5/31/2022 Comparing La Sportiva's Finest Trail Shoes
By Zak Munro, SkyRun Staffer and La Sportiva Aficionado
As the trailheads in the canyons finally begin to melt away and our minds wander from that sweet, delectable corn to quad-burning single track and rocky ridges, it's time to focus on what’s going to be on our feet. For those who consider themselves mountain athletes, La Sportiva needs no introduction. With a mountain heritage nearing the 100-year mark, they have ingrained their brand as the go-to for athletes looking for quality, craftsmanship, reliability, and innovative technology.
La Sportiva trail running shoe options run deep and with 8 different individual models here at SkyRun, it can be hard to discern the differences and get the right shoe for your needs. With that in mind, I’ve chosen my top four from our lineup and will compare them. While not trying to accomplish a full review, I did take the time to display some key differences for users on the fence between the different models.
My favorites are the precise Cyklon (W's), technical Bushido II (W's), aggressive Mutant (W's), and the do-it-all tank of a shoe Akasha II.
Cyklon - New shoe on the Block
Added to the lineup in the late spring of 2021, the Cyklon slots itself as La Sportiva’s medium distance technical skyrunning, or other short race, oriented shoe thanks to a number of unique features. Perhaps most notably is introducing the BOA® Fit System into the lacing system. Combined with the Spyral™ Tongue EVO and Dynamic Cage™, just a twist of the BOA nob makes for a locked-in uniform feeling without putting too much pressure on the runner’s instep like with traditional laces.
While perhaps not as narrow as some other shoes in the La Sportiva’s lineup, the Cyklon’s toe box certainly isn’t super wide (sorry Altra lovers). This shape promotes the shoe’s intention to be precise and stable. The uppers, however, are very accommodating to various instep heights and can be made snug with the BOA. Boasting 7mm deep lugs made from La Sportiva’s stickiest outsole rubber compound - the White Frixion® XF 2.0 - the Cyklon features some of the best outsoles on the market and will feel familiar to those who have run in other models from the brand. A handy mini gaiter pull tab for easy on and off and works very nicely for keeping dirt and debris out of your socks. While not trying to disguise itself as a supple and bouncy high mileage shoe, Cyklon’s midsole offers a decent amount of flexibility (compared to other La Sportiva’s models) and encourages the intended user to be quick on their feet in technical terrain.
The Cyklon is most certainly not an all-day shoe, despite the 28mm stack height. Don’t expect the feeling of running on clouds. The lack of a rock plate and a flexible midsole is noticeable, especially compared to some other of La Sportiva's shoe offerings.
So who is the La Sportiva Cyklon for? The shop consensus is that it’s for anyone who wants a technical and precise shoe for short to mid-distance runs on steep hills and varied terrain such as loose, muddy, scree-filled trails. For individuals with mid to low width feet and who desire the utmost feeling of security and being locked down with a BOA lacing system, the Cyklon is an absolute winner.
When the Cyklon came out, I was really excited to put some miles on them. Since then, I have had the opportunity to take them out on routes in the Wasatch like South Ridge of Superior, a number of laps on the West face of Grandeur, fitness vert laps on Hidden Peak laps at Snowbird, and bit more casual runs on the quarry trail in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Overall, the Cyklon has been a great shoe for runs with extended sections of downhill. The ability to fine tune with the BOA dial and the sticky and aggressive lugs is great. However, for more scrambly routes, I personally opt for the stiffer soled Mutant for better purchase while climbing. Though with the same sticky rubber outsole on both, I could see some folks preferring the Cyklon.
Mutant - Ol’ Reliable Mountain Slayer
When Kelly Haplin went out and set the women’s FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the Wind River High Route, she wore the La Sportiva Mutant. When Jason Dorais set the FKT on the WURL, he wore the Mutant. When Anton Krupicka set the FKT on Kings Peak he wore, you guessed it, the Mutant. Seeing a trend here?
The Mutant is designed to be used primarily in aggressive, rocky, muddy, and loose terrain! A medium to wide fit will please most folks and allows for foot splay on longer days. On top of that, the Spyral tongue lacing system wraps over the top of your foot, adding great midfoot security and comfort. Using the same outsole rubber as the Cyklon, the Mutant has Frixion® XF 2.0 (White) rubber underfoot and, shaped into deep lugs, makes the Mutant an absolute champion moving through wet and slippery ground or rock slabs alike. The stiff midsole enables confident purchase when needed most. A comfy 10mm drop and 24mm stack height in the heel, the Mutant is built for all-day travel and has even been worn by a fair amount of folks in 100-mile races.
