As trail running becomes ever more popular my first piece of advice for you is to get out there and try it. It’s so much fun and trains your mind and body in the face of constantly changing terrain and fine tunes quick reaction skills. It might take you a while to figure out the shoes you like, your strengths and weakness, and to hone your training well, but I promise that over time, like any good work in progress, you’ll gain experience and perspective to feel confident doing it.
Depending on where you live and where you’re at in life … whether you’ve got your sights set on finishing that first 5 mile trail race on the outskirts of the city limit or something more epic like the UTMB, we’ll help guide you with our expertise here at dlmag. Mountain and trail running is one of those sports that helps to have a bit of specialized gear. And I’ll start by saying that Sketchers just aren’t gonna make the cut – at least for now.
If you’re wondering what kind of shoes you should run in for races like this, the answer is of course, mountain or trail running shoes. Currently, one of the best brands in the market is La Sportiva, a family owned company that was founded in 1928 and first specialized in outdoor shoes for the mountain. Now located in Val di Fiemme, Italy, La Sportiva has since expanded into the realm of mountain and trail running. Very familiar and fond of their shoes (I ran with La Sportiva in Greece for a number of years) it was exciting to get my hands on a number of them from the new 2019 spring and summer collection. All of these shoes were tested right out of the box on the mountain and trail, anywhere from 10 to 18 miles with over 4,500 feet of elevation gain. Sharp rocks, dirt, trail, scree, steep inclines and declines, and even a few small sections of pavement for good measure.
The Bushido II
The Bushido II is a crown jewel in the La Sportiva Mountain and trail running collection. This iteration of the shoe is an update of the popular and reliable Bushido. The Bushido II has a clean and beautiful design and comes in many fun and different colors.
As soon as I put the shoe on I could feel the improvements: the midsole has been updated and comes with a footbed 4mm Ortholite Ergonomic. Cushioning has been added in the forefoot and does a great job at preventing chafe on the ball of the foot and big toe.
The Bushido II weighs a little bit heavier than the previous model at now comes in around 8.8 ounces. But the extra comfort offsets any inconvenience of a hint of more weight. This shoe is extremely well-fitting and snug fit.
I took this shoe out of the box and laced it up for a 30 kilometer mountain run with 1400 meters of ascent – and boy was I impressed. The shoe felt so good that I actually wanted to keep the training run going until 40km. But alas, other duties and responsibilities of the day were calling. The Bushido has been primary skyrunning shoe over the last three years – anything from technical 15 miles to trail marathons or shorter ultra-distances.
The FriXion Red (6.7) technology and aggressive sole all adds up to this shoe being awesomely grippy and appropriate for almost every type of terrain. Also, the Bushido II also has a high durability point which means this shoe won’t wear out too quickly.
A low-center of gravity and lots of stability will help keep your foot from rolling when you’re on an uneven surface. The outsole offers great protection around the base of your foot without going up too high on the sides. And the tongue has been slightly padded for a more ergonomic fit. The Bushido II also has air mesh material allows for excellent breathability.
The 2019 Akasha does not feature any updates, but this is a solid shoe that should be in your collection and remains as one of my favorites. The Akasha is a well cushioned shoe whose purpose is to take you far. This shoe has been made for running long distances, be it ultra-marathons, long distance trails or trainings. The shoe will help you push farther and faster in comfort. It features a trademark Trail Rocker sole that encourages your foot to roll forward, from heel to toe, in a smooth progression.
The FriXion Red (6.7) technology sole gives you good stick and durability. The midsole is highly shock absorbing and protect your foot through the thick and thin of long distance races with varied terrain – be it mild or extreme.
The Akasha is a heavier shoe at almost 10 ounces but the benefits of going far with a snug and comfortable fit, high breathability through new air mesh material is well balanced.
The Askasha is one of my high volume training shoes and pick for ultra-marathons. Wider feet will also appreciate the Akasha. The tread isn’t as aggressive on these shoes, so naturally, they’re less adept in extremely technical terrain or where there’s lots of loose gravel and rock. The Akasha strike a nice balance overall and is a shoe that won’t wear out too quickly.
The Kaptiva is an exciting new model out for the 2019 year. Weighing in around 8 ounces, the Kaptiva is like a racing flat – but for mountain and trail running. The Kaptiva has been designed for speed in medium and long distance skyraces or trail tracks. The shoe is more minimalist with a low-profile.
If you’re familiar with La Sportiva shoes then you’ll understand when I say this: that the Kaptiva is a hybrid shoe falling somewhere between the Helios SR and the original Bushido. What does this mean in layman’s terms? That the shoe combines a more stiff and hard bottom with a light weight upper made from a stretch knit fabric. The Kaptiva can help you maintain speed over jutting rocks, scrimming down scree, and over sticks and stones.
The Kaptiva sports what La Sportiva calls a “Trust Fit” and fits like a compression sock. The shoe cradles your foot and allows for precision on the trail. The built in tongue of the shoe acts like a built in gaiter and works well keeping out small debris. There are flex-grooves in the sole that give the shoe extra flexibility – very helpful to have that responsiveness when powering up hills and inclines.
The Kaptiva’s outsole is super sticky with a FriXion white (7.5) technology. It’s a shoe you’ll want to keep in the box until race day as the durability of the sole is lower and will wear more quickly. But if live and breathe trail running, then what can I say except wear the heck out of them.
I took the Kaptivas for a test spin on mixed surface: a 10 mile tempo run on technical trail, dirt road and over a patch of pavement. The varying 3.5 to 5 mm lugs tracked perfectly on trail, through dirt, and since the lugs aren’t super high you’re balance doesn’t get thrown off when you traverse large sections of rock, flat or pavement.
The only problem I encountered with the Kaptiva was that my heel kept slipping up in the shoe. Possibly due to the shape of my foot, you might not have the same issue. However, I encourage you to lace the Kaptiva securely from the front to the back and secure the end with a no slip knot.
My heart really wants these shoes to work out because of the special combination of lightweight and protection. Then again, this is the first iteration of the shoe and the company might need another season or two to work out any design kinks.
This shoe is more oriented for intermediate and advanced mountain and trail runners. The Kaptiva doesn’t offer much stability and protection as the Askasha and Bushido II. You need to be more exact with foot placement to avoid any unnecessary foot rolls. That being said, however, the low profile and mild lugs keep you feeling grounded.
Overall the Kaptiva strikes a nice balance between weight and protection that trail runners should be pleased with.
And in a side note, finger loops have been added to all the models making it easy to thread them with a carabiner and clip them on your pack for all adventures.