Shoe Review: La Sportiva Jackal II BOAs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEWER: GILES PENFOLD

THE JACK(AL) OF ALL TRADES

REMEMBER WHEN MARTY FROM BACK TO THE FUTURE II WAS STOKED AS HIS SELF-TYING SHOES WRAPPED ABOUT HIS FEEL?

I felt the same when I first unboxed a pair of the Jackall II BOA’s, twisting my fingers to tighten the dials on their new lacing system.

The La Sportiva Jackal II BOA is a new addition to the range, adding panache(!) and exciting new features as compared to its predecessor, the Jackal I. I’ve owned a pair of this original model and thrashed them around for a while now, so I was eager to find out how the latest changes faired on my feet.

THE LOW DOWN
GREAT FOR: Technical terrain, medium to long distances
NOT SO GREAT FOR: Short distances, speed work
TEST CONDITIONS: Rocky, dry, technical terrain
TESTER: Giles Penfold
TESTER MECHANICS: Neutral

The new model is high-performance designed specifically for sky races and off-road technical terrain spanning medium to long distances. Born from the collaboration between La Sportiva and BOA Technologies, the shoe embodies a fusion of stability, precision and a secure yet comfortable fit.

For context, I mainly tested these shoes on long trail runs (2hrs+) as well as throwing in a few faster hill sessions into the mix. The majority of the terrain was quite rocky and technical, and I was pleasantly surprised as to how they held up. Zero foot issues and slippage combined with relatively dry feet proved themselves early on.

Weighing in at 300g, this is about the standard for a solid trail shoe, and goes without saying that the BOA lacing system adds a little extra weight: a compromise which is well worth it in the scheme of things. Needless to say, if this were a track shoe (captain obvious to the rescue), or even a fast short distance trail shoe, its heft would be concerning. Good thing it’s the opposite – a work horse shoe designed to attack rugged landscapes.

The BOA lacing system looks cutting edge, and I eventually found myself questioning how it would perform on the trails. I put 250km into this particular pair and can honestly say the lacing system is more than mere eye candy. Their simplicity and ease of use is impressive, and serves as quite the paradox compared to its high tech futuristic appearance.

Some direction for users: to tighten the shoes, you simply push the dials and twist them in a clockwise direction. Seeing as La Sportivas usually run quite snug (Helios model excepted), I opted to keep the laces loose most of the time. When approaching a downhill, I’d quickly tighten them in a fraction of a second and go bombs away with confidence, in place of toe carnage.

In terms of drop, the shoe’s 7mm remains the same as previous models, with a moderate stack height of 29-22mm. This gives it enough protection to take on technical terrain but also doesn’t numb things to the point where your feet have no idea what’s beneath them. Its 3.5mm diamond shaped lugs feel tough and are convincingly cut out for dry, rocky conditions. I’ve been flogging these through seriously arid, rugged terrain and few other shoes I’ve used would better suit this landscape.

The outsole also features La Sportiva’s signature FriXion XF 2.0 rubber, which is their stickiest and grippiest compound. The trade-off is presumed to be lower durability but so far, the sole on my pair has shown only trace amounts of wear and tear. As long as the upper holds up, expect these to last anywhere between 800km and 1000km. Solid.

The midsole is a combination of EVA and Infinitoo PU inserts, giving it that long distance cushion and trail stability. I found it quite firm, which inherently means it isn’t as pliable and responsive as other models – makes a lot of sense for a long distance technical cleat though. Compared to its original version, the Jackal II BOA has a more flexible and breathable upper that uses recycled fabrics. Big thumbs up there.

The built-in gaiter also does a great job at keeping out debris, offering subtle support to the ankle. I initially saw this as an unnecessary feature but the more I used them, the more I enjoyed this feature.

Overall, La Sportiva have nailed the updated features on the Jackal II BOA. Its traction and fit are of the highest calibre, and alongside its long distance cushion, the shoe is an excellent option for the most technical of trails.

VITALS
RRP: $319.95 AUD
WEBSITE: lasportiva.com/au
CONDITIONS: Shoes provided for testing by La Sportiva

Shoe Review: La Sportiva Akasha II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEWER: ABDUL-RAOUF MOHAMED-ISA
IMAGE: SUZANNE POLI

Shoe Review: La Sportiva Akasha II

CREATED WITH A FOCUS ON ENDURANCE, the La Sportiva Akasha II fits snug, but not too tightly around the forefoot. It’s a high cushioned shoe built specifically for longer runs on technical terrain, with its aggressive tread providing great traction and its ability to work at its best in wet and muddy conditions. In saying that, I found them less responsive on dry smoother trails, and felt that with the amount of cushioning and tread, the shoe felt like overkill on ‘easier’ terrain.

