La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX

This hiking boot from outdoor giant La Sportiva makes use of cutting-edge materials for its lightweight design which also marries breathability and waterproofing well. It’s a comfortable option for all day hiking, but also comes at a cost.

La Sportiva Womens Nucleo High II GTX Hiking Boots, Oak/Topaz, 7

Great news: this hiking boot is also available in a men’s fit.

Pros / Reasons to Buy

  • Gets a good balance between waterproofing and breathability
  • Comfortable for all day wear

Cons / Reasons to Avoid

  • Expensive
  • Narrow fit means it’s not suitable for all hikers

La Sportiva are well known in the outdoors scene – but more so for their roots in climbing and technical apparel. However, in recent years, their hiking boots and shoes have become extremely popular – often focusing on high end and cutting-edge materials in their construction. The Nucleo High II GTX hiking boot is a strong offering that gets the balance right between waterproofing and breathability making this a great option for changing circumstances and applications.

Whilst it is pricey, you will likely be impressed with its performance on day hikes and it’s grippy sole handles light alpine extremely well.

Editor’s note: This article is part of our guide to the best hiking boots, be sure to check out the rest of this guide for our top buying tips:

Compare to Similar Products: 

Danner Mountain 600 Leaf GTX
Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof
Salomon Quest 4 Gore Tex
Columbia Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped
Zamberlan 996 Vioz GTX 
Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX
Hoka Kaha 2 GTX
Vasque Breeze Waterproof Hiking Boots
Danner Mountain 600 Hiking Boots for Women - Waterproof, Durable Suede Upper, Breathable Lining, Triple-Density Footbed & Vibram Traction Outsole, Chocolate Chip/Golden Oak - 5 M
Merrell Women's Moab 3 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot, Altitude, 5
Salomon Quest 4 Gore-TEX Hiking Boots for Women, Slate/Trooper/Opal Blue, 8
Columbia Women's Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped, Elk/Mountain Red, 9
Zamberlan Women's 996 Vioz GT Hiking Boot,Dark Brown,37 M EU/6 M US
Salomon X Ultra 4 MID Gore-TEX Hiking Boots for Women, Ebony/Mocha Mousse/Almond Cream, 5
Lowa Women's Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot,Stone,10 W US
La Sportiva Womens Nucleo High II GTX Hiking Boots, Oak/Topaz, 7
HOKA ONE ONE Womens Kaha 2 GTX Nubuck Black Black Trainers 5.5 US
Vasque Women’s Breeze Hiking Boot, Cappuccino, 6 Medium
Buying Options
Our Ratings
Best Overall Women's
Most Comfortable
Best for Mountain Walking
Best Budget
Best Waterproof
Best for Summer/Hot Weather
Best Leather
Best for Day Hikes
Pros
Extremely comfortable. Wears in quickly. Excellent fit for wider feet
Excellent comfort. Excellent durability
Sturdy and ready to take on anything. Good toe placement and great ankle positioning
Very comfortable, pretty much straight out the box. Great price point
Excellent build quality. Can be resoled
Low weight. Good build quality
Available in three widths and a variety of sizes. Extremely comfortable
Cutting edge materials, good breathability to waterproofing ratio
Extremely supportive and comfortable. Stylish.
Excellent durability. Rigid build
Cons
Not great for narrower feet. Sizing for buyers outside the United States can be limited
Slightly confusing product range. The design looks dated.
Break in takes a little while. Rigid.
Isn't as breathable. Could do with a more robust sole
Expensive. The design may be too utilitarian for some
Ankle cuff not as supportive as some others. Wider toe box may not suit those with very narrow feet. New
Expensive. Isn't visually that striking
Expensive for what they are. We don't find them suitable for longer treks
Expensive. Leather feels cold after walking through significant water.
Dated design. Stiff upper may not be to everybody's taste.
Traction
Excellent
Very good
Medium/deep thread pattern
