The Bush Warrior
Bushido – the way of the warrior – or Bush-I-do? Choosing between an Italian shoe company appropriating a Japanese cultural concept and my misappropriation, I’d prop for the latter. And it’s an apt because the La Sportiva Bushidos do all kinds of bush, from sandy coastal scrub to high alpine snow gums and everything inbetween – the rockier the better.
The Bushidos are a ruggedly handsome, aggressive midweight trail running shoe that look chunky at first glance – they’ve got a heavily lugged sole, protective plate under the forefoot and a TPU cradle/shank – but when you pick them up they’re lighter than you would expect (298g for a size 9). While not a minimalist model, they do approach the form with a slim(ish) 6mm drop which is balanced by a leaning to more traditional 19mm of foam and rubber under the heel.
My first run in these shoes is forever etched in my memory: running north from Cape Nelson on the Great South West Walk (down near Portland in Victoria), kicking up clouds of a billion butterflies at every step, the Southern Ocean a gleaming blue monster on my right (if I had Anton Krupicka’s long hair and bare chest it would have been a trail runner’s wet dream). It’s a run that taught me the first lesson about the Bushidos – they’re stiff. Having been running mainly in über lightweight, soft shoes – like the La Sportiva Helios and Asic GEL FujiRacers – my feet were tender after 25km (admittedly, a big hit-out for the first time in a shoe). Even now, many more kilometres, the Bushidos remain quite rigid – pointing toward a preference for steep mountain terrain.
Compared to my usual trail shoes, the Bushidos are very stable to run in – more akin to heavier road shoes but without the weight – and they are a delight on rough technical terrain, where you can bound along with confidence. They are responsive, but at the same time offer plenty of protection.
A lot of my running is done in the Grampians, Victoria, on very rocky surfaces, so the extra protection was noticeable compared to the pounding you can get in something superlight like the Helios. The outer sole lugs provide good grip on both rocky and muddy terrain, while the Frixion rubber (which has its origin in La Sportiva’s long rockclimbing heritage) is extremely sticky and adheres well even to wet rock.
I’ve long delicate foot appendages, such as you find on a well-bred aristocrat or artiste, and the Bushidos – being of Italian origin – fit my feet nicely without being too snug. People with paddles for feet may find them quite narrow, while I’ve read online that they size small (so try before you buy), although I was spot on my normal size. The sock-like mesh inserts add to the nice snug feel of the shoe, although I did find that they seemed to make my feet get quite hot (I get hot feet though). My narrow foot swims around in many shoes, but the TPU cradle and lacing system held my foot nicely in place, even on really steep or snakey terrain. Perhaps because of the stiffness of the shoe, I could feel my heel rub at times, but it was never enough to cause any problems.
For anyone who loves the suppleness of many minimalist shoes, the Bushidos will feel stiff and claustrophobic, but as a heavier runner with weak ankles I have found them excellent, offering great support and protection yet light on the scales. La Sportiva spruik them as ‘sky runners’, and they definitely excel on steep, technical terrain, in the wet or dry, rock or mud.
TAKE OUTS La Sportiva Bushido
Great for: Rough technical trails, the rockier the better; steep mountains.
No so great for: Runners who like super-flexible minimalist shoes or with paddles for feet.
Test conditions: Everything from sandy coastal single track, rocky Grampians’ terrain to muddy snowgum-lined alpine trails. Approx 250km.
Tester: Ross ‘The Flash’ Taylor
Tester mechanics: heavy runner, midfoot striker.