UKC

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX Review

© Dan Bailey

Fitting footwear is a hit and miss business, so when you find a pair of trail shoes that work for you then it makes sense to stick with them. I have been through several pairs of La Sportiva's classic Ultra Raptor over the years. As with most things the model has undergone various changes, but the core characteristics have remained constant (and explain my loyalty). No lightweight, but still forgiving on the foot, this is a supportive, protective and well-cushioned all-round trail shoe, with a relaxed front-end fit that should suit wider-footed users (such as me) and accommodate the inevitable foot spread over a longer day out. I've worn mine as much for hillwalking, backpacking and crag approaches as for running, and for me they are hard to beat as a do-it-all shoe.

An Ultra Raptor with a soft, stretchy ankle cuff... it's a winner   © Dan Bailey
An Ultra Raptor with a soft, stretchy ankle cuff... it's a winner
© Dan Bailey

Taking this brilliant shoe and adding a cuff to create a light and bouncy boot could have been seen as a bit of a gamble. But while I'm sure not every shoe design would be likely to justify such modification, the result in this case is quite simply brilliant. You probably won't be running in them (though you could), but for big spring and summer hill days on rough ground, wet weather, boggy crag walk-ins and lightweight backpacking, the Ultra Raptor Mid is the absolute business. If I were planning to hike something like the Pennine Way or the West Highland Way - where there's a lot of hard-packed ground, but also the possibility of bogs and rain - then these boot-shoes would be top of my list.

We last reviewed the shoe version of the Ultra Raptor back in 2017, and a lot of what we said then also applies to the Mid:

Weight

A soft, shoe-like boot like this really has to be light, and the Ultra Raptor Mid ticks that box. On our digital scales my size 47 pair weighs just 1150g. While this would be considered heavy for a shoe, and the low-cut Ultra Raptor is no lightweight, in boot terms it's pretty darn light, and having swapped from winter mountain boots to these over the last few weeks the difference is night and day. The comparative lightness is a joy on big hill rounds.

Bearing in mind the added ankle cuff and the waterproof lining, a weight of around 1100g is not really a whole lot more than an old unlined pair of Ultra Raptors from my shoe stash, which come in at 892g/pair size 47 - a weight difference that's not enough to really notice when walking. According to La Sportiva's own figures for a single shoe (size not specified) the unlined Ultra Raptor is 350g, and the waterproof low-cut Ultra Raptor GTX is 400g, while the Ultra Raptor Mid weighs 470g.

An ideal boot/shoe crossover for big days, such as here in the Torridon hinterland  © Dan Bailey
An ideal boot/shoe crossover for big days, such as here in the Torridon hinterland
© Dan Bailey

Fit

This boot comes in both men's and women's/lower volume models, and is also available in standard width and a wider fit. With fairly broad and quite blunt-ended feet, I went 'wide' and I definitely haven't regretted it. The regular size must be fairly narrow. Even in the wider fit my toes push against both sides of the shoe, but because the uppers are soft and have some give this isn't a problem in the way it would be in a stiffer boot. The standard Ultra Raptor is marketed on its wider fit, something I've always liked about it, so perhaps the two versions of the boot would be more accurately described as narrow and regular.

There's quite a lot of depth at the front relative to the width, and while this gives your toes plenty of wiggle room I have needed to fill the dead space with a second insole. The soft upper hugs the foot snugly, but without the laces digging into the top of the foot, while the soft and stretchy cuff is just all-out comfortable. I find my foot is held softly but firmly in place, with no trace of heel lift, rubbing or pinching.

I find them comfier than a heavier boot on a long walk-in  © Dan Bailey
I find them comfier than a heavier boot on a long walk-in
© Dan Bailey

For me the Ultra Raptor Mid felt comfy straight out of the box. Sometimes you just know; and on the strength of my long and happy relationship with the shoe version I took a gamble for my fist outing with the boots, on the remote peak of Baosbheinn. This is a big day however you approach it, with a good mix of stony track, pathless bog, steep grass and scrambly moments on which to test the boot's full range. This educated gamble paid off. They felt soft and forgiving on the foot all day, and I only took them off to drive home because they were muddy.

Sole

With a soft, deep, shock absorbing EVA midsole, the Ultra Raptor Mid soaks up a lot of impact, and on hard ground it feels noticeably more cushioned and springy underfoot than either a more minimalist trail shoe or a more substantial walking boot would be likely to. 

Plenty of cushioning for hard-packed ground, tarmac and stony tracks  © Dan Bailey
Plenty of cushioning for hard-packed ground, tarmac and stony tracks
© Dan Bailey

The drop of 9mm is the same as the Ultra Raptor shoe (though unexpectedly, the Ultra Raptor GTX shoe is listed as having 12mm drop); and that's quite a lot by trail shoe standards. Drop, the difference between heel height and toe height, may be up to around 10mm in a road running shoe, while minimalist fell shoes can have half that, or less. A shoe with less drop may be more nimble on rough ground, while a bigger drop can mean more cushioning for hard surfaces and long distances, so it's pretty clear where the Ultra Raptor Mid is positioned. Hard-packed trails are no issue: you could almost go road running in these (and I certainly have in the shoe version). But while that high heel can feel a little more cumbersome and divorced from the terrain underfoot than a flatter soled trail shoe, it's not particularly deep by walking boot standards, and I don't find the Ultra Raptor Mid imprecise or clumpy on more fiddly ground.

To help support the feet over long days, there's a lot of lateral stability in the sole, which only really flexes at the front. On rough ground a big rubber bumper provides an effective guard for the toes, while the robust midsole protects the soles of your feet from sharp rocks. There's less sensitivity to the ground underfoot than you might get in a lighter running shoe, but still more than a lot of boots offer, so in boot terms the overall feel is really nimble. 

