La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX Review (2023): For Trail… or Hiking?
Published on: 07/31/2023A solidly built, neutral shoe that will appeal to hikers more than trail runners, the La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX offers a comfortable drop, great grip, and waterproofing, but falls short on bounce and weight.
A slightly confusing shoe that wants to be a runner, but ends up a solid hiking option instead.
Don’t have time to read the full review? Here’s what you need to know.
La Sportiva is a brilliant trail running and hiking brand, but their Wildcat 2.0 GTX is not 100% clear on what it delivers. A sturdy outsole provides excellent traction for climbing and solid braking capabilities. But the comfort levels are lacking and the shoe prefers sturdiness to softness.
A 12 mm drop helps heel strikers, but it’s also a little too much for a pure mountain runner. Responsiveness leaves a lot to be desired. However, the mesh tongue is soft and durable. There’s a snug fit. Finally, the heel padding and toe bumper appear very competent.
For a beginner runner concerned about technical terrain, the Wildcat 2.0 GTX combines stability with waterproof protection from a high-quality Gore Tex layer. It’s also a great walking shoe. It will not, however, serve competitive trail runners and those looking for responsiveness and speed.
Please read our full review of the La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX for more information.
- Sturdy and stable
- Excellent waterproofing
- Good grip on varied terrain
- Not as comfortable as a typical trail running shoe
- Lacks breathability in the heat
Based in the heart of the Italian Dolomites, La Sportiva has a tradition of producing high-quality climbing and hiking footwear. The brand’s understanding of wild mountain terrain is unrivalled, which is why it’s exciting to see their second iteration of a shoe that tries to appeal to both runners and hikers. The Wildcat 2.0 GTX aims to deliver a highly stable, neutral fitting pair of trail runners with excellent waterproof protection.
However, when adding the Gore Tex and designing a sturdy, reliable outsole and midsole, there’s always a risk of compromise. In the case of the Wildcat, this is evident in its weight and arguable “over-build” for the trails. Has La Sportiva created a confusing combination or can this shoe be safely categorized as a hiker’s lightweight boot instead? Read our in-depth review analysis to find out.
Grip and durability
Starting on the outside, the La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX presents an aggressive outsole (the same one used on the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor) with pin-like lugs that are meant to offer unbeatable traction. The outsole is also very firm, which adds to the feeling of stability on uneven, loose terrain.
For hikers and trail runners climbing steep hills, the Wildcat performs well and provides forward propulsion. However, several testers have complained that the lugs, although displayed in a specific Impact Brake System, don’t perform all that well on wet rocks and muddy terrain.
As for the flexibility of the outsole, it is nowhere near enough to feel like a trail runner. Worn as a lightweight hiking boot, the Wildcat can feel relatively nimble. It has sticky proprietary Frixion rubber and a good amount of support. But it’s not as responsive as it should be for runners to truly enjoy it.
The La Sportiva Wildcat is designed for rugged mountainous terrain. It has a downhill brake assist design with lugs that line the heel. It also features an aggressive profile to help climb steep slopes. All this bodes well, but the consensus across Wildcat reviewers is that these shoes are better suited to walking than running.
Testing the Wildcat 2.0 GTX on snow is reported to give good results, despite its lacklustre performance in mud. The sturdiness and water resistant nature of this model also suggests that it can be a really good winter hiking shoe.
It’s the cushioning that seems to let down the La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX. For a trail running shoe, it lacks bounce and energy return. Additionally, while sturdiness makes it durable, it’s also not ideal for moving fast in the mountains. Here’s the consensus on the shoe’s cushioning.
Stack height, drop and underfoot feel
At 12 mm heel to toe drop, the Wildcats are closer to a hiking shoe than a runner. There is a forefoot stack height of 15 mm, going up to 27 mm under the heel. This makes them good candidates for long hikes and will be good for beginner runners, too.
When it comes to cushioning, there is a soft underfoot insert that makes up for the rigid rubber outsole. This combination allows the shoes to protect the foot, while retaining comfort. The midsole is composed of EVA foam. It’s not fantastic underfoot softness, especially compared to some popular hike/run shoe combos like the Altra Lone Peak. But it’s better than complete rigidity and won’t feel as tough if worn for backpacking and lower-impact movement.
One major point to note about the La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 is that it’s an extremely heavy shoe. Its construction discounts it from a trail runner at first glance: reviews range from 396 to 401 grams for the men’s version. For women, pairs available on REI.com show c. 331 grams per shoe. Certainly, some of that weight comes from the 3-layer Gore Tex liner, but it’s still quite a lot when compared to the rest of today’s trail running shoes.
One of the main drawbacks of the Wildcat seems to be its thick heel and general stiffness, even compared to other La Sportiva models. For a brand that excels at producing rock climbing shoes that mould to the athlete’s foot, this must have been done on purpose. A high drop and a sturdy, thick outsole combine with little EVA foam to provide small amounts of forward propulsion.
There is no rocker design or anything else that would suggest this would be more than a great hiking shoe for those who enjoy stability and sturdiness first and foremost. The heel toe drop of 12 mm helps heel strikers move a little more efficiently, but doesn’t make up for the lack of spring in the step.
