La Sportiva Jackal Review

What do you get when you cross the long ultramarathon-focused La Sportiva Akasha with the speedier La Sportiva Kaptiva? The La Sportiva Jackal ($140)—a 7-millimeter drop, relatively lightweight all-mountain shoe designed to get you speedily and well-protected around your trail adventures even if you venture into the 50-to-100-mile realm and beyond. The shoe is built on the women’s and men’s-specific Tempo Ultra last and weighs in at only 8.8 ounces/250 grams for women’s and 10.5 ounces/300 grams for men’s shoes. The 25mm heel/19mm forefoot gives the shoe a moderate stack height which allows the well-cushioned ride to still retain some sensitivity to the trail beneath. For me, 7mm is an interesting drop because of my body’s sensitivity and dislike for a drop of less than 6mm. I’ve found these shoes to be on the lowest end of just right for my body. The benefit of feeling more stable on descents compared to 10mm-drop shoes is really cool as well. Perhaps if I knew I had several 3,000-foot climbs in a race, I might opt for a heel lift in the second half to ward off any posterior-kinetic-chain structure unhappiness, but for 50 kilometers and less, this 7mm drop is uniquely effective for me.

The price point is pretty comparable to similar offerings, and at least with my experience thus far, the durability and lifespan of these shoes is on the more impressive end compared to other similar styles from various brands, so I feel like I can get my money’s worth. I’ve been feeling lucky with the recent entries for “if I only take one shoe with me on this trip” the running industry has been offering up, and the La Sportiva Jackal is certainly right up there in my top choices. It can handle all types of terrain from rolling jeep roads and smoother singletrack to rubbly rock and root-strewn trails. Bouldery scrambles are well within the Jackal’s realm as well, so you can really get after it. The Jackal dries quickly and stays light on the feet, so whether some snow or water crossings are in your future, or if you’re running with dust and boulders, you’ll be able to forget about the shoes and focus on the beauty of your route.

The La Sportiva Jackal. All photos: iRunFar

La Sportiva Jackal Upper

The Jackal’s upper is constructed with a smooth mono-burr nylon with ripstop mesh inserts reinforced by thermo-adhesive material along the transition to the toe cap and through the sides leading to the attached lace loops. The upper has enough structure to feel supportive but retains a supple and almost seamless feeling for the foot as the interior is enhanced by the abrasion-resistant microfiber lining. I find this mesh to be slightly more resistant to fine dirt entering the shoe than the Kaptiva and fairly similar to what gets through the Akasha in the forefoot. I would definitely prefer a breathable gaiter with these in an ultra race or long-distance training run, but I wouldn’t stress out if I forgot them. The breathability is quite good given the protection, and the Jackal seems to dry out a bit faster than the Akasha perhaps due to the relatively thinner feel of the material throughout. All in all, there’s room for a bit of the foot swelling you might encounter in the later stages of a hot ultra.

The shape of the padded tongue is a definite improvement over the Kaptiva because they put a well-placed V-notch in the top of the Jackal’s tongue such that it no longer creates pressure on the anterior tibialis tendon (front of the ankle) every time you push off. The padding itself is consistent with the newer style of the Kaptiva which reduces the overall bulk of the tongue yet provides ample protection for the laces. I’m generally not sold on major changes to the standard tongue like exists on the Akasha, but the Jackal’s tongue seems to work well and hasn’t created any undo pressure through the top of my foot which I’ve occasionally felt with the Akasha after prolonged mountain descents. The tongue itself is gusseted with the same type of mono-burr nylon with ripstop mesh as the upper which keeps the tongue in place once you pull it into alignment beneath the laces.

The heel cup is firmly structured and is more thinly padded than many trail shoes, yet with the ample cutouts for the ankle bones, it makes the shoe feel lighter on the feet without sacrificing support and protection. The narrowness of the heel provides security on rocks and technical trail while staying in place for more repetitive strides along rolling dirt roads. La Sportiva made an unfortunate change to the Achilles area of the Jackal. Instead of the traditional Achilles notch which is typically well-padded and accommodating, there exists an Achilles “mound” which is quite dense, pokey, and abrasive for the first 100 miles. This resulted in cranky Achilles tendons and worn skin patches for me if I wore them more than a few days in a row as I “broke in” in the shoes. By broke in I mean that I would futz with the pointy Achilles area on the shoe and bend it back and forth repetitively before I’d run to lessen the impact on my tendons. Over time, this helped it be more comfortable and now I can wear them as much as I wish without issues. For the record, I rarely suffer for footwear, but I really enjoyed so many other aspects of the shoe that I felt it was worth it.

