'Tenacious wet and dry grip, decent cushioning and a precise fit make the Mutant one our favourite all-round off-roaders - it rocks!'
Outdoors Magic: Great grip on wet rock and in mud, decent cushioning, protective ankle, precise forefoot fit, splendidly mad colours.
Outdoors Tragic: Narrower than average, less internal ankle padding than some.
Outdoors Grabbit? Yes please! The combination of soft-surface grip and wet rock traction along with good underfoot cushioning and stability mean the Mutant will handle pretty much any sort of off-road running making it a superb all-rounder. The forefoot fit is narrower than average though, so try before buying if you tend towards a broader foot. We love them.
Grippy mountain running shoe / Injected MEMlex EVA with stabiliser midsole / abrasion resistant mesh + integrated gaiter upper / non-skid mesh lining / Ortholite Mountain Running Ergonomic 4mm footbed / FriXion XF ultra grippy sole / AT Grip Spike feature / SpyralTongue™ / FusionGate™ lacing technology / 10mm heel to toe drop
Full Review Below
La Sportiva Mutant - The Tech
The Mutant's an odd-looking customer. That's thanks partly to what La Sportiva calls an 'integrated gaiter' with SpyralTongue™. In reality it's more of an extended ankle with a tongue that's fully attached on one side - the inner one - but not on the other, so it can wrap around your foot more easily.
'It's obvious straight from the box how sticky the rubber is, it just feels reassuringly soft and gummy with not a hint of hardness'
The lacing wraps over the top of the tongue rather than being under a 'gaiter' as the description might make you think and is linked by welded-on cord to the sole unit.
Talking of which, the chassis is pretty conventional featuring an injected EVA midsole and an external mid-foot stabiliser along with a pretty solid-feeling heel counter.
Heel to toe drop, if you're interested in such things, is a happy medium 10mm, which happens to be just the same as a Salomon Speedcross 4.
Finally, the outsole uses La Sportiva's 'FriXion XF ultra grippy' rubber compound along with some serious nobbles. It's obvious straight from the box how sticky the rubber is, it just feels reassuringly soft and gummy with not a hint of hardness.
La Sportiva Mutant: Performance
What we loved most about the Mutant was its amazing underfoot grip. To put it in perspective, both our favourite off-road all-rounders, the Salomon Speedcross 4 and the Saucony Peregrine 6 work well on soft to medium surfaces, but get distinctly queasy on damp rock or tarmac in particular.
There's none of that with the Mutant. Not only do the aggressive sole knobs dig into the soft stuff, the sticky rubber compound means they also give leach-like adhesion on the sort of slippery rock that has rivals slithering about alarmingly.
It's a bit like magic. You tense for the slip, but the shoe just pats you reassuringly on the shoulder and carries on regardless.
Fit And Form
To be fair, it's not a one-trick pony either. The 'integrated gaiter' construction gives a little extra ankle protection and helps keep debris at bay and the lacing allows a confident close, but not overly tight fit.
One thing to bear in mind is that the forefoot is narrower than average, which gives a neat precise hold, but won't agree with everyone. Also on the fit front, the internal padding is less lavish than some, but we never had any comfort issues, though it might be a factor on really long outings.
We used them everywhere from tow-paths to wind-blasted moorland and they handled it all. Like the Speedcross they're higher at the heel than classic fell shoes, but the pay-off is enough underfoot cushioning to cope with slabbed tracks and harder ground generally.
The 'mesh' uppers proved to be decently water resistant too with a nice balance of breathability and enough repellency to keep you comfortable in light to medium clag. The lack of internal cushioning seems to help with rapid drying as well. No complains there.
La Sportiva Mutant: Verdict
The Mutant may have shown up late to our best Best Trail Running Shoes 2016-17 party, but it rapidly proved to be right up there with the best off-road running shoes we've used.
The combination of cushioning, protection and grip on softer surfaces is right up there with our two favourite shoes from Salomon and Saucony, but where it really scores is in mixing that with secure, confident traction on slippery, wet rock.
If we have any quibbles it's that the narrower than average forefoot and light internal padding may be slightly less comfortable on longer outings. But if it fits your foot, the Mutant will handle not just the mountain terrain La Sportiva designed it for, but pretty much anything off road. Winner!