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Switching to La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Runners

manufactured by:
Philip Werner
Version:
1
Price:
130.00

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On April 3, 2014
Last modified:August 26, 2016

Summary:

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Runners are fantastic shoes for hiking and backpacking in mountainous terrain where you need excellent traction and protection for your feet but don't want to lug around the weight of a heavy leather boot.

La Sportiva Ultra-Raptor Trail Running Shoes
La Sportiva Ultra-Raptor Trail Running Shoes

I’ve switched to La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Runners for three season hiking. These are fantastic shoes for hiking and backpacking in mountainous terrain where you need excellent traction and protection for your feet but don’t want to lug around the weight of a heavy leather boot.

I switched from Inov-8 trail runners to La Sportiva after Inov-8 changed the styling of the Terroc 330’s and eliminated the shoe’s mesh uppers. Mesh keeps my feet drier by allowing sweat to evaporate and helps my shoes dry faster when they get wet. I won’t hike in a shoe that doesn’t have it.

But there are a lot of other qualities that I like in the Ultra Raptors that seal the deal for me.

1) The Ultra-Raptors have excellent traction on slick wet rock: the best I’ve ever tried. The Salomon XA Comp 7’s I tried were a fail on that score.

Spring Hiking in La Sportiva Ultra-Raptor Trail Runners
Great traction on wet rock

2. The Ultra Raptors provide excellent foot protection with a beefy toe cap, heel, and side guards.

  • I don’t look at my feet when I hike and extra protection is needed against the rocks and roots where I hike.
  • The sole has a stiff nylon shank and the heel and the side walls are TPU-reinforced, providing better heel lock and torsional control.
  • Weighing 14 ounces each, the Ultra Raptors are slightly heavier than my old Inov-8 Terroc 330’s but they’re still half of the weight of my old leather boots!

3. Ultra Raptors use shoe laces. Call me old-fashioned, but I need a hiking shoe where the laces are easy to replace.

  • Proprietary laces and lace threading are too high maintenance when you are in the middle of nowhere and need to use paracord to re-lace your shoes.
Ultra Raptor Tread Pattern
Ultra Raptor Tread Pattern

4. The rear heel is narrow and not flared out like a road running shoe.

  • The Ultra Raptors don’t require extra side clearance when hiking on rough trails. The Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2‘s I tried last summer were also a fail because they have an extra wide heel that made me trip on tree roots.

5. Ultra Raptors have a center arch that let’s me use Montbell’s Stretch Gaiters with a bottom strap.

  • A lot of trail runners have completely flat soles now, which forces you to use an “unanchored” style gaiter.
  • The Ultra Raptor arch is part of a “braking system” which works well on steep rock and slopes.
La Sportiva Ultra-Raptors - Trail Runners
Ultra Raptors – In the Rain

Sizing

It was a bit challenging to get the right size with the Ultra Raptors, since they run slightly small. I normally wear a size 10 mens, but I’ve had to move up to a size 10.5 in the Ultra Raptors. This is still about a 1/4 of a size too large, but I fill out the extra space with a thicker sock. On the flip side, my front toes have a lot of space and there is no rubbing between my index toes and the top of the shoe, something I’d started to experience in my old Terrocs. I think my toes are curling a bit as I’ve aged.

I’ve now stockpiled a few pairs of Ultra Raptors as insurance and look forward to using these trail runners for all of my three season hiking and backpacking trips.

Thanks to everyone who suggested I give the La Sportiva Ultra Raptors a try.

Disclosure: Philip Werner purchased these trail runners with his own funds. 

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64 comments

  1. Interestingly, the Salomon S-lab sense ultra is also extremely slippery on wet rock, seems a common problem with them. It’s one of the main reason why I chose a Saucony Peregrine for my upcoming coast to coast in Scotland.

  2. Thanks for the review. Especially the part on wet rock traction. That’s tough to find, and usually people’s reviews on that score aren’t worth much (if they don’t hike the Whites in wet weather like you do).
    How’s the toe box width?

  3. Phil, thanks, I’m looking at a replacement shoe/boot also – my Vasques have no tread left, looking at moving to a trail runner. Did you consider the Brooks Cascadia? Very comfortable, mesh upper, standard laces, good grip I think, pretty slim heel, about the same weight. Probably not as robust a sole as the LaSportiva, just curious about your other shoe priorities besides what you’ve said above.

