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La Sportiva Jackal Review

A burly shoe with all the right design intentions, that for us did not live up to the billing
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Price:  $140 List | $140.00 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Very protective underfoot, sticky rubber outsole, heavily reinforced upper
Cons:  Fit very small, hot, heavy, uncomfortable heel cup
Manufacturer:   La Sportiva
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 27, 2020
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 18
  • Foot protection - 30% 9
  • Traction - 20% 8
  • Stability - 15% 6
  • Comfort - 15% 5
  • Weight - 10% 3
  • Sensitivity - 10% 4

Our Verdict

The La Sportiva Jackal is a shoe that is designed to be wider and super well-cushioned for ultra-distance efforts. Unfortunately, we found that while they may be a bit wider than the average narrow Sportiva trail runners, they are still on the narrow side. They also fit very small for the size, and are uncomfortable in a few other key areas as well, such as the heel cup. What they do offer is very sticky outsole rubber, a hallmark of all Sportiva shoes, combined with an ultra-protective sandwich of midsole foam and rock guard, ensuring that if you are running ultra distances in these shoes, your feet will not be taking blows from the rocks beneath them. Your appreciation of this shoe will be dependent on how well they fit your feet and whether you size up or not, but if they suit you, then they should be a great choice for rocky and uneven terrain.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The La Sportiva Jackal certainly look like a long-distance version of the La Sportiva Kaptiva, which is one of our favorite shoes, and fits like a glove. The Jackal has a lot of dense foam cushioning underfoot, combined with polyurethane plates and special dual-density foam that serve as excellent rock protection. However, the fit is among the poorest of any shoe we have worn. It is much too short, to the point where many online reviewers have suggested sizing up a whole size. It is also not as wide as advertised, and has an uncomfortable heel cup. We wanted to like these shoes but found that our feet were in considerable pain after about the six-mile mark, and on a couple of long test runs, they became a test of tolerance. They are not available in a wide version. It goes without saying that fit is a highly subjective affair, but at the same time, we have also encountered shoes that time and time again people feel are super comfy straight out of the box. The Jackal is a shoe that will work for some but will definitely not work for others. We highly recommend you try them on before committing to the purchase.

Performance Comparison


The Jackal are a very beefy shoe designed for ultra distances that feature a ton of foot protection in both the midsole and the upper  combined with a very sticky rubber outsole. We found the fit to be quite problematic  and couldn't wear them for ultra distances ourselves.
The Jackal are a very beefy shoe designed for ultra distances that feature a ton of foot protection in both the midsole and the upper, combined with a very sticky rubber outsole. We found the fit to be quite problematic, and couldn't wear them for ultra distances ourselves.

Foot Protection


The protection this shoe offers your foot is absolutely its strongest attribute. It is not a stretch to say this may be the most protective shoe overall of any we have worn in the past two years. Underfoot, the foam combinations feel very dense, and the rock plate is very noticeable under the arch of the foot and in the forefoot. Running over sharp rocks in these shoes is a breeze, with no need to modify your speed, as you will barely feel the protrusions that you are stepping on.

When descending steep chossy mountains  its nice to have some solid underfoot protection. The Jackal has thick foam and a very durable rock plate for some of the best protection you can get from uneven and jagged terrain.
When descending steep chossy mountains, its nice to have some solid underfoot protection. The Jackal has thick foam and a very durable rock plate for some of the best protection you can get from uneven and jagged terrain.

The upper is similarly well armored, with liberal use of thick TPU film overlays on both the inside and outside edges of the foot, and effectively covering the highest wear areas. While not 100% rigid, the toe bumper is never the less a thick and not easily bendable piece of rubberized TPU that will save your toes if you become too enamored with the view and kick a rock or root.

Traction


Like one would expect from a Sportiva shoe, the traction found on the outsole of the Jackal is made of top-notch sticky rubber. The specific compound is FriXion XT 2.0, which is both very sticky, especially on rock, and quite durable. For scrambling or runs where much of the terrain will be rocky, these are an excellent choice. However, the lug pattern is not particularly aggressive, and features closely spaced angular lugs that are between 4mm in the center of the foot, down to a mere 2-3mm on the edges. We didn't find them to be as effective on loose dirt, tundra, or snow as many other options with more pronounced lugs. At the same time, a pattern such as this one is fairly appropriate for long distance running, where the majority of the time will be spent on trails and durability is a concern.

Crossing large snowfields in the Uncompahgre Wilderness in the San Juans during a long training run is a great time to put the soft surface traction to the test. While these shoes have excellent grip on firm surfaces  the lug pattern isn't the grippiest on soft snow.
Crossing large snowfields in the Uncompahgre Wilderness in the San Juans during a long training run is a great time to put the soft surface traction to the test. While these shoes have excellent grip on firm surfaces, the lug pattern isn't the grippiest on soft snow.

The Frixion XT 2.0 rubber found on the bottom of these shoes is easily among the grippiest you will find  especially on rock. The lug pattern is a bit low profile  however  with closely spaced lugs that don't provide an aggressive grip on soft surfaces.
The Frixion XT 2.0 rubber found on the bottom of these shoes is easily among the grippiest you will find, especially on rock. The lug pattern is a bit low profile, however, with closely spaced lugs that don't provide an aggressive grip on soft surfaces.

