Pros and Cons
Filed under:Footwear, Gear reviews, Trekking Boots, hiking boots, La Sportiva, trekking boots, Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX
La Sportiva’s Ultra Raptor trail running shoe has always been popular with fast hikers, and now the Italian brand has come up with a mid boot version specifically for hiking – Chris Kempster takes it for a spin...
There’s long been a crossover between trail running and hiking gear, with some walkers opting for lighter weight running footwear and clothing to help them move that bit faster.
The original Ultra Raptor shoe from La Sportiva was a perfect example of this; its light weight combined with good protection and comfort made it a firm favourite among hikers as well as runners. Now La Sportiva have built upon the shoe’s popularity among hikers by introducing the Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX, which is billed as a hiking boot, while the latest version of the Ultra Raptor shoe itself stays within the trail running range.
The Ultra Raptor II is only available in the UK in one colour – black – but it looks really good, so no complaints there. The upper is all-synthetic, with an abrasion-resistant, breathable mesh as the main material, which is then overlaid with a TPU skeleton around the laces and an (almost) all-round rand to give the foot a surprising amount of protection. The ankle collar is well-padded and has a stretchy cuff at the back that doubles as an aid to getting the boot on and off, as well as keeping stones and other debris out.
The tongue is made of the same meshy material as the upper and again is quite well padded, while the lace system uses fabric eyelets. Inside the boot there’s a Gore-Tex Extended Comfort liner and the boot is supplied with an Ortholite Mountain Running footbed. The Ultra Raptor II gets the same sole unit as the Ultra Raptor, La Sportiva’s own ‘Ultra-tight FriXion White with Impact Brake System and integrated anti-shock rubber toe’. The tread pattern (see right) is quite widely-spaced and the rubber itself feels pretty sticky, while front and back sections are slightly angled, presumably to give a rolling effect. The Trail Bite Heel, as the name suggests, is designed to help braking when going downhill.
Two width fittings are available for the Ultra Raptor II – Regular and Wide – and we found that the Regular fitting gave us quite a close but really comfortable fit. The fit can be further fine-tuned by the lacing system which uses eyelets sewn on the inside of the upper and reinforced on the outside with a TPU skeleton; this helps to tighten the shoe evenly across your foot.
The Ultra Raptor II feels superbly light when you put it on, but what surprised us was how much support and protection it gives you. This is probably as a result of several design features: firstly the lacing system and skeleton which holds the foot evenly and provides protection too. Secondly the ankle cuffs which are really well padded and give plenty of support; and thirdly, the rubber toe bumper and all-round rand which protect the foot from knocks and scrapes. When compared to the recently reviewed Inov-8 Roclite Pro G 400 Gore-Tex (issue 101, Nov/Dec 2020), we found that the Sportivas seem to offer more in the way of stability and protection, and a more stable feeling through the mid and outsole. The Sportivas weigh around 70g per boot more, but we would happily take that in exchange for the more ‘planted’ performance of this boot. They are also around £50 less to buy than the Inov-8s.
We haven’t mentioned the outsole and its ability on a range of surfaces. The Ultra Raptor II uses a Sportiva own design, in fact to our eyes identical to that of the Ultra Raptor shoe, which uses small ‘nodules’ nestled between chunkier lugs that run across the width of the shoe. These performed well on a range of surfaces, from gravelly forest tracks to mud and grass, and the Trail Bite Heel gives good braking on descents.
Overall we were super impressed with the Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX; they get the balance between weight and stability/support/protection just about spot on, and for warmer weather hiking and trekking they represent an excellent choice.
More info: www.lasportiva.com