For the right foot and the right situation, the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX is a great boot with an incredible design. They are designed for a narrow foot, both in the heel and in the toe box, so this should be taken into consideration upon purchasing them. Also, these boots are super waterproof. This means they work very well in cold, wet conditions, but are so impervious that other models perform better in warm conditions. The Nucleo's have burly Vibram soles that provide excellent traction. Their leather uppers are stiff, yet mold nicely to the foot, making for a comfortable fit. These boots are well-made, well-designed, and have a price tag that matches the quality of the product.
La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX - Women's ReviewPrice: $199 List | $199.00 at REI Pros: Supportive, stable, durable, water resistant
Cons: Tight fit in toe box, lack breathability
Bottom line: The Nucleo provides support, stability, and durability with the feel of a lightweight hiking shoe.
Weight Per Pair (pounds): 2.03 lbs
Upper: Nubuck leather
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The La Sportiva Nucleo is a burly model made for variable conditions and long days on rugged trails. The boots are substantial with their leather construction and solid soles. Though they are higher than most boots regarding ankle shaft height, they still feel relatively light on foot. The Nucleo's are a modern adaptation of the classic leather hiking boot of day's past, and provide the same comfort and protection as this contender did, while having a light feel and modern design.
The Nucleo is a polarizing boot; depending on your foot shape, you will either love them or hate them. For people with narrower feet, the La Sportiva Nucleo were incredibly comfortable. They provide arch support and have a well-shaped heel cup that keeps the foot locked in, but comfortably so. The boot's design is such that the upper wraps the midsole which stabilizes the foot and makes the boot feel snug and comfortable.
Unfortunately, all this shaping makes for a relatively stiff boot if your foot is wide, and so this variability gives the Nucleo a lower overall score in this metric. We had similar problems with the Ahnu Montara and the Oboz Bridger Mid BDry, to some extent. For boots that fit a wide foot well, check out the Best Buy winner, the Keen Targhee III or the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid, which comes in both a narrow and broad fit.
This model is designed specifically with support in mind. The boots really feel good when they are on like your foot is being supported and held in place. This is partially due to their nubuck leather uppers that mold nicely to the foot after just a few days on the trail. Both the heel and the support underfoot are substantial, features that keep the foot held in place, while still allowing for flex and movement with your stride. The Lowa Renegade GTX are similar in that they are burly in construction and support, but still allow for movement. Both of these boots, along with the Hoka One One Tor Ultra provide ample ankle support due to their extra tall heel height. This is important if you are prone to rolling your ankles.
Regarding weight, the Sportiva Nucleo's are on the upper end of the spectrum. The boots weigh just over 2 pounds (2.03 pounds, to be exact!), which means they are one of three boots in this review that weigh over two pounds. The award-winning Lowa Renegade GTX Mid are the heaviest boot we reviewed, landing at 2.19 pounds, while the Oboz Bridger Mid BDry boots weight exactly 2 pounds.
That said, the Bridger's felt heavier than both the Renegade and the Nucleo on our feet. The design of these boots is a bit more clunky, with the large sole and toe box making them feel more massive. The Nucleo's feel more like the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX regarding weight, which is impressive, as the Salomon's are much lighter than the Nucleo. The support provided by the ankle height of the Nucleo, as well as their leather construction, are what make up the bulk of the weight of this boot. These features are also what makes the boot so appealing, making the boots' weight is less of an issue.
Made with a sticky Vibram sole, the Nucleo did not disappoint when it came to traction. La Sportiva is known for having sticky rubber as a part of their products, and the Nucleo's are no exception. The Impact Break System, paired with the Vibram Nano rubber outsoles, keep traction with ease, especially on the downhill. We wore these boots on the slippery, polished granite trails of Yosemite Valley's most popular hikes, and found that the Nucleo's were able to stick to most anything we stepped on. Most boots with Vibram soles tend to perform well in this category, including the Hokas and the Oboz Bridger Mid BDry. The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid also performed well regarding traction, also due to their Vibram soles.
The Nucleo performs well in this metric, keeping our feet dry, even after being partially submerged in water. The nubuck leather uppers provide maximum protection from the elements, while the Gore-Tex Surround membranes allow for breathability. If there was one complaint we did have regarding water resistance, it is that the boots are a bit too hot to wear in warm conditions. Their lack of mesh and combination of Gore-Tex and leather made for a fairly warm combination for our feet. This was a similar issue with the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid and the OBoz Bridger Mid, where we found plenty of water resistance, but not enough ventilation. For a more breathable, but still Gore-Tex boot, we liked the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX.
Just as these boots are incredibly water resistant, they are also very durable. La Sportiva certainly seems to know how to make a boot that lasts, and the Nucleo is no exception. The nubuck leather that makes up most of the boot's uppers is durable, and the seams between the leather, the Gore-Tex membranes, and the soles showed no signs of weakness during our testing period. Much like the Lowa Renegade GTX, the Nucleo's are expensive but built to last. In this way, both boots, as well as the OBoz Bridger and to some extent the Hoka One One Tor Ultras, are a long-term investment.
The Nucleo is best suited for folks looking for a long-term, reliable, sturdy hiking boot. No matter the terrain nor length of the trail, the Nucleo's will probably be able to hang. They take a bit to break in and work better for those with narrow feet, but once they've formed to your foot, they are very comfortable and supportive. The boots are also extremely durable and waterproof, making them a good option for hiking in cold, wet conditions.
With a price tag of $200 online, the Nucleos are a financial investment. Like most other boots in this price range, think the Hoka One One Tor Ultras or the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid, the Nucleos are a high-quality piece of gear. All of these boots that are at the upper end of the price range are a step above the rest regarding durability, construction, and overall support. The Nucleo' are $30 less than both the Hokas and the Renegades, and in our minds, offer a little less. They are not as comfortable as the Hoka, nor as versatile as the Renegade, but for the price, they are a very well made boot that will last a long time.
Overall, the La Sportiva Nucleos is a great boot. They are durable, water-resistant, and supportive. The high ankle shaft height provides protection and stability, but the boots remain flexible enough to allow for lots of foot movement while walking. This gives the boots an overall light feel, even though they are on the heavier side on the scale. In terms of comfort, the boots are super comfortable, if they fit your feet properly, they are fairly specific in their design, and if your foot doesn't fit this mold the boots will be uncomfortable. This, as well as their lack of breathability, are the Nucleos two downsides. Otherwise, these are a great boot for the price and will last a long time on the trail.
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Most recent review: November 15, 2017
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