Underfoot, the Frixion rubber outsole is, or course, the same as on the low-cut shoe. I've always found this really grippy on dry trails, with plenty of stick on the rock if you go scrambling. Being quite soft though, it does tend to wear relatively fast. By both trail shoe and walking boot standards, the tread pattern is only of medium depth, and though the heel has a little ledge which provides effective braking on the downhills, I'd say the tread is better for hard dry ground than soft and wet. This sole was clearly designed more for alpine trails than muddy British hills, though for hillwalking even on fairly challenging off-path terrain I've found it OK.

Upper

The advantage of the boot cuff over a low-cut shoe is twofold: providing increased ankle support on rough ground and when carrying loads; and helping to keep out water and debris. Being soft and slightly stretchy, it does not significantly limit ankle mobility, so in essence this is a very shoe-like boot. The obvious seasonal disadvantage of a higher cuff is that it's inevitably a bit warmer than a shoe.  

An external structure that extends to the midfoot to provide a real feeling of support, the heel cage offers a close fit without feeling too aggressive, and the heel seems to really help support the foot when traversing slopes, while managing not to put pressure on the achilles. To give a close hold to the foot, and offer a bit of light structure to the upper, the webbing lace eyelets connect to a soft external TPU 'skeleton', and the lacing runs smoothly, a really effective design that fans of the original Ultra Raptor will be pleased to see that La Sportiva have not meddled with. 

A good choice for going fast and light (or, equally, slow and light) on rough hill terrain  © Dan Bailey
A good choice for going fast and light (or, equally, slow and light) on rough hill terrain
© Dan Bailey

Gore-Tex lining

I'm no fan of waterproof linings in trail shoes, finding them hot and sweaty in summer (which, I'd argue, negates some of the benefit of wearing a shoe in the first place). On boggy ground, a low-cut shoe is easily flooded, at which point that lining becomes a bag holding water in.

However, I think that adding a bit of height to the ankle cuff changes things, and in a boot such as this, on the sort of terrain I might want to wear a boot, a lining makes sense. Having worn the Ultra Raptor Mid GTX on sunny spring days I'd say that while they are defintiely warmer than an unlined shoe or boot, they do seem pretty breathable as these things go, and until recently I'd yet to find them sweaty. But on a recent sunny day of high teens temperatures (it passes for a heatwave in the NW) I did begin to notice a clammy feel after some hours. In hot, dry conditions, I think it's safe to assume they'd suffer the same drawback as all Gore-Tex footwear, and at that stage I'd be reaching for the unlined Ultra Raptor shoe with its airy mesh upper (not an option in the boot version).

Being waterproof certainly has its advantages  © Dan Bailey
Being waterproof certainly has its advantages
© Dan Bailey

While I have so far found the Ultra Raptor Mid GTX to be waterproof as advertised, it's a funny effect compared to the more insulated waterproof boots I'm familiar with, because you feel the cold of the water through the lining and it takes a bit of thought to work out that you're not actually wet. However, when crossing streams and bogs it's worth remembering that the tongue is only sewn-in to half height, so you can't stand in water to the depth of the ankle cuff without the risk of a little leaking at the top.

Summary

Is it a shoe, or a boot? Marrying a soft, supportive and shock-absorbing feel with a comparatively light weight, the Ultra Raptor Mid GTX arguably gives you the best of both worlds. For lightweight backpacking, long summer hill days and boggy crag approaches, it's a real winner. 

La Sportiva say:

Ultra Raptor Mid II GTX is the mid-cut version of the Ultra Raptor Mountain Running icon, ideal for fast hiking and excursions with light loads. Waterproof and breathable thanks to the Gore-Tex® Extended Comfort membrane. The soft Comfort Collar protects the ankle from the entry of stones or mud and integrates the easy-fit spoiler for maximum ease of fit. The upper is in abrasion-resistant, breathable mesh fabric, perfect for use in all conditions. The rear stabilizing heel allows perfect control over the traverses. Perfect volume adjustment and foot hold thanks to the dedicated lacing elements: the eye-stay webbings are sewn on the inside of the upper and reinforced on the outside with a high frequency TPU skeleton, allowing the lace pull-force to be distributed equally over all areas of the upper. Ultra Raptor Mid II GTX is also available in a wide-fit comfort version to accommodate different foot-volumes. The result is a mid cut hiking shoe that can be worn for many consecutive hours and suitable for off-road use on any type of terrain.

Ultra Raptor Mid GTX  © La Sportiva
Ultra Raptor Mid GTX
© La Sportiva

  • Weight: 470g 1/2 pair (La Sportiva's weight)
  • Sizes:  38-49.5 (men) 36-43 (women)
  • Also available in Wide fit
  • Uppers: Abrasion resistant mesh with microfiber reinforcement band with anti-abrasion coating
  • Lining: Gore-Tex® Extended Comfort
  • Footbed: Ortholite Mountain Running
  • Midsole: Memlex Eva with shock-absorbing injection
  • Sole: Ultra-tight FriXion White with Impact Brake System and integrated anti-shock rubber toe
  • Drop: 9mm
  • Comfort Collar: soft collar to protect the ankle with an easy-fit spoiler that facilitates the fit
  • Rear stabilizing heel for perfect control over the traverses
  • Perfect volume adjustment and foot hold thanks to the dedicated lacing elements: the eye-stay webbings are sewn on the inside of the upper and reinforced on the outside with a high frequency TPU skeleton, allowing the lace pull-force to be distributed equally over all areas of the upper

For more info see lasportiva.com



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