La Sportiva Jackal II vs. Mutant: which one’s best for the Colorado Trail?

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My favorite La Sportiva mountain running shoe is the Mutant, but for my last FKT attempt of the Colorado Trail, I picked the Jackal II. Why? Here are six reasons:

Lower Weight

The Mutant coming in at 320 grams (in size EU 42/US 9) is not a heavy shoe, but the Jackal II is only 275 grams (again in EU 42/US 9), 45 grams lighter, or 85% of the weight of the Mutant. For my size 46, the weight difference is a little more: 55 grams.

For a trip where I’m cutting out unneeded pockets and tags out of my clothing in an attempt to get my gear’s weight as svelte as possible, this is a huge win. My guess is that much of this weight savings comes from the materials used in the upper. Being a newer design, the Jackal II probably uses more welding and less stitching.

More Cush in the Midsole

The plan was to take on 50 mile days for 10 days straight, so any help I could get to cushion each of the several million steps I needed to take to make it to Denver, the better. The Jackal II sports a stack height of 22mm-29mm compared to the Mutant’s 14mm-24mm. The Jackal II isn’t in any way a maximal shoe, but it’s one of the more cushioned shoe in Sportiva’s mountain running line.

If you’re shopping around, the Karacal also has a good amount of cushion, also at 22mm-29mm toe to heel. I’ll mention other models of La Sportiva mountain running shoes as I continue in this comparison – for more details on the difference between the Karacal and the Jackal II, I have a post on that.

Less Drop

The Jackal II‘s drop comes in at 7mm, compared to the Mutant‘s 10mm. If you’ve lived through the last 20+ years of shoe design and marketing, the benefits 0 drop shoes in running and in backpacking have been a very contentious topic. La Sportiva hasn’t really followed the 0 drop trend and the Mutant @ 10mm seems now to be a very severe heel drop. I’ve never had a problem running in it, but for longer distances of this trip, I wanted to work with a slightly lower drop shoe.

The Jackal II’s 7mm drop is actually one of the shorter heel drop of the entire mountain running lineup. Others to look at: the Helios III (too minimal for this project) have a 4mm drop, the Bushido II (too narrow for me): 6mm, Kaptiva (too minimal): 6mm, and Akasha II (slightly too tight): 6mm. The Karacal (heel’s too wide for me) also has a drop of 7mm.

What I’m most interested in with a more subtle drop is having a more stable, and perhaps more comfortable platform to walk in. In a perfect world, I’d be interested in a shoe that has the least chance of spraining my ankle, but that shoe would be a 0 drop, minimally cushioned shoe, which would not be great for walking 500 miles in the course of a week and a half.

Wider Last, More Volume

I wanted a relatively wide, high volume shoe for the inevitable swelling my feet were going to go through while being abused. There was also a chance I’d be setting up a makeshift vapor barrier system using a sock liner and turkey basting bag as well as my usual wool sock, and I needed some extra space inside the shoe to accommodate all that. I wouldn’t be bringing a larger/second pair of shoes to switch into halfway through, so I needed a shoe that’ll work from the start to the finish.

The Jackal II has one of the widest lasts of any regular mountain running shoe in the lineup, called the Tempo Ultra. The only other shoe in the lineup that has this last is the Karacal, which I found has a heel that doesn’t work well for me. If you are looking for something even wider from La Sportiva, you’ll want to look at the Ultra Raptor II, which has both normal and more important for our discussion, a wide last option.

Roughly, I have a “D” width foot: pretty regular. Most of the La Sportiva mountain running shoes fit me, including the Mutant, although La Sportiva’s last on the Mutant – the Tempo 2 Ergo – is as narrow as I’ll usually go.

Comparing the insole of the Mutant (on top) with the Jackal II (on the bottom) can give us a rough idea on last shape.
Comparing the insole of the Mutant (on top) with the Jackal II (on the bottom) can give us a rough idea on last shape.

If you want to compare lasts of different shoes, a simple albeit rough way to do this is by taking the insole out, and comparing the insoles to each other. Compared to the Mutant, the Jackal II’s insole is visually much wider in the toebox area.

