wouldn't use these on anything more than packed snow. You won't get traction on ice, so mind your location and elevation as these aren't a substitute for microspikes or crampons, and aren't a boot or snowshoe either. They are a running shoe and, even though are fairly sturdy, have the limits of one.
You get what you pay for, and here, you're paying for quite a bit. Retailing at $155, this isn't the most affordable shoe
, although it isn't particularly pricey either, although some may see this price range as expensive. I always say, once you find a shoe you like, pay 25 to 30 dollars more for a higher quality shoe of similar make-up and build. That way you know you're getting quality with which you will be satisfied. This shoe falls right into that category. You can find some shoes that will perform similarly for a cut-price that may last you half, or even a quarter of the distance. For GTX shoes, they will always be marked up as you're paying for extra material. The same model (but non-GTX) can be found for less if you prefer something more breathable and don't need the water-proofing.
The aggressive outsole provides superior traction and digs into the ground really well. La Sportiva calls it their "Trail Bite" system because, well, it grabs the ground. But, you have to be really unlucky to land a trail running shoe with poor traction nowadays. Most have such aggressive outsole profiles that it's been hard to judge any as ineffective, but of course, some are more effective than others, and at that point, only marginally. I'm a big fan of La Sportiva, so I'm very critical when I get a pair. I have no complaints here, although it would be great if the "teeth" on the outsole were a bit more pronounced.
This shoe is not very flexible at all. The shoe is quite stiff with a hard outsole. Even the mesh on the upper is rough, so you won't get any flex from that either. With that being said, this isn't a shoe made to be flexible. This is a shoe meant to get you through mountain trails and the elements fully protected. If you want a flexible shoe, this certainly isn't the shoe for you. Although it does flex somewhat and all is not completely lost in this aspect, flexibility is not an area where you can expect this shoe to excel.
You have a fairly wide platform here, so the shoe offers quite a bit of stability. Standing in these sort of feels like you're locked to the ground, which may or may not be a downside. Overall you'll feel really secure wearing them. The weight also adds to this effect, and although we all want a shoe as light as possible, you bet with the added ounces you will feel planted to whatever surface your foot has the pleasure of landing on.
You're looking at a 12-millimeter midsole offset (heel to toe drop) on the Wildcat 2.0 GTX. This is standard for most running shoes and nothing too significant in any direction. With this offset, you are likely to encounter heel striking, although that isn't necessarily the case as low drop shoes can have that result as well. If you are a casual runner looking to get into something more intense, like trail running, this drop ratio would be a good start, as most in the category of casual would likely be on standardized drop shoes. If you're used to something similar with a significantly low drop, you may want to check out Altra's
as they have some great performing trail runners, such as the Superior 3 for instance.
Although the outsole is very firm, a soft underfoot insert is present in conjunction with the midsole that allows for effective shock absorption. Ground strikes are nullified to a degree so you don't feel the full impact, which is quite pleasant. The midsole is a composition of EVA foam, so naturally, you're going to get a bit of cushioning from that. On top of that, you have a very cushioned, removable insole. For a shoe made to traverse mountainous terrain, having a pleasant, cushioned feel through each step is significant, but universally speaking the feel is quite average.
The heel area incorporates a TPU overlay wrap to protect and stabilize the upper portion. Toward the bottom, as part of the midsole, you have thick EVA foam padding.
The original Wildcat and the 2.0 are both very similar, with no apparent differences up front. I had a pair of the originals (non-GTX) back in 2010 and other than the fit, I don't remember them being much different. If I was to have been told these were the Wildcat, I would have believed it by looking at them, even before putting them on. The color scheme, however, can be a giveaway, but that's not talking performance. But, of course, they are two completely different shoes, and If I remember correctly, the original Wildcat's toe bumper started peeling after about 100 miles or so and I did not have that issue with the 2.0's. There is a newer version of the Wildcat out, the 3.0's, which I have not had the liberty of trying out, but I will do so for review soon. Could they have made an extremely durable shoe even more so?
Key Features of the Wildcat 2.0 GTX
Key Features of the Wildcat 2.0 GTX
• AirMesh upper with Trail Cage technology and UreTech reinforcements
• TPU Stabilizer over the heel area for added support and protection
• Gore-Text waterproof lining to keep water out and maximize protection
• Cushioned MEMIex Midsole with soft Nylon flex transfer shank for shock absorption
• FriXion AT Impact Brake System incorporated into the sole
• Single-piece molded lacing harness for a secure and durable hold
• Tongue webbing (overlay) incorporated for proper control and stability of the tongue
• Durable, tough and firm outsole to effectively handle and grab traction in rough terrain
The best aspects of the Wildcat 2.0 GTX and utmost key features are the fact that it's just a very durable shoe that handles trails really well. There's no doubt it will take you through trails effectively, even through rain and mud as I had a few times. Pair them with trail gaiters
and you can tackle quite a bit out there. The GTX membrane makes the shoe waterproof so no problem there. If you so desire to hit the higher elevations and venture into the mountains, this shoe can take you there as well. The outsole profile allows traction through snow easily. However, I wouldn't recommend running any marathons in this shoe because the shoe is quite heavy.
One significant downside was the lack of room inside the shoe. The fit was very tight, not just a little bit, but you can correct this by going up a size or half. Doing so you will have an extremely effective and protective shoe that will last you a long time.