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La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Runners – Long Term Review

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

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Runners

Foot Protection
Traction
Stability
Sensitivity
Comfort
Weight
Durabiility

Excellent

The Ultra Raptor is a stable trail runner with good toe and sidewall protection. Sticky soles provide great traction even on wet rock, while their mesh fabric dries quickly when wet.

I’ve been wearing La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Runners for hiking and backpacking for the past 3 years. Made out of mesh, they drain and dry quickly, which is important in the densely forested and wet Northeast US environs where I do most of my hiking. I originally switched from leather hiking boots to trail runners in 2010 when I hiked coast-to-coast across Scotland, which is also incredibly wet, and haven’t looked back at boots for three season hiking ever since.

The Ultra Raptor excels in mountain environments because the soles have sticky rubber which adheres well to rock, including wet rock, while providing enough protection for my feet. A thick rubber toe cap and an armored heel cup protect my toes and the back of my feet without compromising agility. That’s really important in the mountains for scrambling across scree fields and the occasional smearing and stemming we need to do when climbing rugged, above-treeline trails. In fact, I’ve never come across a better trail runner than the Ultra Raptors that combines all of these traits, which is why I’ve stuck with them for so long. I even have boxes of mint Ultra Raptors stockpiled in my gear closet, in case the manufacturer ever decides change or discontinue them.

Ultra Raptor Tread Pattern
Ultra Raptor Tread Pattern

If you need extra wide shoes or lots of space for your toes, the Ultra Raptors are probably NOT a good choice for you. The fit is decidedly narrow and firm, with a deep heel cup that locks your foot in place and provides neutral, stable footing. The soles are surprisingly rigid with a stiff nylon shank that provides great torsional control. The heel is NOT flared out to distribute force, like a lot of road running shoes and some trail runners, so they don’t need extra clearance when hiking on rough trails with a lot of tree roots.

The Ultra Raptor soles also have an arch, something that you find less and less on trail runners. I like them because it means I can run a hiking gaiter strap through them, which I’ve found much more durable and repairable than flat-soled trail runners where you need to glue a velcro patch to the back of the shoe. The arch also forms enhances your ability to brake on decents using your heels, much like a pair of traditional hiking boots, another quality that makes the Ultra Raptors well suited for mountain walking.

La Sportiva ran out of black Ultra Raptors last year (I have a pro-deal), so I had to buy a few pairs of red ones.
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor has a very stable, neutral sole that helps prevent ankle rolling.

New Hampshire hiking is pretty hard on shoes, but I get about 400 miles on a pair of Ultra Raptors before the heel lugs start to wear down and tears begin to appear in the mesh next to the toe caps. This is a common wear-point on mesh trail runners regardless of the manufacturer because of the constant flexing the toe box and forefoot. I’ve tried to retard the deterioration of the mesh by covering these areas with Shoegoo plastic adhesive, but the heel tread wears out long before the mesh gives way, so I don’t bother anymore.

The factor insoles that come with the Ultra Raptors are your standard run-of-the-mill thin foam. If you need more arch support or a firmer heel pad to counter pronation as the heels wear down (25% of hikers and backpackers do), I’ve found that the thin Superfeet Carbon insoles fit well and don’t take up much volume inside the shoe.

Hike someplace that requires a lot fo stream crossings and you quickly come to appreciate mesh hiking shoes that drains dry quickly.
Hike someplace that requires a lot of stream crossings and you quickly come to appreciate mesh hiking shoes, like the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor, that drain and dry quickly.

The Ultra Raptors run about a 1/2 size small. They’re also available in European sizing – for example I wear a size 43 – so you can dial in a much better fit, since European sizing is finer grained than US sizing.

That in a nutshell is my take on La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Runners for hiking and backpacking. I’ve gone through about eight pairs of these shoes in the past three years and plan to wear them again this year for all of my non-winter hiking trips.

Highly recommended.

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58 comments

  1. Thanks, Phil. I use the LaSportiva Wildcats. How do the Ultra Raptors compare with them? In particular, how well they drain….the Wildcats are excellent in that area too. If the Ultra Raptors perform as well, I might give them a try. Also, I’ve tried various types of cord/straps for an under-foot gaiters cord, none of which seem to last more than a couple trips…..any thoughts/tips for the most durable option?

    • They’re stiffer along the sides and in the heel. I also think they provide more arch protection with a stiffer shank. They drain is just as good. I just use some random elastic cord for my gaiter but also go without them a lot because my long pants block most debris from getting into my wicks.

