I’ve been wearing a pair of La Sportiva Jackal II BOA trail runners on a winter running trip in southern Arizona for the past few weeks. The mountains here are steep, rocky, and rugged. I’ve seen plenty of loose dirt and softball-sized rocks on the trail while wearing these shoes.
You don’t want to sleep on this high-performing trail runner. Whether it’s for race day or the most demanding trail runs, this shoe will make you want to find the gnarliest trail, go straight up it, then send it downhill.
In short: The Jackal II BOA ($185) is a game-changer for trail runners. These shoes are a souped-up version of the already great La Sportiva Jackal II, and have the same basic last, but come with an extended upper that wraps higher around the ankle (similar to the La Sportiva Cyklon) and a stickier rubber outsole, along with a pair of BOA dials. The BOA lacing system is the standout feature here and creates a hard-to-beat fit that’s quickly adjustable as the terrain changes.
La Sportiva Jackal II BOA Review
Quick-Adjusting Dual BOA Dials
The Jackal II BOA has a narrower cut than the non-BOA Jackal, but it’s still wide enough for long distances. I have a pretty wide foot, and these are roomy enough after hours of pounding up and down trails. When your foot inevitably swells, adjusting the width is easy too.
With the BOA lacing, you can quickly turn a pair of dials to adjust the fit as needed. Usually, I don’t bother to stop and tighten my trail runners in preparation for downhill sections. But turning those BOA dials a few clicks for descents is too easy not to tighten them. And a tighter shoe on the downhill makes a big difference.
The BOA dials are attached to a pair of dynamic straps with a subtle amount of stretch. These straps wrap across the top of your foot to lock it in place without feeling too tight. The result is a super-secure and comfortable fit. I also can’t feel the thin BOA laces on the top of my foot unless I wrench hard on the dials, which I’ve never felt the need to do.
Fit, Tongue, and Collar
The Jackal II BOAs have a Spiyralift tongue and collar that wraps around your foot and above the ankle. The result is a built-in gaiter, glove-like fit, and added protection for your ankles. (The brand uses a similar one on the Cyklon and Cyklon women’s shoes.)
The tongue wraps around your foot and up your ankle to create a surprisingly secure fit on its own, even when the BOA laces are loose. I don’t see why you wouldn’t tighten the BOA laces, but the fact that these feel secure without them is a testament to how the tongue and collar hug your foot.
The tongue and collar also serve as a gaiter to keep debris out of your shoes. And since they’re padded, they provide a cushion when those inevitable rocks jump at your ankle. These protected my ankles from thorns on overgrown trails, cushioned the impact of rocks, and kept dirt and debris out very well.
Handling the Roughest Trails
After testing, I’m pretty confident the Jackal II BOAs can handle anything the trail throws at you. The double BOA system and Spiyralift tongue and collar combine to create a shoe that fits like a glove. In my experience, a well-fitting shoe is most important for stability when moving over loose terrain. But, a sticky rubber outsole with the correct lug pattern helps when the trail has rocky, hard-packed dirt. These shoes are ready for that as well.
These use La Sportiva’s stickiest rubber for the outsole, the FriXion XF 2.0 white rubber. They have 3.5mm multidirectional lugs to go with the sticky rubber too. While running up steep granite slabs, these shoes feel as secure as it gets. When the trail points downhill, the lugs bite in the dirt, and the Impact Brake System keeps your foot planted where you want it.
I suspect we’ll start seeing a lot of trail running shoes with BOA lacing soon. The BOA lace-up system makes sense for trail shoes, where fit and adjustability are paramount. After wearing the Jackal II BOA shoes for about 100 miles, I’m certainly convinced — these may be the future of trail runners.
Compared to standard lace-up shoes, the only real drawback to BOA-equipped shoes is a higher price and a slight weight penalty. This is true of the Jackal II BOA, which costs more and weighs almost an ounce more than the non-BOA version.
However, these drawbacks aren’t enough to make me reach for a pair of lace-up shoes. I don’t even notice the slight weight penalty when bombing down steep, rough terrain. And the fun you’ll have doing so is well worth the price.
The La Sportiva Jackal II BOAs will hit the market in spring 2023.