La Sportiva Ultra Raptor

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor

Hiking/Trail Running Shoes
La Sportiva Ultra Raptor
$130, 1 lb. 10 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: Euro men’s 38-47.5, women’s 36-43

This new-and-improved rendition of Sportiva’s Raptor, one of the best trail-running and low-cut, light hiking shoes I’ve worn, lives up to its heritage. On numerous trail runs in the Boise Foothills ranging from five to 10 miles, on typically dry trails of packed dirt with some steep, gravelly sections, these non-waterproof low-cuts shined by any measure, but especially for stability and traction. The EVA midsole with a nylon shank, plus a TPU harness on the uppers that’s integrated with the laces to wrap around the foot, deliver superior torsional rigidity for a shoe this light: It has the lateral stability of a lightweight boot. But the shoe still retains the forefoot flex and the rocker and toe-off of a nimble, ultralight hiking and trail-running shoe.

I’m often cautious on downhills because of a history of sprained ankles, but the Ultra Raptor gave me the confidence to open up my stride, thanks to opposing, slanted outsole lugs that grip on all surfaces. Sportiva claims the design reduces impact and increases traction both by 20 percent. As always, the Frixion outsole grabs aggressively onto rock. Compared to the Raptor, the Ultra sports more protection from rocks in the toe, and is slightly more flattened out, with a drop of 8mm versus 12mm in the old Raptor. As with the Raptor, a stiff heel cup bolsters support and protection, and the mesh uppers breathe well enough to keep my feet from sweating profusely. Fit is good for low- to medium-volume feet; with a medium-volume foot, I found the shoes comfortable even on longer outings. It’s a great choice for light dayhiking, ultralight thru-hiking, and trail running on mountain paths.

See my later gear review update of the Ultra Raptor, following a 28-mile dayhike in them.

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NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my reviews at my gear reviews page.

—Michael Lanza