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La Sportiva Mutant Review: The Ideal Double-Duty Trail Running & Approach Shoe

Upper - La Sportiva Mutant shoes(Photo/Sam Schild)
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The La Sportiva Mutant trail running shoes grip rock as well as approach shoes, and they’re better for running trails.

I’ve been wearing a pair of La Sportiva Mutant trail runners for the past few months, and now I never touch my approach shoes. I wore these shoes scrambling through slot canyons in Escalante, where I found some genuinely sketchy downclimbs. I’ve also worn them on traditional trail runs along the Colorado Front Range and backpacking in Zion National Park.

Now that I’ve put some miles on these shoes, I can see why they’re so popular with trail runners who blur the line between running and climbing.

In short: The Mutants are a favorite for fast-moving approaches over varied terrain. They have an insanely grippy outsole and stable, glove-like upper that makes them fantastic for getting past, over, or around everything between you and the top of a mountain. They have deep lugs that can handle anything — loose rock, scree, mud, and even snow.

These are very popular among mountain runners and peak baggers because they’re ultra-supportive and have deep lugs for rough mountain terrain. Loose rock, scree, mud, or even snow are not a problem for these shoes.

La Sportiva Mutant Review

La Sportiva Mutant Trail Running Shoes
(Photo/Sam Schild)

Mutant Trail Runners: Specs

  • Weight: 10.70 oz. / 303 g
  • Stack height: 24 mm
  • Heel-to-toe drop: 10 mm
  • Lug depth: 6 mm
  • Outsole: FriXion XF rubber, V-Groove with Impact Brake System
  • Footbed: Ortholite Hybrid with 5% recycled rubber + 15% production waste foam
  • Midsole: Injection-molded EVA / TPU stabilizer
  • Lacing system: FusionGate Lacing Harness
  • Upper: AirMesh / TPU / 4-way stretch dynamic scree guard

The Stickiest Rubber

Climbing with La Sportiva Mutant Shoes
(Photo/Sam Schild)

The Mutant outsole is seriously sticky. While climbing through a narrow slot canyon, I found myself hanging from a boulder, placing all of my trust in the rubber of these shoes as I dropped to a spot where the canyon walls were narrow enough to stem across with my feet. They gripped onto the smooth, near-vertical canyon walls better than I could have hoped.

La Sportiva Mutant Trail Running Shoes - Sole
(Photo/Sam Schild)

These have massive 6mm lugs that give responsive grip on hardpack to loose dirt and mud. With a new pair of these shoes, you don’t get much surface area to grip onto rock due to these lugs. But, they grip well even with the lugs, and will only become better for grabbing rock as the lugs wear down.

An Upper That Hugs Your Foot

La Sportiva Mutant Review
(Photo/Sam Schild)

The upper employs a unique lacing and tongue system that hugs around your foot, providing a secure, locked-in fit. There isn’t a tongue on these shoes, though. Instead, both sides of the shoe overlap across the top, where the tongue on a traditional shoe would be.

The lacing system allows you to tighten the shoe evenly by going beyond simply pulling the shoe up along the top. Each lace segment weaves through cord loops laminated along the sides of the shoe, extending to the midsole. When you lace up these shoes, you feel them tighten along the sides as well.

The wrapping tongue makes the shoes feel secure even when not tied. But once you tighten the laces, your foot isn’t moving.

Tackle Any Trail

These are surprisingly good all-around trail shoes. I say surprisingly because they feel burly in a way that could be too much for tamer, well-maintained trails.

In my experience, burly shoes often feel clunky, but not in the case of the Mutant. These shoes are fast and precise on every trail, with the muscle to handle scree fields.

They wouldn’t be my first choice for a marathon on smooth dirt. But I’d run 10+ miles over smooth dirt, knowing they’d be the best when the trail gets gnarly. And they shine on hills. Every step feels precise as you pick your way up or down the trail.

On downhill sections, they’re extremely responsive and stable. The massive lugs and grippy outsole inspire confidence while you’re flying down everything from loose rock to slippery mud. Plus, they’re light enough to keep your cadence high while going uphill, too.

The midsole foam has a cushioned, supportive feel without being too soft. It’s enough cushion for long runs over varied terrain, but not too much cushion so that you lose power or responsiveness.

Plus, a TPU stabilizer plate holds your heel in place, adding support and confidence. Overall, these feel springy, with just the right amount of underfoot protection for long days in the mountains.

Conclusion

testing the La Sportiva Mutant Shoes
(Photo/Sam Schild)

These shoes are fast. I expected the La Sportiva Mutant to be good for rough, rocky, and technical terrain. But, I’m also impressed with how light and nimble they feel on less rocky trails while still being great for scrambling.

Trail runners as a whole make for good approach shoes. But, the Mutants are the best trail running approach shoe I’ve found yet.

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