Hiking/Trail Running Shoes
La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0
$115, 1 lb. 8 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: Euro men’s 38-47.5, women’s 36-43
There are trail-running shoes I can run in, and then there are shoes I can run and hike far in because they simply have greater support and cushion for handling the cumulative abuse that feet suffer on longer outings. On many trail runs of up to 12 miles in the Boise Foothills—plus one 20-mile, 3,600-foot run—the Wildcat 3.0 never caused me the hot toes, sore soles, or foot achiness that I get from some lightweight shoes on runs of more than eight or 10 miles. Even after that 20-miler in the Wildcats, my feet felt good.
A bit lighter and airier than another outstanding trail runner, Sportiva’s slightly more stable Ultra Raptor, the Wildcat 3.0 is kind of like a light tank: built for speed and minimal but adequate protection. A stiff heel cup and a partial TPU shank in the compression-molded EVA midsole provide superior lateral stability and protection underfoot for a shoe that weighs just one-and-a-half pounds per pair. Yet a pronounced rocker shape to the outsole and a very flexible forefoot give a natural toe-off feel when running or walking fast. The toe cap and sides are reinforced to survive rugged terrain; and yet the toe box is soft, and the fit from midfoot to the toes finds a good balance between decent roominess while cradling the foot securely, to avoid toes getting jammed.
Little details can make a big difference in foot comfort, too, especially on a long day. The highly breathable mesh uppers kept my feet cool and mostly dry, even when the rest of my body was perspiring heavily. The other advantage of really breathable uppers is how quickly they dry: After I accidentally dunked one shoe on a creek crossing, it dried completely before I finished the run an hour later. The Wildcat’s tongue is uniquely comfortable and well constructed for such a lightweight shoe—it never slipped to one side, which can cause rubbing and discomfort. The laces never untied or even loosened up. Lastly, the widely spaced, shallow lugs of the outsole, with a slightly in-cut heel that allows for more aggressive downhill braking, consistently bit well into dry trails of packed dirt with some steep, gravelly stretches.
The Wildcat 3.0 shoes are built for trail runs of any distance, but have the stability for dayhiking and even ultralight backpacking, for hikers accustomed to using very lightweight low-cuts.
See all of my reviews of hiking shoes I like.
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 all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.