    • My priority was finding a replacement for the Terrocs asap. It was a lengthy process, since it requires over 50 miles of hiking to really get a good feel for a shoe in all conditions. That kept my search set small – I mainly focused on La Sportiva and Salomon shoes although the Salomons were all pretty awful as it turned out. It didn’t help that my world has been covered in snow since November.

  4. forget the shoes – what sexy gaiters are those?

  5. I have been wearing the Raptors since reading it used to be Skurka’s shoe of choice for his huge treks ( although I think he has since switched to another brand). I looked at the Ultra Raptor and could not figure out what had changed other than graphics. Can you summarize the differences?

  6. Good post. I have been using New Balance 610 MTs for a few years but the recent redesign has me looking for another shoe. It seems like every time I find a shoe I like they go and redesign it the next year. I was actually considering the Terroc 330s since I know they are a favorite of Chris Townsend but I read your last review of the changes and it didn’t sound promising. I may have to give these a try and see how they do.

  7. Great writeup! I’ve been wearing Raptors for a couple of years with happy success. Philip – I agree with all your points above but would like to highlight 2 areas in particular:
    – Sticky rubber soles. The “mountain climbing” rubber soles are a game changer if one hikes on any type of dry or wet rock. You can scramble up or down rocks like Spiderman.
    – Rock protection – you alluded to this too, but just want to add in the past I’ve stubbed my toe on many a rock, usually seeing stars as a result but the Raptors protect your toes very well. Also when side hill-ing, they provide solid support and abrasion protection.

    • The only thing I’d caution folks about is hiking on wet Lichen covered rock. Wet rock – no problem. Lichen covered wet rock – you will slide and land on your sleeping bag!

      Still, I am mightly impressed by the angles I can hike up in the Ultra Raptors, even on “normal” wet rock. Makes route finding much easier when you can humvee over any obstacle.

  8. Excellent timing on this post. I’ve been eyeing the Ultra Raptors for some time now after reading reviews about how good the rubber compound is on the soles. However, trying to find them in stock anywhere in the Los Angeles area has been a challenge. I was ready to give up and pick up another pair of Merrells (most comfortable hiking shoes I’ve ever owned, but the grip is meh) and you have to post this. Guess I will have to bite the bullet and order some Raptors online and just return them if the fit does not work out. Not sure how the last on the Raptors compare to the Wildcats, but hopefully it’s close enough that I can use those to get an idea of the proper size to order.

    • So it turns out a local REI did recently begin stocking the Ultra Raptors. Went on my lunch and came back with a snazzy new pair of my own. These definitely run small and I went up a full size from what I normally wear. Could have taken a chance and only gone up a half size, but it was only mid-day and my foot would not be swollen like it would during a long day of hiking.

  9. I started my transition from hiking to trail running a few years back with the original Raptors.

    As anyone who has used La Sportiva can attest, their rubber is unmatched in terms of grips.

    The original Raptors were great – they were highly rockered which helped the walking stride and also kept you on your toes when running. I started to have problems when the toebox started creasing and cutting into my toes and ended up ditching them. I switched over to the Quantums.

    Once the Ultra Raptors came out, I decided to give them a try. I ended up returning them as I found the following:
    – Sizing was troubling for me. In the originals I wore a 44 and they fit like a glove. In the Ultras, I couldn’t even get my feet in a 44 and had to upsize to a 45. (I wear a 45 in the Quantums).
    – They decreased the heel-toe drop to ~8mm – I suspect it was this and the funky sizing, but I never felt like I had that great rocker-roll-off from the originals. They always felt clunky and flat (I even tried on the Ultras and a new pair of originals side by side and noticed this).
    – My feet were never fully comfortable and cramped up after about an hour of wear.
    – The heel cup area of the original Raptors was highly padded fabric, while the Ultras are thin vinyl like material. This made a huge difference in how they felt around the ankle (Ultras felt too loose), and the vinyl rubbed me the wrong way.

    That being said, the shoe is near bomb proof and the best light hiker out there.

    As for comparing them to Brooks Cascadia’s – I would say it’s apples/oranges. The Ultras are light hikers really, while the Brooks are heavier trail runners. I ran a bit in the Cascadia 8’s and compared to the Ultra’s, they lack support, stability, and grip. The Cascadia’s are all mesh while the Ultra’s have lots of added overlays plus a massive heel cup/support.

    If one is looking for a great shoe for hiking, I would recommend the Ultras over the Cascadias.