Stability


The Jackal features a 7mm heel-toe drop, but also sits fairly high off the ground with a 25mm stack height in the heel. While we felt that the very rigid midsole contributed positively to the ability to land and push off from a flat, predictable platform, we also found that the distance our foot was off the ground led to a noticeable lack of stability on off-camber terrain. This is a common problem for shoes that feature a lot of underfoot cushioning, and presents the biggest issues off trail, but usually not as much on well-maintained trails. Another fairly major complaint was that the fit was off for us, such that our feet slid forward in the shoes on the downhills, crunching our toes a bit. This certainly required a modification of stride.

With a very solid rockplate and lots of foam in the the midsole  the landing platform of this shoe is very stable  as you can see in this photo. It remains nearly perfectly flat even when landing on the edge of a pointy rock.
With a very solid rockplate and lots of foam in the the midsole, the landing platform of this shoe is very stable, as you can see in this photo. It remains nearly perfectly flat even when landing on the edge of a pointy rock.

Comfort


If you are curious about the advantages of this shoe, it is certainly worth trying on to see if it fits your foot well. However, for us the fit was so off that we had to stop wearing it for runs longer than six miles, as it quickly became too painful to be enjoyable. We sized up half a size to men's 11.5, or Euro 45, which is not our normal size, but still felt that the shoes were much too short. We feel It would be wise to size up a full size. Even though we sized up, we also felt that the forefoot was pretty darn narrow, and our feet were bulging out the sides. We consider our feet to be fairly average width, so this was frustrating to us considering these shoes are billed as being made extra wide for long distances. We also noticed the discomfort in the heel that many online reviewers have commented about. For us, it simply felt a bit weird, like it wasn't molded to the perfect shape, but we didn't encounter blister problems like many people have. Regardless, the shape of the shoe was a huge disappointment to us, considering the similar Kaptiva literally fits like a glove.

We sized up half a size from normal  but our toes were still only a couple millimeters from the front of the toe box. This was problematic when running downhill  as they would cram into the front. We recommend sizing up a full size.
We sized up half a size from normal, but our toes were still only a couple millimeters from the front of the toe box. This was problematic when running downhill, as they would cram into the front. We recommend sizing up a full size.

Weight


Our size men's 45 (11.5) weighed in at 24.3 ounces per pair, which ranks them up there with the heaviest selection of shoes in this review.


This isn't particularly surprising when you consider the amount of underfoot protection sandwiched into the midsole, combined with the heavy duty upper. If foot protection is your primary focus, then of course the added ounces are worth the trade-off. On the other hand, don't expect this shoe to feel light and nimble on your feet.

It should come as no surprise that these are some of the heaviest shoes in our review  as they are also some of the most protective  featuring a rock plate and extra thick TPU overlays on the upper.
It should come as no surprise that these are some of the heaviest shoes in our review, as they are also some of the most protective, featuring a rock plate and extra thick TPU overlays on the upper.

Sensitivity


This is not a sensitive shoe, and the rock plate combined with dual density foams pretty much obliterates any sense of trail feel when you run. On rough terrain, this may be very advantageous, and for those who like to protect their feet as much as possible, it could once again work in their favor. However, if you like to dance along the trail, feeling connected with the ground beneath your feet, this is not your shoe.

Even when running across a boulder field of sharp rocks  don't expect to feel much under your feet. This is one of the least sensitive shoe choices you could make  which is another way of saying one of the most protective.
Even when running across a boulder field of sharp rocks, don't expect to feel much under your feet. This is one of the least sensitive shoe choices you could make, which is another way of saying one of the most protective.

Value


As the price of shoes continues to creep upward over time, one must expect to pay more. This shoe bought at retail price sits slightly above what we would consider average. We feel that it should last plenty long to be worth the money, although the discomfort we experienced prohibited us from testing it for so many miles that we are super confident about that assessment. Of course, if the fit is off, then it will be a very poor value. Purchase cautiously.

The value of these shoes will depend on how well they fit you. For us they were too short  even after sizing up half a size  and we felt our toes banging the front when running down hills such as this one. If the fit is okay  they should be durable enough for a long life.
The value of these shoes will depend on how well they fit you. For us they were too short, even after sizing up half a size, and we felt our toes banging the front when running down hills such as this one. If the fit is okay, they should be durable enough for a long life.

Conclusion


The La Sportiva Jackal was a difficult shoe for us to love, or even to run in consistently, due to a super wonky fit that left multiple spots of discomfort all over our feet. While it is billed as being an ultra distance shoe, we had to continually shorten the distances we were willing to go with it on. That said, it has many compelling advantages, such as sticky traction and fantastic foot protection, that make it worth trying on to see if it will work.

Traversing along the rolling tundra hillside on an Elk trail  we had a hard time enjoying these shoes on this long run because they made our feet hurt in the balls  toes  and heels.
Traversing along the rolling tundra hillside on an Elk trail, we had a hard time enjoying these shoes on this long run because they made our feet hurt in the balls, toes, and heels.

Andy Wellman