La Sportiva Karacal and Jackal II: What’s the Difference?

Comparing the La Sportiva Karacal and Jackal II

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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.

The midsole stack height and drop are the same between the Karacal and the Jackal II
The midsole stack height and drop are the same between the Karacal and the Jackal II

What’s different?

Other than those similarities, the shoes are actually quite different.

Outsole Rubber

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.

Those the tread pattern is the same, the Karacal (left) and Jackal II (right) use different rubber compounds. The Karacal has been run in far longer than the Jackal II, but shows little difference in wear.
Those the tread pattern is the same, the Karacal (left) and Jackal II (right) use different rubber compounds. The Karacal has been run in for far longer than the Jackal II, but shows little difference in wear.

Midsole Compound

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.

I couldn’t find any photos of what the midsole looks like, except in some videos. This one, from a dealer/rep in Spain/trailrunningreview.com has an actual midsole broken out into its components,

Actual components of the La Sportiva Jackal II courtesy of trailrunningreview.com
Actual components of the La Sportiva Jackal II courtesy of trailrunningreview.com

Sportiva’s own video shows a computer rendering,

Exploded rendering of the Jackal II midsole showing the EVA outsole, PU inserts, and stabilization heel collar.
Exploded rendering of the Jackal II midsole showing the EVA outsole, PU inserts, and stabilization heel collar.

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.

There are a few academic research papers that would also suggest this (1, 2)

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 left has a much thinner (and shorter) tongue than the Karacal (right).
The Jackal II left has a much thinner (and shorter) tongue than the Karacal (right).
The Karacal (left) has a lighter and thinner toe guard when compared to the beefier Jackal II's toe box.
The Karacal (left) has a lighter and thinner toe guard when compared to the beefier Jackal II’s toe guard.
Lacing starts slightly farther up the toebox in the Jackal II (left). The Karacal's (right) eyelets are set slightly wider.
Lacing starts slightly farther up the toebox in the Jackal II (left).

Weight

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.

Milner Pass, Wednesday August 12th, midnight
Using the La Sportiva Jackal’s for the Milner to Berthoud Pass fastpack traverse, with TX2’s carried for the low 5th class crux sections.

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.

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Nixh
Nixh
4 months ago

I would be interested to know how many miles are on each of those pairs for comparison of durability. Of course the terrain you’re on will be the main factor here but durability and grip are the main deciding factors when considered my shoe choices nowadays.
For my terrain in rocky New York state trails I prefer the akasha because of the wider heel platform which as you point out is quite narrow on the jackal. I’m surprised I don’t see the akasha in your rotation. Less protective upper perhaps?