Blister Brand Guide: La Sportiva Trail Running Shoe Lineup, 2020

Blister Brand Guide: Running Shoe Lineups

Intro

When considering a new running shoe, there are so many similar-looking shoes on the market being made by so many different companies, it is virtually impossible to (1) know where to begin; (2) quickly figure out which one or two products from a given brand might work well for you; and (3) determine what products from other brands might be the most similar and also worth considering.

So in our new “Blister Brand Guide” series, we provide an overview of the entire product lineup of a brand; highlight how each product stands out from the rest of that brand’s lineup; and help you figure out quickly and easily which shoe might work best for you. 

In our individual product reviews, we go very deep into the details of particular products. With these Brand Guides, the goal is not Depth, but Breadth. Our Brand Guides and full reviews are designed to complement each other — provide a broad overview of entire company lineups, and then also very detailed reviews of individual products. 

See our other running shoe Brand Guides

See our Brand Guide for the 2019 La Sportiva lineup

La Sportiva: Brand Background

La Sportiva is known by many for their climbing and mountaineering shoes, but their “mountain running” shoes are becoming more and more popular — and with good reason. La Sportiva offers a wide range of trail and mountain running shoes with the unifying characteristics of traction and durability. As a general rule, La Sportiva’s shoes have narrower, lower-volume fits than other brands. This might cause problems for people with wide / high-volume feet, but if Sportivas do fit your foot, they often provide a precise fit. Many of their newer models also seek to address this issue with wider toe boxes and higher-volume fits. La Sportiva’s shoes tend to have higher heel-to-toe drops, but they do offer a few options with drops around 4-6 mm.

Sportiva’s shoes are also often on the stiffer side compared to most shoes from other brands, and many of them are catered toward very rough, off-camber, and challenging terrain. If you generally prioritize precision over high cushion and prefer to run on very technical terrain, many of La Sportiva’s mountain running shoes deserve strong consideration.

Several of La Sportiva’s shoes are also made in a GTX (aka, “Gore-Tex”) version. The GTX versions feature a waterproof Gore-Tex lining, which increases water resistance and decreases breathability.

This breakdown will give a quick overview of each model’s features and intended purpose. It’s organized from most- to least-cushioned.

A note on rubber compounds: La Sportiva uses three different “FriXion” rubber compounds throughout their running lineup. On their European website, they call these three compounds “white,” “red,” & “blue.” Confusingly, on their U.S. website, they list them as “XF 2.0,” “XT 2.0,” & “AT 2.0,” respectively. For clarity’s sake, here’s a brief breakdown of the rubber compounds:

  • FriXion White / FriXion XF 2.0: most grippy, least durable
  • FriXion Red / FriXion XT 2.0: middle ground in terms of grip & durability
  • FriXion Blue / FriXion AT 2.0: least grippy, most durable

A note on sizing: all of Sportiva’s sizing is in European units. In our experience, La Sportiva trail shoes tend to run a bit small (often a half or full US size), so as always, we advise trying them on before buying.

TRAIL SHOES

(Most Cushioned to Least Cushioned)

Most Cushion

Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

While the Akasha is being phased out in 2020 (to be replaced by the Jackal), it’s still widely available online. The Akasha is specifically designed to improve efficiency and provide comfort for long runs on rough terrain. Its curved “rockered” sole is similar in design to many of Hoka’s shoes and makes for a smooth heel-to-toe transition. Sportiva says that the Akasha’s EVA midsole is one of their best options when it comes to shock absorption over the course of long runs. The Akasha also has a wider fit than some of Sportiva’s other models, though it’s still much narrower than most of Altra and Hoka’s shoes. The Akasha lacks a rockplate, but its ample cushioning should protect well against rocks, and the lack of a rock plate also makes this one of Sportiva’s softer and more flexible shoes. The Akasha has large, widely spaced lugs that should grip well on most surfaces, and are better in deep and wet conditions than the Wildcat. The Akasha has a higher-volume fit and lower drop than the Akyra, Wildcat, or Ultra Raptor. The Akasha makes sense for those who prefer a more moderate drop and smoother heel-to-toe transition over maximum stability or support.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 31 mm
  • Toe: 25 mm
Drop: 6 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 330 g
  • Women's: 278 g
MSRP: $140.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

The Akyra is built with maximum stability, support, and durability in mind. Its burly upper and ample upper reinforcements are designed to withstand rough terrain. Its sole features large lugs and their FriXion “Red” rubber, which is the middle ground between their grippy “White” and more durable “Blue” compounds. The Akyra also has a rockered sole profile that aids in natural outer-heel to inner-toe transitions. Sportiva says the Akyra has a high-volume fit, but it’s still quite low-volume compared to the whole market, fitting similarly to the Wildcat or the Ultra Raptor. The Akyra makes the most sense for those seeking lots of stability and support in a well-cushioned package.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 31 mm
  • Toe: 22 mm
Drop: 9 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 330 g
  • Women's: 278 g
MSRP: $140.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