Good - but not as good on technical terrain
Excellent
Excellent
Vibram outsole - excellent
Excellent
Excellent - uses Vibram Megagrip
Very good
Breathability
Good
Very good
Gore-Tex upper and well insulated
OK
Low
Good
Good
Excellent
OK
Very good
Ankle Support
Good
Very good
Excellent
Good
Excellent
Good
Excellent
Good
Excellent
Excellent
Arch support
Regular to good
Good
Average
OK
Average
Good
Average
Regular
Average
Average
Fit
Fits a little large, size down a half size if in-between, available in a single width
Fits true to size. comes in standard and wide widths
Suits normal to wider feet
Standard fit, runs small - best to go up a half size
Standard fit - runs small
Fits true to size. Comes in standard and wide widths
Comes in standard, narrow and wide fit options and wide range of sizes
Runs narrow
Standard fit
Runs a little small. Available in standard and wide fit
Materials
Grain leather upper, metal lacing hardware and synthetic/rubber soles
Synthetic and pig suede upper.
Leather and synthetic
Upper leather and suede and synthetic
Mostly leather with synthetic lining and rubber sole
Fully synthetic
Leather and synthetic
Leather and synthetic
Leather and synthetic
Nubuck leather and synthetics
Appearance
Modern hiking boot
Slightly dated design
Modern
Modern hiking boot with traditional feel
Traditional hiking boot
Modern hiking boot
Modern hiking boot
Modern hiking boot
Modern hiking boot/trail hybrid
Slightly dated design
Durability
Excellent
Very good
Excellent
Sole feels quite lightweight
Excellent
Excellent
Good
Average
Good
Excellent
Water Resistance
Gore-Tex membrane
In-house waterproof, breathable membrane
Gore-Tex membrane
Waterproof (Omni-Tech)
Gore Tex lining and water resistant coating
Gore Tex membrane
Gore-Tex membrane
Gore-Tex Surround membrane
Gore-Tex lining
In-house waterproof, breathable membrane
Weight (pair)
900g/2lb per pair
800g/1lb 12oz
1070g/2lb 6oz
791g/1.8lbs per pair
1.28kg/2lb 13oz
740g/1lb 10oz
950g/2lb
900g/2 lb. 1 oz
1015g/2.5 lbs
990g/2lb 2oz
Insoles
Standard insole
Padded insole
Padded insole
Standard insole
Padded insole
Padded. shaped insole
Standard insole
Standard insole
Standard insole
Padded insole
Break-in Period
Minimal
Minimal
Some break in needed
Very minimal
Some break-in required
Minimal
Minimal
Slightly longer than average
Minimal
Medium
Lacing system
Regular laces with metal lacing hardwear for durability
Standard laces
Standard laces
Standard/regular laces
Standard/regular laces
Standard laces
Standard lacing system
Standard/regular laces
Standard - eyelet with grip lacing around the ankle
Standard laces
Toe Protection
Rubberized toe rand
Rubber rand around toe and small toe cap
Rubberized toe rand
Rubberized toe rand
Substantially reinforced toe offers excellent protection
Rubber rand on toe and small toe cap.
Substantial rubber toe rand
Rubberized toe rand
Rubberized toe rand with reinforced stitching
Rubber rand around toe and small toe cap

Analysis and Test Results

If you know you need a hiking boot that gives you the best of both worlds in terms of breathability and waterproofing – perhaps if you know you hike in changing terrain and location, then the La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX may well be the boot for you. Its waterproofing is solid, and thanks to its Gore-Tex Surround membrane, means that breathability isn’t compromised.

Generally, we think this hiking boot performs really well – but it is at the pricier end of the scale. It’s great for day hiking, but for longer trails and with a heavier pack you may not find them to give you the level of support you need. These hiking boots work great for hikers with narrower feet, so if you have wider feet, these will likely not suit your needs.

Performance Comparison

Traction

La Sportiva are well known for the level of traction that they offer in all of their shoes and boots – given their roots in climbing, the thread pattern on the La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX noticeably chunky and offers a great level of grip, even on slippery and uneven surfaces.