The shoe provides good protection around the heel and toes from rocky terrain, which it excels in. The Trail Rocker outsole technology promotes a rolling heel to toe motion. I didn’t feel this so much being more of a mid-to-fore foot runner, but when hiking it was noticeable how the rocker helped to promote forward motion.

When running downhill it did feel like my toes were being jammed into the front of the shoe, but in saying that this could have come down to sizing as others have said to go up half a size compared to what you normally wear. The heel lock lacing technique helped though to keep things more in place. Being used to a wider forefoot, I may have felt this a little more.

The well-padded tongue and Orholite Hybrid insole makes the Akasha II incredibly comfortable. The open dual-layer mesh material dries quickly if you happen to get them soaking wet, while the lacing system allows your feet to feel locked in and nice and secure.

Being a first time user of this brand I came in with an open mind. Out of the box you definitely feel the cushioning and snug fit. At first I tried it on wide bridal trails where it was comfortable enough but felt like too good of a shoe for that type of simple trail. The Akasha II comes into its own on more technical terrain, where you can feel the grip sink in going up and downhill, especially when the terrain’s gotten the ground wet and muddy. The shoe gives you more confidence here, even if you’ve picked up some speed. No problems slowing down and stopping if needed.

Compared to other shoes the Akasha II midsole feels only slightly rigid, however that most likely comes with the amount of protection from rocks and sharp objects – once again another reason this shoe is better for longer runs. You get enough feel for the trail for short bursts of speed but it’s definitely not one for high turnover or fast races.

Here are some of the stated specs of the Akasha II.

The stack height is 31mm in the heel and 25mm in the forefoot giving it a 6mm heel-to-toe drop. A US Men’s 9 weighs in at 310 grams. Frixion Red dual-compound with trail rocker provide good traction and promote smooth heel to toe motion. Ortholite hybrid laces are made from recycled materials. The colour options in the men’s shoe are Black/Yellow, Space Blue/Kale, Carbon/Flame and Space Green/Metal whilst for the women they are Hibiscus/Malibu Blue, Topaz/Red Plum and Carbon/Cherry.

Some changes I would like to see, and keep in mind this is more of a personal preferences: a velcro attachment on the heel for gaiters and perhaps slightly more room in the toe box. The only other thing would be a bit more flexibility in the mid sole, however I’m the sort of runner who likes to feel the trails underfoot and this comes at the cost protection.

Overall the La Sportiva Akasha II is a well-designed running shoe suited for those looking for high cushioning with enough protection in the heel and toe, and plenty of grip for technical terrains and durability. It’s comfortable, breathable and provides great support for longer runs.

THE LOW DOWN

GREAT FOR: Technical trails. High cushioning provides good comfort for longer runs. Does well in the wet and mud
NOT SO GREAT FOR: Smooth trails and dry pea-gravel
TEST CONDITIONS: Multi-use trails, rocky terrain and wide bridal trails
TESTER: Adul-Raouf Mohamed-Isa
TESTER MECHANICS: Overpronator with wide feet, usually running in zero drop shoes

VITALS

RRP: $229.95 AUD
WEBSITE: lasportiva.com
CONDITIONS: Shoes provided for testing by La Sportiva

Shoe Review – La Sportiva Bushido

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.Screenshot 2015-05-09 09.51.24

 

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.

Screenshot 2015-05-09 09.51.42Compared 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.

 VITALS
RRP $199.95
www.mountainrunning.com.au/bushido/

 

Vertical K trail series launched

IMG_6590 smal IMG_1915 sml Copy of IMG_6497 smlNEWS RELEASE: La Sportiva and Running Wild Victoria have announced Australia’s first Vertical K Mountain Running Series.

The Running Wild – La Sportiva Vertical K Mountain Running Series incorporates three gruelling events designed to test  uphill running skills, strength and stamina to the extreme.

Based on the European Vertical Kilometre events run by the ISF, these races are aimed to complete a vertical kilometre of climbing over a short distance.