  10. Excellent review and comments. So I am curious – after tearing my ankle ligaments several times (playing rugby!) I have convinced myself that boots provide better support. Yet – this does not come up in any of the discussions. What’s the lateral support on the Ultras like? anyone have any feedback on how often they roll ankle with train runners vs boots??

    • I’ve torn those same ligaments too. No ankle roll so far in the Ultra Raptors for me and far less in trail runners than hiking boots since I made the switch a few years ago. There will be endless debates about whether hiking boots prevent ankle rolling or not. I happen to think it’s a myth because I rolled my ankles a lot more in hiking boots before I switched to trail runners. I attribute less ankle rolling in trail runners to better balance and proprioception as a result of switching to lighter weight shoes.

      • thanks – interesting…I wonder if the lighter pack loads – use of hiking poles – and better footwear design all end up contributing to better balance and proprioception (had to look that one up:) …I will go try these on and see how they fit and make the move to train runners.

    • Using something with a lower cut like a trail runner rather than boots will let your ankles strengthen since it forces your ankles to work harder than when wearing a higher cut boot that adds more support so your ankles aren’t working as much.

    • Oscar,

      I’m with Phillip regarding “ankle support” being mythical. Boots were the last thing I gave up as I slowly moved towards lighter backpacking/hiking.

      My belief is that “foot fitness” is key. On training hikes I follow Ray Jardine’s suggestion to walk on uneven ground. I consciously seek out side hills and uneven ground where my feet have to land differently on each step … that builds strong feet/ankles

  11. Most trail runners will put you lower than boots along with giving you better ground feel, which will works wonders for proprioception.

    I think some boots hinder the natural movement and combined with use limited to weekends for most, give a false sense of security.

    • As a physical therapist I completely agree that strengthening and proprioception are the most important. I think a lower profile and wider heel help with proprioception and stability too. Great comments.
      Janet L….Colorado

  12. I switched to the Ultra Raptors a year ago and have been very happy with them. I like the large toe box and narrow heal.

  13. whats, the cushioning of the sole like? I’m getting sore heels in my old age.

  14. Any commentary on wide widths? I take a EEE or even wider and find that these specialty shoes rarely come in a wide…

  15. thanks for review. any comment on using these/ trail runners to hike on endless rock and scree? one of the reasons i haven’t gone the trail runner route is i like the stiff shank that comes with boots, you don’t feel every rock and edge you’re scampering across.

  16. I wish that La Sportiva made shoes in larger sizes. I’m typically a size 13 and cannot fit into any of their shoe models.

  17. Nice write up. The treads look like they provide great traction.

  18. Just wanted to drop a follow-up post about my experience doing a 14 mile hike in 3-day old Ultra Raptors.

    These were hands down the most comfortable supportive shoes I have ever hiked in. The tread provided excellent grip and stability on downhills with loose soil. The lightweight mesh kept my feet cool and dry. I did slip a bit on some smooth wet granite, but no shoe is going to give a very sticky grip on that kind of rock.

    After doing 14 miles my feet were fatigued, but not sore at all. Felt like I could do another few hours and miles of hiking without any problems. Pretty sure I will end up using these for hiking the JMT this summer.

    Just an awesome shoe. If you haven’t used your REI or Backcountry 20% off coupons yet I would recommend picking up a pair of these with those discounts.

    • Thanks for the followup. I drove around town looking for a set but no one here in Resume Speed, FL had them in stock. I may try to swing by the REI in Atlanta this weekend when I am up that way and check if they have them.

  19. Just picked up a pair of these using my 20% members coupon! they feel great – I did have to size up to a 10.5 (usually wear a 10). I have a wide foot and the toe box is nice and roomy. Look forward to my first hikes with them. Quick question – would you keep these on while fording a stream? I am not crazy about using my crocs when I cross a river –

  20. La Sportiva gets it!!! I’ve been using the Wildcats with 25lbs. in the mountains and desert out here in the West and they breath,light weight,dry fast and allow me to move fast!!!!!!!!

  21. How do these compare to the original Terroc 330 shoe with the mesh uppers?

  22. What are these like on the rocky trails up in the Whites? My feet are usually sore with my current boots after a long day on the rocky terrain and I feel every decent size rock with them.