They use a Vibram Nano XS-Trek outsole, and they handle extremely well on steep uphill and downhills, with very little slippage, not to mention discomfort. These boots are well rounded and perform with a good level of dependability on a whole range of trails.

Breathability

This is an area in particular where the La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX excels. It makes use of Gore-Tex Surround for its waterproof membrane. Many hiking boots and waterproof hiking shoes struggle to get the balance right between breathability and waterproofing. It makes sense – fully synthetic hiking shoes which are completely breathable are always going to be better in this department. However, the Nucleo High II is competitive here. It is a lot more breathable than many of its competition, whilst still providing excellent waterproofing.

This is excellent news if you know you’ll be hiking in a range of locations and want to have a dependable hiking boot that will work in a variety of places and scenarios without the need to buy extra pairs for different applications. They’ll handle just as well in colder, wetter environments as they will in hotter, more arid temperatures.

Ankle Support

These hiking boots are actually cut a little bit higher than some of their competitors which does offer more support up the ankle, however the actual material used around the collar and ankle is quite soft and flexible it doesn’t offer a bullet proof, rigid feel that some more traditional hiking boots do.

That said, they are well built and feel sturdy – they certainly aren’t a trail runner, so they will protect well against impact and help to prevent ankle rolls and ankle related injuries.

Arch Support

The arch support offered in the La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX is fairly standard, and doesn’t really present any particular problems, nor does it present anything particularly ground breaking. This means that for most hikers without specific arch concerns, these hiking boots will feel well cushioned and perfect for all day use.

However, if you do have any specific arch concerns – such as high arches, you may want to look at replacing out the insoles with something more catered to your needs. The insoles are easily replaceable in these hiking boots and can be added for very little extra expensive which will ensure a more tailored fit.

Fit

It seems that a lot of La Sportiva’s hiking shoes and hiking boots are more specifically tailored to a narrower fit – and the Nucleo High II is no different. If you have a narrower foot, then you will likely find these hiking boots very comfortable. However, if you have a wider foot, the good news is that La Sportiva have started to offer this boot in a wider fit (available in our buying links above).

These boots are offered in a good range of sizes from women’s 5.5 US/36 EU/4 UK to a 11 US/43 EU/10 UK with half sizes and wide fit options for most full sizes.

Materials

These hiking boots use Nubuck leather for their upper which provides a good level of protection. This also helps in terms of waterproofing as there are very few seams on the boot itself meaning less opportunities for water to enter. Though this means if you’re looking for a fully synthetic or plant-based boot, the Nucleo High won’t be for you, and in this regard you should check out the Hoka Trail Code.

The rest of the materials are synthetic, making use of cutting-edge technologies for their breathability for use in varying terrain with no real sweat build up.

They also make use of rubber for the outsole, mid sole and rubberized toe rand which provides a really strong level of protection and traction on a whole variety of surfaces.

Appearance

We think the La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX is a pretty cool looking hiking boot – it has a traditional feel but is low profile, fairly sleek and has some nice detailing patterning on the outer of the boot.

The hiking boot comes in a couple of fairly understated colorways – aloe/velvet and oak/topaz. We really like how the accents of color on the Nucleo are minimal, pairing only the logo with the edging of the tongue in a subtle way.

Because this hiking boot handles the trail exceptionally well, there is no reason why it shouldn’t stay looking good for quite some time. They can be easily cleaned up too especially if you keep on top of looking after them after long periods of wear.

Durability

As you’d expect with a more premium priced hiking boot, the Nucleo High II GTX feels like it’s built to last and even after longer term wear, these boots feel like they handle well. This is likely down to the use of high quality materials and cutting edge technologies such as Gore-Tex Surround and the Vibram Nano XS-Trek outsole.

