At first blush, the La Sportiva Karacal and Jackal II look like very similar shoes, the only difference seemingly being the upper design. But that’s not true. What are the differences and why would you pick one over the other?
What’s the Same?
There are similarities between the Karacal and the Jackal II: the outsole tread design, the midsole stability, the heal drop (16 to 23mm), the stack height (7mm), and the wide last are the same between the Karacal and Jackal II.
Other than those similarities, the shoes are actually quite different.
Yes, the tread pattern is the same for both shoes, featuring a 3.5mm deep lugs. But the Jackal II uses Sportiva’s FriXion® XT 2.0 (Red) rubber, while the Karacal uses FriXion® AT 2.0 (Blue). XT is a dual compound rubber, meaning some of the outsole has stickier but less durable rubber for better grip and the rest of the outsole has more durable rubber on high-wear areas to enhance the outsole’s lifespan. AT is a single-compound that’s more durable than the XT’s stickiest compound.
This means the Karacal’s outsole may last longer, but may be less performant when traction is important.
The Karacal uses standard EVA rubber throughout – Sportiva specs this as, “Compression Molded EVA”. There’s a different hardness in the midsole: 35A, and the forefoot: 32A.
(“A” is – I’m assuming – referring to the, “Shore A” hardness scale. Roughly, “20A” is the hardness of a rubber band; “40A” an inner tube.)
The Jackal II has a slightly more interesting story. La Sportiva specs the same dual EVA compound, but also mentions, “Infinitoo PU Inserts: 30A (heel – 10mm/forefoot – 5mm)”. “PU” here is “polyurethane”, a different midsole material.
Sportiva’s own video shows a computer rendering,
From wearing these shoes and running in them, the PU inserts probably make the shoe return slightly more energy and probably let the midsole last a little longer. When you put a new pair of Jackal II’s on, they feel springy.
Both the Karacal and the Jackal II – as mentioned – have the same wrap of harder EVA foam around the heal to help you not roll your ankle. You’ll find something similar in many Sportiva shoes, like the Mutant.
Different Upper Design
Visually, the upper of the Karacal and the Jackal II look different, and do have some design differences. The Karacal’s tongue is thicker/more padded. The toe guard/cap on the front is thinner, and not as durable. For me, the Karacal’s heel feels a little wider and I have to actually lock lace the Karacal to run in them with confidence.
The Jackal II does come in a few grams lighter than the Karacal. For my size EU 46 sized-shoes, the Karacal comes in at 340 grams each; the Jackal II at 325 grams.
Which One to Pick?
Given these differences, I would think of the Karacal being more of a trainer, and the Jackal II more of what you would want to use for an important race. I myself use the Karacal as my road to trail shoe, but I don’t take it out on anything too technical, as I don’t have the confidence I usually have in something like the Mutant to just totally bomb down a hill because of the heal.
But for ticking miles and miles on a gravel road? The Karacal excels.
I used the original Jackal for my three day fastpack on the ridge of the Continental Divide Ridge from Milner Pass to Berthoud Pass (I brought TX2’s for many of the Class 5 technical parts) and the Jackal II for my more recent attempt of the unsupported FKT of the Colorado Trail.
Finally, price. The Karacal are about ten bucks cheaper than the Jackal II, given there’s less features found within them. If those features aren’t compelling and you’re (only) looking for a trainer rather than your A-race shoe, go with the Karacal. If you want every bit of performance for a long-distance race or adventure: go with the Jackal II. Both shoes are great for people that like a wider last, higher volume shoe when compared to some of the other offerings from La Sportiva.