The lightweight, thermo-molded thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) toe cap is something I think La Sportiva continues to do really well. It’s very firm and protective without being clumsy and is reinforced by a strip of outsole that comes up the front which makes them particularly well suited to a quick (or not so quick) scramble up rocks and boulders to get a particularly glorious view. As I state in almost every one of my shoe reviews, this toe cap has saved my toes multiple times and is a key component of great trail shoes for me.

The La Sportiva Jackal lateral view.

La Sportiva Jackal Midsole

The midsole of the Jackal is La Sportiva’s 32A molded ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) with its 30A Infinitoo polyurethane (PU) inserts and a 1.5mm dual-density compressed EVA rock guard. This makes for a really responsive, protected, stable ride where pointy rocks and roots relatively disappear and yet the shoe contours well over trail debris. I’ve yet to feel anything protrude through these well-cushioned midsoles and yet I feel like I have good ground feel and more agility over changing terrain than I often have. These lightweight shoes make smooth singletrack or jeep roads a pleasure to run which is a nice surprise given the obvious mountain-ultra performance focus on the Jackal’s design. This makes them a great all-around trail shoe at least for me.

One thing I’m beginning to notice is a subtle loss of the energy return or snappiness of the midsole around 225 to 250 miles. It’s been most noticeable on the rubbly, softball-sized rock-strewn trails that are so common to Colorado’s Front Range where I live. A handful of other runners I’ve spoken with agree with my observations. However, we all still feel the Jackal is very protective and comfortable to wear. If it ages like the Akashas, I’ll still get upward of 400 to 500 miles out of the shoe which is at the top of the range of any of my trail shoes.

As is consistent with other La Sportiva shoes, a 4mm Ortholite insole comes standard which works very well for my high-arched feet. I always feel ample support through my midfoot and the insole stays firmly in place while running. When it comes time to dry out the shoes, the insole is simple to remove, retains its shape, and is easy to replace inside the shoe when it’s time to run again.

The La Sportiva Jackal medial view.

La Sportiva Jackal Outsole

La Sportiva chose the FriXion XT 2.0 compound and 3mm multidirectional geometric lugs for the outsole of the Jackal and included the familiar and effective Impact Brake System. It’s the same compound and brake system as used on the Akasha but with more aggressive lug angles. I feel like the traction of the Jackal is a notch better particularly on rubbly ascents and descents. The lugs aren’t particularly obtrusive on rolling and smoother terrain and don’t tend to accumulate significant mud. Because of the relatively low-profile lugs, the Jackals aren’t my first choice on consistently snowy terrain, but if it’s just a few snow crossings with a lot of miles of dirt, they’ll do just fine.

The outsole is lightened up a bit with some exposed midsole centrally in and just behind the midfoot as well as with the 4 flex grooves in the forefoot to facilitate push-off flexibility. There’s no loss of traction or protection with these spaces and again, I think it assists in the overall ease of running in the Jackal. The lugs (and outsole in general) are holding up well at 225-plus miles with minimal wear and tear visible. Due to lack of ability to travel this spring, I’ve only been able to test the Jackal here in Colorado on our foothills trails and rolling-plains singletrack. Once the high country opens up, I’ll certainly enjoy them along the Continental Divide and some of my other favorite mountain adventure grounds.

The La Sportiva Jackal outsole.

La Sportiva Jackal Overall Impressions

All in all, the La Sportiva Jackal, once broken in, is one of my favorite shoes from La Sportiva, and I like several of their offerings. I’ve been a long-time Akasha fan and often choose them for my longer ultras, where sturdiness and cushioning are the most important factors. But now with the Jackal, I have another stellar option for when I want to feel a little faster and lighter on my feet without sacrificing stability and protection. The cushioning is perfect for rocky terrain and about anything my races and training usually throw at me, and the 7mm drop gives me a bit more confidence and agility on downhills without adding too much strain to the climbs and flats. Overall, the durability and quality of La Sportiva’s design and construction shine through again. The only thing I would implore La Sportiva to change with the Jackal is the Achilles mound–please go back and make that a notch.

Call for Comments

  • Have you run in the La Sportiva Jackal? What do you think of the shoe overall?
  • If you are a La Sportiva fan, do you think the Jackal positions itself well between the Akasha and Kaptiva?
  • What features of the Jackal do you like? And what features do you think could use a little work?
  • What do you think of the Achilles area of the shoe, which the reviewer found irritating for an extended break-in period?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

The La Sportiva Jackal top view.

