More Trail Running Shoe Options
La Sportiva Lycan GTX Review
The 2019 winter and spring will go down as one of the snowiest in recent memory here in Colorado where I live and many parts of western North America. Even Colorado’s lower-altitude Front Range has had significant snowfall several times in May. The rain won’t stop falling in places around the Northern Hemisphere, either. All this goes to say that it’s never too late in the season to test out and absolutely love the burly La Sportiva Lycan GTX ($140) trail running shoes.
The ‘GTX’ in the name means that this is a shoe with a Gore-Tex membrane. To be completely transparent, I’ve been slow to the party in embracing Gore-Tex shoes. Earlier-model Gore-Tex membranes lacked breathability and stretch, and the membrane went all the way around the foot, rendering them hot, stiff, and generally uncomfortable in all but a narrow range of conditions. One of the biggest problems of earlier Gore-Tex membranes was that water spilling in over the top of the shoe through the ankle opening tended to stay inside, bathtub-style. The Gore-Tex Extended Comfort lining, which is in the Lycan GTX, solves a lot of this conundrum by allowing the shoe to retain fairly impressive breathability while not sacrificing comfort or the waterproof benefits.
Interestingly, the Lycan GTX is similar to its namesake, the Lycan, perhaps only in the Tempo Last, the 6mm drop (18mm at the heel/12mm at the toe), and the wide, roomy fit as compared to other La Sportiva models. Other than that, there’s very little else that makes you think of the Lycan when you lace it on and power up the trail in adverse conditions. The Lycan GTX shoes are two to three ounces heavier per La Sportiva’s website at 10.5 ounces (297 grams) for women and 12.5 ounces (355 grams) for men. Instead of the relatively smooth outsole of the Lycan, the GTX version has a very burly, lugged outsole which is brilliant for winter conditions in my region. This shoe also has a stiffer ride than the original Lycan which decreases foot and ankle fatigue on steep, variable climbs especially in softer snow and exposed tundra. I still love the ride and appreciate the protection and traction the Lycan GTX provides, but to me, they’re very different shoes than the original and shine in completely different aspects.
La Sportiva Lycan GTX Upper
The upper of the La Sportiva Lycan GTX is a breathable mesh with variable-size pores and microfiber reinforcements wrapping about two-thirds of the shoe. The reinforcements wrap the midfoot, with the exception of some mesh vents medially and laterally, as well as the sturdy heel counter and integrate with the stiff, protective TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) toe cap. The heel counter and toe cap on the Lycan GTX provide really stable attachment points for microspikes or running snowshoes with no deformation of the toebox or pinching noted at either point of contact.
What really sets the Lycan GTX apart in performance, however, is La Sportiva’s use of the three-layer Gore-Tex Extended Comfort system within its upper. The membrane clearly offers a second line of defense for keeping dirt and sand out, as well as water. At the same time, the breathability of this whole system is excellent. When paired with appropriate gaiters, my feet have remained completely dry for up to four hours of postholing in snow, running through slush and powder of every texture, and running down a super-muddy logging road. My feet were literally dry at the end of that adventure which I’d not thought possible. Truly, as long as the water doesn’t get in over the top, the breathability allows body-generated moisture to escape without a trace while running in up to 60-degrees-Fahrenheit (16 Celsius) ambient temperatures.
The gusseted tongue feels a bit more padded and has mesh in the distal half with the microfiber overlay on the proximal half nearest the ankle. This provides significant protection from the laces and any gaiter hooks you might attach to the laces. Some have noted the laces are challenging to keep snug in cold weather, but I didn’t have issues with this in our relatively mild winter temperatures.
Lastly, the ankle collar is well-padded and unobtrusive to my medial and lateral ankle bones as well as my Achilles. The webbing hook attached to the back is handy when putting the shoes on in the cold or over slightly thicker winter socks. I also found it handy for clipping to the outside of gear bags with a solid carabiner.
The upper does have a more substantial feel than a non-GTX upper, but it snugs up comfortably to the foot without any strange folds or ‘bend’ points that are common to other waterproof shoes. The wider fit allows for ‘winter socks’ to be used alternately with more typical thicknesses of trail socks, yet never feels sloppy or loose on my foot regardless of the terrain. Overall, La Sportiva really has nailed the comfort of the upper on these Gore-Tex shoes.
La Sportiva Lycan GTX Midsole
The midsole of the Lycan GTX is an injection-molded EVA with a very similar external structure, look, and feel to the original Lycan’s midsole. The cushioning is fantastic without being boggy and is very protective over rocks and roots. The midsole is something I really enjoyed in the original Lycan, and I was glad to feel similarly about this version. Over 200 miles in, the midsole shows no cracks or compression lines medially or laterally. The accompanying 4mm Ortholite Mountain footbed is removable, but I found it to be adequately supportive of my arch and metatarsal heads over the miles.
La Sportiva Lycan GTX Outsole
The outsole is perfectly suited to adverse trail conditions whether it be snow, ice, mud, or even rubbly rock. The Rock Ground outsole has pronounced, multidirectional, geometric lugs several millimeters deep and is formed with the FriXion AT 2.0 compound. True to the compound’s reputation, this outsole has demonstrated exceptional durability while feeling grippy and comfortable over any terrain I’ve run or powerhiked. The lugs are all perfectly intact even with a few hundred miles on the shoes. The Impact Brake System mitigates the pounding of downhills somewhat while maintaining excellent responsiveness in both flat and uphill terrain. I really love the beefy nature of this type of outsole on the Lycan GTX. It’s the perfect complement to the exceptional upper and the tried-and-true midsole.
La Sportiva Lycan GTX Overall Impressions
La Sportiva’s Lycan GTX is an expertly designed mix of comfort and protection, waterproofness and breathability, and stiffness and responsiveness. It genuinely provides a secure ride in all types of burly trail conditions and adverse weather. I haven’t noticed the increased weight simply because it’s negligible given the conditions in which I’ve typically worn them. Though the original Lycan shoes are great on smooth, buffed trails and can hold their own on a door-to-trail outing with some pavement, the only road I’d really choose to wear the Lycan GTX on is a rugged jeep road with mud and snow. They’re burly trail shoes, and terrific ones at that. Overall, I can honestly say I’m now a fan of a Gore-Tex shoe. I love lacing these up as I head out on yet another mixed-conditions run.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Are you wearing La Sportiva’s Lycan GTX on your bad-weather runs? How do you find the Gore-Tex membrane performs and how the does upper feel overall to you?
- Do run in both the Lycan and Lycan GTX? How would you compare the two models?
- What do you think of the Lycan GTX’s outsole? What types of conditions does it perform well in for you?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]