For me, it’s hard to look at those stats and not think it could everything very well. And in my opinion, it does. In fact, I’ve owned 7 pairs in the last five years. But some folks argue that the outsole wears down too quickly. The outsole rubber is the stickiest, but also the least durable. This isn’t a great recipe for durability and longevity, and once the lugs begin to wear down drastically the lack of other protection in the midsole definitely begins to show.
Both the Mutant and Cyklon utilize the Spyral tongue design and do a great job at locking in the midfoot on tricky terrain but without a doubt, the Cyklon beats out the Mutant for secure fit thanks to the easy adjustability of the BOA dial.
With more nitpicky fit-based opinions out of the way the easiest answer to the differentiates the uses between the two would be the purpose of what you would like to use them for. With the same outsole rubber, they both have the uber grippy potential for all sorts of terrain but the Mutant’s stiffer midsole has become a favorite shoe among many folks for scrambling and rock hopping.
Akasha II - The Return of the Jedi
Just like Obi-won Kenobi, the original Akasha was a trusted and pivotal shoe for many trail runners but ended up disappearing after the 2019 fall season. Excited rumors abound, it reappeared this spring when we needed it most. Runners can now rejoice with the return of our old friend returning as the Akasha ll. Long-time users will be quite happy to find that the outsole is still just as capable with FriXion® XT 2.0(Red). Compared to the White rubber compound, the red is slightly less sticky but more durable which feels like the right call for this shoe. The Akasha ll has no trouble flowing on singletrack or prancing up peaks in the local Wasatch range. With a Dual-Injection Shock Absorbing MEMlex EVA midsole that offers a moderately cushioned midsole ride, the Akasha II can take plenty of pounding for multiple types of foot strike patterns. It is also the most cushioned of the four compared in this article. However, I could see this being a touch firm for some folks who are expecting a similar ride to other shoes with a stack height of 30mm+, such as the Hoka Speedgoat or Dynafit Ultra 100.
While the Akasha ll might not be the most cushioned ride out there compared to other distance shoes, don’t be fooled because that feel comes with the ability to provide excellent stability through technical terrain and still is capable for runners like Anton Krupicka to use this shoe to place third at the 2021 Leadville 100 trail race. Finishing off, the Akasha ll has a super breathable mesh upper that is both durable and combined with some nice, moderately thick stock laces, providing excellent lockdown for a variety of foot types including my narrow deer hoofs. Simply put, the Akasha ll is an absolute beast in mountainous and technical terrain while also being one of the more durable trail shoes out there. It is the shoe that you start the season with and continue to use through the summer, only to put away in the fall and repeat all over again the next season.
Bushido II - Cult Classic
Like other shoes in La Sportiva’s lineup, the Bushido ll is now on its second iteration. It has a solid cult following with runners looking for protection, stability, and precision. At just 19mm, the Bushido ll has one of the lower stack heights in La Sportiva line up which makes for incredible trail feel. This is just about as stable as a shoe can get.
With the durable and sticky FriXion® XT 2.0(Red) used in the outsole and a protective, stiff EVA rock guard in the forefoot, it’s safe to say the Bushido can basically handle any technical terrain that gets thrown at it.
While that protection and stiffness are great for the runner looking for that technical powerhouse shoe, the obvious downside is that the lack of cushion and less-forgiving nature of the midsole doesn’t lend the Bushido ll to long-distance endeavors. Most folks will want to be in tune with their stride and pay attention to where they’re stepping. Rock hopping the final ridge of to the top of Pfeifferhorn, a quick outing up on Devils Castle, or romping up to the top of Twin Peaks in Broads fork are ideal outings for a shoe like the Bushido ll.
While the Bushido ll has some of the same aspects to a shoe like the Akasha ll with the same outsole and similar mesh upper, the Bushido is sort of in a league of its own. The last is also significantly narrower than the Akasha II. For individuals with wider feet and/or those who prefer a more cushioned and soft ride for buffed out single track, the Bushido ll might not be ideal. Responsive, aggressive, and relatively stable are all words to describe the nature of the Bushido ll.
While I hope this article helps you gain a better understanding of La Sportiva’s popular and proven trail shoes, the reality is that the most important factor when deciding on a shoe is how it feels on your foot. My Mutants and I will see you out there!