La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX Review
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La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX
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|Pros||Excellent waterproofing, deep lugs for solid traction, heel brake in outsole||Top-level hiking boot performance, excels in all metrics||Lightweight, comfortable, excellent traction||Incredibly lightweight, comfortable||Very comfortable, supportive|
|Cons||Average stability, difficult to lace up||Expensive, not as great for hot and dry climates||Narrow fit, slightly small sizing||Less durable than heavier models, thin sole||Average waterproofing, fair traction|
|Bottom Line||These high-ankle hiking boots are a great option for excellent waterproof protection in a relatively lightweight package||The gold standard of what a great hiking boot should be, and we heartily recommend it for those seeking the best possible performance on and off the trail||This high-performing hiking boot tears up technical terrain with maximum precision and is at home far from the trail||This mid-top hiking boot is ridiculously lightweight, though it offers excellent stability and traction for fast and light objectives||This super comfortable hiking shoe is one of our favorite budget-friendly models|
|Rating Categories||La Sportiva Nucleo...||Salomon Quest 4 Gor...||La Sportiva Ultra R...||Salomon X Ultra Mid...||Merrell Moab 3 Mid...|
|Water Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||La Sportiva Nucleo...||Salomon Quest 4 Gor...||La Sportiva Ultra R...||Salomon X Ultra Mid...||Merrell Moab 3 Mid...|
|Weight (per pair)||2.41 lbs (size 43.5 EU)||2.90 lbs (size 11)||2.08 lbs (size 45 EU)||1.85 lbs (size 11)||2.36 lbs (size 11)|
|Boot Type||Midweight hiker/backpacking boot||Midweight hiker/backpacking boot||Lightweight hiker/day hiker||Midweight hiker/backpacking boot||Midweight hiker/backpacking boot|
|Width Options||Regular and wide||Regular||Regular, Wide||Regular||Regular, Wide|
|Waterproof Lining||GORE-TEX Surround||Gore-Tex||GORE-TEX extended comfort||Gore-Tex||Waterproof membrane|
|Upper||Nubuck leather||Leather and nylon||AirMesh, microfiber, TPU||PU coated leather||Pigskin leather, mesh|
|Last Board/Shank||Tempo||4D Chassis||Nylon molded flex TPU||Molded shank||Molded nylon|
|Midsole||Compression molded EVA||EnergyCell||Injection-molded MEMlex||SensiFit||Super Rebound Compound|
|Sole||Vibram Nano XS-Trek rubber compound||Contagrip||FriXion XF 2.0||Contagrip||Vibram TC5+|
Our Analysis and Test Results
With an understated combination of traditional style and modern footwear technology, these boots are made for stream-filled outings that require thorough waterproofness and traction. The nubuck leather upper is durable and abrasion-resistant, and the deep lugs create a reliable grip on trail surfaces. All-in-all, this model is a good option for those with narrower feet looking for a solid general-use boot.
These boots are comfortable for sure, just not the top of the pack. The compression-molded EVA midsole and thick, forgiving outsole provide comfort underfoot — it's a soft ride, but not so soft that it compromises support. They are also breathable with mesh-like panels on the inside and outside of the boot. We found that they lean toward accommodating a narrower foot, but they do come in wide sizes as well.
Though there is some nice padding around the ankle bone to protect from direct impact with sharp rocks, overall, the Nucleo don't have as much cushioning in the upper as other models, which was especially noticeable at the end of a long day on the trail. One of the most puzzling features of this shoe is the upper lace hooks. They are unnecessarily difficult to use, requiring a high degree of dexterity to loop the laces through. Our sense is that they are designed to stay laced up, but that didn't save us much time putting them on and taking them off. This boot is also less cushy than heavier-duty models, and the interior fabric at the ankle can be abrasive if your socks aren't high enough.
These boots have reliable stability with a few caveats. With a rigid guard at the back, we were pleased to discover that our heels stayed solidly in place with minimal slippage. These boots have a base width that is slightly narrower than most. However, the tread at the fore and heel of the outsole extends laterally beyond the wearer's foot, meaning that the side-to-side support is still excellent. This means fewer opportunities for ankle rolls and better balance.
However, when we did slip, we weren't quite as impressed with the ankle coverage of the upper as we were with some sturdier models. The nubuck leather is supple, and though the ankle bones themselves are protected with cushioning, the upper isn't especially rigid, meaning it is less supportive.
With deep tread and a proprietary heel design, the traction on the Nucleo is excellent. The lugs running down the center of the shoe are deep, giving them a strong grip force on rocks and roots. They are also recessed slightly into the sole, making them functionally longer and allowing for traction at steep and unusual angles. We found that even if our ankles rolled in odd directions, the lugs still had a 'bite' on the trail surface that helped us recover.
In addition, the 'impact braking system' makes it easier to brace the foot and maintain balance on descents. This feature is an angled portion of the outsole heel, which allows hikers to use the back of the boot almost like a brake on a pair of rollerblades by flexing the foot until it is perpendicular to the ground.
The value of keeping your feet dry in the backcountry almost cannot be overstated. There's not much else to say here about the Nucleo other than their waterproofing is excellent. With Gore-Tex Surround lining, we were very impressed with how these performed through waterways. We even stood in moving water on several occasions (for 60 seconds at a time) to see if any moisture would find its way through, but our feet stayed dry throughout. The bellows tongue creates an added element of protection as well.
The breathable paneling on either side of the midfoot also does a nice job of releasing sweat or condensation that settles through the top of the boot overnight. This model does have a dip in the back, but even so, the flood height stands at a respectable 6.75 inches.
The Nucleo High II GTX is lighter than most other contenders in the category. Coming in at 2.4 pounds for the pair, it punches above its weight class. Though it isn't the top performer in stability or durability — a couple of metrics we typically associate with a heavier total weight — it performs better than expected.
This below-average weight, combined with thoughtful stability and waterproofness discussed more below, produces above-average performance. It's a light(er)weight boot with heavyweight features.
We expect these boots to last. The nubuck leather upper is tear-resistant, and the Vibram Nano XS-Trek tread is as rugged as any of the competition. Though some people report having issues with waterproofing, this was definitely not our experience. However, it is an area that we will keep an eye on as we add more miles to the odometer.
In addition, we are also curious to see if the proprietary heel brake system wears faster than the rest of the sole. The laces are also quite stiff and on the thinner side, so it seems likely that they would need to be replaced well before a more substantial part of the boot wears out.
Should You Buy the La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX?
These boots are made for those who need waterproof footwear and solid traction. They have a comfortable insole with just the right amount of give. Though the upper can't claim quite the same degree of comfort, we appreciate the balance this boot offers between heavy-duty support and lighter weight. Though we found some features are less slick than La Sportiva wants them to be, for hikers who need a waterproof pair, these are worth a look.
What Other Hiking Boots Should You Consider?
The Nucleo High II GTX run narrow and aren't especially technical but are great for general use. If you were drawn to this pair because of its standout features, there are a few others we can recommend in your search. If keeping your feet dry is your top priority in a hiking boot, you can't go wrong with the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid, the Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex, or the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX, which also shares a top spot for traction along with the La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX.
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