    • IMO, the URs are a little firmer underfoot and feel more locked in. I found the Wildcats really squishy (too squishy) in comparison.

  2. I would love to switch to this type of footwear. I, however, have wide feet. 4e’s to be exact. I would love to find a company that has all the attributes you mentioned in the above article in my size. I know new balance does, but they are not the same. Are the any companies I may be overlooking?

    BTW, Your site is the only one I visit everyday. Thanks for being honest

  3. Eight pairs in three years is exactly my problem with using trail runners for hiking. That is probably more than $1000! A lightweight pair of boots would have lasted the whole three years (and longer) without replacement. I have also used these shoes and found they didn’t last very long before becoming too dangerous to hike in. Now I use real hiking shoes in summer, which are heavier but provide better support on rough terrain and last longer.

    • I hike more than you, I suspect.

      • I hike about 1000 miles a year, partly in the Adirondacks and New Hampshire, and a lot in the Pacific Northwest. Similar to you, I found these shoes became unusable, and even dangerous, after 400 miles. So 400 miles is 2-3 pairs a year for me, which is $1000 a year. I consider that to be too much money to spend every year to save a few ounces.

      • about your math…. 3 pairs at $130/pair does not equal $1000.
        But I still understand your point.

    • Sure, the boots will last longer but your feet won’t. Boots are notorious for causing blisters, but trail runners rarely do. That’s the trade-off m

      • Good point. How much would you pay to avoid a blister the size of a quarter on your heel that can sideline you for a week. No contest.

      • i use trail runners for *ahem* running and move them over to hikers when the ‘cush’ starts to disappear. This makes the price much more competitive.
        I wonder if trail shoes, rather than runners, might be a better proposition for most. For example, la sportiva make a low hiking shoe with much burlier soles than the ultra raptor, albeit in gtx which won’t suit everyone. This is likely to last longer at the tradeoff of weight and possibly precision – might suit more than ultra raptors.

      • As long as you don’t do it when the heel tread starts to wear. That’s a good way to induce plantar fasciitis.

  4. They do run small and I have big feet. Normally I wear a 13 (US) or a 47 (EU) but their 47 is too small. Despite some places advertising 48, I have yet to find one in stock, including Zappos, where I’m told they haven’t seen them.

  5. Hi Philip – I have a related question: what brand of gaiter are you wearing in the first photo? I am looking to get something of that same size.

    Thanks!
    Matt

    • This is what you’re looking for, but I think I got the last pair ever made.
      http://www.campsaver.com/mont-bell-stretch-semi-long-spats-men-s
      Try contacting Montbell directly. Their stuff has gotten increasingly difficult to get in the states so you might have to order direct from Japan.

      • It’s the first item (I think) at:
        https://www.montbell.us/products/list.php?cat_id=3210

        I have had good luck ordering directly from Montbell.

      • I had the problem that Philip is talking about JP. After his review I really wanted to purchase semi-long spats but couldn’t find them. Montbell said they weren’t making them at the time when I asked, and probably don’t anymore. I decided to purchase the Short Spats instead of the Long Spats, and I really like them. They’re very low key and lightweight. I opted for them because I didn’t want to sweat too much and have too much slack with high gaiters. For reference most socks I wear are the quarter or ankle length, like the REI Wool Quarter or the Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Mini. The Short Spat covers these type of socks by 1-2 inches. It’s been keeping out dirt and pebbles for 2 years for me.

    • Try Dirty Girl gaiters (dirtygirlgaiters.com), they are made for trail runners, are very similar to these and lightweight, and come in really fun colors and patterns. OR also makes a decent lightweight/spandex type gaiter (Sparkplug) you can find them on Amazon. Just bought a pair of Ultra Raptors with my REI member discount, looking forward to trying them out!

  6. I also have these and I like them quite a bit except theyre a low-cut which doesn’t work for me because of instability in the ankle I bought some LA sportiva with the high top but their Gore-Tex boots.
    I was wondering if you knew of any manufacturer that has a high top not a mid without the Gore-Tex which I find to be less than useful in my neck of the woods the Gore-Tex just holds the water in and takes longer to dry .

