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Hands-on Gear Review
La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0 Review
Cons: Sloppy fitting, very heavy, not sensitive at all
Bottom line: A beast who’s best attribute is the ability to protect your feet.
The La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0 is a beast of a shoe that will protect your foot no matter what you may encounter. The firm and highly cushioned midsole combined with a very effective abrasion-resistant upper create a durable shoe that can stomp right over any boulderfield or through any stream. The keyword here is stomp, because this burly shoe is the heaviest in our review by a healthy margin, precluding one from finessing their way through gnarly terrain. While we didn't dislike this shoe, and in fact had a few very enjoyable runs over talus and up 14er's while wearing it, we found that its blend of characteristics had it rated at the bottom of our review. This isn't an indictment of this shoe, which we would still recommend to the right person for the right circumstances, but just means that you are likely to find more high-tuned performance out of the other shoes in this review.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Trail Running Shoes of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Wildcat 3.0 is La Sportiva's most cushioned shoe designed for long distance running and high volume training. While not specifically intended for use on the most technical of terrain, we found that its extremely stiff board last and high amount of underfoot cushioning meant that it was ideally suited to protect us on the rockiest of runs. This shoe is durable and will serve great as a daily trainer that will last for a long time.
We honestly don't have many things to complain about when it comes to this shoe. We enjoyed our runs in it, and will continue to wear it moving forward. However, compared to the rest of the fine tuned machines in this review, it is simply outperformed. It ranks among the lowest in traction compared to the competition, is not very stable due to its large amount of cushioning and 12mm heel-toe drop, was the heaviest shoe in the review, and was also tied for the least sensitive, again owing to the burly underfoot protection. Worn in isolation, we think most people would be happy with this trail runner, but compared to all the rest, it simply isn't as good.
This is the area where the Wildcat 3.0 really shines. We gave it 9 out of 10 points for foot protection, comparable to our Best Buy Award winning The North Face Ultra Endurance or the Brooks Cascadia 11. We aren't kidding when we say that the board last and ample amount of cushioning will allow you to happily stomp over all sharp objects in your way. We took these shoes for a run up the Colorado 14er San Luis Peak, consisting of miles of rubble and scree and sharp talus, and our feet were very happy that we did. We didn't award these shoes a perfect 10 in this category because while the abrasion resistant upper is great at doing exactly that, the toe bumper is a bit soft and there are no plastic or TPU overlays on the sides of the feet, like on many other shoes.
While many shoe designers are incorporating larger and ever more aggressive lug pattern designs, like those incorporated in the Saucony Peregrine 7 or the Salomon Speedcross 4, it is our opinion that the lug pattern and subsequent traction on these shoes is a bit lacking. La Sportiva calls the outsole pattern their "Impact Braking System," where the "angled" lugs are meant to increase breaking ability and shock absorption at the same time. There is no way for us to test these claims, but we feel like these shoes have too few large lugs and the ones that they have are somewhat diminished in their effectiveness by the rest of the rubber on the outsole design. We do love how sticky the rubber on these shoes is, but also found that the yellow rubber caps on the lugs is prone to tearing off from its black base rubber over time.
It's 12mm of heel-toe drop is the largest in this review, providing a ton of underfoot cushioning for heel strikers, but costing the shoe a bit in the way of stability. It also has a high stack height, leaving the foot sitting well up off the ground. Unfortunately we found this to be a rather unstable combination, and had to rank it near the bottom.
This shoe is perhaps the widest shoe in the line-up from La Sportiva, a company that is somewhat known for producing narrow shoes. The ample room in the toe box allows for great comfort of the forefoot. Additionally, features like the padded, gusseted tongue, soft toe bumper, and felt lined upper make this a comfortable shoe. Our main complaint when it came to comfort is that we felt that while the toe box was sufficiently wide, the heel was too wide for us, leaving our foot swimming a bit sloppily in this shoe. In the water test, this shoe was exactly in the middle when it came to amount of water absorbed, and also ability to shed that water after the five minute jog. This is quite a feat considering how much material is included in the construction of this heavy shoe, but also reinforces its average rating. We gave it 7 out of 10 points for comfort, the same as we awarded the Montrail Caldorado.
Fresh out of the box these shoes weighed 28.4 ounces for our men's size 11. This was far above the weight of the rest of the shoes in this review, and so we gave it our lowest score. That said, it was still quite a bit lighter than the 32.4 ounces Salomon XA Pro 3D shoes that we reviewed last year, so its not by any means the heaviest shoe on the trail running market. While it does feel heavy while out running, it doesn't feel overly clunky.
With a ridiculously stiff midsole that is buoyed by a ton of extra cushioning, it is no surprise that these rank at the bottom of the pile in terms of sensitivity. We found them to be roughly similar to the low-profile, but also very stiff, Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4. If sensitivity is what you are after, then you are looking in the wrong place with this shoe. We don't feel like its lack of sensitivity is a knock on what this shoe provides, but its low score does hurt the overall score a bit.
This is a good shoe to use as a daily trainer or for runs in rockier areas due to its superb underfoot protection. We think it would also serve as a good shoe for a beginner trail runner breaking into the sport, or would also be a great hiking shoe.
The Wildcat 3.0 costs $115 retail. This is on the lower end of the spectrum of shoes in this review, which is appropriate since it is not as high performing as the more expensive shoes. While we don't think many people will be disappointed with their purchase of this shoe, we also think that there are many higher performing shoes available for just $5-$15 more.
The Wildcat 3.0 is a quality trail running shoe that most people would be happy owning and running regularly in. However, this is a comparison review, and taken out of isolation and put head-to-head with the best shoes available on the market today, we don't feel like it performs nearly as well as the other very large handful of shoes that we have reviewed here.
Other Versions and Accessories
— Andy Wellman
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