The La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0 and the 2.0 GTX are both designed to provide neutral support, while being sturdy shoes for hard days out in the mountains. For the 2.0, we have the Gore Tex lining in the upper, which makes the shoe ideal for wet conditions.
Protection and breathability
GTX lining provides waterproof protection that works well in winter and on wet, rainy days. Most runners who have tried the La Sportiva Wildcat agree that their feet stayed dry regardless of how many puddles or rivers they crossed. However, there is a trade-off: the upper is not that breathable.
Summer runners describe the Wildcats as sweaty and warm. An unfortunate mark down for these La Sportiva shoes. This also raises the risk of hot spots and blisters forming in wet or hot conditions – something to consider if you plan on longer hikes or runs.
For a self-described neutral shoe, there are a lot of stability features to help on rocky trails and for more inexperienced athletes. La Sportiva Wildcat reviews describe nylon shanks, as well as resilient outsoles and heel stabilizers. All in all, these add up to a rather stiff, heavy shoe. While this means the Wildcat 2.0 GTX is not ideally suited for nimble, fast runners, it’s a matter of personal preference if those looking for a sturdier pair of mountain running shoes will like the stiffness. After all, some athletes prefer an added level of support, especially on long runs.
Compared to the La Sportiva Bushido, the Wildcat doesn’t offer a very good level of toe protection. There’s a large toe bumper which probably adds to the weight, but it’s not as resilient as most reviewers would have liked it to be.
Fit and sizing
The La Sportiva Wildcat tends to fit snugly, so advice from most people is to go up a half size or even a full size, depending on the types of socks you like to wear with them. The shoes feature a decently padded gusseted tongue which make it a bit bulkier – something to consider around sizing (although a plus point for comfort!).
Some reviewers also find the Wildcat to run short, so you risk discomfort in the toe box if buying your usual size. If you have wide feet, it’s worth getting these shoes in one size larger than regular.
The intended use of the La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX is for rugged mountain running, but we found that they are better suited as hiking than trail runners. The sturdy, rigid design offers good foot protection and arch support, but they fail to keep the feet cool enough when running and don’t give much energy return and bounce.
La Sportiva’s specialty is alpinism shoes and versatile trail runners that can cover the rocky terrain of the Italian Dolomites at speed. The Wildcat doesn’t fall in this category, unfortunately. However, the negative aspects for runners make it a decent walking shoe, with more space for the toes and a reliable build which gives solid support in all scenarios.
Other possible scenarios
If you’re a big fan of La Sportiva’s shoe range, the Ultra Raptor II GTX could be a better option for fast hikes and trail runs on technical terrain. However, the Wildcat has found its adopters among those who shun the lighter and more responsive shoes for solid, dependable stability.
On dirt trails and terrain ranging from smooth to tricky, there’s enough abrasion resistance in the upper and good grip from the fairly aggressive lug design to suit mountain adventurers. Opinions are split on the Wildcat’s performance on wet surfaces, but the sticky rubber outsole and well positioned break system should prevent ankle rolls and slips.
Whether you’re wearing the La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX to section hike long trails or simply to go out in the mountains in rain or sunshine, they will keep your feet dry and prevent slips and falls. They’re not as nimble as similar shoes that go after the mixed run/hike audience, but they look like a durable shoe and provide good return on investment.
Quality and pricing
Everyone who’s put the Wildcats to the test agrees that they provide secure support, albeit less flexibility than you’d want from a trail runner. A thick mesh upper is resistant to tears, while the high-quality aggressive outsole also seems to last well in all terrains. Several hikers report covering many miles without any tears or rips.
Retailing at $175, this isn’t a cheap shoe, but the price-quality ratio is good in terms of durability for backpacking and day hikes.
Carbon footprint and animal welfare
Now, for the sustainability angle. La Sportiva aims to re-use c. 50% of waste material in their manufacturing process. For the Wildcat, they’ve made the laces from 100% recycled polyester. The insole is made with 5% recycled rubber and 15% production waste foam. The brand certainly aims to provide good quality shoes that won’t tear easily, while maximizing the recycling in their build process. It’s a step in the right direction.
The Wildcat 2.0 GTX is 100% vegan.
Despite what La Sportiva calls an “Impact Braking System” and the tagline of “trail running shoe,” the Wildcat 2.0 GTX is more suited to hikers and walkers. However, if you’re looking for a new pair of technical hiking boots but want something more minimal and prefer sturdiness over bounce, these are the shoes for you. They’ll provide excellent midfoot support and protection while leaving room in the toe box for feet to swell, and doing a good job as an all-terrain hiking pair.
|Heel height||27 mm|
|Forefoot height||15 mm|
|Weight (men)||400 g/14.1 oz|
|Weight (women)||331 g/11.7 oz|
|Features||Vegan, Recycled materials|
|Outsole||FriXion AT rubber with Impact Brake System and X-Axis|
|Midsole||MEMIex, Nylon molded FLEX transfer shank, 2.4mm LaSpEVA|
|Upper||AirMesh, Trail Cage, TPU transkinetic heel stabilizer, UreTech reinforcements|
Reference: La Sportiva 's official site