UKH

La Sportiva Cyklon Review

© UKC Gear

La Sportiva's Mutant is one of my all-time favourite running shoes. It's got good enough grip for the rough stuff, but good enough cushioning for the trails too. This is a strong combination that makes for a superb - and also highly popular - all-round mountain running shoe. The Cyklon takes some of the Mutant's DNA, but morphs (some may even say mutates) it into something that's a little more souped-up, providing a bit more balance than the Mutant in terms of its performance - particularly over technical terrain.

The La Sportiva Cyklon - one seriously space age looking running shoe  © UKC Gear
The La Sportiva Cyklon - one seriously space age looking running shoe
© UKC Gear

Functionality

The Cyklon's natural habitat is rough and rocky ground, which is what you'd expect for a shoe that's been designed with the Dolomites in mind. Thankfully it deals with damp environments well too, which is great from a UK perspective. Its 6.5mm tread is capable of chewing up mud and grips as well on wet rock as well as anything grips on wet rock. The in-built gaiter is also a benefit in this regard too, as it helps to keep out dust, rock and mud, which makes it ideal for year-round use.

Technical rocky terrain is where the Cyklon excels  © UKC Gear
Technical rocky terrain is where the Cyklon excels
© UKC Gear

Though it's also got enough cushioning to provide support on trails  © UKC Gear
Though it's also got enough cushioning to provide support on trails
© UKC Gear

In terms of distance, they are - much like the Mutant - capable of a little bit of everything, albeit in a slightly different way. There's enough cushioning, support and stability to cope with longer distances, but enough forefoot feel to make shorter and more technical runs an absolute pleasure. For ultra distances I've tended to favour my Mutants with their whopping 10mm drop - but as many will know, that's a hell of a lot of height and it isn't always the most stable. The Cyklon seeks to remedy this with a smaller 7mm drop. Overall it gives a much more balanced feel, which is why rather than competing with the Mutant it actually complements it. You could easily own both, but wear them for very different days out: the Mutant on easier terrain; the Cyklon for more technical ground. At 320g they're not the lightest, but neither are they designed to be, and their focus matches the feature set (i.e. if you want light, you're unlikely to want an in-built gaiter for instance; if you do want one, you're going to expect a slightly heavier shoe).

No summary of the Cyklon would be complete without mention of its lacing system, which doesn't actually involve laces (or at least not in the conventional sense of the word). We'll cover more this in more detail below, both in terms of the pros and the cons, and just include a summary here. In short: the BOA lacing system provides a very static, stable and solid method of closure. Once your foot is in place, it feels firmly in place, further adding to the Cyklon's technical and precise level of performance.

Fit

Coming in both a male and a female/lower volume version, the Cyklon shares a lot with its cousin the Mutant in terms of fit. Being fairly neutral, I'd say it's neither particularly wide nor notably narrow, neither high volume nor low, meaning that it has the potential to fit a wide range of people. The main point of difference in terms of fit, from the perspective of someone who has used both models, is in the heel cup, which on the Cyklon is cut a little lower. This is immediately noticeable when putting them on, so much so that I was worried it might be a problem whilst running, but once out on the hill it wasn't something I noticed. That said, this is something that people should be aware of whilst trying them on, as it's not a like-for-like transition to make in terms of fit (even though it's quite similar).

It's hard not to mention the fit without mentioning the lacing, as the Cyklon's BOA lacing system is heavily intertwined with its fit and feel:

Lacing

This is the first thing that people tend to notice on the Cyklon, and I suspect it'll generate some comment in the forums.

BOA technology has been used in mountaineering boots for years, but we've only seen it on a couple of running shoes hitherto. On a mountain boot the dial will typically be hidden within a gaiter, and also much higher up the boot well out of harms way. On a running shoe such as the Cyklon it's both external and much closer to the action, hence I was worried that it might be more vulnerable. Two things allayed my fears here, the first of which was simply that throughout a lot of really rough use, it didn't break. Mine has scrapes on the side to prove it, but the best I could do (and only managed once) was to get it to undo whilst running through unfathomably high heather. The second is that BOA lacing has already proven to be able to take the knocks, from its long use on mountain bike shoes.

Boa Lacing  © UKC Gear
Boa Lacing
© UKC Gear

Dynamic Cage  © UKC Gear
Dynamic Cage
© UKC Gear

If you're unfamiliar with it, it certainly feels different to conventional lacing. I'm not saying that I expect every running shoe to have BOA lacing going forward, or that I'm never going to wear a conventionally laced shoe again, but for this particular shoe it certainly works. It provides an incredibly secure fit, giving a good, even distribution of pressure across the forefoot. That said, it does take some getting used to in terms of getting the right level of tightness. When I was first using them I'd frequently under-do them whilst setting off, then over-do them whilst out, and overdoing them isn't something you want to do (I had a bit of pain in/around the top of my midfoot whilst over-tightening, which became quite uncomfortable, so be warned!). Whilst the same could be said for conventional lacing, the BOA system has a slightly more static feel, even with its Dynamic Cage (aka. the stretchy yellow bit in the middle). If you do over tighten, you can't progressively loosen the BOA system - you have to completely undo it and start again - which isn't ideal, but is what it is. One thing I would say is that when you get it right, there's nothing quite like it (so try not to get it wrong).

