For almost 90 years La Sportiva has been designing high quality footwear to get you to, up, and from the mountains. We’ve been rocking the Nucleo High GTX Boot (La Sportiva’s most breathable boot to date) since April, and we’re smitten. We’ve put these boots to the test in the rolling mountains of the Appalachian Trail, the craggy peaks of Colorado, and the swamps of South Carolina. Each time we’ve been more impressed with the versatility of these leather, medium duty hiking boots.
One of our favorite features of these boots is how breathable they are. Gore-Tex has been used in hiking boots for a long time, but the Nucleo features a material called ‘Gore-Tex Surround’. It consists of a polyester mesh insole that allows air to pass under the Gore-Tex bootie insert, negating many of the complaints users have when wearing Gore-Tex. The boots have full waterproof protection, while also BREATHING. It’s like yoga for your feet. We literally walked through the swamp of Congaree National Park and our feet were happier for it. These boots, when used with warm socks, offer good protection in the high snowfields of Colorado. At a pound each (5 ounces under the average weight for leather boots) these lightweight champs are still kicking in the final round.
The breathability and waterproofing of the Nucleo, while extremely important to us, were outshined by their most important feature- durability. The Nucleo is made from rugged Nubuck leather and La Sportiva’s proprietary Nano-Cell mesh that makes the boot feel indestructible while offering the breathability that you would expect from a synthetic option. While we have put them to the test in the field (scree, talus, and boulders), we appreciate their durability in daily van living. We throw them on, forget to lace them, chuck ‘em out of our mudroom (the step up into the van) and otherwise beat these boots up on a daily basis, and they withstand it all. After one particular rainy (think torrential downpour) day, both pairs changed color with the stain of two-inch thick mud. After a quick hose off, we ended up with dry feet and Nucleos with a story.
We also like how well the boot grips on different types of surfaces. La Sportiva has a long history of making particularly sticky shoes- it’s their specialty. The Nucleo’s Vibram Nano Sole with Impact Brake System is no exception. This sole was designed to help cushion and stick to terrain when moving fast down hill. The downward push into the front of your boot after a long descent where you end up with hot blisters on the ends of all your toes just doesn’t happen here. Between the Brake System and the lace system, you’ve got a boot that fits like a glove.
All boots (especially leather boots) have a break in period. We were surprised how little we noticed them on our first day out. We climbed over 1000ft in the soggy Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Brevard, NC. Over 20 miles later, no blisters, no hot spots, no problem. One of us has fat feet and needs a wide toe box, the other needs flex in the sole to move more naturally while hiking. We were worried about throwing on new boots and jumping on trail, but the toe box fit perfectly, and the lightness allowed for easy movement. We completely forgot we were wearing them, the perfect outcome for a break in period.
On the east coast, we tested these boots on a hike in Table Rock State Park, outside of Greenville, South Carolina. It’s a steep, rugged hike that ascends 2,000 feet to the summit of Table Rock Mountain. It was one of those blistering hot days in the south, where the humidity soaks through your clothes, but we were confident the Nucleo would be our best choice. There was plenty of scrambling on this route and we wanted the trustworthiness of the Gore-Tex sole under our toes. The breathability let our feet stay cool while also keeping us steady on the rocks.
We took these boots on our first backpacking trip of the year outside of Buena Vista, Colorado. We packed in 6 miles on the Brown’s Creek Trail and summited Mt. Antero (14,275 ft) on the following day. We did a fair amount of research on our route before heading out, but in early summer in Colorado, conditions change daily. We were expecting mud, snow, and slippery conditions. We found a little bit of all of that and were able to handle it with the Nucleo with no problem. The boots kept us dry on the muddy trails, stuck to the rock as we scrambled up steep boulder fields, and handled the extra thirty pounds of our packs nicely.
When you can find one boot that conforms to your feet, and your lifestyle, with ease, it’s a keeper. Feel free to ask us any questions about the boot below, or suggest some hikes on which you think these boots would shine. We will be happy to keep exploring with these boots leading the way.