La Sportiva Karacal Review
The La Sportiva Karacal is designed for mid to long distance trail running (those just getting started will just fine too) with enough cushioning for a spell on the pavement to your tracks and trails. It is much lighter and more flexible than the La Sportiva Jackal or Akasha, which are better equipped to deal with your ultramarathons! It weighs in at 290g for a Men’s UK 8 and 250g for a Women’s UK 6. The shoe has a springy, soft feel.
The upper is made from a sandwich mesh to maximise the breathability of the shoe, as it is designed primarily as a summer shoe. TPU overlays give the mesh more structure and help pull the upper in around the foot. The tongue is free floating and isn’t connected to the base of the shoe as it would be if it were gusseted. This makes the shoes fit a higher range of foot shapes, in particular those with a high arch or midfoot.
The additional lace hole at the cuff of the shoe makes it easy to lock the foot into the shoes. This reduces any slippage at the heel while running up hill or on more broken ground. The heel cup pulls nicely into the heel giving a lovely, snug fit.
Internally the Karacal is made with a seamless construction. This reduces the chance of any rubbing inside the shoe. The insole is Ortholite and 4mm in thickness, which gives a soft initial feel to the cushioning.
The midsole is ‘bio density’. The top section and forefoot is made from a soft feeling EVA. The lower heel section is made from a firmer EVA. This adds stability to the shoes, which stops them collapsing whilst running at speed downhill or on the flat. The softer EVA in the forefoot is very flexible and mounds to the shape of the ground so you don’t get thrown around. The flexibility also allows you to get maximum power from your feet.
The midsole also includes a rockplate. This reduces the chance of getting bruised feet from rocks or stone as well as thorns piercing the sole of the shoes. The rockplate also give the shoe a bit of torsional stiffness through the midfoot. This helps reduce any inward or outward roll.
The outsole is made from La Sportiva’s ‘blue cross rubber’. This is a durable rubber that offers good grip on wet surfaces too. In our experience this rubber is durable enough for road to trail use or mixed runs that have sections of tarmac, hence the Karacal is suitable for “from your door” trail runs.
The configuration of the lugs uses La Sportiva’s impact braking system. This puts a greater density of lugs at the rear of the outsole so you have more surface area in contact with the floor on impact. Then less lugs to give more bite when you want to push off from the front of your foot. The lugs are 3.5mm long, which makes them more designed for firmer trails. However, like the outsole of the La Sportiva Jackal, we have found the outsole to grip well on wet single tracks and paths over the moors. The lugs are not designed to cope with the deepest of mud like an out-an-out fell running shoe, but most people do not require these at all.
The midsole is 26mm at the heel and 19mm in the forefoot, to give a drop of 7mm. This gives a good level of soft but, springy cushioning. In my experience the fit is as broad at the Jackal but tapers a little more quickly towards the end of the toe box. If your feet are broad right to the end of your foot, get in touch for another recommendation.
The Karacal is already a lightweight shoe but these honestly felt lighter than their advertised weight on my feet due to the great flexibility! I also felt that the cushioning level was very good for such a flexible and light shoe. I normally prefer a heel to forefoot drop lower than 7mm. However, due to the flexibility of the shoe I found that I wasn’t aware of the drop except when running down very steep descents.
The grip is always good in La Sportiva shoes and the Karacal is no exception. The ‘blue cross’ rubber is less sticky than the ‘white cross’ than is on the Cyklon or Mutant but is still very good and I had no issues on stepping stones across streams, wet smooth tarmac roads or wet and dry trails. The Mutant and Cyklon come with less cushioning and are less suitable for those “from your door” runs a lot of us do regularly. The flexibility of the shoes allows it to mould well to the terrain, which will add to the shoes ability to grip as much as the stickiness of the rubber.
The blue cross rubber also has a nice soft feel to it, which adds to the shoes cushioning but is plenty durable. The La Sportiva Jackal has the same outsole rubber as the Karacal and I have done 400 plus miles in those. The outsole looks almost untouched. They have been used on a mix of different terrains including some inevitable stints on tarmac. I would expect the Karacal outsole to fare fantastically well.
The soft feel to the cushioning and the flexibility of the Karacal make it a shoe that I felt equally at home in running slowly or fast. I think it is a very versatile trail shoe and I’m confident it will suit a lot of runners, including newer ones looking for a shoe to put on at home, take on a bit of everything and remain comfortable. La Sportiva say it is designed for mid to long distances. I wouldn’t use the Karacal for an Ultra. I think that they are fine for the weekly long run of 3 hours or so on the trails but, I think for most runners the more stable La Sportiva Jackal or Akasha would be a better choice if you are wanting a shoe to carry you through a trail Ultra.
Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle
VJ Maxx: A narrower fit but, similar springy feel to the cushioning. Not quite as flexible. Here is our review:
Inov-8 Roclite: A much stiffer and narrower shoe. Not as softly cushioned. Longer lugs would give better grip in the mud:
Topo MTN Racer 2: Broader more rounded toe box. More underfoot. Not quite as nimble or fast feeling. Here is our review:
Altra Superior: Broader more rounded toe box. Similar responsive feel at speed but, not as soft at slow paces:
Scott Kinabalu: The eRide in Scott shoes makes them a bit stiffer. These would give a more cushioned ride on the hard pack but, not a nimble on the softer ground: https://www.northernrunner.com/search/kinabalu