The Akyra GTX is the same as the Akyra, but with a waterproof, less breathable upper.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 31 mm
  • Toe: 22 mm
Drop: 9 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 388 g
  • Women's: 310 g
MSRP: $160.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

The Ultra Raptor is one of Sportiva’s higher-volume shoes designed for long-distance runs. The shoe has a full-length rock guard to protect your whole foot against sharp rocks. The Ultra Raptor’s upper utilizes a combination of breathable mesh and synthetic leather for additional durability. Like many of Sportiva’s shoes, the Ultra Raptor falls on the more supportive & protective end of the spectrum, rather than being super light and minimal. This shoe has a wider fit than some of Sportiva’s other shoes, falling in line with the Tempesta GTX and Wildcat in terms of fit. The outsole has slightly smaller lugs than the Akyra or the Tempesta GTX, but still large enough to provide secure traction on most wet, loose, or slick terrain.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 29 mm
  • Toe: 22 mm
Drop: 7 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 343 g
  • Women's: 292 g
MSRP: $130.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

This shoe features a waterproof, high-coverage upper, and aggressive outsole designed to offer lots of traction and weather protection on wet runs. The 4-way stretch pseudo-gaiter wraps the ankle to keep rocks and snow out of the shoe, while a quicklace system makes adjusting the fit fast and easy. The shoe’s midsole includes a plastic TPU insert to improve stability and support on off-camber terrain. While the Tempesta doesn’t have a rock plate, its combination of firm cushioning and a full-length FriXion Blue rubber outsole should provide good rock protection. The “Blue” version of their FriXion rubber is reportedly their most durable (and likely, least grippy) rubber compound. The Tempesta fits similarly to the Mutant, so if the Mutant works well for your foot but you want an option with slightly more weather protection, the Tempesta GTX might be a good choice.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 29 mm
  • Toe: 19 mm
Drop: 10 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 320 g
  • Women's: 256 g
MSRP: $165.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

This shoe’s built-in neoprene gaiter and waterproof/breathable interior lining make it targeted toward running in wet and cold conditions. The upper rises above the ankle and is made of a sock-like material, offering lots of weather resistance while maintaining a pretty soft, flexible structure (though the gaiter itself isn’t waterproof, only the interior lining is). The Uragano’s outsole has large lugs made with Sportiva’s FriXion Blue compound, which is their most durable but least grippy (though grip shouldn’t be an issue if you’re using it in snow). The Uragano GTX’s fit and outsole are similar to the Mutant, but the Uragano offers a fully waterproof lining and higher-coverage gaiter, making it better suited to winter running (particularly running through deeper snow).

Stack Height

  • Heel: 29 mm
  • Toe: 19 mm
Drop: 10 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 346 g
  • Women's: 346 g
MSRP: $180.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

The Mutant has numerous features that make it ideal for runs on wet and / or loose terrain, particularly if you’re running in those conditions and prefer a quicker-drying shoe, rather than a waterproof one. The Mutant uses Sportiva’s stickiest FriXion White outsole rubber that’s formed into large, widely spaced lugs. The softer rubber does wear down faster on harder surfaces compared to Sportiva’s “Blue” or “Red” FriXion rubber compounds. The Mutant’s asymmetric lacing system is meant to provide a tight, locked-down fit that’s vaguely reminiscent of a climbing shoe. The TPU stabilizer in the Mutant’s midsole provides additional support and a little pronation control. The fit and construction of the Mutant are similar to the Tempesta GTX, but it has a more breathable upper and stickier outsole rubber. If you run on technical terrain and prefer a tight-fitting shoe, the Mutant is an option to consider.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 29 mm
  • Toe: 19 mm
Drop: 10 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 303 g
  • Women's: 256 g
MSRP: $135.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

The Wildcat is one of La Sportivas’ more cushioned, higher-drop shoes, and it’s a good alternative to the Ultra Raptor if you want something that’s a bit more breathable, has a higher drop, and that has a more medium-volume fit. Its upper is primarily mesh with few reinforcements, making it one of the most breathable and quickest-drying options of Sportiva’s higher-cushioned shoes. The Wildcat’s moderately high cushioning, partial nylon shank, and FriXion Blue rubber outsole with average-sized lugs make it well suited for moderate to highly technical terrain. This shoe is more structured and supportive than the Akasha or Tempesta GTX. If you prefer a high heel-to-toe drop, want pretty firm cushioning, and like the sound of a breathable and supportive shoe, check out the Wildcat.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 29 mm
  • Toe: 17 mm
Drop: 12 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 328 g
  • Women's: 289 g
MSRP: $110.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