Kristin Zosel

is a mom, wife, ultrarunner, physical therapist (on sabbatical), and transcriptionist for iRunFar.com. Her love of steep uphills, high mountain environments, and Swiss “lovely cows” keep alpine visions dancing in her head and strong cappuccinos in her mug.

There are 22 comments

  1. KO

    I, too, am a former Akasha fan who tried the Jackal. As you mention, I love everything about this show EXCEPT the higher heel. Runs of more than a 7-8 miles leave me with scabs on my heels! I really, really, really wanted the Jackal to work, but the pain and recovery time for my feet—specifically the heel/Achilles area—make them unusable. I’m now looking for an alternative shoe.

    I’d love to know more about how you broke yours in. I have about 50-60 miles in mine, yet the problem persists. I fear it is a design issue. The heel cup is much taller than in the Akasha.

  2. KristinZ

    I literally spent time bending the poker back and forth pre and post run. It took 100 mi worth of use—Such a great shoe but I hope La Soortiva is listening because I don’t want to do that again. Achilles are too important.

  3. Pete

    Thanks for the honest review. I was really hoping to give this shoe a try but after reading about the heel issue, I’m going to wait until v2.0. I think a 100 mile break-in period is too long, especially for those of us with past Achilles problems. I am wondering though how this got past the beta-testers.

  4. Nick

    Like everyone else commenting so far, I like the ride and fit but the Achilles situation is atrocious. Doubly so because I’ve dabbled with Achilles tendinosis so I’m averse to any pressure in that area.

    I find the Mutant to be a way better shoe. Beefier lugs, 10mm heel drop, good rocker for long distances, and a nice and high heel collar to keep debris out that is relatively soft, padded, and unintrusive. The ride isn’t as fluffy and the lugs take some getting used to on smooth terrain, but for ultra-long distances I find them really comfortable, durable, and stable. Super protective, too, which is good when you start to lose fine motor control late in a race. The lacing system locks your feet down quite well and the hidden tuck for the laces is a cool feature I’ve never seen before.

    I’ve often worn wide shoes to deal with the fact that my feet tend to be tall (not a high arch, but a thick and muscular midfoot), but the Mutants seem to offer a bit more vertical room than other shoes.

  5. Andy M

    Nice review — I’ve been considering ordering a pair for a while now but haven’t pulled the trigger yet.

    LS website says the shoe is for “long-distance trail runners looking for exceptional cushioning and a wider fit.” How roomy is the forefoot and toebox? Can you compare it to, say, the Lycan, which was also marketed as roomier than traditional LS shoes (and fits me well)? Per LS, the Lycan is built on the “tempo” last while the Jackal is on the “ultra tempo” last. That sounds like it would be even wider but hard to tell from reviews, pics, etc. Thanks!

  6. Pedro

    I am another long term Akasha fan that felt in love with this shoe. They are way easier to run or even hike on steep hills where you have to be more on your toes. At the same time they keep feeling snug and stable like a La Sportiva shoe.

  7. Nick

    Can you compare to the Scarpa Spin Ultra in terms of fit/comfort over longer distances as well as trail responsiveness? It sounds like this might fit a bit wider throughout?

  8. KristinZ

    KO, apologies for misspelling La Sportiva in my reply–and also, I have been known to do a bit of surgery to shoes to improve fit if it’s a minor aspect such as places that impact my ankle bones/achilles… :) I didn’t need to in the Jackal’s case because I was able to resolve the issue with my “mobilization” work.

    Andy, I think the Lycan and the Jackal fit fairly similarly–perhaps the Jackal has a tad bit more room in the forefoot but it’s not significant–they’re both really comfortable for my foot in that sense. They’re totally different shoes otherwise from an outsole/traction and midsole durability perspective at least for me (and 1 mm diff drop), but they’re both great offerings from La Sportiva.

    Pedro, they do just propel you, don’t they–and yes, I appreciate that snug/stable feel.

    Nick, I do love the Scarpa Spin Ultra as well–I think that shoe (scarpa) feels roomier throughout the entire shoe–I can still snug it down enough, but it’s not quite as locked in of fit as the Jackal through the midfoot. I think the Scarpa feels more cushy overall and would be a great second half long ultra shoe if you’re basing your decision on cush alone–with the 6 mm of Scarpa, I can put a heel lift in there and still not feel like I’m too high. The Jackal is perhaps a bit more “firm” of a ride between the two but still not “firm” in a bad way–perhaps firm in a way that makes you feel faster–maybe the energy return is a bit better w the Jackal because you don’t lose much in the cush? The achilles area in the Scarpa is perfect.

