When most people think of La Sportiva Trail Shoes, their thoughts naturally spring to the Mutants or the Bushidos. Not surprising as these are tried and tested in our sport and have a great pedigree with some elite fans such as Sabs Verjee wearing the former on her adventures. Being somewhat of a non-conformist, my previous encounter with La Sportiva Footwear was with the Ultra Raptor, in which I completed many happy (maybe not so happy) miles training for and completing the Dragons Back.
These were a sturdy companion and faired well, until a lace loop failed after a cumulative training and racing tenure of approximately 850 miles. Not bad considering the beasting they were given. I was therefore intrigued when La Sportiva offered me the chance to review their latest Jackal offering, the Jackal II BOA. This shoe uses the BOA fastening system instead of traditional laces, something that I have only used previously snowboarding.
The BOA System
There are two incarnations of the Jackal IIs; one with the BOA System and one without. In addition to two dials, the Jackal II BOA also has a tongue and gusset combination that reaches up over the lower ankle. This works well; the shoe feels like a pair of slippers when you put them on. The attachment points for the “lace” system stretches across the top of the upper meaning that when you rotate the dials to secure your forefoot and midfoot, there is a snug feel as the system wraps around the upper part of your foot.
Precision is not really something that I’m used to experiencing when it comes down to my laces. They normally start out ok, but then they either loosen as socks compress or, as my foot swells over longer distances, they become too tight. With the BOA, you can instantly and easily adjust the fit and crikey does it make a difference.
When ascending the shoe has a good feel but it’s the descents where the Jackal becomes a thing of wonder. “Precision fit” is BOA’s strapline and the slightest tweak of the dial will have the laces contouring perfectly around your feet for a super secure and comfortable downhill run.
With the Jackal II you get a raised inner mini-gaiter that comes up over the lower ankle and forms a loose seal, this does a fabulous job of keeping grit and other debris at bay, the first time I had to remove anything from inside the shoe was after 70 miles of running across some gnarly Mallorcan trails.
When you look at the profile of the shoe you’d be forgiven for thinking that it is a little shy on cushioning at the forefoot. There appears to be generous wedge of foam under the heel that extends to the midfoot but then it seems to taper, this is mainly due to the 7mm drop. However, when wearing the shoe it’s obvious that looks can be deceiving as the cushioning is evenly spread. A good energy return is felt when pushing off and there is little impact felt when striking the ground.
Don’t get me wrong these don’t have the same “bounce per ounce” as the inov-8 G280’s that Dan Stinton reviewed earlier this year but they are still very good and offer a high level of overall cushioning on a variety of terrains. It weighs in at 270g per shoe which is in the lighter quartile of shoes in its class and helps to add to the overall comfort feel.
It has a subtle yet effective toe bumper that offers a good level of protection and the toe box allows for a wide toe spread. Normally with a wider fit across the toes there is a bit of movement which can cause some blistering, however, due to the lacing systems wrapping the forefoot across the knuckle of the big toe there is no sliding inside the shoe which makes for a more comfortable foot fall.
Impact Brake System
If you turn the shoe over and read the embossed messages on the sole you’ll see that these shoes have an “impact brake system”. This refers to the lug configuration and similar to other shoes in its class is designed to provide increased friction. The downside to this in other shoes is that when the shoe grips your foot keeps moving slightly inside it, causing those pesky blisters or the trophy black toe nails. The fit of the Jackal II BOA means that this movement is eliminated and therefore the “braking” system leads to a very confidence-inspiring downhill experience, especially on technical descents.
To those of us that aren’t used to seeing “dials” on our trail shoes, at first glance the aesthetics of the Jackal II BOA might seem a bit futuristic. Think Michael J Fox’s Back to the Future sneakers (if you’re under the age of 40, Google is your friend), but in my opinion they do look very good indeed, minimalist looks give an elegant appearance that belies the robustness of the design. If you’re not a fan of yellow, they come in a blue and there is also a white variety although why a white trail shoe I’ll never know. As you’ll know, to me looks aren’t everything, but if they are to you then these will tick that box and then some.
You may have guessed to where this is heading. This shoe is quite simply brilliant; it is by far the best trail shoe I have run in and is my go to for any outing over any terrain. Price wise you can get a pair for around £150 (May 2023) which these days seems about the norm for a high end shoe and actually, considering the quality of the design, and it’s functionality, is actually good value.
Robin Bush is the co-owner of RunUltra. He’s an experienced mountain runner, who has run many of the classics including the Dragon’s Back and The Spine.