I recently got back from a 250 mile section hike along the Northern Virginia part of the Appalachian Trail, where I hiked the trail using La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0 trail runners instead of the La Sportiva Ultra-Raptors that I wore most of last year.
In this review, I’ll explain the pros and cons of the Wildcat 3.0’s, while providing detailed insight into how they break down with use. I’ve got about 350 miles on these shoes and they’re pretty much wasted, which is pretty average for a trail runner like this.
Switching to La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0 trail runners before my section hike was a last-minute shoe change, the result of a switching to thicker Darn Tough socks because I got sick of replacing the far less durable Smartwool sock liners that I used to wear. So I ordered a bunch of different trail runners from Zappos (including the Montrail Mountain Masochist II and the Salomon Fellraiser) in different 1/2 sizes to find a replacement shoe and the Wildcat 3.0’s were head-and-shoulders the best fitting.
The toe box on the Wildcat 3.0’s is substantially bigger than the other La Sportiva trail runners that I’ve tried, which typically run a bit small and narrow. In addition to needing more space for my thicker socks, I like having the additional toe space for longer distance hiking because my feet and toes swell over time. If you like a larger toe box or a wider shoe but have passed over La Sportiva trail runners in the past, I’d recommend you give the Wildcat 3.0’s a try. The size difference is quite noticeable.
I’m a big fan of mesh trail runners because my feet sweat when I hike and mesh trail runners help vent the moisture, keeping my socks drier and feet blister-free. Forget a Gore-Tex lining: that prevents moisture from leaving your shoe as much as it prevents moisture from entering it, and fails rapidly from wear and tear.
While the Wildcat 3.0’s have mesh outers, the inside of the shoe is lined with a felt-like fabric so you don’t experience any abrasion between your sock and the inside of the mesh fabric. This internal liner also helps keep your socks drier when splashing through mud or rock hopping over streams, stopping the moisture from soaking your socks. This was unexpected.
The La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0s use the same soft and sticky sole as La Sportiva Ultra Raptors, which is awesome for walking on wet or dry rock. The internal arch support and the impact brake system are also identical, although the factory insole in the Wildcat 3.0 is softer and has started to disintegrate.
Forefoot protection in the shank is also far softer with the Wildcat 3.0’s than the Ultra Raptors, and therefore less desirable when walking long distances on rocky terrain. This wasn’t an issue on the Virginia AT, but it’s quite noticeable when I’ve used the Wildcat 3.0’s on the rocky trails of New Hampshire’s White Mountains and not particularly desirable.
The Wildcat 3.0’s also have relatively little protection around the toe, really just a thin toe kick guard. The top of this toe kick separated from the rest of the shoe (on both the right and left shoes) about after about 150 miles, which concerned me greatly when it occurred. They haven’t fallen off yet, but it may be worth filling the gap with an adhesive like clear Shoogoo if it appears to keep it from becoming an impediment. I often modify trail runners with Shoogoo to enhance their longevity, so I can’t say I’m surprised or even that dismayed when they start to decay like this, because I’ve seen it before all to often.
I really enjoyed using La Sportiva’s Wildcat 3.0 trail runners on my AT section hike down south this year and think they’re a great hiking shoe for easier, less demanding terrain. They’re incredibly comfortable, with a large toe box, great breathability, and ample cushioning around the heel, but provide relatively little toe or forefoot protection which I prefer when hiking through rockier, mountainous terrain. Still, I’m on the fence about whether I’ll buy another pair for hiking in easier terrain or switch my socks again so I can fit back into my La Sportiva Ultra Raptors. The difference in comfort is significant enough that the Wildcat 3.0’s are hard to give up.
La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0 Specs
- UPPER AirMesh/ TrailCage 2/ Microfiber/
- TPU Transkinetic Heel Stabilizer
- LINING Mesh
- MIDSOLE MEMlex/ TPU Flex Transfer shank
- SOLE FriXion® AT/ Impact Brake System™ X-Axis ™
- DROP 12mm
- CUSHIONING Midsole: 32A LAST Tempo / Women’s Tempo
- FIT Wide
- COLOR Men’s Blue/Grey, Pineapple/Blue, or Red/Blue / Women’s Purple, Light Grey/Turquoise or Coral/Maliblu
- SIZES Men’s: 38 – 47.5 (half sizes) • Women’s: 36 – 43 (half sizes)
Disclosure: Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) purchased the La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0’s and Ultra Raptors discussed in this article with his own funds.
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