Like the Uragano and Blizzard GTX, the Crossover 2.0 GTX is designed specifically with winter running in mind. It has a high, waterproof, zippered gaiter to keep out snow, and a FriXion Blue rubber outsole with very large and widely spaced lugs. What sets the Crossover 2.0 GTX apart from Sportiva’s other running shoes is its reportedly very flexible midsole. In fact, Sportiva calls it the “most flexible athletic Gore-Tex footwear ever.” Like the Blizzard GTX and Uragano, the Crossover 2.0 GTX is a very niche shoe and really only makes sense if you’re running in very wet, snowy, and / or cold conditions. But if you are, and you want a cushioned and flexible ride, the Crossover 2.0 GTX is worth a look.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 28 mm
  • Toe: 18 mm
Drop: 10 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 370 g
  • Women's: 370 g
MSRP: $190.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

The current version of the Bushido takes the support, protection, and traction of the original Bushido and adds slightly more forgiving cushioning for added comfort. The Bushido II’s upper is composed of a breathable mesh with more minimal reinforcements than something like the Ultra Raptor, though the Bushido II still has a large TPU toe cap to protect against rocks. Its outsole uses FriXion Red rubber, Sportiva’s medium-grip ad medium-durability compound, and features moderately sized and spaced lugs to provide a balance of durability and grip on most surfaces. The Bushido is built on a slightly narrower last than most of Sportiva’s other shoes, so it’s a good option if you want a very secure fit. The Bushido’s flatter, lower-drop profile, lower-volume fit, and versatile outsole all make for a shoe that excels on technical terrain where support and stability are higher priorities than plush cushioning.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 28 mm
  • Toe: 22 mm
Drop: 6 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 298 g
  • Women's: 250 g
MSRP: $130.00

The Lycan II takes the wider fit (compared to other Sportiva shoes) and softer cushioning of the original Lycan and adds a much more aggressive, sticky rubber outsole to improve performance on technical / loose / wet terrain. It uses a reportedly updated, gripper version of La Sportiva’s Frixion Blue rubber, which is designed to provide a nice balance of durability and grip. The main change from the original Lycan seems to be the Lycan II’s much larger, more widely spaced lugs. The upper has a similar combination of breathable mesh and ripstop nylon as the first version of the shoe. As with the original Lycan, the Lycan II has a much wider fit and softer cushioning than the Bushido II or the Mutant, so it should be better suited to longer runs on less technical / uneven trails, or those with wider feet. The Lycan II does have a more moderate stack height than the Akasha or Akyra, so it should be slightly more stable on uneven terrain than either of those two shoes. If you’ve run in the original Lycan and like the fit but want more traction, the Lycan II should be a solid option.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 28 mm
  • Toe: 22 mm
Drop: 6 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 289 g
  • Women's: 264 g
MSRP: $120.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

While the original version of the Lycan has been replaced by the Lycan II (see above), it’s still available on La Sportiva’s Website. The Lycan breaks away from many of Sportiva’s other shoes in that it has a wider toe box, minimal structure to its upper, and no shank or rock plate. It’s higher volume, wider fit and softer cushioning make it a great shoe for longer days out on the trail. The Lycan provides more of a “plush” or forgiving ride than shoes like the Akyra and Bushido II, while still offering good ground feel. The Lycan uses Sportiva’s high-durability FriXion Blue outsole material, which will last longer but not provide quite as much grip as their “White” FriXion compound. The Bushido II or Akyra are better options for really rocky, technical trails, while the Lycan is better suited to those who prioritize a more forgiving ride and / or who prefer slightly more ground feel.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 28 mm
  • Toe: 22 mm
Drop: 6 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 268 g
  • Women's: 225 g
MSRP: $115.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

The Lycan GTX has all the features of the Lycan with the addition of a waterproof Gore-Tex upper. Like the standard Lycan, it’s got softer cushioning, a durable outsole, and a wider fit than a shoe like the Bushido II. If that all sounds good to you but you often run in cold, wet conditions, the Lycan GTX is worth checking out.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 28 mm
  • Toe: 22 mm
Drop: 6 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 355 g
  • Women's: 297 g
MSRP: $140.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

This updated version of the Wildcat offers a waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex upper and slightly lower stack height. It features a nearly identical midsole and outsole vs. the Wildcat, but the Wildcat 2.0 GTX has a stack height that’s 2 mm lower, and it offers much better weather resistance and decreased breathability compared to the regular Wildcat.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 27 mm
  • Toe: 15 mm
Drop: 12 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 400 g
  • Women's: 330 g
MSRP: $155.00

