La Sportiva Jackal Trail Runner Review

La Sportiva Jackal Trail Runner Review

The La Sportiva Jackal is a trail runner that wears more like a hiking shoe than a shoe designed for mountain running. While it has many of the properties of a trail runner, including well-draining mesh uppers, a wide toebox, and a sticky rubber sole, the Jackal offers a level of foot protection and durability that is rarely found on most trail runners. In addition to a burly front toe-kick, the Jackal has a shoe-length rock plate and extra cushioning so you can hike or backpack all day in rocky or mountainous terrain. The Jackal’s sizing runs small, however, so size up a half to a full size.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Men’s (women’s also available) – a GTX version is also available
  • Drop: 7mm
  • Stack heel: 29mm
  • Stack front: 22mm
  • Lug depth: 3 mm
  • Cushion: medium+
  • Closure: lace-up
  • Upper: mesh
  • Rock guard: yes
  • Weight: 21 oz/pair

Sizing

La Sportiva Jackal
La Sportiva Jackal

The La Sportiva Jackal runs wide even in a regular-sized shoe. In the past, La Sportiva trail runners tended to run narrow, but these are just the opposite. They do run small, however. I normally wear an EU 44.5 and take an EU 45.5 in the Jackals.

La Sportiva sizes their shoes using European sizes, which are finer grained than US sizes, so you can dial in a more precise fit. With the Jackals, I’d order a bunch of different adjacent sizes and pick the one that fits you best.

The Jackal comes with a cheapo foam insole, which has very little arch support. I replace them with third-party insoles that have a higher arch and there’s plenty of room inside the shoe to accommodate them.

The Toe box is very wide with plenty of room for your toes to splay out
The Toe box is very wide with plenty of room for your toes to splay out

Wide Toe Box

The Jackal toe box is really wide and on par with Altra Lone Peaks but also has more vertical toe space. When I wear them, my pinky toe does not touch the outside of the shoe, so my toes can fully splay inside. I’m working through a mild case of Morton’s Neuroma (nerve pain), which is caused by tight-fitting shoes, so finding a shoe with a wide toe box has been priority for me.

Mesh Uppers

The Jackal is not a waterproof trail runner, although a GTX version is available. Its mesh uppers are made using the new fine-grained mesh that La Sportiva has started using in other shoes, including the Ultra Raptor II, which we also reviewed recently.

This mesh drains well and has much smaller holes than earlier versions that La Sportiva has used. This is important for stream crossings if you like to march through them without taking your trail runners off. The smaller holes don’t let sand and grit from the stream bottom get into your shoes, which makes your socks last much longer. It really sucks when you blow through all of your socks on a multi-week backpacking trip with little chance of replacing them.

Toe Protection

The toebox is very well protected with thick bumpers
The toe box is very well protected with thick bumpers

The Jackal is very well-protected with a beefy toe kick and thick bumpers along the sides of the toe box. I’ve found that La Sportiva makes trail runners with much more protection than other brands, which is the reason I decided to try another one of their trail runners. I’ve tried other shoes from Topo and Altra this summer and haven’t been disappointed by the amount of toe protection they provide.

Full-Length Protection

The Jackals also have a rock plate that extends the full length of the shoe, not just under the ball of the foot. There’s extra cushioning throughout the sole, which provides further protection, but does reduce trail feel somewhat compared to a trail runner with less cushioning. I got used to it pretty quickly, but it’s a very different trail feel than a much thinner sole. That’s why I say the Jackal feels more like a hiking shoe and less than a minimalist trail runner.

Durability

I’ve been using trail runners for hiking for over 10 years and durability has never been their strong suit. Maybe it’s just the climate or terrain that I hike and backpack in, but I usually go through three or four pairs a year. In particular, the mesh uppers along the sides of the toe box develop holes from abrasion. It’s happened to me many times with shoes from multiple manufacturers.

The sides of the toe box are covered with TPU for added durability, but have mesh holes for drainage.
The sides of the toe box are covered with TPU for added durability, but have mesh holes for drainage.

The Jackals have a fix for this toe box abrasion. The sides of the toe box are covered with TPU with drain holes to let water out. This helps prevent the mesh from getting ripped up by abrasion and forming holes. So far, the Jackals are holding up well and I’m encouraged that La Sportiva decided to address the issue in this lightweight way.

Drop

With a drop of 7mm, the Jackal is not a zero drop shoe and they’re decidedly not fashionable in that respect. On the flip side, it means that these trail runners are very easy to transition to if you’ve been wearing hiking boots or mids and want to try a trail runner to see what it’s like. You can literally put them on and start hiking without having to learn or train your feet and calves in the biomechanics of hiking in zero-drop shoes. It also makes switching back to boots much easier when winter rolls around and you need to wear insulated footwear. Personally, I care a lot less about drop height and a lot more about toe box width.

The soles are soft and sticky, but the lugs are on the small side.
The soles are soft and sticky, but the lugs are on the small side.

Soles

The Jackal sole is made with the same soft and sticky rubber La Sportiva uses on their other trail runners and the grip is just fabulous, even on wet rock. The lugs however are on the small side and are only 3mm in length. This will retard their traction in mud, which is something to keep in mind. The sole is not entirely flat, but curved from the back of the toe box forward, reducing the amount of effort required for a brisk walk.

You need to add your own velcro for gaiters.
You need to add your own velcro for gaiters.

Heels

The Jackal’s heels are quite firm with lots of added protection along the side and pack. I’ve seen comments complaining that they cause blisters, but I haven’t had that experience at all. I do like the little indentation in the heel that locks my foot in place and prevents heel lift.

The Jackals do not have a rear gaiter trap, so you’ll have to add some velcro if you want to use strapless Dirty Girl Gaiters (since the soles are flat). There’s also no gaiter ring up front or even a lace pocket. They’re pretty vanilla that way.

Recommendation

La Sportiva’s Jackal Trail Runners are great hiking shoes if you want a trail runner with a wide toe box that has much more protection and cushioning than a more minimalist shoe. While they have all of the must-have properties of a trail running shoe they feel a lot more substantial with a full-length rock plate and more cushioning than other trail runners. I think they make an interesting alternative if you’ve been looking to switch to trail runner or you want a pair that has a sturdier feel.

Disclosure: The author owns this product.

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Last updated: 2022-08-09 22:51:19

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