The La Sportiva Kaptiva is a do-everything trail running shoe that features a precise, low volume fit, an excellent foot-hugging inner sleeve, and an exceptionally sticky rubber outsole. While it isn't the highest scorer in any of the metrics we test for, its consistent high performance across nearly every metric lands it a spot among the very best trail running shoes. The Kaptiva is a shoe equipped to handle heavy mileage but fits far more precisely than the often loose and baggy everyday trainers. Like most La Sportiva shoes, the fit runs on the narrow side, possibly squeezing out those with wide feet, but for average to narrow feet, these are refreshing and well-tuned shoes that won't disappoint. These shoes are ideal for the most technically demanding terrain; whether that means scrambles in the Flatirons, ridge traverses in the alpine, Skyrunning races, slickrock rambles in the desert, or never-ending East Coast talus fields. They are appropriate footwear for running long or short, in any weather.Editor's Note: This product review was updated on March 6, 2022, with additional comparisons on competing products and information on what shoes we would buy.
La Sportiva Kaptiva Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Precise fit, very grippy on rock, comfortable upper effectively keeps out debris
Cons: Narrower than average, a bit pricey, not the lightest
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
Our Analysis and Test Results
The La Sportiva Kaptiva was first released in 2019 and is most recognizable for its low volume fit. Sportiva's have long been known to run on the narrow side, and this shoe is no exception, although we didn't find it excessively narrow and think its shape will likely only cut out a small percentage of potential wearers. Instead, it is intentionally designed to be low volume, and we found there to be perhaps the least extra space inside the shoe of any we tested. It is a refreshing attribute that ensures that the shoe and foot are moving on the same page and makes this shoe among the very best for tackling highly technical terrain.
For those who like to add a bit of technicality to their runs, such as traversing mountain ridges or perhaps adding a scramble up the 2nd Flatiron, the Kaptiva is an optimal choice. It is buoyed even higher by the inclusion of Sportiva's FriXion XF rubber, which is grippier on dry rock than most other shoes we tested. In many ways, this shoe feels similar to the high-end Salomon offerings. However, it is even more fine-tuned for shorter technical terrain, although it still retains the underfoot support and protection for going long.
The Kaptiva is a very protective shoe, enough to tackle any terrain, and it scored similarly to other Sportiva models in this metric. It feels firm underfoot thanks to the 1.5mm layer of EVA rock guard, which effectively absorbs impacts from sharp rocks. Trending in the same direction as many other shoes these days, the underfoot feel is not that of springy, cushioned bounciness, but rather like firm armor that will not soon crush out and will keep you moving fast over even the sharpest talus.
The upper is also reasonably protective, with a stiff TPU plastic toe bumper that will undoubtedly take a blow from a kicked rock without bashing your toes. A thin film overlays cover the most critical high-wear areas of the mesh upper, especially in the forefoot, to add some longevity and durability to the design.
The outsole of this shoe is covered in hexagonal lugs distributed evenly on all parts, varying in depth from 3.5 to 4.5mm depending on location. They provide good grip on most soft surfaces, such as steep grass, snow, and mud, but we found them to be slightly below average when it comes to simple steep, loose dirt. This shoe shines on a rock, where the FriXion XF rubber was a step above the rubber compounds found on other shoes.
We are also impressed by how hard the rubber is, ensuring that the lugs don't automatically rip off after one long day traversing an alpine ridge. Overall, we felt like the graphene grip on the new Inov-8 shoes is likely more durable, and the insane lugs on the bottom of some Salomons are more aggressive. Still, when it comes to rocky terrain, you can't beat these shoes.
The dense EVA rock protecting foam underfoot does not allow a lot of sensation to make its way through into the foot. While the forefoot is slightly thinner than the heel, allowing for a bit more trail feel, the overall effect is one of burly rock protection, lacking much sense of granola trail feel. For what this shoe is designed for, we don't think more sensitivity is warranted, and we are happy to have the extra protection for bombing down rocky slopes and skipping through talus fields.
Despite its narrower than average foot platform, the Kaptiva is a very stable shoe. It has a 6mm heel-toe drop, which provides a nice compromise between under heel protection and low to the ground ride. The transition from heel to toe feels gradual and smooth and is not super noticeable. The most remarkable attribute of these shoes is their fit; they are snug in the best possible way. No other shoe locks the foot so firmly, yet so comfortably, in place as this shoe does, allowing not a hint of foot slippage while side-hilling, moving uphill, or bombing downhill. This lockdown fit extends from the forefoot to the arch and the heel while retaining incredible comfort, all of which significantly add to the feeling of confident stability.
This La Sportiva model is one of our favorite shoes for comfort, although as always, comfort is a relative thing subject to each individual's opinion. Inside the shoe is a sock-like sleeve that includes the tongue and comfortably hugs the midfoot up the forefoot, with no gaps for debris or sand to filter their way inside. Likewise, this sock-like fit extends to the ankle opening, where there is virtually no gap between fabric and foot for debris to funnel in. Yet it is not too tight, causing elastic to rub around the opening like we have found on some other shoes that attempt to seal off this opening fully.
The tongue and heel are minimally padded, but this padding is more than sufficient, and the overall feel is of being hugged very comfortably. As previously mentioned, the shoes are a bit on the narrow side, and perhaps slightly small. We ordered a men's size 11, which Sportiva translated into 44.5 in EU sizing, which is a stark contrast from the 45.5 EU size that the Scarpa Spin Ultra also translated as size 11. While we didn't find it necessary, some may want to size up half an EU size if you like a looser fit or wear bulky socks.
Our size 11 men's shoes weighed 22.3 ounces out of the box, which is by no means heavy, but not in the "ultralight" range that we have seen associated with this shoe. Simply put, this shoe is light for what you get, which is a ton of protection but is not light at all compared to trail shoes that manage to weigh as little as 16 ounces per pair. We didn't think they felt heavy or clunky while running in them.
Should You Buy the La Sportiva Kaptiva?
The La Sportiva Kaptiva is a low volume but very precise trail running machine. Their snug fit and sticky rubber make them the best option for rocky and technical terrain, whether on the trail or off, and they offer more than enough protection for long distances. In our humble opinion, this is one of the best Sportiva shoes that we have run in for many years, and it is perfect for those who want a super sticky base to propel them up rough terrain.
What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?
These shoes are probably more expensive than other shoes in your closet, and while we wish these were slightly more affordable, we think they offer incredible performance, and so feel like they provide a solid value. However, in our lineup of the top options, they scored close to the middle of the pack, and we feel there are better options to check out before committing to this style. A style also from La Sportiva, the Bushido II scored higher overall due to its increased sensitivity, comfort, and weight scores.
— Andy Wellman
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