Our Favorite Trail Running Shoes
Check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article to learn about our current favorite trail running shoes!
La Sportiva Lycan Review
La Sportiva has introduced a very interesting new shoe into the ‘door-to-trail’ line-up, and unless you only run super burly, rubbly, and muddy trails, this is one shoe that likely has a place in your gear closet. The La Sportiva Lycan ($115) breezes in at a very light 7.9 ounces/225 grams (women’s size 7) and 9.5 ounces/268 grams (men’s 9) and keeps the foot closer to the ground than many trail shoes at 18mm of stack in the heel/12 mm at the toe, per La Sportiva’s website. The 6mm drop experience with the Lycan has been unusually pleasant for me in that my body is convinced it is an 8mm drop. Not once has my posterior chain (hamstrings, calves, Achilles) complained, which is unlike almost every other time I’ve had with shoes of similar drop. I’m not sure if it’s the smooth heel-toe transition or the well-placed flex point across the forefoot, but if you’ve wanted to try out a ‘lower-drop’ trail shoe but haven’t been able to tolerate it, this may be your opportunity.
Consider the Lycan a gateway shoe for those who would like to dip their toes into the La Sportiva mountain and trail running footwear line. Its accommodating fit and lightweight-but-stable ride make it fun to wear on smooth singletrack, stickier rock, and dirt roads alike on any mid-range distance—perhaps up to 50k. The shoe is also perfectly comfortable to wear for a mile or two of pavement to get from your door to the trail or in a shorter trail race that may have mixed, less-technical surfaces. Size-wise, it fits like my other La Sportiva shoes (9.5 women’s), which is a full size larger than what I wear in Solomon, and a half size up from my Montrails and New Balances. The toebox is roomy and accommodating, perhaps similar to the La Sportiva Akasha or even a bit more. If La Sportiva’s haven’t fit you well in the past due to a wider or higher-volume foot, these are worth trying on. At the relatively low price point for today’s trail shoes, the Lycan is a great-value shoe that I’ll be buying again.
La Sportiva Lycan Upper
The roomy upper of the Lycan is constructed with breathable mesh reinforced at the distal eyelets and aspects of the tongue with a layer of microfiber. The mesh is really only exposed across the top of the forefoot and part of the tongue, which cuts down on dust and sand inside the shoe in the drought conditions we are experiencing. The entire midfoot has a pliable exoskeleton-style overlay that provides structure and support to the medial and lateral sides of the foot and connects to the eyelets through which the laces run. This provides a very effective way to cinch the shoe snugly to the foot for a really great fit regardless of the terrain you’re running on. This overlay extends around the shoe and integrates with the substantial toe rand (love this feature—definitely passes my tests) that provides excellent protection on the front. The overlay also reinforces the secure and stable heel cup in the rear of the shoe, which holds my somewhat narrow heel perfectly inside even on steep off-trail climbs up grassy hillsides.
Interestingly, the tongue is not gusseted at all, but never once did I have to adjust it after I had the shoes on and laced. The padding of the tongue is perfect, providing protection from the laces (and cheat grass), yet not being hot or getting boggy when wet. The heel collar also has just enough padding to make for very comfortable climbing and descending and isn’t so high that it ever impacts my low-riding medial and lateral ankle bones. The interior aspect of the shoe isn’t seamless, but the air mesh is exceptionally smooth and provides a very comfortable interior without any pressure points or rough areas.
A few other reviewers have mentioned this shoe to be somewhat hot because of the overall surface area of the overlays, but I haven’t found it to be a problem in temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It does drain a bit slowly immediately after being soaked in a creek, but the mesh dries fairly quickly. I never had any issues with blisters or hot spots in these cases, so it’s not something I’ve found to be a limiting factor.
La Sportiva Lycan Midsole
The midsole is an injection-molded EVA paired with a 4mm Ortholite Mountain footbed. The EVA is compressed into an interlocking diamond pattern visible on the exterior aspect of the midsole medially and laterally to enhance shock absorption. I am a big fan of this combination as it results in a relatively firm but responsive ride with adequate cushioning for easy and speedy runs up to about 50k in the first 150 miles of the shoe. As my miles in these shoes have risen well over 200 in total, I find that perhaps the cushioning is dulling somewhat to the point where now I might limit the shoes to 20 miles or so on our hard-packed trails. This being said, I’m very impressed with the durability of the midsole with relation to maintaining a neutral ride despite my higher-arched, mildly supinated feet. The midsole shows no signs at all of compressing more laterally than medially at this point, which is impressive.
La Sportiva Lycan Outsole
The outsole of the La Sportiva Lycan is constructed with the Rock Ground/FriXion AT 2.0 with the Impact Braking System common to their mountain and trail shoes. The Lycan has the FriXion Blue compound for the outsole, which gives it the highest rating for ‘hard-wearing’ (durable) of their line but the lowest of the grip ratings compared to the other compounds La Sportiva uses. This makes it slightly more long-wearing than the FriXion Red compound utilized on the sole on the La Sportiva Akasha but a bit less grippy. Durability-wise, I’m very impressed. The 200-plus miles I’ve run in the Lycans have resulted in almost no wear patterns except right at the center of the forefoot, but even that is minimal. Frankly, you really never have to worry about the grip in any La Sportiva shoe—their compounds are some of the industry’s best—but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the outsole did for being so low-profile in the surface texture. (I say ‘texture’ because I can’t really call them lugs. Read on.)
The Lycan possesses the lowest-profile lugs I’ve ever seen on a pair of trail shoes—1-2mm arranged in partial trapezoidal shapes around the sole. These truly are designed for hard dirt or rocky ground. In real life, this outsole sticks perfectly fine to slickrock, talus, and about any other ‘clean’ rock I’ve run on, and it excels on non-technical singletrack and dirt roads. I did not find, however, that I preferred it in mud or on terrain with significant loose debris—it simply doesn’t have the bite. There is no rock plate in this shoe, so you are at the mercy of the rock-guard outsole, but it functions very well as long as the rocks aren’t too pointy.
La Sportiva Lycan Overall Impressions
I really have come to appreciate this shoe. It’s one I take out for many of my daily runs, and it’s the one I stuff in the car with a pair that’s more aggressively lugged if I’m not sure as to the terrain I’ll run later in the day. The Lycan makes me feel relatively zippy and agile as I cruise the non-technical singletrack, and it still feels good if I have errands to run afterward and I forgot my sandals. As stated before, I have no callouses or blisters that have resulted from wearing these shoes in temperatures from 38 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and in all sorts of dust, sand, and some on-purpose creek submersions. So if you’re in the market for a great all-around shoe for non-technical or smooth-rocky (as opposed to pointy-rocky or rubbly) surfaces, the La Sportiva Lycan is a fantastic option.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Have you run in the La Sportiva Lycan? What do you think of the shoe?
- How about the Lycan’s outsole? On what surfaces have you found it to perform as you need it? On what surfaces has it not provided the traction you desired?
- For those who run in multiple models of La Sportiva’s trail and mountain running shoes, how does the Lycan fit into the line-up 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!]