  7. Even though I have 2 pair of pristine Innov 8 Terroc 330s in my closet, I ordered a pair of these to try. The Terrocs have very aggressive tread for rock but I’m not so sure for wet rock. I had a serious fall a few years ago on a slick rock ledge. I’ll have to slip the new pair of shoes past the wife unit… but she’s quite tolerant of my hiking predilection. I just hope my back will allow me to return to the trail.

  8. Hi phil Ive worn both 330 s happily just trying to compare fit of them to these ultra. La sportivas

    • Once they come in, I’ll wear them every day for a while to see how they fit in comparison and let you know. I usually wear about a size 11 but I ordered what would be the equivalent to US size 12. I have some orthotic inserts that will go in, which take up a bit of space.

      I wear a pair of 330s every day and even play basketball in them at the recreation center… maybe that’s why I can’t jump? They say the older you are, the better the athlete you used to be! None of the youngsters I ball with can dispute my stories!

    • On the old style Terroc 330s, I wear a European size 45. I leave the factory insert in the shoe and then put my orthopedic inserts (about the bulk of orange Superfeet) top of those.

      I first ordered Ultra Raptor size 46.5 and they were too loose with both inserts unless I put on some really thick socks. I returned them and ordered 45.5. Without the factory insert, they fit like the Terroc 330s. I probably should have gotten size 46 but these will work OK for me. I’ll just wear them without the stock insert.

      My takeaway is that one European size up is likely the Terroc 330 equivalent

  9. I been using the La Sportiva Wildcat for a few years. I have wide feet and thoses shoes feels like slipper to me. But last summer, one foot slide on a rock and i fell. Whitout consequences, luckly. After that i lost confidence in them and look for a new pair of trail shoes.

    At the MEC store, i tried the Raptors but found them to be too narrow. And, as the tread is the same as the Wildcat, i didn’t had confidence.

    Finally, the Saucony Peregrine 6 were my choice. They are a bit narrower but are still comfortable as they have a wide toe box. The tread is moch more aggressive and offer a better traction than the Wildcats in all situations (I live in NE of North Amerrica). The Peregine breath even better than the Wildcats ! The only problem is the seam in the heal causing blisters for the first uses (a small part of leukotape solves that).

    They worth a try.

    • Saucony peregrine have insane sole grip and comfort. The heel cup gave me tendinitis otherwise they would be my Ultimate Shoe. The upper is too lightweight for off track or scree walking, I reckon.

  10. Ultra Raptor is my second favorite shoe now, it used to be my favorite. Last year I purchased the La Sportiva TX3 and it has overtaken Ultra Raptors for harder, rockier, and varied terrain hikes. I recommend checking them out if you haven’t yet, I think you’ll like the upgrade to circular grips and better protection at the toe and sides with the wrap-around rubber rand. The trade off is they don’t drain as well as Ultra Raptors, which I’ll use for canyoneering/waterfall hikes. I’ve been advocating these two La Sportiva models to all of my friends.

  11. I wish these were a little lower to the ground and that they had eyelets instead of lugs, to be able to snug up over my midfoot without putting pressure on from the ball forward. It can be done but I have to be careful. Those are pretty minor complaints, though. Coming from a real shoe masochist background, hiking without my feet hurting is a novel, wonderful experience.

  12. I tried the Raptors and found that the rubber toe guard tended to fold inward over time, creating a pressure point on on the top of my big toe. I was sold on the grippiness, so tried La Sportiva’s approach shoe (now called the TX3). It has the same grippy bottom and excellent arch support and the same mesh upper, but the toecap is integrated into the side of the shoe in a way that eliminates the problem I had with the Raptors. I strongly recommend this model as well.

  13. I also use and love the Ultra Raptors. Before the URs I used Montrail Mountain Masochists, but I found the soles were too soft and flexible and on long hikes the bottoms of my feet were always sore. The Ultra Raptors provide much better protection from rocks, etc. and are much firmer/stiffer overall – undoubtedly due to the nylon shank. Traction is much better too. The other thing I have noticed with the Ultra Raptors is that it seemed like on a long hike at some point I would always roll my ankle, but after I switched to the URs I don’t roll my ankle anymore – I still occasionally lose my footing and start to roll an ankle, but I am able to sense it and react and adjust in time to prevent injury.

    My only criticism is that I don’t think they really drain all that well. They are mesh and dry out OK once drained, but the protection around the base of the shoe doesn’t allow water to escape as well as some other designs.

    I also have a private stock in reserve (learned my lesson after Montrail discontinued the Hardrocks) – although I am afraid to buy too many because I have found that as I age and hike more my shoe size seems to be increasing.

