A super, good-value contender for wide-footed runners with enough cushioning for a broad variety of trails and distances.
Comfy padded tongue
20 per cent recycled rubber in the footbed
Slim tongue gusset needs smoothing pre-lacing
OrthoLite footbed may not suit all feet
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La Sportiva Karacal: first impressions
The La Sportiva Karacal is a very durable, robust-yet-breathable shoe, fantastic for long distances on both roads and trails.
One thing that stands out is the super beefy tongue, which is flexible and padded to provide extreme comfort. This is a major plus – with the old La Sportiva Jackal, I did find the tongue slipped to the side, allowing one of the lace hole liners to dig in, which is not a problem with the Karacal. However, the large tongue is held in place by only very narrow gussets further down the shoe and these do have a tendency to wrinkle up and need to be sorted out by poking a finger down there before you continue lacing up.
Once laced up the fit is super secure and comfortable straight from the box. The toe box area is wide and roomy, great for those with hobbit feet, and the FriXion Blue durable grip is excellent in both wet and dry conditions and for a wide variety of trails.
The OrthoLite footbed does have a pronounced rise at the arch that not everyone will get on with (this is the same as with the Salomon Sense Ride 4) so do try this shoe with your previous shoe’s footbed if you find this happening.
But for the price, the Karacal are a definite must-buy for a road to trail running shoe.
• RRP: $130 (US) / £115 (UK)
• Weight (pair UK 6.5): 530g / 18.7oz
• Colors: Men’s: Black Goji Women’s: Black & Red Plum
• Drop: 7mm
• Compatibility: Long distances on a wide variety of surfaces
La Sportiva Karacal: on the trails
I really enjoyed running all sorts of trails in this shoe. I found the Karacal can cope with tracks, rocky trails and moderately muddy paths, draining and drying quickly after running through puddles (though, of course, waterproof socks are still a good idea). It felt comfortably padded enough on rocky Peak District descents and road sections but you can also feel the lumps and bumps of the trail beneath your feet too.
It’s not the bounciest shoe on test but it is sufficiently springy to feel energetic over a wide range of terrain. It has a 7mm drop but honestly, as you can imagine, that 1mm is not really noticeable in comparison to the 8mm drop most road to trail shoes use.
I know this won’t be a problem for everyone, but during this whole test I did find myself having to remove any OrthoLite footbeds as they rubbed at the arch. If you ever get a shoe that feels lumpy inside in this way, simply swap in the footbeds from your previous shoes and you should find this issue vanishes immediately.
When putting this shoe on, I found that poking a finger down the side was a good way to smooth the gusset so it didn’t ruckle up and niggle. And for me, to have the shoe tight enough towards the toe end meant the laces directed the upper inwards uncomfortably on the left foot, but every foot shape is different so I don’t anticipate many others having this problem.
The co-founder and former editor of Trail Running magazine, Claire now runs the YouTube channel Wild Ginger Running, creating films packed with trail- and ultra-running content. An award-winning journalist, writing for outdoor and adventure sports magazines and websites, her first book The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running 5k to 50k is out in January 2021. Claire also speaks and presents at events and races.