More Durable Outsole

Walking 500 miles loaded down with 10 days of food and everything else to get me through to the end is a lot to ask from one pair of shoes. Durability of the outsole was an issue on my mind. The Mutant uses Sportiva’s stickiest Frixion rubber: FriXion XF 2.0 (white) and is one of the reasons I prefer the Mutant most of the time. I love scrambling and the Mutant gives me a ton of assurance and confidence on technical terrain – up to low 5th Class. I won’t need that on the Colorado Trail.

I was worried about keeping the tread of the outsole for the back half of the trip. The Jackal II uses a different rubber – the FriXion® XT 2.0 (red) – a dual compound rubber that roughly places the stickier rubber in the center of the shoe, and the more durable rubber on the outside edges. Inspecting my shoe after 6 days of walking, it looks very much like it did new.

Comparing brand new Jackal II's to one I used on Section 28 to Section 18 on the Colorado Trail (180 miles, mostly Class 1 trail)
Comparing brand new Jackal II’s to one I used on Section 28 to Section 18 on the Colorado Trail (180 miles, mostly Class 1 trail)
Comparing a brand new Mutant's to one I used on the Sangre de Cristo Traverse (120 miles, mostly off-trail, scrambly)
Comparing a brand new Mutant’s to one I used on the Sangre de Cristo Traverse (120 miles, mostly off-trail, scrambly)

Compared to the 120 miles my Mutants took on for the Sangre de Cristo Range Traverse, there’s visually and obviously a lot of wear.

This is also why I chose the Jackal II and not its cousin, the Jackal II BOA. I would have loved the ariaprene cuff and BOA closure, but the outsole of the Jackal II BOA uses FriXion® XF 2.0 like the Mutant, and not the longer lasting FriXion® XT.

Lugs on the Jackal II are also quite a bit shorter: 3.5mm vs 6.5mm, which I found more adequate for the Colorado Trail – perhaps garnering me a very marginal weight savings. If I was to go through some very muddy terrain, I might have wanted some deeper lugs, and won’t have worried as much about the durability of the outsole. But much of the Colorado Trail is on dirt, gravely substrate, or rocks which was dry and dusty when I hiked upon it.

Excellent Ventilation and Drainage of the Upper

Looking at other CT FKT attempts and completions, I noticed the trench foot seemed to be a big problem and one that I would like to avoid.

The Jackal II has a minimal upper, with less moisture-absorbing fabric all around. The tongue is small and slimmer and designed a bit more traditionally. Much of the upper is made of a thin screen material sandwiched onto a thin rubberized fabric, which allows excellent ventilation and drainage should my feet ever get wet. My thick, hiking socks provided all the comfort and cushion I really needed and those socks can be taken out, washed, rung out, then dried while I put a fresh pair in.

The Jackal II has a thinner, more ventilated upper
The Jackal II has a thinner, more ventilated upper

The Mutant has a highly breathable fabric mesh material with a soft, spiraling tongue, as well as soft fabric lining the entire inner of the shoe. This makes a very comfortable shoe, but if it gets wet it can take a little while to dry out. I also usually apply some SeamGrip to the upper in an attempt to toughen up the upper which doesn’t help with drainage.

The Mutant has a thicker, more padded upper.
The Mutant has a thicker, more padded upper.

Comparison Table

Here are some of the more easily comparable attributes of both shoes, side by side:

WeightStack HeightDropLastFitOutsole RubberRubber DescriptionLugs
Mutant320g16mm – 26mm10mmTempo 2 Ergo MediumFriXion® XF 2.0most grippy, least durable6.5mm
Jackal II275g22mm – 29mm7mmTempo UltraWideFriXion® XT 2.0less grippy, more durable3.5mm

Call For Action

And that’s why I chose the Jackal II for the CT! I was extremely impressed with its performance, and if I was to give the Colorado Trail another go, or hike another fast, light, and long distance trip, I’d choose the Jackal II again.

What about you? Which La Sportiva mountain running shoe/hiking boot do you prefer for such terrain?

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