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.
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.
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 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.
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. La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX is more for shorter runs through rocky, stream ridden trails.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX 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.
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.
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.
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?
• 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 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 La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX. 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.