La Sportiva Karacal Trail Running Shoes | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Trail and Scramble Shoes

La Sportiva Karacal Trail Running Shoes | Review

Speedy performance and no compromise on comfort. You don’t see it that often but La Sportiva seem to have cracked the formula here

Why We Chose It: Well-cushioned, versatile, breathable

This trail running shoe from La Sportiva is designed for people training for mid to long distance running off-road. For those kinds of distances and that type of use, what most people will want is a nice bit of shock absorption, cushioning and a bit of toe space to accommodate your feet when they start to swell or splay out a bit. The good news is that the La Sportiva Karacal brings all of that to the table.

Photo: Chris Johnson


Despite that specific use La Sportiva have designed this for, we’d say it isn’t overly geared to one style of run or to one type of terrain, meaning it’s the kind of shoe you could pull on for just about everything if you’re not too specific with your footwear choices. At 7mm, the drop is pretty standard, so too is the lug depth at 3.5mm. The build is light at 290g but it’s not uber light either. 

Where it does stand out a fair bit is in the design of the upper, which, thanks to the amount of mesh, is very breathable and very ventilated. That makes it geared towards three-season running, with summer being the time for it to really shine.

Sole Unit

The design of the sole unit is almost identical to the one on the La Sportiva Jackal, so if you liked that shoe but want something for warmer conditions, this will be the option for you. 

“It’s the kind of shoe you could pull on for just about everything.”

The stack height is 26mm at the forefoot and 19 at the front, so there’s quite a lot separating you from the ground here, including dual density EVA foam, a 1.5mm rock shield/chassis and a 4mm removable Ortholite insole. Overall this sole unit brings plenty of shock absorption and protection but the feel of the trail certainly isn’t removed. There’s also a good amount of stability brought by the slightly wide platform, particularly at the forefoot.


At 3.5mm, the lug depth isn’t that aggressive though the deep cut out sections do add a bit of extra traction and reliability. The compound is La Sportiva’s FriXion Blue which, much like the other aspects of this shoe, adds to that overall versatility.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

Tester’s Verdict

Callum Nelson, Snowdonia-based Mountain Guide

“I am a climber, fell runner and mountaineer, and have been using the La Sportiva Karacal trail running shoes in the mountains of Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri – or Snowdonia National Park. I have put these shoes through their paces: running on technical rocky terrain, ascending and descending steep muddy slopes, contouring around grassy mountainsides and even scrambling on mountain ridges. Running between 8-12k in this mountainous terrain, in all conditions, has allowed me to get to grips with the Karacals in both the dry and wet.”

Photo: Chris Johnson

“When first putting on the Karacals, the first thing I noticed was the exceptional comfort. The shoes provide a snug fit with highly breathable material and they’re extremely light. These qualities combine to provide agile and enjoyable movement when running on the trails. The cushioning of the shoes provides excellent support and allows comfortable movement over the gnarliest of terrain. La Sportiva have managed to develop a lightweight technical shoe, which provides the support to inspire confidence when stepping onto any type of trail.”

“They are one of the best pair of trails running shoes I have worn for technical tough terrain.”

“The mountains of Eryri are well known for their steep, rocky and technical ground, and this is where these shoes really excel. The incredible Friction X lugs provide decent traction on the rock, mud, gravel and grass. In both dry and wet conditions, I found these shoes performed exceptionally well on trails. However, I would not recommend these shoes in extreme wet or cold conditions. Due to their excellent breathability, I found my feet got particularly cold and water saturated the upper material, providing a very soggy run. Although on the trails the sole responded well when wet, I found moving on steep rocky terrain – such as the fantastic North Ridge of Tryfan – slippery and insecure, unless the rock and shoes were bone dry.”

Photo: Chris Johnson

La Sportiva Karacal


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