  14. I have wide feet. Are there shoes of equal quality that come in wides?

    • La Sportiva in my experience is always narrow. Above your post Philip recommends Vasque, Keen, and Altra for wide feet

  15. The Ultra Raptors are a nice shoes but there are no sizes available for those of us that have larger feet. The Ultra Raptors do not come in a US Size 14 which would be perfect for me. I tried the 13.5 which is La Sportiva’s largest size but to no avail. It was just a little short and my toes kept hitting the end of the shoe! I wanted them to fit but I couldn’t get my mind around how they felt just walking in the house! Sad to say is that most shoes sold now are no longer a true size. I wore a size 13 several years ago but now have to resort to finding a 13.5 or a 14 depending on brand of shoe!

  16. What is the best-quickest drying sick you reccomend to go with these?

    • Quickest during is not always longest lasting. I wear Darn Tough Hiking Socks. I suppose panty hose would be the fastest drying. I’m afraid you’ve missed an important point about soft shoes. Your feet don’t blister, even when wet.

  17. Any thoughts on the La Sportiva Akyra?

  18. Philip,

    Glad you like the Raptors. I use Wilcats, but it seems they are being discontinued. I have one pair in reserve for the JMT this fall. I find even the Blue Sole insoles fit for me. Do the Raptors have the same elastic sleeve as part of the tongue?

  19. You are not kidding about the snug fit and fitting 1/2 size small! I currently have a pair of Wildcats in size 45.5 and they are a little loose, so I figured that the Ultra Raptor’s in a 45.5 would be about right. Not even close.

  20. I used these on the Ozark Highlands Trail this week and they were terrific. There were rocky and soft, slick and dry, and combinations of those trail conditions on our 40 mile section hike. The shoes were comfortable and provided good footing. And they did indeed dry quickly after creek crossings. I plan to add a couple pairs to my stockpile for when the current pair wears out. I did lose a couple of the rubber nubs on the sole.

  21. Seems my research has paid off. I used to wear inov8 Roclite 295s…….light, grippy sole, drained and dried fast, PERFECT toe box…….but then they up and changed the design!! Tried the newer version and hated it. I stumbled on a couple of reviews of the Ultra Raptors and decided to give it a try. LOVE them! They don’t breath like the inov8s and guess they won’t dry as fast either……but I love the sole design and the cushioning. I have only used in dry, cool weather thus far, so we’ll see how this summer goes. Oh, definitely go a half size larger than you might normally.

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  23. Hi Phil,
    I’m curious how you manage wet shoes when you get into camp? I don’t carry camp shoes. I read another post of a hiker carrying waterproof socks to wear in camp, with the wet shoes. This allowed him to keep his sleeping socks dry and his feet warm while in camp.
    Love your website!

    Amy

  24. Hi Philip,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and gear reviews! I find your writing so helpful when deciding what gear to try out.
    Do you still prefer the Ultra Raptor over the Wildcat for really rocky terrain because of its better underfoot protection? I’ve read of some hikers preferring approach shoes to trail runners for that kind of terrain? Do you have any experience using approach shoes for that use? In particular have you tried out the La Sportiva TX3 approach shoe? Also, have you tried the new La Sportiva Akyra for hiking on rocky terrain? If so, how did it compare to the Ultra Raptor and Wildcat? Thanks for your help!
    Paul

    • I’m still in Ultra Raptors. They give me plenty of protection for hiking and backpacking. I find that approach shoes are too much like shoes, climbing shoes, or low mountaineering boots – just to much structure for my kind of hiking. But to each his own.

      • Hi Philip!
        You mentioned that you’ve got some pairs of the Ultra Raptors stockpiled in case La Sportiva discontinues or changes them. I’m thinking of doing the same thing with some trail runners. Have you noticed any disintegration of trail runners over time when they’ve been left long-term in storage? Is there a way to store them that helps to prevent disintegration when stored long-term? Do you have any idea of how long is too long to store a pair of trail runners? Thanks!

      • None, but I also store them in a walk-in freezer. Kidding. No degradation over time when left in original box.

  25. Haha! That sounds like good news. I was thinking of buying a supply to last me as long as 5 to 8 years since I have such a hard time finding shoes that fit me and meet my needs. Have you ever stored trail runners that long and they’ve been ok? What’s the longest you’ve stored a pair? Thanks Philip!

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