La Sportiva Kaptiva Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Precise fit, very grippy on rock, comfortable upper effectively keeps out debris
Cons: Narrower than average, a bit pricey, not the lightest
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The La Sportiva Kaptiva was first released in 2019, and is most recognizable for its low volume fit. Sportivas have long been known to run on the narrow side, and this shoe is no exception, although we didn't find it to be excessively narrow, and think its shape will likely only cut out a small percentage of potential wearers. Instead, it is intentionally designed to be low volume, and we found there to be perhaps the least extra space inside the shoe of any we tested. This is a refreshing attribute, one that ensures that the shoe and foot are moving on the same page, and makes this shoe among the very best for tackling highly technical terrain.
For those who like to add a bit of technicality to their runs, such as traversing mountain ridges or perhaps adding in a scramble up the 2nd Flatiron, the Kaptiva is an optimal choice, buoyed even higher by the inclusion of Sportiva's FriXion XF rubber, which is grippier on dry rock than any other shoe we tested. In many ways, this shoe feels similar to the high end Salomon offerings but is even more fine-tuned for shorter technical terrain, although still retains the underfoot support and protection for going long.
This is a very protective shoe, enough to tackle any sort of terrain. It feels firm underfoot thanks to the 1.5mm layer of EVA rock guard, which effectively absorbs impacts from sharp rocks. Trending in the same direction as many other shoes these days, the underfoot feel is not that of springy, cushioned bounciness, but rather like firm armor that will not soon crush out, and will keep you moving fast over even the sharpest talus.
The upper is also fairly protective, with a hard TPU plastic toe bumper that will undoubtedly take a blow from a kicked rock without bashing your toes. Thin film overlays cover the most critical high-wear areas of the mesh upper, especially in the forefoot, to add some longevity and durability to the design.
The outsole of this shoe is covered in hexagonal lugs distributed evenly on all parts of the shoe, varying in depth from 3.5 to 4.5mm depending on location. They provide good grip on most soft surfaces, such as steep grass, snow, and mud, but we found them to be slightly below average when it comes to simple steep, loose dirt. Where this shoe really shines is on a rock, where the FriXion XF rubber was a step above the rubber compounds found on every other shoe.
We are also impressed by how hard the rubber is, ensuring that the lugs don't automatically rip off after one long day traversing an alpine ridge. Overall, we felt like the graphene grip on the new Inov-8 shoes is likely more durable, and the insane lugs on the bottom of some Salomons are more aggressive, but when it comes to rocky terrain, these are the shoes that can't be beat.
Despite its narrower than average foot platform, the Kaptiva is a very stable shoe. It has a 6mm heel-toe drop, which provides a nice compromise between under heel protection and low to the ground ride. The transition from heel to toe feels gradual and smooth and is not especially noticeable. The most remarkable attribute of these shoes is their fit. They are snug, in the best possible way. No other shoe locks the foot so firmly, yet absolutely comfortably, in place as this shoe does, allowing not a hint of foot slippage while side-hilling, moving uphill, or bombing downhill. This lockdown fit extends from the forefoot to the arch and the heel, while retaining incredible comfort, all of which greatly add to the feeling of confident stability.
This is one of our favorite shoes when it comes to comfort, although as always, comfort is a relative thing subject to each individual's opinion. Inside the shoe is a sock-like sleeve that includes the tongue and comfortably hugs the midfoot up the forefoot, with no gaps for debris or sand to filter their way inside. Likewise, this sock-like fit extends to the ankle opening, where there is virtually no gap between fabric and foot for debris to funnel in, and yet also no tight, rubbing elastic around the opening like we have found on some other shoes that attempt to fully seal off this opening.
The tongue and heel are minimally padded, but this padding is more than sufficient, and the overall feel is of being hugged very comfortably. As previously mentioned, they are a bit on the narrow side, and perhaps slightly small as well. We ordered a men's size 11, which Sportiva translated into 44.5 in EU sizing, which is a stark contrast from the 45.5 EU size that the Scarpa Spin Ultra also translated as size 11. While we didn't find it necessary, some may want to size up half an EU size if you like a looser fit or wear bulky socks.
Our size 11 men's shoes weighed 22.3 ounces out of the box, which is by no means heavy, but also not in the "ultralight" range that we have seen associated with this shoe. Simply put, this shoe is light for what you get, which is actually a ton of protection but is not light at all compared to trail shoes that manage to weigh as little as 16 ounces per pair. We didn't think they felt heavy or clunky while running in them.
The dense EVA rock protecting foam underfoot does not allow a whole lot of sensation to make its way through into the foot. While the forefoot is a little bit thinner than the heel, allowing for a bit more trail feel there, the overall effect is one of burly rock protection, lacking much sense of granola trail feel. For what this shoe is designed for, we don't think more sensitivity is warranted, and we are happy to have the extra protection for bombing down rocky slopes and skipping through talus fields.
These shoes are slightly more expensive than your average trail running shoe, but not quite as expensive as some of the other new releases this year. While we wish these were slightly more affordable, we think they offer incredible performance, and so feel like they offer a solid value.
The La Sportiva Kaptiva is a low volume, but very prices trail running machine. Their snug fit and sticky rubber make them the best option for rocky and technical terrain, whether on trail or off, and they offer more than enough protection for long distances. In our humble opinion, this is the best Sportiva shoe that we have run in for many years.
— Andy Wellman