Review: La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Shoes

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.

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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


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2 thoughts on “Review: La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Shoes”

  1. Michael:

    I’m going to the Brooks Range next August and expect lots of stream crossings. I planned to wear my La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX . However, I wonder if the Raptor would provide enough support for 10 days of backpacking on no trails. I expect to carry about 45 lbs. What do you think?

    Thank you. Geoff

    PS – I love your reviews

    • Hi Geoff,

      Thanks for the nice compliment about my gear reviews and for your question.

      The La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX and Ultra Raptor occupy opposite ends of the spectrum of outdoor footwear; you’re considering footwear that couldn’t be more different from each other. I assume you know that, but it’s worth pointing out (particularly for other readers).

      For the stream crossings in the Brooks Range, assuming that many are more than ankle deep, you may be removing whatever shoes or boots you’re wearing a lot to make those crossings (presumably in other sandals or light shoes, to protect your feet), anyway. More relevant to your question would be how each model would feel for hiking miles in and how wet your feet may get if there’s typical Alaska rain and wet, dripping vegetation on the ground.

      The Trango Tech GTX are waterproof-breathable, so they should keep your feet dry in wet conditions. The Ultra Raptor is not, so your feet may be wet a lot. I have used the Gore-Tex version of the Ultra Raptor in the past, but lightweight waterproof-breathable shoes do tend to soak through at times in very wet conditions, unlike burlier, more well-built boots. However, the non-waterproof Ultra Raptor would dry fast—if and when the sun came out and the ground and vegetation dried out—and you could conceivably splash through streams wearing them, if you don’t mind wet feet at times.

      Perhaps most important, the Ultra Raptor would be far more comfortable to hike mile after mile in than a mountaineering boot like the Trango Tech GTX, which are quite stiff and may get really hot, potentially causing major blister issues. Those boots really are for mountaineering, not hiking and backpacking. I’d either go with a lightweight low-cut or mid-cut shoe or boot and decide whether I want one with a membrane or non-waterproof (given the points I made above).

      See my “Expert Tips for Buying the Right Hiking Boots.”

      I hope that’s helpful. Good luck.