La Sportiva Mutant Review
The LA Sportiva Mutant has been on the market for a few years now. It might seem funny to be spending the time writing about an ‘old’ model of shoe. Most running brands change their shoes regularly updating and altering. La Sportiva spend their time developing their shoes so when they come to market they are already tried and tested. So, they often stay unchanged for many years. The Mutant is one of those shoes and is worth a mention because it is a good shoe that often isn’t in customers minds because all the latest incarnations of shoes are the ones that get talked about.
The Mutant evolved from the La Sportiva Crosslite which was a shoe that I used for many years to race and train on the fells. The upper and midsole has been made more durable and the outsole a stickier rubber.
The La Sportiva Mutant is designed to be a versatile trail shoe. The outsole has a good level of studding to cope with wet muddy conditions, yet the studs are flat to give a good surface area for gripping on smooth wet rock. The rubber is soft and sticky designed to stick to wet rock. This is something that I have noticed, particularly recently when crossing rivers via even submerged rocks! I have complete confidence that as I jump from rock to rock the outsole won’t slip.
La Sportiva describe the fit as normal. For the North East of England this would be considered a narrow fit. The Mutant is designed to have hold of your foot so when you are running on uneven terrain you don’t slip around inside the shoes. This way you can change direction quickly making you more nimble on the trails. Even on broken or difficult ground. The insole is designed to be none slip as is the upper of the shoe. The upper wraps around the foot which adds to the snug fitting feeling. This also takes the pressure of the top of the foot allowing it to function easier and seals the opening so there is less chance of debris getting into the shoes.
A lot of trail running brands sell gaiters. These are particularly useful in winter in the UK as they stop mud and other debris getting into the shoes. La Sportiva’s gaiter is built into the shoes. The cuff comes a little higher than other shoes and when the shoe is laced up it seals around the ankle. The slightly higher cuff is soft, pliable so, it moulds to the shape of your ankles.
You can lace the shoes on the top of the foot as you do with most shoes. Although they are designed to be laced to the side. This reduces the pressure on the top of the foot. There is also a little cover that pulls over the tied lace. This stops the laces from getting covered in mud so they are easier to tie and untie. It also stops the laces from getting pulled undone by the undergrowth. Some runners do find the Mutants harder to put on than other shoes but, once on the fit feels very comfortable and secure.
The toe bumper is quite firm and there isn’t a lot of height at the toe so if you have high volume toes then I would suggest trying half a euro size larger. This is likely to give your toes that bit more volume.
The midsole is injection moulded EVA. So, that it retains its bounce over time. The feel is like most trail shoes firm and responsive. This makes them nimble and agile. The soft rubber, used to make the outsole lugs, gives some extra cushioning. On tarmac I am aware that the cushioning is firm but, on all trail terrain from hard pack to soft sloppy mud the midsole density feels perfect.
The heel to forefoot drop is 10mm. Making the Mutant more of a shoe for the heel strikers. However, I found the forefoot flexible enough for me to run unhindered on my midfoot. Even descending over tussocky grass or rough moorland the elevated heel didn’t seem to get in the way. When running up on this difficult ground the shoes gave a very solid platform from which to push off from. This made it easier to run on this terrain than it is in a more flexible flatter shoe.
The La Sportiva Mutant was Kim Collison’s shoe of choice when setting the Lakeland 24 Hour Record earlier this year. This challenge entails covering as many mountain summits in 24 hours as you can and despite numerous attempts this record remained unbroken since 1997. Until Kim broke it in 2020. The ground run on is everything from hard packed tracks to open fell. The kind of ground that the Mutant is designed to excel on.
The Men’s Mutant weighs in at 300 grams which some might think is a bit heavy compared with other on the market. This is due to the durable construction and materials used. LA Sportiva shoes are designed to be durable enough to function in a mountain environment. When running in the shoes they don’t feel at all heavy.
I find that all La Sportiva shoes have the feeling of a good solid walking boot. They never feel flimsy. Yet when I start to run in the mutant it feels light and flexible. A joy to run in.
Outsoles are tricky things to get right. When the ground is soft and muddy you needs a small pointy stud to bite into the ground. When it’s firmer you need a flatter, larger stud to give good surface area. The outsole on the Mutant has worked well for me. It’s not so grippy in the mud that I will be reaching for them when participating in the next cross-country race but, grippy enough that it does impede progress when out running over the farmers’ fields or through the woods. The rubber is very grippy. As mentioned above it has always stuck to wet rock for me so far. The downside of sticky rubbers is they are softer so they wear down faster. A few hundred miles on the Mutants and there isn’t a lot of wear. It has been very wet recently so all the trails are very well and slippery. A lot being just slop. So, in the summer there might be more wear but, it still seems very durable.
Although the Mutant is a versatile shoe it is not a road to trail shoe. Too much tarmac would wear the studs down and the shoes will feel quite firm to most runners.
In summary the La Sportiva Mutant is a versatile trail shoe that would suit a runner with a low volume foot and is a heel to midfoot striker. Although forefoot strikers may also find it comfortable and nice to run in as I do.
Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle
Scott Supertrac 2.0: The Supertrac 2.0 would cope with more road use. However, it isn’t as flexible and nimble on the ruffer sort of terrain.
Here is our review:
On Cloudventure Peak: Similar sort of shoe designed for the same type of terrain as the Mutant. Lighter but, not quite as rugged and durable.
NVii Terra TT: A similarly versatile shoe. More flexible. Might be a better option for the midfoot striker for that season. Here is our review: