La Sportiva Jackal II BOA Trail Running Shoe Review
The La Sportiva Jackal II BOA™ is the latest offering in the mountain running range from La Sportiva, and quite an anticipated one at that. Building upon the original Jackal released in 2020, the new addition has a few key features that takes an already great shoe up a level. I have wanted to get my feet into a pair of these since seeing a prototype at La Sportiva’s headquarters in Val di Fiemme (Fiemme Valley) last year, and I am pleased to say they did not disappoint!
Some quick stats – the Jackal II BOA’s come in at 300g (Size 42), very similar to the previous model, with a stack height of 29-22mm in the heel/forefoot. The shoes are vegan friendly and utilise recycled materials throughout. You can find them in both Men’s and Women’s options.
Let’s start with the most obvious difference, the namesake BOA™ lacing system. BOA™ systems are no stranger to La Sportiva footwear, having already been a part of their ski boot range as well as a couple of mountain running models such as the Cyklon and VK BOA™. With the Jackal II BOA™, they have taken it up a notch and added a twin BOA™ setup, enabling a precise fit in the both the upper and lower parts of the shoe. At first this may seem like overkill, but I actually found it really handy to separate the two. It means you can have a tight and secure lockdown, and a really roomy toe box, without sacrificing one for the other. The Jackal is considered a wide shoe in the La Sportiva range, which has historically been narrow fitting. Perhaps not to the same level as say an Altra, but for sure roomier than some other La Sportiva models. The Jackal II BOA™ is designed for technical terrain, so it is a sightlier narrow last than the non-BOA™ version, but it is still has ample space.
On a recent training weekend in Bright, I cinched both dials up tight at the top of a technical downhill section, and found the lockdown really secure on the steep terrain. Would I do this in a race? At first, I thought probably not. But the ease and speed with which you can make these micro adjustments makes it worth it in training. And as it turns out, this is exactly what I did in the recent Buffalo Stampede 100km trail race. Ahead of a critical downhill section late in the race, where I knew I needed every advantage I could get, a quick five second dial tune was absolutely worth it. The same can be done in reverse. Late in an Ultra, if your feet are starting to swell, widening through the midfoot can be done easily with the BOA™ system. This clearly beats needing to change shoes altogether.
Another point of difference with this shoe, and an aspect I found myself really liking, was the built-in gaiter that fits snuggly around the ankle to prevent debris from entering the shoe. This also means the harder heel cup that some people found problematic with the previous model is no more. It is made out of ‘Ariaprene’, a neoprene – perforated, closed cell foam. I have found this extremely helpful, especially in dry rocky trails where small amounts of dust and debris inevitably enters the shoe. Not enough to make me stop and empty out my shoes, but enough to be annoying. No longer an issue here. Combined with the ‘Precision Fit’ wrap around system that works with the BOA™ dials, it makes for a snug and comfy fit. Obviously with this snug wrap around system comes less ventilation, but I feel this is a worthy trade off. I’m yet to test the shoes through multiple river crossings myself, but fellow La Sportiva runner Hayley Teale has said that the built-in gator was great in keeping out debris through the many river crossings of the Motatapu Ultra Run.
The ‘sandwich mesh’ upper is made from recycled materials and has proved durable thus far. There is a TPU toe cap for protection against rocks. All in all, the upper is very durable and apart form the ‘sandwich mesh’ not being quite as yellow after multiple mud submersions, it is holding up really well.
The mid sole is largely unchanged from the previous Jackal model, which you can read more about here. But briefly, La Sportiva have used an EVA foam for the full length of the midsole, as well as a high-density EVA rock plate. Inserted in this high-density protective layer are lower density energy return inserts, known as Infinitoo. One is placed in the forefoot and one in the heel. These ensure a smooth ride over long distances and make it the La Sportiva shoe of choice for Ultra length races. It also gives a very protected ride. I certainly wouldn’t call this an overly cushioned ride, nor are you going to get any of the propulsive benefits of a highly rockered or carbon plated road shoe. But if you’re looking for a tool to help you cover gnarly mountain terrain for a long period, this midsole does it in spades. That leads us to the next important feature – the outsole.
Those familiar with La Sportiva footwear will be aware of their FriXion X rubber ranking system, with compounds rated on the “stickiness” versus durability. The Jackal II BOA™ uses the FriXion X White, which is La Sportiva’s stickiest rubber. Combined with the impact brake system lug setup, the result is traction that provides a level of confidence that will have you hurtling yourself across the most technical terrain. The question then arises, will this sticky rubber hold up against all the kilometers required for ultra-running, both racing and training? Initial signs certainly point to yes. At the time of the photo to the right, I had put in 350km into mine, including the 100km race at Buffalo Stampede on a lot of very rocky and technical terrain. As you can see, they show very litter signs of wear. Another La Sportiva shoe that uses FriXion X White is the Mutant, a model that I have put well over 700km without the outsole giving up. Not surprising from a brand known for their durability. The 3.5mm lugs bit well into moderate levels of mud, but would not be my first choice if things are going to get really boggy.
All in all, I think this is a fantastic shoe. As I mentioned, I wore them for a recent 100km race and they didn’t skip a beat. I even used the BOA™ system on the fly at a critical point of the race, taking full advantage of their capabilities. Perhaps we might start seeing BOA™ systems becoming more widespread amongst mountain running footwear. They certainly make sense in a sport where terrain can change and micro adjustments in fit can be very helpful, especially in the longer stuff. The shoe is definitely focused on performance, which they cover well, but I think its main selling point has got to be its durability in relation to its peak performance capability. Either way one thing is clear, the new La Sportiva Jackal II BOA™ is definitely my race shoe of choice for long mountain ultras!
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