The La Sportiva Kaptiva is a new, do everything trail running shoe that features a precise, low volume fit, an excellent foot-hugging inner sleeve, and an exceptionally sticky rubber outsole. While it isn't the highest scorer in any of the metrics we test for, its consistent high performance across nearly every metric lands it a spot among the very best trail running shoes for 2019. This is a shoe that is equipped to handle heavy mileage but fits far more precisely than the often loose and baggy everyday trainers. Once this shoe is strapped onto your foot, the two become like one, making this an excellent choice for easy scrambling or highly technical terrain, where stability and precision are essential. Like most La Sportiva shoes, the fit runs on the narrow side, possibly squeezing out those with wide feet, but for average to narrow feet, these are a refreshing and well-tuned shoe that won't disappoint.
La Sportiva Kaptiva Review
Compare prices at 3 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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La Sportiva Kaptiva
|Price||$109.96 at Backcountry|
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|$179.95 at Backcountry|
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|$135.00 at Amazon||$89.93 at REI||$148.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Precise fit, very grippy on rock, comfortable upper effectively keeps out debris||Very protective midsole and upper, sock-like fit, grippy traction, lighter than previous version||Incredible protection for a zero drop shoe, comfortable, sensitive, extremely durable and sticky traction||Great traction on soft slippery surfaces, extremely comfortable, no increase in price||Very protective, stable, comfortable straight out of the box, good traction, wider fit|
|Cons||Narrower than average, a bit pricey, not the lightest||Expensive, durability concerns||Expensive, absorbs water easily||Midsole foam compresses out over time, easily collects rocks and debris||A bit heavy, expensive, not very sensitive|
|Bottom Line||A well-rounded shoe offering high performance for short or long distances.||The shoe that best balances foot protection and sensitivity, all while providing an incredibly fine-tuned fit.||One of our favorite shoes that is notable both for its zero drop platform and the excellent traction.||Our Best Bang for the Buck winner for great comfort and traction with a price lower than the other top scorers.||A great choice for ultras or long distance training due to the excellent foot protection.|
|Rating Categories||La Sportiva Kaptiva||Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2||Inov-8 Terraultra G 260||Saucony Peregrine ISO||Scarpa Spin Ultra|
|Foot Protection (30%)|
|Specs||La Sportiva Kaptiva||Salomon S/Lab...||Inov-8 Terraultra...||Saucony Peregrine...||Scarpa Spin Ultra|
|Weight (per pair, size 11)||22.3 oz.||22.7 oz.||20.9 oz.||23.1 oz.||23.9 oz.|
|Heel-to-Toe Drop||6 mm||8 mm||0 mm||4 mm||6 mm|
|Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot)||17 mm, 11 mm||26 mm, 18 mm||17 mm, 17 mm||22.5 mm, 18.5mm||Not disclosed|
|Upper||Sock-Like knit||Mesh||Kevlar, mesh||IsoFit||Mesh, TPU|
|Midsole||Duel-density EV||Compressed EVA||EXTERFLOW||PWRFOAM, Everun||Compressed medium-density EVA with low density EVA inserts|
|Outsole||FriXion XF 2.0||Premium Wet Traction Contagrip||Graphene Grip||PWRTRAC||Vibram MegaGrip|
|Lacing style||Traditional||Kevlar Quicklace||Traditional||Traditional||Traditional W/ lace garage|
|Wide version available?||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Sizes Available||38 - 47.5||4 - 13||4-15||8 - 14||40 - 48 EU|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The La Sportiva Kaptiva is a new shoe for the 2019 trail running season, 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 Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2, 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. Much like the Nike Wildhorse 5 and the Scarpa Spin Ultra, 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 Inov-8 Roclite 290 is likely more durable, and the insane lugs on the bottom of the Salomon Speedcross 5 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 the under heel protection of the Nike Wildhorse 5 and the low to the ground ride of the Nike Terra Kiger 5. 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 found on the New Balance Gobi Trail v3.
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 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 the 16 ounces per pair Hoka Evo Jawz. 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. A similar shoe with more trail feel is the Nike Terra Kiger 5. 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 ideal for the most technically demanding terrain, whether that means scrambles in the Flatirons, ridge traverses in the alpine, Skyrunning races, Slickrock rambles in the desert, or never-ending East Coast talus fields. Their precise fit allows you to move far more confidently in this type of terrain that with any other type of shoe, and their grip on rock is second to none. They are appropriate for running long or short, in any sort of weather.
Retail price is $139, making them more expensive than your average trail running shoe, but not quite as expensive as some of the other new releases this year that are checking in at $150 or more. 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