La Sportiva Ultra Raptor - Women's Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor offers stand-out protection with stability elements integrated right into the outsole. It's heavier than most trail shoes and more rigid but enjoyed by those who appreciate rigid stability and protection.
This shoe is absolutely bomber when it comes to foot protection. Loaded with features, it will keep your feet happy and protected on all sorts of terrain. While running over steep singletrack, littered with sharp stones and sticks, we experienced constant stubs and pokes through the outsole and upper. In all cases, our feet stayed protected from these hazards--a feat that less protective trail shoes could not achieve. It scores a nine out of ten.
Let's take a closer look. The protective elements featured include; ample cushioning, a full-length stone guard, a super durable toe cap, and ultra-protective upper. The cushioning is quite thick in both the heel (29mm) and toe (22 mm). This responsive and thick cushioning provides not only comfort but also protection from trail hazards.
The full-length stone guard prevents sharp rocks or roots from penetrating to the foot and instead distributes the force evenly throughout the shoe. The toe cap is one of the burliest that we've seen! It's of a hard rubber composite material. After kicking a few stones and rocks on the trail, we didn't notice a thing.
Finally--the upper. The AirMesh is ultra-breathable while protecting from fine sandy particulates and other pesky debris. Within the mesh is an interlaced synthetic material that wicks away water. While crossing over creeks quickly, we noted that our feet stayed dry. However, when immersing them and standing in water, the resistance didn't last that long. As a result, this shoe is not waterproof.
Overall, we are impressed by the fantastic protection offered. We would recommend it for everything from warm summer days to cold winter nights. Take it with you on any trail adventure you want to pursue, be it super rocky and rooted, sandy and dry, or wet and muddy.
Boasting an average level of sensitivity, you can feel "stuff" on the trail. Despite the ample cushioning, rock plate, and everything in between, we were able to navigate techy sections of single track without a problem.
The forefoot feels surprisingly close to the ground, allowing you to sense bumps, then adjust along the way. While this isn't the most sensitive shoe out there, we were surprised at how much we could feel through the layers of protective material. If you seek a protective shoe that offers some level of sensitivity, but not so much that you feel everything on the trail, this is a great option.
Ever wonder how a mountain goat climbs up cliff faces? Their hooves have a soft pad that molds and grips the rock. Similar to a mountain goat, the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor also features a super aggressive outsole that sticks to most surfaces. This material and its outsole design earn it top marks for traction.
While running over snow and rocky terrain earlier this Spring, we encountered a plethora of different surfaces. In all cases, except for super smooth slippery rocks, we were able to maintain traction without slipping or sliding around.
The lugs are long, tri-tipped, and multidirectional which allows you to run up and down steep, loose terrain without slipping forwards or backward. When rounding steep switchback corners, we didn't slow down to check traction but kept moving at full speed, because we knew the lugs would hold in place. Also, the lugs are spaced nicely, providing ample friction points.
While we really like this outsole, our qualms come with sticky mud and pavement. Unlike other shoes with widely spaced, deep lugs that shed mud well, the sticky stuff tends to glom up on the dirtiest of days. Also, the sticky rubber on these bad girls is susceptible to wearing down. As a result, we wouldn't recommend running with them on pavement or superhard surfaces.
For such a high stack height (28mm in the heel) we are surprised at its stable ride. When running over surfaces in both the high mountains and low valleys, we appreciated how it transitions easily from unstable to stable surfaces. We didn't experience any rollovers along the way.
The stability features in this shoe are ample, keeping you upright on the trail. Even though stack height is high, this balanced by a few things. First, the wider forefoot. It allows for better balance when stepping over rocks or roots. Second, the TPU lacing system.
This system attaches to the polymer harness that wraps around the shoe and locks down fit. Also, the heel is reinforced with a similar TPU stabilizer, making transitions from heel to toe nice and smooth. Third, the integrated nylon shanks in the midsole. These shanks are like posts that provide additional stability and balance throughout the midsole when hopping from rock to rock or while trudging through deep sand. Finally, with all these burly elements, we were surprised that the forefoot of the shoe is still so flexible, which provides give, and additional stability overall.
In general, we are very impressed with the elements that make this one shoe that won't roll-over on the trail. It's an excellent option for those needing a super stable shoe or a more supportive option. All of it's stabilizing features come together to provide one safe ride.
Comfort & Fit
When the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor first came out of the box, we were a little bit unsure about the fit and comfort. The exterior looks rigid and seemingly uncomfortable. When held in hand, it's a little heavier than most, which at first, was a little deterrent. However, when our testers finally put the shoe on, jaws dropped at the high levels of comfort. The midsole is stacked with EVA foam and MeFlex cushioning. The ride is responsive, but not soft. The shoe's cushioning springs back against the harder outsole in both the forefoot and heel. Our testers love the comfort elements of this shoe.
True to the name of the "Ultra" Raptor, we would recommend this shoe for any distance. Wear it on your next 50-mile run or while tackling your first! The upper is entirely breathable, flexible, and thin around the ankle and Achilles which leads to better comfort overall. None of our testers noticed any odd hot spots, even right out of the box. Our most significant caveat is the lacing system and tongue. Many of our testers noted that the tongue sometimes slipped down on the downhills and would bunch. Also, the plastic upper eyelet of the shoe that, while durable, allows the lace to loosen on longer runs. There are ways to mitigate this problem through a different lacing system, but we thought it was important to mention as a minor annoyance.
Our testers have a variety of foot shapes and sizes. In general, the fit of this shoe is versatile and accommodating. The forefoot is wider than in most traditional shoes and is relatively voluminous. The 9mm heel to toe drop provides ample cushioning in the heel, which the arch is well supported. Besides, the laces are somewhat wide apart so if you have a narrow foot there is room to yank the laces tight for a specific fit. Alternatively, if you have wide feet, the area inside is accommodating and adjustable with the lacing system.
There's no doubt; this is a heavy trail runner. With so many great protective elements, it weighs in at 11.45oz (for one size nine). This weight is normal for any burly trail runner, and our testers didn't notice these extra few ounces when running 20+ miles distances. That said, it's not the best choice if you're planning on making your new personal record (PR) on the mile.
Not only does this shoe weigh a lot, but when it gets wet, it absorbs a lot. When running through the forest on one damp afternoon in the mountains, we were pleased that it did a reasonably good job at wicking away moisture. Though, when we hiked uphill in the snow, and the shoe saturated, we noticed how heavy it got. Our water tests validated this experience when it absorbed 5.15 oz of water, making it a highly absorbent trail runner. All in all, if you're looking for a lightweight trail shoe, this is not the best option.
The Ultra Raptor retails for $130 with many online deal opportunities. After running 50+ miles in them over rugged terrain, we haven't noticed any signs of wear and tear, except for the lugs shaving down a tad over time. As a result, it sports a good value overall.
This shoe is super protective and versatile. Take it on any trail for any adventure. Just don't plan on running on roads for very long as the lugs will wear down easily. In addition to trail running, it has a wonderful track record of doubling as a great, stable hiking shoe. While it's not the best option for setting your personal best on sprint-distance, it certainly does the trick for training runs around town or ultra-distances in the backcountry. Enjoy it most anywhere you plan on hiking or running.
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