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La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX - Women's Review

The Nucleo feel light after miles on the trail and still provides support underfoot, as well as durability and water resistance thanks to their leather uppers
La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX - Women's
Photo: La Sportiva
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Price:  $199 List
Pros:  Supportive, stable, durable, water resistant
Cons:  Tight fit in toe box, lack breathability
Manufacturer:   La Sportiva
By Jane Jackson ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 31, 2019
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 16
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Support - 20% 7
  • Weight - 15% 5
  • Traction - 15% 10
  • Water Resistance - 15% 9
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

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.

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. The boots are also extremely durable and waterproof, making them a good option for hiking in cold, wet conditions.

New Color Option

The latest color for the Nucleo is shown above; however, the design of the boot has not changed since our test cycle.

February 2020

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Pros Supportive, stable, durable, water resistantGood traction, very comfortable, ankle padding, waterproofComfortable, durable, very cushioned, stable, supportive, lightweightVery water resistant, durable, incredibly lightweight, sleek designComfortable, lightweight, durable, inexpensive
Cons Tight fit in toe box, lack breathabilityRuns big, excess padding in tongueExpensive, take some time to break in, can be warm on hot daysProblematic fitLacks support of larger, heavier boots
Bottom Line Support, stability, and durability with the feel of a lightweight hiking shoeThis best-in-its-class boot combines lightweight technology with all the versatility a modern boot should haveDesigned for long-distance hikes with heavy loads, this model is designed to maximize support and comfortThese boots are lightweight, sleek, and durable - designed for technical and varied terrainThe best iteration of this model yet
Rating Categories Nucleo High GTX X Ultra Mid 3 GTX Kaha Gore-Tex Alpenrose Ultra Mid GTX Targhee III Mid
Comfort (25%)
7
9
9
5
9
Support (20%)
7
8
10
8
7
Weight (15%)
5
7
6
9
7
Traction (15%)
10
8
6
9
7
Water Resistance (15%)
9
10
8
10
8
Durability (10%)
8
8
8
7
7
Specs Nucleo High GTX X Ultra Mid 3 GTX Kaha Gore-Tex Alpenrose Ultra... Targhee III Mid
Weight Per Pair (Size 7.5, in lbs) 2.03 lbs 1.83 lbs 1.91 lbs 1.47 lbs 1.80 lbs
Upper Nubuck leather Suede leather, nylon Full-grain leather Breathable mesh/ coated fabric Oiled nubuck leather
Width Options Regular Regular Standard Regular Regular
Heel height (mm) 38 mm 32 mm 54 mm 32 mm 35 mm
Shaft height (mm) 165 mm 121 mm 140 mm 127 mm 125 mm
Midsole EVA Dual-density EVA EVA EVA Dual Density EVA
Sole Vibram Nano rubber Contagrip rubber Vibram MegaGrip Michelin rubber Rubber

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.

Performance Comparison



Comfort


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.

For a narrow foot, this model is incredibly comfortable...
For a narrow foot, this model is incredibly comfortable. Unfortunately for those with a wider toe box, the Nucleos don't provide much wiggle room width-wise.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Support


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 boots provide ample ankle support due to their extra tall heel height. This is important if you are prone to rolling your ankles.

If you're looking for a boot that will provide tons of support in...
If you're looking for a boot that will provide tons of support in both the ankle and underfoot, the Nucleo does the job.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Weight


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 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.

Traction


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.

Water Resistance


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.

The Impact Break System and Vibram soles provide great traction...
The Impact Break System and Vibram soles provide great traction, even on wet, slippery rocks.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Durability


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.

The Nucleos are great for cold, wet conditions, where their water...
The Nucleos are great for cold, wet conditions, where their water resistance and substantial leather uppers can really come in handy.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Value


With a hefty price tag, the Nucleos are a financial investment. Like most other boots in this price range, 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.

Conclusion


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.

Jane Jackson