Three La Sportiva Lycan Trail Running Shoes: A Review

Once upon a time, I did not give running shoe quality a second thought, or even a first thought. My day shoes were my running shoes were my everything shoes. 

When high school track season came around, I chose my favorite color combo and whatever was on sale at the nearest discount clothing store. 

That practice got me through the first decade and a half of running, from age 11 to my mid-20s.  

As I began running more consistently, I experimented with a variety of shoes including Vibram five fingers, some Scotts that I won in a race and many others whose brand names I cannot remember. 

Then I got pregnant, had my first son, developed plantar fasciitis, tore tendons in the inner arch of my foot and suffered from the debilitating pain of a heel spur with every step for nearly two years.

Consequently, I got serious about running shoes.

With the guidance of shoe connoisseurs at Morgantown Running, I wore the Saucony Peregrine trail shoe from 2014 to 2019 after trying several Hoka models with little success and lots of blisters. 

Yet, by 2018, the Peregrine had changed. They felt stiffer and heavier and always developed holes at the little toes. My feet were begging for something better, something new. 

During the Peregrine phase, I gave other shoes a chance. I wore the Altra Timp, merely because I won them in a race. I wanted to love them, yet the zero-drop was not my thing. The shoe itself felt short, as if not enough space existed from sole to upper, perhaps because of my high arches, causing a squashed sandwich or vice grip feeling on my feet, not to mention blisters on the top of my feet and toes. Sizing up did not remedy the situation, so I gave them away. 

Another that I tried was the Brooks Caldera trail shoe. It was stiff, the shoelaces were short and stumpy, making them difficult to tie or double knot, the toe box was too narrow, and the shape didn’t contour to the shape of my feet. 

After the Hokas, Saucony Peregrines, Altras, and Brooks, I decided to try another brand. 

The La Sportiva Lycan was introduced to me at the Carbondale store Independence Run & Hike in 2019. My family and I were spending Christmas in Colorado, and I jumped at the chance for a new shoe fitting. 

Here I was, in Colorado, running on a treadmill while being filmed by the shoe salesperson, a runner himself. 

Next, he measured my foot and studied the characteristics of my feet. Every foot is different, so details matter when it comes to finding the perfect fit

After that, I told him what I wanted in a shoe: sticky, rubber soles; a wide toe box; a mid-drop; and something for technical, rocky, often wet trails.

Armed with his analysis and the information I provided, he handed me the La Sportiva Lycan I.

It runs small, he said, so he gave me an 8.5. 

It has a 6mm drop, he said. Perfect.

The sole comes equipped with a Rock Ground / FriXion® AT 2.0 with Impact Brake System, he explained. Excellent. 

After lacing up, I ran laps around the store.

Yes, this was the shoe. He told me to run in them a few days, and if I didn’t like them, to bring them back.

The next day, I ran to a snow-covered trail just outside of our hotel in Glenwood Springs. Four miles was not enough to say that I loved them, but more than enough to pack them in my suitcase and bring them home to Pennsylvania. 

A week later, I ordered a second pair in order to swap between the two as I trained for a trail 50K. 

To date, I own four pairs of the La Sportiva Lycan I and one pair each of the La Sportiva Lycan II and Lycan GTX

From left to right: La Sportiva Lycan GTX (Goretex); Lycan II in blue; Lycan I in purple and three pairs of Lycan I in gray/green. (Photo/Eric Harder)

Before I give the Lycan lowdown, here is a summary of background information, things I like to know from fellow runners, when researching shoes:

My shoe size: All my life, I have worn size 7.5. I “sized up” once in a Brooks road shoe and did not like the feeling so never did it again. Yet, the young gentleman at the Carbondale store determined that my feet measure between a 7.5 and an eight, so I should really be wearing an eight.

Lycan sizing: After determining my size, he then said, “the Lycan runs small,” and sold me the size 8.5/ European size 40. It worked fine, but the next five pairs I purchased I chose the size 8/Europen size 39.5, because I had to tighten the upper part of the bigger-sized shoe too tight in order to keep my feet from feeling as if they were floating around. Despite the recommendation of an 8.5, I like the 8. 