Even if you give these boots a hard time, they age beautifully with no real visible wear and tear or scuffing present. The outsole also handles well with no pressure points or areas for concern. All in all, where durability is concerned, these boots are testament to being worth the price.

Sustainability

Given the boots solid build and the fact that they are built to last, this says a lot about the sustainability ethics of the brand. Boots that are built to last help to need to buy less, and one of the best ways to help with sustainable fashion is to buy less. Though of course, this is a privilege of spending more on a pair of boots – they will last longer due to their higher end materials.

There are some recycled materials used in these hiking boots – though these are extremely small percentages, and even though the shoe laces that come with these boots are 100% recycled, a pair of shoe laces is such a small gesture towards sustainable practice. We’d love to see La Sportiva offer more by way of recycled components in future models.

Water Resistance

Another area where these boots really shine and impressed us is their waterproofing. Their Gore-Tex Surround membrane works to not only keep these boots waterproof, but also to keep them breathable – something that many waterproof boots fall down on.

These boots handle heavy rain, splashing through puddles and rocky stream beds and some submersion pretty well. They handle deeper mud well and with a gaiter would provide a very robust solution to even deeper water and boggier conditions.

Weight

Coming in at 900g/2 lb. 1 oz, they aren’t the most lightweight hiking boots in our reviews, but they certainly aren’t the heaviest either. They feel extremely lightweight to wear, and that is the main thing. They’re a great, springy solution that has you moving fairly effortlessly on the trail. Over longer distances, their weight doesn’t really contribute to fatigue and they work well as a great fast and light option.

They’re pretty much in line weight wise with the Danner Mountain 600 Leaf GTX, which is another of our favorite tested boots (in fact, is our top pick for women’s hiking boots).

Insoles

The La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX comes with a fairly standard insole, this is decently cushioned and helps with any trail fatigue you may experience and feels good right until the end of the day. This will suit most hikers adequately. However, if you have any specific concerns, such as high arches for example, you can look to swap out the insoles easily for something more suited to your needs.

Break-in Period

These hiking boots have been said to have a relatively short break in period, but we actually found them to have a slightly longer break in time. Of course, everybody is different, and some people will find some hiking boots easier than others or quicker to break in. That said, they just needed a few training hikes before they were good to go and attention to any stiff points until they became a little softer.

You should always make sure you take your new hiking boots, regardless of how they feel out the box, on a number of much shorter training hikes until you feel confident enough that they can handle longer trails without pain or discomfort.

Lacing System

The La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX hiking boots come with a standard, yet solid lacing system. This uses metal hardware which is a great durable option with no real signs of long term wear being a problem. They’re also great for allowing you to get a really tailored and snug fit. The lacing system allows the laces to stay in place and can easily be adjusted or altered to different lacing patterns depending on your specific foot type or needs.

Toe Protection

The toe protection offered on these hiking boots is really rugged and provides a really strong level of support and protection against any bumps, knocks and scrapes you might experience on the trail. This area can become a little scuffed depending on what you experience on the trail, but they still seem to stay looking good, regardless of any minor damage (it’s also better that the damage is protected by the toe rand and not your foot).

These hiking boots keep your feet well and securely in place, especially if you lace for your specific foot type, even on ascents and descents which ultimately keeps your toes away from the front of your boots and less likely to cause any toe pain.

Conclusion

La Sportiva are one of the big names in outdoors footwear and the company are well-known for their cutting edge – and premium-priced – mountaineering boots. Whilst the Nucleo High II GTX is not as exotic as some of the company’s other offerings, they still benefit from La Sportiva’s vast experience in making excellent outdoors boots. These boots strike a good balance between durability, foot support, breathability, and water resistance, making them a compelling choice. 

However, as you might expect, this comes at a price, and some may balk at the idea of spending so much on what are really three season boots. None the less, if you are looking for some excellent all-round boots and don’t mind the cost of entry, then these are a compelling choice, and, if you hike somewhere with milder weather, then they could well be worn well beyond the three seasons they are marketed for.

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