Set in the spectacular Alpine National Park of north eastern Victoria these events will take in some of the best, hardest and most exposed high country in Australia including Mt Buller, Mt Hotham and Victoria’s highest mountain, Mt Bogong.

The three events in the series announced will be:

1st February 2014
Mount Buller Vertical K
Vertical Ascent 1,000m; distance 9km
Starts at Mirimbah (700m) and follows the Klingsporn Track to the Mount Buller village square at 1700m.

16th March 2014
Bon Accord Vertical K
Vertical Ascent 1,147m; distance 5km
Based out of Harrietville in the heart of the Victorian Alps the start will be at Washington Creek (620m) runners will need to walk in approximately 5km to this point. The route follows Bon Accord Spur and finish at the junction of Bon Accord Spur and the Razorback Track at 1767m.

30th March 2014
Mount Bogong Vertical K
Vertical Ascent 1,006m – distance 4km
Mount Bogong at 1986m is Victoria’s highest mountain. The start will be below Camp Creek Gap (980m) from there you proceed to Camp Creek Gap and then up Eskdale Spur, passing Michell Hut before finishing on the summit of Mount Bogong (1986m).

If you’re looking for something different with fantastic running or tough walking against the clock, great scenery, unpredictable weather and really push yourself to the limit, the La Sportiva Vertical K Mountain Running Series could be your thing.

A full list of rules and mandatory equipment can be found on the Running Wild website.

Notes Race Director Paul Ashton:  “Due to the remoteness of our big mountains, horizontal and vertical distances are slightly outside of Vert K guidelines as we aim to incorporate stunning finishes, with gruelling uphill running. Due to the nature of the runs, you may experience severe and sudden changes of weather. It is highly recommended that in addition to the mandatory equipment listing that you carry the recommended gear, especially on Mount Bogong. Please note two events incorporate a walk in to the start.”

More information can be found at mountainrunning.com.au

Shoe Review: La Sportiva Wild Cat 2.0

Just how wild is La Sportiva’s Cat? Guest reviewer and trail man from the north, IMG_1884Caine Warburton, gives us his view on the Italian Stallion’s current offering.

One word…..Bomber! Bomber is a climbing term used to describe an anchor or hold that is so strong it will hold anything…fail safe. That’s the word that came to mind after my first run in the Wild Cats and it was coincidentally convenient as La Sportiva is a mountaineering company that was born in the Dolomites, Italy over 80 years ago.

The Wild Cat 2.0 is a shoe targeted at the middle ground of the trail running community. It sports decent grip, good support and bomb proof construction. It comes in a standard and a Gore-Tex version. I have reviewed the standard version.

The Design

Despite being forged in the mountains of Europe, the Wild Cat fits true to size and did not require any conversion or adjustment (thankfully) from my usual shoe size (US12). Right out of the box the Wild Cat feels quite “plush” and like any good shoe didn’t require any type of “breaking in” feeling comfortable from the first step. It sports a 24mm foot bed and a drop of 12mm which is smack bang in the middle of the pack for running shoe dimensions and admittedly more than most of my other trail shoes.

The upper of the Wild Cat is made from an “Air Mesh” construction which helped keep my feet surprisingly cool and although I have not run them through deep water yet I do believe that they would drain quite well. The construction of the Wild Cat is  solid and has resulted in some loss of sole flexibility. Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends on what type of runner you are and what surface you’re running on.

IMG_1885On the Run

Descending terrain has been my favourite while wearing the Wild Cats: my feet felt secure enough so I was confident to flog down some pretty gnarly hills and rocky crossings without any issues. In fact, its ability to absorb some serious force while flying down trails I usually would have to pick my way down was something I was not entirely used to.

The Wild Cats weigh about 690g a pair – on the heavy side compared to my usual shoe selections. I did notice this a bit when running fast up hill and while not such a bad thing I don’t think I will be rocking any vertical kilometre races (hello Mt Baw Baw Trail Run Fest free mountain ascent sprint. Ed.) in these shoes.

The Grip

The sole of the Wild Cat is made from La Sportiva’s specific FriXion rubber which is really sticky (not surprising considering their climbing background) and tends to provide quite good traction on rocky trails. The lugs of the Wild Cat are not as big or deep as other shoes but I they still performed  well on the big, rocky  climbs. I do think that on very steep, muddy and soft climbs they would suffer somewhat in comparison to the lugs of fell runner models however considering their design and intention I was overall pleased with the grip.