My foot profile: High arch, neutral foot strike, former sprinter who likes to run on the forefoot once in a while and toes that spread out wide 

My foot health history: 

  • 2013-14: Postpartum-related plantar fasciitis that led to heel spur that led to torn tendons  
  • 2018: Fractured calcaneus along with fracture through a heel spur on left foot

Now, let’s talk about specific features. The following is true for all three versions that I own (Lycan I, II & GTX):

The sticky soles – They are made for “mountain running,” as in, running atop rocks as the primary terrain rather than dirt. In southwestern Pennsylvania, I am not exactly mountain running, but it is quite rocky, and the Lycan is by far the stickiest sole I have ever had with the most security as I leap from often slippery rock-to-rock while trail running. I slip noticeably less often in the Lycans, hence, I am more daring in my rock hopping these days. 

The lightness– When I pick them up, they feel lighter than the Peregrine. I do not like heavy shoes. 

The flexibility – They bend nicely and do not feel stiff, even right out of the box. 

Shoelaces – They are skinny, strong and long, nice for tying easily and tightly. Of course, shoelaces are a minor issue, a quick and inexpensive thing to replace, but when I am spending about $120 on a pair of shoes, I do not want to spend anymore on fixing problems.  

Mileage until replacement – about 300 to 400. Perhaps this is a personal preference. My feet tell me they need a fresh pair of kicks. Sometimes I push it to 500 miles but use them for short runs only. 

What I do with the Lycans after they have exceeded their mileage – I use the first three pairs of Lycan I shoes for outings with my sons, mountain biking, hiking and solo sprint duathlons where I ride my bike then trail run, or double sprint duathlons (ride/run/ride/run). I am normally not running more than six miles in these self-created duathlons and do not mind pushing the limit of the shoes with such short distances. 

Breaking in the shoe –I had no “break in” period with the Lycan and have never had a blister or hot spot. I have learned that if the shoe does not work the first time, it is a long road to discovering that it is not the right shoe. 

Now, let’s talk about the one big difference between the Lycan I and the Lycan II.

The Lycan II (left) and Lycan I (right) – notice the difference? (Photo/Eric Harder)

If you guessed the tread, you got it. As you can see, the Lycan II has a more aggressive tread, and it even says the word “spikes” on them. 

When they arrived and I saw how drastically different the sole was from the Lycan I, I double checked to see if I ordered the correct shoe. I did. 

Maybe it’s my imagination, but the aggressive tread helps me dig in and push forward. They make me feel as if I am in my 400-meter dash track spikes all over again. Perhaps it is merely the word “spikes” on the sole that gets me going. 

Nonetheless, I like both treads and do not prefer one more than the other unless it is particularly muddy. Then the Lycan II wins my vote. 

Speaking of traction and this particular tread, let’s move on to the Goretex version, the La Sportiva Womens Lycan GTX.

La Sportiva Womens Lycan GTX (Photo/Eric Harder)

Note in the above photo that the GTX shares the same tread as the Lycan II. 

I love waterproof shoes, because I love blasting through mud, creeks and puddles, right down the heart of the trail, and I love running in the rain. The satisfaction of playing hard, getting dirty, is amplified when I can do so while keeping my toes cozy, warm and dry.  

With these in my quiver, I am always ready for any trail condition, any weather. They are my go-to winter shoes when running through snow, and they are my go-to for rainy springtime runs. 

The longest run I have done in them so far was a14.2-mile trail run in March, and my toes stayed dry after intentionally hitting all the wet areas I could without submerging my feet. 

I have owned two other Goretex trail running shoes in the past – the Saucony Ice and an old Patagonia shoe, and the Lycans are the most comfortable by far. My feet felt as if they were on fire, and my soles aches if I ran more than five miles in the Saucony pair, but the Lycans do not feel that way.  I look forward to a long life with the GTX. An added bonus – I love the color. 

To sum up, I hope the Lycan lives on and stays the way it is for many years to come. If you have questions about the shoe, please let me know. 

In the meantime, give your feet some love with the right shoe for you. Happy trails! 

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Brynn Cunningham
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Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, triathlete, cross country and backcountry skier...


Marci McGuinness Feet are such hard workers. Be good to those babies with the right gear. When you are old you will be happy you did!

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