Monday, March 19, 2018

La Sportiva Lycan Review - A More Accommodating La Sportiva. Light, Fast and Ideally Suited for Moderate Terrain

by Jeff Valliere

La Sportiva Lycan
9.7 oz/275 g US Men's size 9  7.9 oz/224 g US Women's size 7
25mm heel/19mm forefoot (6 mm drop)
$115. Available now

Initial Impressions:

The La Sportiva Lycan is a bit of a departure from the La Sportiva norm, as it is lighter weight with lower profile lugs and a more accommodating fit that will be sure to appeal to a wider variety of runners for more versatility on less extreme terrain.  The Lycan is light in the hand and even lighter on the feet, comfortable and seems as though it just wants to go fast.


The breathable mesh upper is light, minimal and airy, yet simultaneously sturdy, abrasion resistant and has a solid and substantial toe bumper.  The structure of the upper is very secure and confidence inspiring, while providing comfort and flexibility.
The heel collar is somewhat low and minimally padded, but very secure with good hold and comfort.  The tongue is also minimally, but adequately padded, enough so that I don't ever feel the laces or feel as though I need more padding.  The tongue is not gusseted, but has enough structure to it that I don't have any difficulty keeping it in place while putting on the shoe, or while running as I might in some other shoes with a non gusseted tongue.

Overall fit is a touch on the short side.  My normal size 10 fits me great with a thin sock, but if I use a mid weight sock, I notice the front of the shoe some and debate if a 10.5 might be a better choice.  A flip of the coin I think, but if you are normally borderline or wear thicker socks, strongly consider sizing up a half size.  Those with wider feet who have had trouble with La Sportiva in the past will want to give this shoe a try, as there is significantly more wiggle room in the forefoot with very little, if any control/security penalty, as the heel and midfoot do a great job keeping the foot in place.  The only time I noticed any movement was on really fast, steep, off camber downhills, but even then the Lycan felt very much predictable and controlled, I was just slightly aware.
One of my few complaints are the very thin and rigid laces, which I found difficult to tighten easily and adequately, especially without leaving a bit of "rope burn" on the underside of my fingers.


The injection molded EVA midsole with 4mm Ortholite Mountain Footbed provides good responsive cushioning, comfortable enough for mid distances, maybe 50k or so for many depending on the trail surface.  Though the cushioning is adequate, I find that for prolonged use on rocky terrain, the Lycan starts to feel a bit on the thin side, even with the rock guard outsole, but when used on a mix of terrain or less rocky terrain, cushioning and protection are adequate.

The flex point on the Lycan is forward in the toe and flexes easily, also with a fair amount of torsional flex for good contouring over rocks and other terrain without feeling tippy or board like.

La Sportiva, as a mountain brand are known for their sticky rubber, aggressively lugged outsoles and the Lycan is no exception.  The rubber compound and tread pattern are an effective combination for good traction on many surfaces such a packed trails, rocky terrain (wet and dry), talus hopping, dirt roads and are low profile enough that the Lycan runs well on pavement as well.  I did find however (and this was not a surprise), that with such low profile lugs, the Lycan did struggle a little bit finding a bite on steep off trail, loose gravel and especially mud, ice and snow.  Not a knock on the shoe, just the reality of low profile lugs.

Overall Performance and Recommendations:
I found the Lycan to be a delight to run in.  It is fast, light, agile, responsive, reasonably well cushioned and versatile up to the most demanding terrain (where it is then somewhat limited by the lower profile lugs).  The lower profile lugs however make it better than most La Sportiva shoes for running fast on smoother singletrack, dirt roads and also makes for a great door to trail shoes that excels on both pavement and trail.  Trail feel is excellent, but I do find that if using solely on rocky terrain for prolonged periods, the flexibility can tire my metatarsals some.

The Lycan will for sure appeal to those with slightly wider feet, or to those with thinner feet who just want a bit more wiggle room without compromising foothold and control.  I have lower volume feet and La Sportivas generally work pretty well for me, but after a few hours in many of their models, my feet can start to feel a bit claustrophobic, which I don't feel at all in the Lycan.  I can wear them for hours on the trail and continue to wear them for the rest of the day without feeling a strong need to relieve my feet.

Mid distance training/racing at just about any pace on moderate to mellow terrain is ideal for the Lycan, but can also handle short sections of rougher stuff with some care.

Jeff's Score:  9.7/10

- .1 for thin and static laces.  Would love to see laces here that have a bit more stretch and forgiveness.
- .1 for low profile lugs.  Would appreciate just a little more lug depth for more bite when needed.
- .1 for feeling a touch thin underfoot on rocky terrain.

La Sportiva Lycan vs. La Sportiva Akasha (RTR review here): The Akasha is a more substantial shoe with better cushion, protection and traction, but costs $25 more and weighs nearly 2 ounces more per shoe.  For rougher terrain and more protection, the Akasha wins, but for faster running on smoother terrain or door to trail, the Lycan wins hands down.

La Sportiva Lycan vs. New Balance Summit Unknown (RTR review here):  Both are light and fast, but the Summit Unknown is a little faster and more confidence inspiring, especially in more difficult terrain due to a slightly more secure upper and deeper lugs for better traction in loose terrain.  I found the Summit Unknown to be a touch narrow with very little wiggle room, vs. the more generous all day upper of the Lycan.

La Sportiva Lycan vs. Saucony Peregrine 8 (RTR review here): The Peregrine 8 is heavier, but still runs light and has better cushion, protection and traction.  For long days on rough stuff, Peregrine 8 is a better choice, but more mellow terrain and shorter faster runs, the Lycan is a worthy choice.

La Sportiva Lycan vs. Salomon XA Elevate (RTR review here):  The XA Elevate was my favorite shoe of 2017.  Not the lightest or the fastest or the most of anything, but wrap up all the attributes and it is hard to beat.  The Lycan is a bit lighter, less expensive and has a more accommodating fit and might be a better door to trail choice.

La Sportiva Lycan vs. Salomon Sense Ride (RTR review here):  These two shoes are fairly close in weight, price, stack height, cushion, protection and trail feel.  The Sense Ride has a bit better traction because of the deeper lugs and for my use is a bit more versatile.

See our preview of the rest of the Spring/Summer 2018 La Sportiva line up including Unika and Vertical K here

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 2d Masters in 2015. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the Colorado 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several. 

The Lycan was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere
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Jeff Valliere said...


Martin said...

Will you review La Sportiva Unika too?

Sam Winebaum said...

Yes Martin we do plan to test Unika!
Sam, Editor

Michael said...

It looks like a caldera...

Breeves2000 said...

Hi Jeff,
How would you compare the Lycan to the Brooks Mazama?

Jeff Valliere said...

The Mazama is much more responsive and an all around faster shoe, but the Lycan has a little better rubber compound that is more durable and sticky, also a bit wider.

Craig H said...

First of all thanks for your reviews. I believe the best, most thorough on the net. I especially like the comparisons to other shoes at the bottom of each review. Well done.

A question. I am looking at this shoe for thru-hiking. How do you think it would work for that? Thoughts? Thanks.

Jeff Valliere said...

Thanks for reading and the kind words. The Lycan is way too light for through hiking in my opinion, I would consider something more substantial like the Akasha or the Akyra (both of which we have reviewed here at RTR and should come up in a search).

Greek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.