Another interesting addition to the grip is something dubbed “downhill brake assist” which sounds like something off a car. It turns out this is the name La Sportiva’s boffins (marketing or technical – I’m not sure) have given their unique heel tread grip design. Basically, it allows for greater down hill grip and spreads the load throughout the rear of the shoe – perhaps this was the root of my enjoyment on the down hills?

Durability

This is one area where I think the La Sportiva’s really dominate. Their upper is stitched and glued on to the shoe and they also sport a toe cap thick enough to knock out an elephant (if you were inclined to kick one)!  The sole is solid and grip appears to be durable so far (100km in). I have caught a few sticks and the like while out on the trail and unlike some other shoes the uppers proved to be very puncture resistant. I don’t expect any toe blow outs or unusual wear anytime soon in these shoes.

The Verdict

The Wild Cat combines a number of good features like protection, durability and a breathable upper. It does lack some grip on the super steep loose stuff and would be more suited to longer trail running and potentially any racing that requires reasonable amounts of road traversing or technical steep descents. So who might the Wild Cat suit? Well in my opinion those who are looking for a trail runner with a bit more protection/support, decent grip and want a shoe that will last the distance. They are great for downhills and longer runs.

Great for: traditional or old school trail runners or those who want more protection; technical, rocky and hard pack trails.

Not so great for: Hard core minimalists, Very steep muddy climbs

Test conditions: Very rocky fire road, single track, road, steep descents and moderate to steep accents.

Tester: Caine Warburton

Tester mechanics: Midfoot runner. Ultra marathon trail disciplines.

RRP$169 ($199 Gore-Tex model)

Australian Distributers: www.expeditionequipment.com.au/

New Skyrun series

Question: has trail running just grown grassroots style, Screen shot 2013-01-11 at 2.23.50 PMor has it exploded,   splattering dirt all over the running community like a pig in the proverbial?

It would seem the latter with new events now springing up every second week – witness the Up The Buff in Queensland (March), the Forrest Half in Victoria (June), the Baw Baw Trail Run Festival, also in Victoria (9-11 March), the new mid-distance Sydney Trail Run Series by Mountain Sports (on top of its shorter distance series already underway), and now news of a new mountain running series of five races throughout Victoria.

Okay, so the races themselves are not all new – the series consists of a string of long held favourite stand-alone events on the Vic calendar, those being Paul Ashton and Running Wild’s:  

  • Mount Buller Skyrun – 3 Feb & 27 October
  • Alpine Challenge – 16-18 March
  • Prom 100 – 27 April
  • Razorback Run – 23 November

Screen shot 2013-01-11 at 2.23.40 PMThe ‘new’ in the news here is that La Sportiva has hopped on board as naming rights sponsor (hell yes, we give credit to any sponsor who comes on board…they are supporting the sport we love, so hats off…), and the line up will now be known as the La Sportiva Mountain Running Series.

No news on what that means in terms of someone vying for a Series crown, but to knock off all these events in one season would be a huge achievement in itself.

Ashton reports that in addition to these classic ultra-distance races he is introducing a brand new mountain run event in October, a short course event offering three distances of 14/21/31km. To be held at the Lake Mountain Resort – recently in the news for hitting troubled financial waters with a new administrator brought in to hold fort and, by the looks, revitalise visitation to the mountain – The Lake Mountain Skyrun will explore some pretty fine territory (and hopefully do exactly what its new custodians want in bringing people up to the mountain).

Screen shot 2013-01-11 at 2.23.29 PMAustralia’s representatives for La Sportiva say they are excited about the future of trail running in Australia and their first foray into sponsorship of the sport.

“We are super keen to be working with Paul and supporting his ultra mountain running events. La Sportiva’s home is in the Dolomites and their core values and history is in the mountains. Our Australian Alps might not be Dolomites, but they certainly no walk in the park with events such as Paul’s Running Wild Classics. We see it as a great partnership and it will be an exciting year ahead.” says Matt Adams General Manager Expedition Equipment La Sportiva Australia, also adding “I’m training up to being able to run at one of the races this year!”

One, Matt? Only one? Step up, son…you’re part of the scene now…

Those interested in the Skyrun events can  check into and like Facebook at: www.facebook.com/LaSportivaMountainRunningSeries13.

More details on all of Running Wild’s events found at www.runningwild.net.au/