Aggressive tech in an unassuming package, La Sportiva Nucleo boots are waterproof and stocked with upgrades for mountains and trails.
Sometimes all you need is a solid, reliable boot. La Sportiva designed its Nucleo as a do-all hiker, balancing fit, light(ish) weight, and a bespoke Vibram outsole built for steep terrain or fast trail.
We reviewed the boots — full name: La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX Hiking Boots — over several months. With an impact-absorbing heel, grippy sole, and a Gore-Tex Surround membrane, the Nucleos are capable and durable.
Hiking Boot Review: La Sportiva Nucleo
We wore the boots through winter and spring, through wet and dry conditions, and into summer now as the temps spike high.
In short: They are solid all-around hikers for almost all conditions with an adaptable outsole and a new kind of Gore-Tex technology that keeps water out (but also traps heat, making the boots warm on summer days).
La Sportiva Nucleo Technology
La Sportiva notes the Nucleo is “perfect for hikers who want a medium-duty boot” and backpackers looking for a waterproof option that “breathes well and supports moderate loads.”
It’s a build that accommodates weekend backpackers, peak-baggers, and even thru-hikers who need something more rugged than trail-running shoes.
They are not clunky. You can indeed run in these boots. The heel is not overbearingly high, and the build is lighter than average. A comfortable EVA foam midsole sits atop the Vibram tread.
One innovation: To add traction, La Sportiva used a scalloped hard rubber compound on the heel. Dubbed the “Impact Brake System,” it’s designed to provide extra cushion on heel strike and prevent slipping by digging in on steep terrain.
Nucleo Hiking Boot Review
Our editors tested these boots between February and May. The boots saw snow, streams, hard-packed trail, and loose rock.
While not a dedicated winter boot, the Nucleos performed on snow, and for early-spring hikes, through slush and moderately icy conditions.
The boots’ aggressive tread bit into snow, snagging purchase on slippery hills. And once the snow melted, they proved to be nimble and fast hikers.
The thick uppers protect without bogging down. The boots are lighter than average, at about 20 ounces per foot.
The waterproof uppers are solid. From the March slush to springtime stream crossings our editors noted that water flowing or falling around the boots stayed outside the boots.
They fit well out of the box. These are not stiff, old-school hiking boots. La Sportiva is known for its climbing shoes and boots, and these hikers borrow some of the design cues from those categories.
The sole is flexible, making them comfortable as you stride and step on rocks or roots. The rubber is a tacky formula that sticks to stone. You can edge moderately with the sole, making them usable for scrambling and low-angle climbing.
The tread is low-profile except on the edges, where, when weighted, it protrudes slightly out from the base of the shoe. One tester, who weighed 250 pounds with a loaded pack on, noted he could feel the tread “shifting” slightly underfoot when on hard rock.
Not A Summer Boot
Hot days are not a candidate for waterproof boots. Though usable, you’re better with a mesh upper, trail-running shoes, or even sandals when temps hit 80 degrees or higher.
This is hardly unique to La Sportiva. Your feet will sweat in a boot with leather uppers and a Gore-Tex membrane. The membrane does breathe, though, making them usable year-round if you need the protection and durability all months.
The “macro membrane” mesh on the side of the boots points to the Gore-Tex Surround construction. While this does increase breathability in the boots, it is still overwhelmed in hot weather.
In the end, we found the boots to be nimble for their protection and grip. They have a classic look with brown leather and subdued tones (they also come in black).
But the boot’s construction with nubuck leather and Gore-Tex inside was not made for fashion; this is functioning gear for your feet that will keep a hiker striding strong in talus and trail on long-distance days.
Buy the Nucleos for hikes and variable conditions. At $199, they offer superior grip, a waterproof build, and protection in a relatively lightweight package.