As you can see, I tried really REALLY hard to break it  © UKC Gear
As you can see, I tried really REALLY hard to break it
© UKC Gear

Midsole

The Cyklon has a stack height of 19.5mm on the front and 26.5mm on the back, which provides a 7mm drop - markedly less than the Mutant's whopping 10mm; however, for those that have got this far reading the review, this won't come as a surprise, as the Cyklon's focus is definitely one of precision and sensitivity - and it's hard to achieve this with as substantial a drop as the Mutant's! Overall this gives it a much more balanced feel, but nowhere is it more noticeable than on technical terrain, where 10mm could - at times - feel like you were on a set of stilts.

Underfoot the Ckylon features a respectable amount of cushioning courtesy of its injection moulded EVA midsole. Whilst there isn't quite as much at the back as there is on the Mutant, there's a bit more on the front. The latter gives a bit more protection underfoot and the reduction at the back is still plenty for this to give a whole lot of support - just not quite as much as the Mutant - which is why I'd categorise this in the mid-long distance range, as opposed to the ultra distance bracket. Rather surprisingly there isn't a rock plate in the forefoot, as this would help to shield the foot from any awkward stones, but I've considered its omission was to favour its sensitivity, as you get quiet a lot of feel and response back from the ground in front of you without.

Outsole

This features La Sportiva's FriXion X, which is the brand's stickiest compound. There's a new lug design, although having compared it to the Mutant the difference is quite subtle. With 6.5mm tread it provides .5mm more than the Mutant, which is advantageous from both a durability and a grip perspective, although it clearly comes with a slight weight penalty. As mentioned earlier in the review, this compound performs as well on wet rock as any, which is quite an accolade, as I genuinely believe that very few shoes do! It's similarly good on mud, grass and wet ground.

The Cyklon has enough grip to bushwhack up vegetated terrain  © UKC Gear
The Cyklon has enough grip to bushwhack up vegetated terrain
© UKC Gear

although whether or not you'd want to is another matter!!  © UKC Gear
although whether or not you'd want to is another matter!!
© UKC Gear

Uppers

Beyond the lacing, one of the first things you notice when looking at the Cyklon is its in-built gaiter. As you'd expect, this helps to keep out mud, dust, dirt and rocks, and does so pretty effectively. While nothing is quite as effective as an actual, purpose built gaiter, they aren't anywhere near as convenient as this. Were there to be a downside it's that the gaiter makes the shoe feel a little bit warmer. On wet days, where mud is your main issue, this is unlikely to be a problem, but on hot, dry and dusty days it can feel a bit sticky.

A somewhat crusty, muddy, but well used (and loved) gaiter  © UKC Gear
A somewhat crusty, muddy, but well used (and loved) gaiter
© UKC Gear

Another practical issue of the gaiter is getting your foot in and out of the shoe, which requires a bit more of a wriggle than it would usually. Whilst this can be annoying at times, it's not as annoying as having to take your shoe off on the hill to tip out the grit, so it's a small price to pay.

Summary

I've been asked on more than one occasion whether or not I'll be replacing my beloved Mutants with the Cyklon, but the answer isn't that simple. Both are great shoes and compliment each other in many ways, but which is right for you largely comes down to focus. If I were doing longer distances then I still think that the Mutant pips the Cyklon to the post, but on more technical ground there's no comparison to be made - the Cyklon wins hands down. I for one am glad to have both, but if you had to choose one it'd simply be a case of asking yourself what you most need them for.

La Sportiva say:

Cyclon is the performance shoe for skyraces and off-road racing on technical terrain at medium distance. The result of research and development between La Sportiva and BOA™, it is a product that guarantees stability, precision and a perfect fit thanks to the new Dynamic Cage™ powered by the BOA™ Fit System that works in synergy with 3 different elements of the upper for perfect binding and stability of the foot for a safe and precise downhill run. The heart of the lacing system is the internal Dynamic Flap ™ that wraps the foot and is activated instantly and precisely via the BOA® Fit System with one effortless hand movement. The protective TPU toecap and the multi-layer, thermo-adhesive side panel provide additional structure and impact protection. The mud-ground tread, ideal for use on soft and muddy ground, is in ultra-grippy La Sportiva FriXion™ White compound and provides the possibility of integrating AT Grip Spike nails in case of use on icy ground. The double-density EVA midsole with stabilizer insert contributes to the overall stability of the shoe and contains weight.

  • Sizes: 38-47.5 (men) 36-43 (women)
  • Upper: Breathable anti-abrasion mesh with thermo-adhesive TPU reinforcements
  • Lining: Mesh with high abrasion resistance
  • Footbed: Ortholite Mountain Running
  • Midsole: Memlex Eva with shock absorbing and double density injection with stabilizer insert
  • Sole: FriXion White ultra adherent
  • Drop: 7 mm
  • Weight: 315 g (1/2 pair)
  • Lacing: BOA® FIT SYSTEM – Dial into fast, effortless, precision fit

For more information La Sportiva website


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29 Oct, 2021

Thanks for this Rob, one I suspected was coming for a while :)

Fit wise - same size as Mutants? Up, down?

This one definitely took me a lot longer to write than I was initially expecting. Footwear reviews aren't the quickest, and these felt like a relatively complex set of shoes to review.

I went a half size up, but am not entirely sure it was necessary, and were I to recommend anything it'd probably be to try the same size before thinking about going up.


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