  23. I’ve just read your review of the new Terroc 330s after deciding I need a replacement pair (after about 300 miles I now have gaffer tape on my heel cups and the toe box is splitting). So many people echo the same thoughts about manufacturers changing a good design (needlessly?). What a shame!
    It was really useful to read your thoughts, and others’, about the raptors. Reluctantly I guess I’ll have to change – but at least the mesh on these is great for all the bog here in Norway! I wonder where my search will end…

  24. I just bought a pair of these today, based on a suggestion from my local outfitter (she knows my style VERY well). I’ve been a long time La Sportiva customer, but I usually wear Wildcats. Looking forward to trying these!

  25. I’ve switched to Ultra Raptors from Cascadias in prep for a JMT through-hike in September. The Cascadias are narrower in the toe box and, with a pack on (~30 lbs), the stitching and rubber soles were separating after about 150 miles.

    My only issue now with the URs is that for some reason, the tops of my feet (under the laces, esp under the top, tied part) get really sore after long downhills. I keep the laces almost too loose to try to prevent this, but it’s got me a little bit worried. I also had Montrail insoles, but they lifted me out of the heel cup, so hopefully the original insoles will be ok. Any suggestions for the top of foot issue would be appreciated!

  26. Second pair of wildcats are just great!!!Out here in the west the air blows thru the shoe on hot desert hikes.Just got off Mt. San Jacinto in tropical rain storm and hiked all day-water just drains out.Go one size up.Always cruising your site and thanks for all the great info…..

  27. I’ve just returned from 6 weeks trekking along the GR11 in the Spanish Pyrenees. I started with well used Brookes Cascadia 9’s, which were fallling apart after 4 weeks, and bought a pair of Ultra Raptors The UR,s are much grippier, but so much hotter than the Cascadia’s ! For hot weather hiking the Cascadia’s are the shoe for me ! Spring and Fall/Autumn I’ll choose the UR’s

  28. I used this review and multiple others and decided to purchase these yesterday. My La Sportiva Ex Axum Pro’s are about worn to death. Unfortunately none of my local stores had any, so I spent an hour testing different fits of the La Sportiva Wildcat. They look very similar in build, and I had the same issue as you did with sizing. I normally wear 10 and was torn between 10 and 10.5 for the Wildcats. I was using an ultralight wool sock, lightweight, and middleweight for testing. Low and behold REI only lists EU sizes with 43=10, 43-44=10.5, and 44=11. I ordered a 43 and 43.5. I’ll reply later about how it compares to the Wildcat and if the 43.5 works out.

    • I got the 43 and 43.5 last Friday, the 43.5 fit best. I took them out for a 14.5 mile hike which was half trail, half horse trail. I even slipped/forded 3 creeks in them. I’m completely sold on them. They fit great, I didn’t get any hotspots, and they vented and dried quickly. My only issue was they didn’t have the amazing traction I got with my Ex Axums but few trail runners do. I slipped on some wet rocks occasionally, otherwise I love them so far. Thanks a lot for the review.

  29. I just retired a pair of La Sportiva Wildcats. I loved the fit and feel of them, but the uppers were pretty well destroyed by about 200 miles (granted about 100 of those were over very rough terrain in the Whites). In particular, the mesh/fabric along the outside of the toebox tore away from the sole. I’d be interested to know how the Ultra Raptors fare in this regard. From your photos they look to have much more reinforcement along the toebox than the Wildcats. I exchanged the Wildcats for a pair of Brooks Cascadia 9s as a lot of the folks I hike with are quite keen on them and I wanted to see what the fuss is about, but if the Ultra Raptors have a more durable toebox I may make them my next shoe when it’s time to replace the Cascadias.

    • I haven’t experienced anything so drastic with the Ultra raptors. The toe box is fairly well protected up front although I did manage to poke a hole in the top mesh behind the toe kick when I caugh the mesh on a tree root (in the Whites). But that was easily fixed with some shoe goo. I used to have a lot more mesh disintgeration with Inov-8 trailrunners and find the Ultra raptors so much better in comparison.

  30. Phillip:

    I too have had issues with my Ultra Raptors which similar to what noted. The mesh along the side of the shoe just above the plastic protection has torn and I can imagine that that could happen more than once in somewhat rocky terrain like the Whites. I don’t have a great deal of time on the shoes either, maybe 6-8 months. I’m going to try to patch that area and hope that I don’t get another incident. I do really love the fit and overall feel of the shoe and wish I’d not experienced this issue.

