One word…..Bomber! Bomber is a climbing term used to describe an anchor or hold that is so strong it will hold anything…fail safe. That’s the word that came to mind after my first run in the Wild Cats and it was coincidentally convenient as La Sportiva is a mountaineering company that was born in the Dolomites, Italy over 80 years ago.
The Wild Cat 2.0 is a shoe targeted at the middle ground of the trail running community. It sports decent grip, good support and bomb proof construction. It comes in a standard and a Gore-Tex version. I have reviewed the standard version.
Despite being forged in the mountains of Europe, the Wild Cat fits true to size and did not require any conversion or adjustment (thankfully) from my usual shoe size (US12). Right out of the box the Wild Cat feels quite “plush” and like any good shoe didn’t require any type of “breaking in” feeling comfortable from the first step. It sports a 24mm foot bed and a drop of 12mm which is smack bang in the middle of the pack for running shoe dimensions and admittedly more than most of my other trail shoes.
The upper of the Wild Cat is made from an “Air Mesh” construction which helped keep my feet surprisingly cool and although I have not run them through deep water yet I do believe that they would drain quite well. The construction of the Wild Cat is solid and has resulted in some loss of sole flexibility. Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends on what type of runner you are and what surface you’re running on.
Descending terrain has been my favourite while wearing the Wild Cats: my feet felt secure enough so I was confident to flog down some pretty gnarly hills and rocky crossings without any issues. In fact, its ability to absorb some serious force while flying down trails I usually would have to pick my way down was something I was not entirely used to.
The Wild Cats weigh about 690g a pair – on the heavy side compared to my usual shoe selections. I did notice this a bit when running fast up hill and while not such a bad thing I don’t think I will be rocking any vertical kilometre races (hello Mt Baw Baw Trail Run Fest free mountain ascent sprint. Ed.) in these shoes.
The sole of the Wild Cat is made from La Sportiva’s specific FriXion rubber which is really sticky (not surprising considering their climbing background) and tends to provide quite good traction on rocky trails. The lugs of the Wild Cat are not as big or deep as other shoes but I they still performed well on the big, rocky climbs. I do think that on very steep, muddy and soft climbs they would suffer somewhat in comparison to the lugs of fell runner models however considering their design and intention I was overall pleased with the grip.
Another interesting addition to the grip is something dubbed “downhill brake assist” which sounds like something off a car. It turns out this is the name La Sportiva’s boffins (marketing or technical – I’m not sure) have given their unique heel tread grip design. Basically, it allows for greater down hill grip and spreads the load throughout the rear of the shoe – perhaps this was the root of my enjoyment on the down hills?
This is one area where I think the La Sportiva’s really dominate. Their upper is stitched and glued on to the shoe and they also sport a toe cap thick enough to knock out an elephant (if you were inclined to kick one)! The sole is solid and grip appears to be durable so far (100km in). I have caught a few sticks and the like while out on the trail and unlike some other shoes the uppers proved to be very puncture resistant. I don’t expect any toe blow outs or unusual wear anytime soon in these shoes.
The Wild Cat combines a number of good features like protection, durability and a breathable upper. It does lack some grip on the super steep loose stuff and would be more suited to longer trail running and potentially any racing that requires reasonable amounts of road traversing or technical steep descents. So who might the Wild Cat suit? Well in my opinion those who are looking for a trail runner with a bit more protection/support, decent grip and want a shoe that will last the distance. They are great for downhills and longer runs.
Great for: traditional or old school trail runners or those who want more protection; technical, rocky and hard pack trails.
Not so great for: Hard core minimalists, Very steep muddy climbs
Test conditions: Very rocky fire road, single track, road, steep descents and moderate to steep accents.
Tester: Caine Warburton
Tester mechanics: Midfoot runner. Ultra marathon trail disciplines.
RRP$169 ($199 Gore-Tex model)
Australian Distributers: www.expeditionequipment.com.au/