  9. Tomas Honegr

    Akasha was good shoe for me and both pairs I had served well over 1000km – much more than other shoes I use. Only one problem with fresh pair was with heel area. I am little bit scrared about my heel to buy these new La Sportiva Jackal

  10. David Turner

    I too am a long time Akasha user. I’ve had probably 15 pairs over the years. Training, ultras and fall Sierra backpacking footwear excellent footwear for my needs.I tried the Jackal but was disappointed and sent them back. La Sportiva still sells the Akasha overseas . Perhaps if enough people chime in they will make them available through US retailers. Wore the Ultraraptors before the Akasha. Many pairs .Akasha far superior mountain trail running shoes.

  11. Tomas

    nice review. Can you compare it to Bushido II? In terms of the fit/comfort and the traction when up/downhill, especially in mud/gravel terrain?

  12. KristinZ

    Tomas, thank you. I actually have a Bushido II review here on iRunFar earlier this year. That would be the most thorough. I loved the cushioning upgrade in the Bushido but it’s definitely more for narrow feet whereas my feet are happier fit-wise inside the Tempo/Rempo Ultra shape of Jackal or Akasha.

  13. Tomas

    Thanks for fast reply, Kristin. So the Jackal performs on mud/ gravel at the same level with Bushido II? Most of the trail here are wet muddy soils and/or gravel road, especially downhill.
    I have Bushido II as well, it performed very well, keeping me from falling when downhill. But the fit is tight and gave me black toe’s nails. So going up in size is an option, but do you think switching to Jackal can be another option?

    1. KristinZ

      I sure welcome others’ opinions on this–I think the Jackal would work well–the Mutant may also work well. There may be another brand with a more aggressive lug pattern you’d like as well.

  14. Ingo

    Is the ride and cudhion comparable to Scarpa Spin Ultra ? Shoes sound quite similar and I see the Spin Ultra as the Akashas little sister…

  15. DC

    Chiming in as well in hopes that La Sportiva fixes the heel issue. After one 6 mile run my achilles was blistered and bleeding. I have heard of four other runners with the same issue. I gave the jackal three additional runs with leukotape and while the issue got better I am not willing to risk it on a long run. The real shame is I have had 10+ pairs of Akasha’s and never had an issue. I need a go-to shoe for any distance, this is not that shoe. I emailed La Sportiva with the feedback, and they basically said too bad, and not all shoes fit all feet. This seems to be a common enough complaint that it isn’t just my feet.

  16. Pedro

    For mud you can’t get better than the Mutan, but they are not so good with rocky terrain due to the long lugs. I never tried the Kaptiva but I heard they have a better compromise between mud and dry trails. I always run with the akasha so I learned to adapt my technique to control the lack of grip. I found the Jackals to be a bit better on mud, but curiously worst on snow. I used them last week on some >2500m parts here in the alps and struggle a bit with them. Usually if I know I will get too much mud or snow I just use the good old Tempesta and I know I will be good and safe :).

  17. Jason

    I also had the Achilles issues with these and it was right about a 100 mile break in period then that discomfort subsided. I still occasionally get some pressure on the top of my right foot. Grip is great, wet rock, scrambling, etc I am very happy. Only other issues I have had is some delaminating of the outsole which is an issue I seem to have on nearly every shoe. I do like them now as a mountain shoe but am hesitant to say I would buy a second pair due to so long of a break in period.

  18. Jon Byers

    I’ve worn through 20+ pairs of Sportiva running shoes over the last 15 years and I’ve never had an issue with blisters until these. Not only do they fit small for LS, but I’ve never encountered a pair of shoes that gives me such bad blisters so quickly. Under 6 mi, no problem, but I’ve given them 3 chances on 12-20 mile runs and had to cut two of them short because of heel blisters that couldn’t be solved by molskin or duct tape.

  19. Tmo

    So weird, straight out of the box I’ve had zero issues. No break in time, just plush running. My fav distance shoe and I too have run in them all over the front range- heil, hall, green, Bear….no issues. Sorry to all that have had to break them in. Akasha’s I’m bummed they are now discontinued, but they did flare up my plantar fasciitis on my left foot. These haven’t caused any issues thus far.

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