Matt Crehan in the La Sportiva Jackal on his local trails

The Jackal is latest in La Sportiva’s mountain running arsenal, and is aimed at runners tackling longer distance ultras: 100k to 100 mile. They provide plenty of protection from the trail and generous cushioning, whilst being light enough to move quickly across the terrain. Wider fitting than other options in the La Sportiva range, the Jackal is a good choice for long distance racing, as well as the hours spent out on the trail in training.

How the La Sportiva Jackal fits

I’d heard the Jackal described as a cross between the Akasha and the Kaptiva, and think that it is a fairly apt description. As the Akasha is one of my favourite shoes for long distance trails, I was keen to see how the Jackals would compare. The first thing I noticed when I tried on these shoes was how much room there was in the toe box. I was initially concerned that perhaps I wouldn’t have as much control on the run if my foot was slipping around in them. However the lacing system and heel cup really holds the foot in place well, providing all the control you need, while leaving that space up front for your toes to splay out. This can also really come into play late in an ultra, when your feet may start to swell. They have a gusseted tongue similar to the Kaptiva, which gives them a bit of a sock-like feel and helps in keeping debris out. Although the lockdown is snug and comfortable for the most part, the Achilles area of the heel is quite high and did cause a bit of rubbing during my first run in these. I have done a bit of reading online and I am apparently not alone in this. Interestingly it only seemed to happen on my right foot, and ceased to be an issue after a couple of runs, but it is something worth pointing out. At 300g (size EUR 42), they are closer in weight to the Kaptiva (280g) than the Akasha (330g), and that is noticeable from the get go. I really feel like I can fly along the single track in these shoes, which makes for an enjoyable ride. The 7mm drop (25–19mm heel to toe) falls into that sweet spot for me, providing enough comfort uphill and on the flats, without feeling unstable on the downhill. It’s nice to have the confidence of knowing your foot will stick when you decide to push the pace.

How the La Sportiva Jackal outsole performs

The outer sole rubber is comprised of La Sportiva’s “FriXion XT 2.0” compound. This is what enables that confidence – it is really sticky! On loose gravel, wet or dry rock, these things just grip like crazy. Multi-directional geometric lugs and La Sportiva’s “impact brake system” bite in nicely on the downhills and uneven surfaces. However when it comes to really muddy conditions, I’ve found that the 3mm lugs don’t quite have the same catch as the larger, wider spaced lugs on the Akasha or Mutant. Having said that, John Kelly was wearing the Jackals on his recent FKT on the Pennine Way, through nearly three days of very wet and boggy conditions. This really shows the versatility of the shoe. There are four ‘flex grooves’ in the forefoot area that help with flexibility on push off, as well as minimising weight. After 300km this outsole has shown very little wear and I suspect that I will get quite a lot of kilometres out of the shoe. Ultimately I felt very sure-footed when blasting around my local trails.

Jackal midsole

The midsole is what makes this shoe really enjoyable for the long haul. The foam is made up of moulded EVA and “Infinitoo” polyurethane technology, boasting a high energy return. With 19mm in the forefoot and 25mm in the sole, there is ample cushion in there, and I was pleasantly surprised that they manage this without coming across as too spongy. This is achieved with the help of a 1.5mm high density EVA rock shield that provides some stability to the midsole, but also protection from sharp protruding rocks underfoot. If you’re running over rocky terrain for hours on end your feet can really take a battering, so it’s nice to eliminate much of the unwanted bumps and jabs. Unlike some “rock-plated” shoes, you don’t feel like you’re running on an inflexible board. There is enough flex in there to conform to the terrain, whilst having the rigidity to maintain protection. Sounds like an impossible combination but, trust me, it works! To be perfectly honest I didn’t realise there was a rock shield in there for the first couple of runs, until I was told otherwise. This combined with the generous cushioning provides a smooth ride, and not having to worry so much about what’s underfoot makes for a much more enjoyable run.

Final thoughts

All in all I think this is a great shoe for ultra distance events, or simply spending long days out on the trail. The grip and protection the Jackals provide means you can move through the terrain with confidence, and the support allows you to keep at it all day. Not the lightest trail shoes on the market, but the bang for buck you get in terms of comfort and protection over the long haul is hard to beat. I can quite happily run for many hours on end in this shoe. As I have found with other shoes in the La Sportiva range, I opted for a bigger size in these than I would other brands other brands, so I would definitely recommend trying on a pair first to make sure you get the sizing right.

Matthew Crehan is supported by Bogong Equipment and La Sportiva Australia.

About Matt Crehan

Matt Crehan started running relatively late in the game. Not an overly sporty kid, in high school Matt used to swim on and off, and was a volunteer surf life-saver. Through his 20s, Matt continued swimming sporadically, and in 2015 during a spell of swimming every day, Matt went on a field trip to New Zealand for university and I couldn’t swim each morning. Instead he started running around the dramatic landscapes of New Zealand’s South Island. Soon he was hooked.

With a new-found love for running and a background in swimming, triathlon was an obvious next step. Matt dabbled with the long distance format – completing a bunch of halves and one full Ironman – but eventually realised triathlons are more about cycling. Matt enjoyed the variety in training, but preferred to spend long days out on the trail rather than on a road bike. Eventually his focus shifted from doing triathlons in the summer and trail running in the winter to only competing in trail races year-round. Starting with relatively short distances, Matt progressed to ultras and found his sweet spot in events 50–100km long.

In 2019, Matt competed in 14 events, at distances ranging from a marathon to 100 miles. He was fortunate enough to do a couple of events in early 2020 before coronavirus wreaked havoc to the race calendar and hopes to get back on the start line as soon as we’re able.

Top Recent Results

  • 2020 Cradle Mountain Run 80k – 1st
  • 2020 Razorback Run 64k – 1st
  • 2019 Alpine Challenge 100 mile – 2nd
  • 2019 Marysville Marathon – 1st
  • 2019 Ultra Trail Australia 100k – 7th
  • 2019 Surf Coast Century 100k – 4th
  • 2019 Brisbane Trail Ultra 100 miler – 3rd

Follow Matt on Instagram.

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