In June of 2022, the International Trail Running Association (ITRA) released a survey of 9,514 runners in 104 countries that revealed the most worn brands and trends among trail runners. In that survey, La Sportiva ranked as the 3rd most worn brand (Salomon was 1st and Hoka was 2nd). For some, this is no surprise. For others, like myself, it made me wonder why I hadn’t ever tried a pair!
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Today’s review seeks to fix that, as I test the Jackal II, which is a revamped version of the original Jackal. The Jackal II features a wide toe-box (stay tuned for more), which is a big deal for me, but also for many other ultra runners, who want room for their toes so they’re not crushed as you careen down hills, and as your feet swell on those super long runs.
Out of the box, the shoes are fairly lightweight (9.7 oz/size 9.5M. 8.6 oz/size 7.5W). La Sportiva uses an “innovative midsole in the Jackal II that combines Infinitoo™ Polyurethane inserts with compressed EVA to create a soft yet responsive ride.” The laces are fairly standard, but include two upper holes for locking in your heels. I started by using the outmost hole and leaving the 2nd to the last hole empty. My heels felt a little sloppy on the first run so I ran the laces back through that empty slot and my heels were set (I’ll touch on that again).
See our review of the La Sportiva Jackal here!
Other initial thoughts are the sole and the tread pattern, which are definitely beefy. The outsole is FriXion® XT 2.0 with La Sportiva’s Impact Brake System™ with 3.5mm lugs. Overall there is a 5mm drop (30mm forefoot/35mm heel). The lugs look impressive and according to La Sportiva, this shoe is designed for mountain runners who want a shoe for more technical terrain. As for me, I’m super curious about this Impact Braking System.
Finally, addressing the toe box and first fit, the Jackal II did not seem like it would be wide enough for me, and I was a bit concerned. But upon slipping them on I noticed two distinct things. First, they fit like a glove and are nicely snug around the mid-foot. Second, my toes had good wiggle room and did not feel crammed forward. All good news, but now we get them dirty.
As an ultra runner, I like to think that my shoes are something I can forget about. So long as they’re doing their job, I figure I can focus on things like beautiful scenery, birds chirping, saying hi to other trail runners, and doing my best not to land on my chin. The trouble with testing shoes is I have to concentrate on their performance, which tends to run contrary to my ideal. However, occasionally I test a pair of shoes that meet the ideal.
Enter the Jackal II. On my first run I focused on some lightly muddy trails, mixed with a few roots, lots of rocks, and more leaves than should be allowed. As I focused on the shoes, I noticed that the heel was really sloppy and my foot was not secure. As mentioned above, I stopped a few miles in and ran the laces through the empty second upper loop and the sloppiness was gone. 12.1 miles and a little more than 1K of vert later, I felt the shoes had done admirably, at least after the adjustment.
The second run came a few days later, to the tune of 17 miles with more than 1,800 feet of climbing. After lots more leaves, tons of mud, and a fast finish that felt more like a water ride at a theme park, I found I was focusing less on the shoes and more on the run. The Jackal II’s were holding up well, and they felt fast.
The next run was a chance to test the granny gear, specifically on a shorter run with more vert per mile. At just over 8 miles, but with nearly 1,800 feet of gain, the Jackals were not only gripping really well, but on rocks and roots they feel more like monster truck tires. Good grip, low vibration, no stress, just eating the uphills.
My first 3 runs were 100% dirt, with the intent of testing the Jackal II as a trail running shoe. But some of us live in town and sometimes we run from home to get to the trail. It seemed fair to throw down a few road miles in the process. The 4th run was just under 22 miles and over 3,500 feet of gain. Less than 5 miles was on pavement, but the Jackal II did just fine as a hybrid, handling the asphalt and concrete like a pro. The other plus was not feeling any foam fatigue as the mileage climbed, which happens with some shoes. Instead, the ride was comfortable throughout.
At nearly 60 miles so far, the shoes don’t seem to have many weak spots. They are a little stiff out of the box, but this isn’t uncommon, just part of the break-in period. I would say they really loosened up during that second run, probably around 20 miles in. The initial heel slippage can be written off to my foot versus others, but it is worth noting that the heel cup in this shoe is not as snug as the rest of the shoe. Fortunately, the fix was simple.
The shoes breathe well, regardless of sock choice. I tend to wear a merino wool blend sock, but I also like thinner poly blend socks and tried both with the Jackal II with equal success. The tongue has a nice pad to it, with side flaps that tuck down the sides of your mid foot to help with moisture control. The price is in line with most trail shoes of similar caliber. The only thing to update will be longevity. But only time will tell.
All in all I would say that La Sportiva has built a real winner with the Jackal II. I look forward to pushing this pair to their mileage limit.
La Sportiva Jackal II $165
- Infinitoo™ polyurethane inserts in the heel and forefoot increase the responsiveness of the midsole and help to give the shoe more stability in uneven terrain.
- Eco-friendly upper with a thin and highly breathable recycled fabric is paired with a dynamic lacing system to allow the shoe to accommodate a wide variety of foot shapes.
- Frixion AT 2.0 rubber compound with impact brake system offers excellent traction in a wide variety of terrain, from muddy singletrack to rocky alpine terrain.
- A redesigned heel allows for a more comfortable and secure fit.
- The men’s Jackal II weighs just 9.7 ounces, and the women’s version comes in at a mere 8.6 ounces.
Thank you to La Sportiva for providing us with test shoes. Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.