  31. Phillip, it is time to retire my hiking boots, and with an old and sore back, I’m doing everything I can to lighten my load. So, this week I will be looking at trail runners.

    My question is: What socks do you wear? I’ll need to know this as I try fitting the runners. When using hiking boots, I use a thin liner plus a mainly-wool sock. The double sock is to prevent blisters, absorb sweat, keep my feet warm on cool days which is almost every day at high altitude, and cushion the tread. What socks do I need for the runners? I see you use gaiters — I am guessing this is a requirement with trail runners, especially for bushwhacking (around here almost every hike is partially off piste).

    Thanks

    • Robert,

      I mostly wear Darn Tough Hiking Boot socks now without gaiters. I don’t really have a huge amount of loyalty for anyones socks though. I never wear double socks with trailrunner. For bushwacking, the footware I wear really depends on the season – either trail runners or winter boots and if there is snow, a high gaiter, otherwise usually not because they make we sweat too much. Most people do wear some kind of gaiter though, just not me…I destroy they way to quickly.

      • Philip, many thanks for the speedy reply. This business of aging, and yet staying active, is a challenge! No double socks makes sense. The runners should flex enough so blisters are unlikely. Good advice. Thx.

  32. After reading this article I got a pair of La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Runners for my recent section hike of the PCT in the Desolation Wilderness. I normally wear a 42 but had to size up to a 43 in these shoes. Desolation Wilderness is a lot of granite and for our hike it was a lot of wet granite. I purposely tested the raptors traction on wet, smooth, sloping rock. They stuck like glue. Stream crossings were no trouble as they dried quickly. Thanks for the info.

  33. I hiked the 100 Mile Wilderness with Keen Targhees last year and switched this year’s VT section to the Ultra Raptors. I love the shoes but after a shakedown hike in the Whites of 20 miles the the toe cap peeled off. Grrrr… maybe not that critical but when I got home from my VT AT section later in the summer I returned the shoes for a new (hopefully better constructed) pair of Ultra Raps. Other than toe cap I love the shoe, great grip and roomy toebox. Thanks for the initial review!

  34. How do the Ultra Raptors compare in the real world to the La Sportiva Primer Low GTX? Obviously, one is waterproof and the other not, but I wonder how they stack up in fit, comfort, breathability and traction?

  35. Making a switch to trail run shoes for hiking and this article almost convinced me about this model. My concern is with the insole as I don’t know if it has a replaceable insole or not as I’d need to use a custom made one. Would you know please?

    Thanks!

    • It’s replaceable, but there is not much room for a replacement sole – it would have to be very thin. This is a problem with trail runners. The solution is to let your feet adapt to the softer shoe, if that’s feasible for you. Your foot will strength and adjust to less support over time. Just don’t do a major 1000 mile hike until you wear out a pair closer to home.

      • Phillip:
        The one thing I have found after being a long time buyer of La Sportiva shoes is that they are designed on the European last which tends to favor narrow feet. I have no problem replacing the inner sole with Superfeet which are rather thick but do an excellent job. They’re perfect for my needs.
        Thanks for you great work,

        HPB

  36. I have a pair of the Ultra Raptors. Bought them a year ago and really like the fit, comfort, and secure footing I’ve experienced on sections of the AT in Virginia and Maryland. My concern is with the soles and tread. The lugs are already showing considerable wear and with plans now to hike the Camino de Santiago in Spain (500 miles) in September/October I fear they won’t last. How many miles can I expect to get out of a pair of these otherwise terrific trail runners?

    • David:

      I’ve found that having two pair one for general usage and the other for hiking only really helps the cause of getting all around use and hiking use. You’ll want to be sensitive to what you’re doing with yours. What are you mostly walking on and how abrasive is that surface. What works for you and what works for me may be entirely different. Have a great trip to Spain, it’s wonderful. HPB

  37. I make it a point not to wear my backpacking gear for non backpacking. It all lasts longer that way. I have owned a pair of Raptors for about a year. Still have some life left. I guess I’m under 300 miles this year.

  38. In 2015 I hiked the 500 mile Haute Route Pyrenees in a pair of new Cascadia 9 size UK9. I did the same route again this year in another new pair of Cascadia 9. Of course these are no longer made now, and it sounds like the later models of Cascadia are much narrower and different (why do manufactures keep doing this).
    Can anyone comment on how the fit of the UR compares to the Cascadia 9, apart from needing a larger nominal size. Heel width and toe box especially.

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