La Sportiva has made several versions of the Helios over the years, but took the shoe out of their lineup in 2019. For this year, the Helios is back with a few updates under the Helios III name. The overall purpose of the shoe hasn’t changed — it’s designed to be a ultralight, flexible, moderately cushioned shoe that excels on moderate to non-technical terrain. The Helios III has an ultralight mesh and ripstop nylon upper, added padding in the heel cup, and a low-profile Frixion Blue rubber outsole. With the exception of the VK Boa, the Helios III is the most “minimal” shoe that La Sportiva makes. While it’s still got a moderate amount of cushioning, the Helios III doesn’t have a rock plate or an aggressive outsole. As a result, it’s much lighter and more flexible than the Lycan II, the Kaptiva, or the Jackal, but it doesn’t offer nearly as much protection as any of these shoes. The Helios III should perform best for shorter, faster runs on less technical terrain, while the Lycan II or Kaptiva remain better options for longer runs on rockier trails.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 26 mm
  • Toe: 22 mm
Drop: 4 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 210 g
  • Women's: 184 g
MSRP: $125.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

The Blizzard GTX is Sportiva’s most winter-oriented running shoe. It has a very high, water-resistant gaiter and interior waterproof lining that help keep your feet dry and warm in deeper snow. Its outsole uses Sportiva’s durable FriXion Blue rubber compound, and it features some of the largest and most widely spaced lugs of any Sportiva running shoe. It also comes stock with metal spikes in the outsole, which provide lots of grip on icy surfaces. Compared to the Ugano, the Blizzard has a less cushioned and lower-drop platform.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 25 mm
  • Toe: 19 mm
Drop: 6 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 377 g
  • Women's: 377 g
MSRP: $199.00
The Jackal is a new addition to La Sportiva’s lineup for 2020. It blends features from a few of La Sportiva’s previous shoes to provide better comfort and protection for long runs and races than La Sportiva’s stiffer, narrower models like the Bushido II or Kaptiva. It’s built on the same wider last as the Unika (which has been phased out for 2020), so the Jackal should have a wider forefoot and roomier overall fit than most other La Sportiva shoes. The Jackal’s EVA midsole has two softer foam inserts in the heel and forefoot, which La Sportiva claims will improve energy return and add some extra impact absorption. The Jackal has a full-length rock plate and a moderately sticky outsole (FriXion Red) with 3 mm lugs. Even though the Jackal has a lower stack height than the Lycan II, it should provide more protection on especially long runs because of its rock plate. If you’re looking for a fairly protective, long-distance-oriented shoe but want something with a lower stack height than the Akasha or Ultra Raptor, the Jackal is worth checking out.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 25 mm
  • Toe: 18 mm
Drop: 6 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 301 g
  • Women's: 244 g
MSRP: $140.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

The Kaptiva is a minimal, racing-oriented shoe designed for trail / mountain races on techy terrain. It’s lower-profile midsole and lightweight construction make it a great option for trail runners that like a snappy, efficient shoe. The Kaptiva features Sportiva’s grippiest FriXion White rubber compound with larger lugs for added traction in wet / loose conditions. The Kaptiva’s rock plates also add some protection for more technical terrain. The shoe’s race-specific last makes for a narrow, precise fit that feels similar to the Bushido II. While its low weight makes it a good racing shoe, it could still serve as a daily trail shoe for those who prefer less cushioning and a precise, low-volume fit. If you like the sound of the Bushido II but want a lower, lighter, faster-feeling option, the Kaptiva warrants a look.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 24 mm
  • Toe: 18 mm
Drop: 6 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 260 g
  • Women's: 225 g
MSRP: $139.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister provides an overview of La Sportiva's entire trail running / mountain running shoe lineup

The Kaptiva GTX takes everything about the standard Kaptiva and make it better suited to wet and / or cold runs, thanks to its waterproof upper.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 24 mm
  • Toe: 18 mm
Drop: 6 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 270 g
  • Women's: 270 g
MSRP: $159.00

This shoe is designed with the very specific intent of going uphill fast. It’s minimal design keeps its weight extremely low, while its sticky FriXion White rubber and lower-profile lugs in the forefoot provide lots of grip — particularly on rocks and hard-packed trails. Its sock-like upper, unique Boa lacing system, and very narrow race-specific last make for a secure fit on steep terrain. All that said, this is a pretty niche shoe in that it’s primarily designed with going uphill in mind, and most people looking for a general trail shoe should look to options with more cushioning, full-rubber outsoles (the VK’s heel is not full-rubber), and / or a more supportive midsole. But if you’re looking to go as fast as possible on the uphill, the VK is one of few shoes specifically designed for that purpose.

Stack Height

  • Heel: 19 mm
  • Toe: 15 mm
Drop: 4 mm

Stated Weight

  • Men's: 180 g
  • Women's: 180 g
MSRP: $135.00

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